The war in Iraq is a masked effort to divert attention from Bush administration corruption while allowing supporters and donors of the Bush party to make personal fortunes. At least, that’s what Greg Palast had to say.
Palast, a BBC television journalist and the author of the book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” spoke on the topic “Who profits from war in Iraq?” on Saturday at the Center Church Parish House on Temple Street. The lecture was the second in the “Perspectives on Peace” lecture series sponsored by the Yale Peace Coalition.
Palast, who is American by birth, said he had to move his investigative reporting career to England because the American media routinely refuses to print highly political stories for fear of backlash and lawsuits. Consequently, he broke and published the Enron scandal story in Britain seven months before it made headlines in the United States. He attributed this to the increasing self-censorship of the American media.
“Today’s editors will always go with the official denial over the nameable source,” he said.
The lecture covered a range of topics involving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Palast began by discussing President George W. Bush’s draft dodging during the Vietnam War, but the charges quickly became more serious, as he accused the Republican Party of violating Americans’ civil rights.
Palast said 57,700 votes — largely representing blacks — were removed from the voter polls in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, per the order of the Republican Party. The votes were taken on the grounds that the voters were ex-convicts, and Palast held up a faxed copy of the letter ordering their removal for the audience to see. Palast said that having served their time, the ex-convicts were entitled to a vote. Although the story was almost covered on CBS, Palast said they ultimately pulled it because of a Republican Party denial.
In terms of the war on Iraq, Palast named several Republican Party affiliated corporations making big profits, which he gave as one of the primary motivations for the war. One such company was ChoicePoint, a verification-identification corporation that he said has a database profiling the American population.
“Who profits from the war on Iraq? I see a simple pattern of donors and supporters of the Bush party are cashing in like crazy,” he said.
The lecture garnered a sizable audience. Event administrator Anna Manzo said all 250 seats were taken — with 90 reservations in advance — and that others lined the walls to hear Palast speak. The audience was largely comprised of New Haven and Connecticut residents, with very little student representation. Ruth DeGolia ’04, a member of the Yale Peace Coalition who helped organize the event, said this was purposeful.
“We knew it was going to be on a Saturday afternoon with limited seating, and since we were asking for donations, we publicized this lecture more for the New Haven community,” she said. “We are organizing a Master’s Tea sometime early next semester for a student audience, when his schedule allows him to come on a weekday.”
The New Haven residents who attended the lecture had predominantly positive feedback to give. Harold Michael, a former World War II and Marine Corps veteran, said he heard about the lecture through an e-mail list and wanted to hear about what Palast had to say. Having read the book, he said he knew what Palast was going to say but overall was very satisfied with the lecture. Michael Foley, a North Haven resident, said he came to hear another side to the war story.
“It bothers me that the whole country is turning into a bunch of know-nothings,” he said. “We only hear one side — the bad side — and I wanted to hear something else.”
Overall, organizers said they were very pleased with how the event turned out and that they hope the lecture series will continue to spur discussion of the issues.
“We noticed that many students and people have questions on the current situation, but didn’t feel comfortable discussing them,” DeGolia said. “We hope these events will change that.”