Special Edition: Was Wellstone Whacked?
Greetings, once again, to all subscribers!
Two years ago, I wrote the following words: “October 16th is not, as it turns out, a good day to travel by air if you happen to be a politician who has become, shall we say, troublesome.” October 16, 2000 was, for those suffering from that peculiarly American malady known as “lack of historical memory,” the day that populist (relatively speaking) Senatorial candidate Mel Carnahan’s chartered plane allegedly crashed due to inclement weather.
Now it seems that October 25 is also not a good day to travel by air if you happen to be a democratically-minded Senatorial candidate, as the Wellstone family has just learned the hard way. Widely regarded, accurately or not, as the most progressive voice in the U.S. Senate, Wellstone has just succumbed to “small chartered plane carrying left-leaning politician meets inclement weather” syndrome.
And there will be no repeat of the “Corpse Beats John Ashcroft and Gains Senate Seat for Widow” scenario, since Wellstone’s wife and daughter were killed along with the Minnesota Senator in what the media would like us to believe was a tragic accident that was not, of course, in any way suspicious.
At the time of his demise, Mr. Wellstone was uniquely poised to reveal the lies and fraudulence of the Washington establishment and their media cohorts, by virtue of the fact that he was the only Senator in a contested race to vote against the Congressional resolution that unconstitutionally transferred war-making power to the executive office.
By casting a dissenting vote, Wellstone had committed political suicide — or so said all the Washington spinmeisters. As George Bush likes to say, “America speaks with one voice” on the issue of waging genocidal war against the Iraqi people. And the media, of course, don’t really bother to challenge such specious claims.
Paul Wellstone though opted to speak with a different voice, thereby allegedly guaranteeing his political demise. To hasten that demise, his opponent was reportedly hand-picked and enthusiastically endorsed by Boy George himself, and was supplied with truck loads of campaign money.
But a strange thing appeared to be happening: Wellstone seemed to be on his way to electoral victory. Contrary to Washington spin, Wellstone had gotten a large boost in his poll numbers as a direct result of his vote on the Iraqi resolution. But how could that be? How could a maverick Senator who had chosen to voice such an ‘unpopular’ opinion actually gain support?
The vast majority of Wellstone’s allegedly ‘Democratic’ colleagues chose to give a thumbs-up to transferring war-making power to the White House, despite being inundated with correspondence from constituents who strongly opposed the measure.
It has been almost universally proclaimed by pols and pundits that these ‘Democrats’ lined up behind Bush on the war resolution (as they had on the Patriot Act, and the resolution authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan, and various other reactionary measures) because it was the “politically expedient” thing to do.
Wellstone’s reelection would have revealed this ‘conventional wisdom’ to be a craven lie. As the hopelessly compromised Nation put it in a posting from May of 2002, “If [Wellstone] wins, a blow will be struck not just against the Bush machine but against those in the Democratic Party who argue for tepid moderation.”
In truth, the blow would have been struck against the entire, and entirely fraudulent, Democratic Party — which doesn’t argue for “tepid moderation,” but is in fact wholly complicit in advancing the increasingly fascistic agenda of Team Bush. As Michael I. Niman argued, in a posting on AlterNet, a Wellstone victory “would both be an embarrassment to the Bush administration and to Democratic Quislings such as Hillary Clinton who voted to support ‘the president.'”
Even without a Wellstone victory, the Democratic Party has largely revealed itself for the fraud that it is by failing to follow up on what it claimed was one of the “politically expedient” reasons for green-lighting an attack on Iraq and beyond: to enable the party to shift the focus of the campaign onto domestic issues, where Bush is said to be vulnerable.
Now maybe I’ve been in a coma or something, but I don’t recall any Democratic candidates challenging their Republican rivals on the current state of the economy, or on the massive tax cuts handed out to corporate America, or on the direct connections of various members of the Bush mob to massive corporate scandals, or on the rollbacks of environmental safeguards, or on the decidedly anti-labor stance of the White House, or on the repeated attacks on civil liberties, or on the erosion of the separation between church and state, or on the blocking of any meaningful inquiry into what happened on September 11, or on the failure to investigate the anthrax attacks, or on the failure to capture bin Laden despite laying waste to the nation of Afghanistan, or ….
