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Not Funny: Lazy Letterman Lets Ogre O’Reilly Off the Racist Oil War Hook


I’d accidentally clicked into the middle of an outwardly angry duel between two large white television alpha males. On one side sat the fitfully anti-Iraq War Letterman. On the other side sat the notorious Fox News Bush apologist and hard-right tyrant Bill O’Reilly.

Interestingly enough, O’Reilly mentioned the presence of vast oil reserves in Iraq, raising the horrid specter of the Iraqi people doing what they wish with the strategic raw materials under their own soil.

But the lazy, liberal-leaning talk-show host was in no position to take meaningful advantage. At one point in the show, O’Reilly lectured hostile audience members about the crimes of Saddam, telling them to keep their mouths shut after reminding them that the Iraqi dictator had “killed 400,000 of his own people.”

Letterman failed to mention any of these elementary facts. Again and again, Letterman blustered in O’Reilly’s face about “all the people who have died” because of Bush’s war. But each time Letterman mentioned this problem of unnecessary deaths, he referred only to the nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq.

Letterman repeatedly failed to challenge O’Reilly’s recurrent assertion that the U.S. invaded Iraq on the basis of “bad” and “mistaken” intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD). As war opponents knew from the start and has been widely exposed since, the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq with the assistance of its own deliberately “cooked” intelligence. That “bad intelligence” was “fixed around the [pre-ordained] policy” (in the words of the Downing Street memo) of illegally occupying oil-rich Mesopotamia. It was made to order.

Never mind that democracy, freedom, and national independence are the last things U.S. foreign policymakers want to see in Iraq. The attainment of those things would mean that the Iraqis would be at liberty to do whatever they like with their vast and super-strategic oil reserves – to cut, for example, any petroleum deals they wish with leading economic and geopolitical competitor states and regions like Russia, China, and Western Europe.

When O’Reilly recycled an old and discredited White House link between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda (in al Anbar Province), Letterman was reduced to confused silence, lacking the knowledge or will to challenge the proto-fascist media henchman.

The authoritarian ogre O’Reilly emerged as the intellectual victor, striking the lackadaisical Letterman mute on key historical details, including why the U.S. is in Iraq and what Letterman would like to see happen there.

Paul Street([email protected])is a writer and speaker in the American Midwest. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, and Policy in Chicago (Chicago, 2005) Street’s next book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007).

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