Jan 5, 2007
I have struggled to not write about the passing of U.S. President Gerald Ford. I sought to not do so for days.
Yet, the imperial fashion adopted by most of the American press, which praised his administration almost unanimously as "his salvation of the republic," forced me to put pen to paper.
Much of the reporting that we have seen has simply been dishonest, historically inaccurate, and a national amnesiac.
What I found particularly perturbing was the virtually unanimous official opinion that former President Ford's pardon of Richard M. Nixon was an act of "courage."
Because he opposed the will of the majority of the American people?
There is something unseemly about issuing a pardon to a man before he was criminally charged with anything, and further, one who built much of his political career on law and order.
Ford, to hear the corporate press tell it, simply made a deep, inner decision to save the nation the trauma of a trial against Nixon, by issuing a preemptive pardon.
The problem with this official reading is that there's plenty of evidence that it just ain't true.
Acclaimed historian, Howard Zinn, in his phenomenal A People's History of the United States - 1492-Present (New York: Harper Collins Perennial, 2003) tells us that months before the Nixon resignation, ".... top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives had given secret assurance to Nixon that if he resigned they would not support criminal proceedings against him." (p. 546]
The New York Times reported that what Wall Street wanted in case Nixon resigned was, "the same play with different players."
It took a French journalist to voice what no mainstream American paper would -- that U.S. political leaders wanted a change of face, but not a change of politics. Zinn writes:
"No respectable American newspaper said what was said by Claude Julien, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique in September 1974. 'The elimination of Mr. Richard Nixon leaves intact all the mechanisms and all the false values which permitted the Watergate scandal.' Julien noted that Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, would remain at his post -- in other words, that Nixon's foreign policy would continue. 'That is to say,' Julien wrote, 'that Washington will continue to support General Pinochet in Chile, General Geisel in Brazil, General Stroessner in Paraguay, etc....'" [p. 545]
Clearly, for millions of people in the U.S., and in Latin America, 'the long national nightmare' was far from over.
Nixon's regime was criminal to the core, despite his rhetoric about 'law and order.' It was a government that broke laws frequently and flagrantly, and got away with it. Slush funds, burglaries, illegal corporate campaign contributions, illegal wiretaps, corruption -- you name it.
A deal. A pardon. A swift goodbye, and the imperial press applauds.
'Law and order' was a program for Blacks, Hispanics, poor people, political opponents, and radicals. For the wealthy and well-to-do, it was business as usual.
Ford was part of that program.
And because he played his part, the media played their part: 'the king is dead, long live the king.'
From Shakespeare's "Richard II," the immortal lines are writ:
"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:...."
The stories, we see, are still being told.
Copyright 2007 Mumia Abu-Jamal