It is clearly not the case, as The Nation claimed, that “most Democrats are still trying to figure out how to challenge a popular President” — but rather that most Democrats are trying to figure out how to continue to masquerade as some sort of legitimate opposition party even while signing off on every police-state measure and every imperialistic military venture that has been proposed by the administration.
So while there may be some truth to The Nation’s contention that “getting rid of Wellstone is a passion for Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the special-interest lobbies that fund the most sophisticated political operation ever assembled by a presidential administration,” it is arguable whether it was not the ‘Democrats’ who had the most to gain from Wellstone’s death.
The reality is that Wellstone did nothing to slow down the Bush juggernaut, and wasn’t exactly the principled leftist that he is made out to be. He had no problem signing off on the Patriot Act or the resolution authorizing the brutal assault upon the nation of Afghanistan, and had little or nothing to say about the brazen theft of the presidential election or the evidence indicating that the official story of what happened on September 11 is almost entirely a work of fiction.
And even on those issues where Wellstone did take a stand in opposition to the White House, the effects of his actions were negligible. Since Bush took office, and certainly since September 11, 2001, there has not been a vote in Congress on any resolution of any significance that has not gone overwhelmingly in the Bush administration’s favor.
So it seems to me that the ‘Democrats’ had as much or more to gain as did the ‘Republicans’ by terminating Wellstone’s political career — though that of course assumes that ‘Democrats’ refers to an identifiable group that is separate and distinct from the ‘Republican’ Party, and that there is more than one political orientation represented in Washington.
And that, of course, really isn’t the case. But it is of supreme importance to maintain the illusion that that is the case. And Paul Wellstone was threatening to partially shatter that illusion by stripping away some of the lies that the ‘Democrats’ have been hiding behind.
It would probably be more accurate then to say that the Washington establishment, as a whole, had a motive for eliminating Paul Wellstone. So … was he whacked?
It seems a fair question to ask, though the conspiracy bashers on the fake left have been working overtime to launch what is essentially a pre-emptive strike against anyone who dares to pose such questions.
(http://twincities.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=7814&group=webcast and http://www.salon.com/news/col/sullivan/2002/10/30/wellstone/?x)
The speed with which the debunkers have issued their missives, and the vehemence with which they have insisted that only those on the lunatic fringe would speculate that Wellstone’s demise was due to anything other than a tragic accident, is enough to make a skeptic wonder if there isn’t something to hide.
Postulating that foul play was involved does not, it should be noted, necessarily imply the guilt of the Bush administration, or of any other players in Washington. As was seen during the DC sniper case, and during the anthrax mailings (to name just two examples), Washington and the media are quick these days to blame almost any tragedy or act of violence on ‘terrorism.’
And yet, as USA Today was quick to report, “FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said there was no indication the crash was related to terrorism.” This proclamation was made, of course, before any sort of an investigation had even begun, and while we were being told that it would take months to determine the cause of the crash.
With the wreckage still smoldering, the Star Tribune reported that Acting NTSB Chairman Carol Carmody “refused to speculate on what happened in the crash, but said NTSB specialists would be looking at all aspects of the accident, including weather, the engines, human performance, the plane’s structure and airworthiness of the aircraft.”
Conspicuously missing from that list, and apparently ruled out before the investigation even began, was sabotage. So much for “looking at all aspects of the accident.” But then again, why would you look at that possibility when you are “looking at all aspects of the accident“? You would only look for that if you were looking at all aspects of the crash, to determine if it was in fact an accident. And Carmody, of course, isn’t doing that.
Carmody, by the way, who is now serving as the spokeswoman for what has been referred to as the NTSB’s “Go Team,” has a rather interesting history. Her official NTSB biography proudly proclaims that her career has included “serving at the Central Intelligence Agency.”
That should set everyone’s mind at ease — as should the fact that she “has been [an] on-scene member at several accidents, including the aircraft accident which killed Governor Carnahan in October 2000.”
Joining Carmody, as the lead investigator on the case, is Robert Benzon, whose previous claim to fame was leading the cover-up … ooops, that must have been some kind of Freudian slip, because what I meant to say is that he led the investigation into the cause of the November 12, 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587 into a neighborhood in Belle Harbor, New York.
