Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT), a newly founded neo-conservative organization headed by William Bennett, has launched a full-blown public relations campaign meant to silence critics of President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism.
Other rightwing luminaries associated with Bennett include James Woolsey and William Barr. All three served in the administration of Bush the First, Woolsey as CIA director, Barr as Attorney General and Bennett as Secretary of Education. Frank Gaffney, a Pentagon official during the Reagan years is also a senior advisor to AVOT.
Lawrence Kadish, a real estate investor in New York and Florida, and chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, group’s main financial backer, was cited by Mother Jones Magazine as one of the country’s top individual donors, having given $532,000 to the GOP.
In announcing the group’s formation, Bennett said its intention is to “take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing,” who need to be resisted both here and abroad. A full-page AVOT advertisement carried in the March 10 New York Times, at the cost of $128,000, lambasted those at home “who are attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of ‘blame America first’.”
“Both [internal and external] threats,” the ad continues, “stem from either a hatred for the American ideals of freedom and equality or a misunderstanding of those ideals and their practice.”
As part of that effort AVOT has compiled a sample list of statements by professors, legislators, authors and columnists that it finds objectionable. Bennett’s claim that AVOT “does not wish to silence people,” and that the group plans only to hold teach-ins and public education events is contradicted by the names on its hit list.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) earned a place on the list when she said, “Some of us, maybe foolishly, gave this president the authority to go after terrorists. We didn’t know that he, too, was going to go crazy with it.”
Former President Jimmy Carter is blacklisted for saying Bush’s use of the phrase “axis of evil,” was “overly simplistic and counter-productive” and Robert Kuttner, editor of American Prospect, was put on the watch list for criticizing “Bush’s dismal domestic policies” and his “dubious notion of a permanent war.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was singled out for accusing the president of “canceling, in effect, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments” and for calling the war “the patriot games, the lying games, the war games of an unelected president.”
Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s and one of those listed, said Bennett is a “wrong-headed jingo and an intolerant scold.” He added that AVOT appeared to be a new “front organization for the hard neo-con [neo-conservative] right,” which has gained unprecedented influence in the Bush administration, particularly among the top political appointees in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney’s office. “This is the war-monger crowd,” he said. The AVOT web site includes links to all of Bush’s speeches since Sept. 11.
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