Benzon began his aviation career in the jungles of Vietnam, where he served on a secretive Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron, according to his own account: “I served as a 2nd Lt, then 1st Lt copilot in the 362 TEWS at DaNang AB during 1972 and 1973. We closed the unit down several months after the spring of 1973 cease fire agreement. Interestingly, we continued to fly missions from DaNang after the cease fire with South Vietnamese markings on the airplanes. I never did fully understand that little maneuver. I went on to fly as a copilot and aircraft commander in KC-135s, shot through the ranks to Captain, and went off active duty in 1980 or so. I’m now an aircraft accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.”
It’s interesting to note here that Benzon writes that he went off active duty “in 1980 or so.” Does he not know when he went off active duty? Perhaps Benzon operates in that murky world where the lines between ‘active duty’ and ‘plausible deniability’ are a little fuzzy.
Ooops … I guess that by speculating about such things I have qualified myself for a fitting for a “tin foil hat.” Or did I already qualify myself for membership in that club simply by questioning whether the crash of Wellstone’s plane might have been due to something other than an accident, rather than boldly insisting, absent any corroborating evidence, that it definitely was an accident — which is apparently considered intelligent political discourse?
So what does the evidence suggest in the Wellstone crash? Details are sketchy at best at this point. There are, of course, the usual glaring contradictions in the early reports that we have all grown accustomed to.
All avenues of the media, for example, are in agreement that there were no voice or flight recorders on the plane, thus denying investigators a key piece of evidence. Early reports, however, claimed that there was indeed a voice recorder on the aircraft, and that it was actively being searched for.
The Star Tribune, for instance, reported that Carmody had “said investigators would be searching for the cockpit voice recorder as they sought to determine what happened.” The recorder was said to be “key to learning more about the crash.” USA Todayconcurred, noting that “Carmody said the first priority was finding the cockpit voice recorder.”
(http://www.startribune.com/stories/1752/3390667.html and http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-10-25-plane-down-minnesota_x.htm)
It is possible that Carmody was mistaken about the existence of a cockpit voice recorder, though one would think that the Acting Chairman of the NTSB, with “more than 20 years experience with the aviation community,” including “11 years at the FAA,” would know about such things.
You’ve got to wonder why they even bother with those ‘black boxes.’ They either aren’t on board when you need them to be, or they manage to get destroyed in the crash, despite being virtually indestructible. Go figure.
There is also some question as to where exactly the plane crashed. The Washington Post, for one, claimed that the “FAA said the plane crashed in trees about two miles short of the runway. Wreckage was spread over a wide area, indicating that it did not nose into the ground but crashed at a relatively flat angle.”
Such reports strongly implied that the plane simply came up short on its landing, hitting trees rather than a runway. Was the FAA simply mistaken, or did it deliberately try to misrepresent the crash?
Later reports, such as this one from CNN.com, place the location of the wreckage elsewhere: “tree damage around the crash site indicated the plane, which should have been landing from the east on an east-west runway, was actually turning away from the airport, traveling from northwest to southeast about 2 miles south of the runway, when it crashed.”
(http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/Midwest/10/26/wellstone.investigation/index.html; see also http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/4372594.htm)
The CNN report also holds that the “angle of tree damage showed a descent much steeper than would be expected with a controlled landing,” while a posting on the WSWS website mentions that there were eyewitness accounts of “a near vertical plunge.”
The WSWS report also noted that “none of the typical causes of a small plane accident – engine failure, icing, pilot error – appear to be involved.” These are largely the same causes that Carmody claimed to be looking at: “weather, the engines, human performance, the plane’s structure and airworthiness of the aircraft.”
The media has for the most part pointed to the weather as the most likely culprit. Several reports though dispute the notion that the weather was to blame for the crash. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the airport’s manager “said the weather was overcast with light snow and a temperature of 31 but was well within the landing limits at the airport.”
USA Today talked to a pilot, Don Sipola, who told them that “visibility in the area at the time of the crash was 2.50 miles, well above the one-mile minimum for a standard instrument landing.”
A newsletter sent out by Mike Ruppert quotes the following exchange, between correspondent Wolf Blitzer and a local reporter, that was aired on CNN:
Reporter: There is no evidence that weather had anything to do with the crash.Blitzer: But the plane was flying into some sort of ice storm, was it not?
Reporter: There is no evidence that the weather had anything to do with the crash.
According to Ruppert, CNN quickly cut away from this reporter, who was never heard from again.
As further indication that the weather at the time of the crash wasn’t nearly as bad as the media would have us believe, and wasn’t likely the cause of the crash, it has been reported that “two smaller Beech Queen Air planes had landed at Eveleth without incident two hours before the crash, when temperatures were colder.”
(http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/oct2002/well-o29.shtml and http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/4371837.htm)
There was certainly no indication from the plane’s crew that they were having trouble with the weather — or any trouble of any kind, for that matter. The Pioneer Press reported that “there was no distress call or any indication of trouble before the plane went down about 10:20 a.m.”
This was in spite of the fact that the aircraft had been in radio contact just two minutes before it plowed into the ground. According to the New York Times, during that last transmission, at 10:18 a.m., “there was no evidence on the controller’s part or from the pilot’s voice that there was any difficulty, no reported problems, no expressed concern.”
No expressed concern about, for instance, icing, though the media has been rife with speculation that icing could have played a role in the crash. The King Air A100, as the Washington Post noted, “is equipped with numerous de-icing systems. Wings and tail surfaces are equipped with pneumatic de-icing ‘boots’ that inflate and deflate repeatedly to break ice from the leading edges of these surfaces. The plane’s engine intakes are protected by electric heating elements, as are propeller surfaces. Fuel is heated automatically.”
It seems unlikely then that icing was a major contributor to the crash, unless the aircraft’s multiple de-icing systems failed, and the aircraft’s warning systems failed to notify the pilots of those failures — but if that were the case, then perhaps the most likely explanation would be sabotage, and that has, of course, already been ruled out.
The King Air A100 is said to have a very good safety record, with the last fatal crashes occurring six years ago. Strangely, there were two such fatal crashes involving the A100 just eleven days apart in December of 1997. Even more strangely, one of those two crashes was of a plane that was owned by the very same charter company that owns the plane that Wellstone was killed in.
As the Pioneer Press reported, the 1997 crash that killed two Minnesota men, and that bore “some eerie similarities to Friday’s accident … involved a King Air owned by Aviation Charter, Inc., of Eden Prairie. That company has the same business address and CEO as Beech Transportation.” Beech Transportation, of course, is the owner of the plane that was carrying Wellstone.
So as long as the King Air planes are not owned by this particular charter company, and don’t happen to be carrying residents of the state of Minnesota, they are known to be very safe and reliable aircraft.
The particular King Air plane carrying the Wellstone family “had only two reports of problems in its [23-year] history, according to the FAA. Both were in March 1996 and were problems with worn fuel cutoff levers that were replaced with the recommendation for more frequent inspections.”
We have thus far covered weather, icing, and the structure and airworthiness of the plane as likely causes of the crash. Next up is engine failure. That one, alas, doesn’t seem very likely either.
The New York Times held that “Officials have said that both of the plane’s engines showed blade damage, which they said suggested that the engines were running when the plane crashed,” while CNN noted that Carmody voiced the same conclusion: “propeller damage indicates the engines may still have been operating at the time of the crash.”
(http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/28/politics/28CRAS.html and http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/Midwest/10/26/wellstone.investigation/index.html)
The only other typical cause of small plane crashes is pilot error, and that also doesn’t seem very likely. Though only required to have a single pilot, Wellstone’s plane had two pilots on board, and both were fully qualified to fly the aircraft. The primary pilot, Captain Richard Conry, held an “airline transport pilot certification — the highest certification a pilot can receive.”
It appears as though the WSWS was right then in concluding that none of the typical causes of small aircraft crashes appear to apply in this case. That is not to say that they can be definitively ruled out — just that they don’t initially appear to be applicable.
Wellstone, in other words, appears to have been in good hands with regards to the choice of aircraft and the flight crew, and the flying conditions – while less than ideal – were well within the abilities of the plane and its crew. And yet, in just two minutes time, with no distress calls and no warning, something went horribly wrong.
Casting doubt on the most likely causes of an accidental crash does not, of course, prove that an alternative theory – such as sabotage – is true. Neither, for that matter, does placing the crash in its proper context in light of recent history, though it seems appropriate to do so.
Though not widely reported, Wellstone was apparently previously targeted for assassination while visiting Colombia in December of 2000, which of course was right after Mel Carnahan’s plane fell out of the sky just a few weeks before election day.
(http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/colombia001201.html, http://www.counterpunch.org/pipermail/counterpunch-list/2000-December/004162.html, and http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2000/12/irp-001201-col.htm)
As has already been forgotten by the media, Congress was shut down for a period of time just after the September 11 attacks due to the anthrax mailings — widely portrayed at the time as yet more ‘terrorist’ doings, and now rarely talked about at all.
And who was it that was targeted by those mailings? Two of the most prominent Democrats in the Senate: Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. These were not likely meant to be successful attacks, by the way, since Daschle and Leahy are good team players, but rather were probably meant as a warning to others.
Some have theorized that Flight 93, which never made it to its intended target on September 11, was scheduled for an attack on Congress. If so, were the anthrax attacks meant to do the job that Flight 93 failed to accomplish — put the fear of God into Congress and force the temporary closure of the legislative body?
More recently, the House considered legislation that would enable the quick replacement – which is to say, replacement without going through the bother of checking with the voters – of House members in order to maintain “continuity of government” in the event of – what else? – some sort of terrorist attack.
(This legislation was discussed in an L.A. Times article from October 2, 2002, the link to which no longer works.)
This legislation could very easily be perceived, by any dissenters in the legislative crowd, as a not-so-subtle warning that they can be quite easily replaced with hand-picked stand-ins.
When viewed on a continuum then, with the attempted assassination of Wellstone, what is widely perceived to be the assassination of Carnahan, the possible (and, admittedly, entirely speculative) targeting of Congress on September 11, the attack on Congress just after September 11, and the House legislation allowing for rapid replacement of members who might suddenly find themselves victims of a terrorist attack, it is only natural to speculate on whether the Wellstone crash was something other than an accident.
So what are we to make of all this? We can, through a process of elimination, narrow the options on the causes of the crash, but we cannot then conclude that the plane was in fact sabotaged (or shot down, as evidence at the Carnahan crash site seemed to indicate).
We can speculate that assassinating Wellstone fits in with what seems to be a systematic effort to quell any and all dissent in Congress, but that likewise doesn’t allow us to reach a definitive conclusion.
So the key question, if we are to construct a case built on something more than speculation and circumstantial evidence, is: has any direct evidence surfaced that there was foul play involved in the crash?
There are a couple of tidbits of information that point in that direction.
There were reports, for instance, of what Carmody herself referred to as “an intense post-crash fire.” The Pioneer Press quoted airport manager Gary Ulman as saying that the plane, broken into several scattered pieces, was engulfed in fire that “was still burning five hours after the crash.”
(http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/Midwest/10/26/wellstone.investigation/index.html and http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/4372594.htm; see also http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-10-25-plane-down-minnesota_x.htm)
And there was one letter writer to the WSWS who says that there “was at least one witness, a blond haired man who said he saw a flash of light at the rear of the plane. This was on CNN. Saw him once and that was it.”
Of course, this claim, as with that of Mike Ruppert’s correspondents, cannot be verified unless someone happened to catch it on videotape. But neither should these accounts be dismissed out of hand. It is in fact the case that the cable news networks run live footage that contradicts what later emerges as the official story. The networks invariably then proceed to pretend as though the offending footage never aired.
So … was Wellstone whacked? The only way to definitively answer that question is through a full investigation of the crash — preferably one not run by a former CIA analyst and a former electronic warfare specialist who both have experience in issuing questionable reports on the causes of high-profile aircraft crashes.
And now, I leave you with this cryptic posting that has been circulating of late, and that was purportedly first posted in May of 2001. If so, the pseudonymous poster made some uncannily accurate predictions. Of course, this could also be a hoax created after the fact and pre-dated.
The missive claims that several Senators were being “evaluated” for possible assassination. The means of assassination was being “narrowed down to one of several choices. One being a carefully planned ‘plane crash.’ Another is through the delivery of certain biological agents to the Senator.”
The author specified that if a biological approach was used, it would most likely be an “Anthrax hit.” Also specified in the posting is that if “the death occurs just prior to the midterm senatorial elections, expect it to be in a state with a close race. Expect a ‘Mel Carnahan’ style hit.”
Strange but true, or just a hoax? I couldn’t tell you, but I pass it along for whatever it’s worth.