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Was Paul Wellstone Murdered?

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Was Paul Wellstone Murdered? Michael I.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2002
      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Was Paul Wellstone Murdered?
      Michael I. Niman, AlterNet
      October 28, 2002

      Paul Wellstone was the only progressive in the U.S. Senate. Mother
      Jones magazine once described him as, "The first 1960s radical
      elected to the U.S. senate." He was also the last. Since defeating
      incumbent Republican Rudy Boschowitz 12 years ago in a grassroots
      upset, Wellstone emerged as the strongest, most persistent, most
      articulate and most vocal Senate opponent of the Bush administration.

      In a senate that is one heartbeat away from Republican control,
      Wellstone was more than just another Democrat. He was often the lone
      voice standing firm against the status-quo policies of both the
      Democrats and the Republicans. As such, he earned the special ire of
      the Bush administration and the Republican Party, who made
      Wellstone's defeat that party's number one priority this year.

      Various White House figures made numerous recent campaign stops in
      Minnesota to stump for the ailing campaign of Wellstone's Republican
      opponent, Norm Coleman. Despite being outspent and outgunned,
      however, polls show that Wellstone's popularity surged after he voted
      to oppose the Senate resolution authorizing George Bush to wage war
      in Iraq. He was pulling ahead of Coleman and moving toward a victory
      that would both be an embarrassment to the Bush administration and to
      Democratic Quislings such as Hillary Clinton who voted to
      support "the president."

      Then he died.

      Wellstone now joins the ranks of other American politicians who died
      in small plane crashes. Another recent victim was Missouri's former
      Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan, who lost his life in 2000, three
      weeks before Election Day, during his Senatorial race against John
      Ashcroft. Carnahan went on to become the first dead man to win a
      Senatorial race, humiliating and defeating the unpopular Ashcroft
      posthumously. Ashcroft, despite his unpopularity, went on to be
      appointed Attorney General by George W. Bush. Investigators
      determined that Carnahan's plane went down due to "poor visibility."

      Carnahan was the second Missouri politician to die in a small plane
      crash. The first was Democratic Representative Jerry Litton, whose
      plane crashed the night he won the Democratic nomination for senate
      in 1976. His Republican opponent ultimately captured the seat from
      his successor in November.

      While an article in the New York Times on Saturday pointed out the
      danger politicians face due to their heavy air travel schedules, the
      death of a senator or member of Congress is still relatively rare,
      with only one other sitting U.S. Senator, liberal Republican John
      Heinz, dying in a plane crash since World War II. Heinz, who entered
      office as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, later emerged as
      a strong proponent of health care, social services, public
      transportation and the environment. He also urged reconciliation with
      Cuba. He died when the landing gear on his small plane failed to
      function, and a helicopter dispatched to survey the problem crashed
      into his plane.

      One former senator, John Tower, also died in a small plane crash.
      Tower was best known as the chair of the Tower Commission, which
      investigated the Reagan/Bush era Iran/Contra scandal.

      Another member of a prominent government commission who died in a
      small plane crash was former Democratic representative and House
      Majority Leader Hale Boggs. Boggs was best known as one of the seven
      members of the Warren Commission, which investigated the
      assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The commission found that
      Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone when he killed the president.
      Boggs, it turns out, had "strong doubts" that Oswald acted alone, but
      went along with the commission findings. Later, in 1971 and 1972, he
      went public with his doubts. He was presumed dead after the small
      plane carrying him and Democratic Representative Nicholas Begich
      disappeared in 1972.

      Texas Democratic Representative Mickey Leland also died in a plane
      crash. In his case, the six-term member of Congress and outspoken
      advocate of sanctions against the apartheid government of South
      Africa, died while traveling in Ethiopia. Another American politician
      to die overseas in a plane crash was the Clinton administration's
      Commerce Secretary, Ronald Brown, whose plane went down in the

      Anyone familiar with my work knows that I'm certainly not a
      conspiracy theorist. But to be honest, I know I wasn't alone in my
      initial reaction at this week's horrible and tragic news: that being
      my surprise that Wellstone had lived this long. Perhaps it's just my
      anger and frustration at losing one of the few reputable politicians
      in Washington, but I also felt shame. Shame for not writing in my
      column, months ago, that I felt that Paul Wellstone's life, more so
      than any other politician in Washington, was in danger. I felt that
      such speculation was unprofessional and would ultimately undermine my
      credibility. In the end, my own self-interest triumphed, and I never
      put my concerns into print. Neither did any other mainstream
      journalist, though I know of many who shared my concern.

      When I heard Wellstone's plane went down, I immediately thought of
      Panamanian General Omar Torrijos, who in 1981 thumbed his nose at the
      Reagan/Bush administration and threatened to destroy the Panama Canal
      in the event of a U.S. invasion. Torrijos died shortly thereafter
      when the instruments in his plane failed to function upon takeoff.
      Panamanians speculated that the U.S. was involved in the death of the
      popular dictator, who was replaced by a U.S. intelligence operative,
      Manuel Noreiga, who previously worked with George Bush Senior.

      There is no indication today that Wellstone's death was the result of
      foul play. What we do know, however, is that Wellstone emerged as the
      most visible obstacle standing in the way of a draconian political
      agenda by an unelected government. And now he is conveniently gone.
      For our government to maintain its credibility at this time, we need
      an open and accountable independent investigation involving
      international participation into the death of Paul Wellstone.
      Hopefully we will find out, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this
      was indeed an untimely accident. For the sake of our country, we need
      to know this.

      Dr. Michael I. Niman teaches journalism and media studies at Buffalo
      State College.


      World Socialist Web Site

      The death of US Senator Paul Wellstone: accident or murder?
      By the Editorial Board
      29 October 2002

      There is a serious question about the sudden death of Democratic
      Senator Paul Wellstone that has no doubt occurred to many people: was
      Wellstone the victim of a political assassination?

      It is possible that there will emerge a credible explanation of the
      October 25 plane crash that killed Wellstone, his wife Sheila,
      daughter Marcia, and five others near Eveleth, Minnesota. Initial
      reports, however, are disturbing. None of the typical causes of a
      small plane accident - engine failure, icing, pilot error - appear to
      be involved.

      The plane, a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air A100, was apparently in
      good condition when it hit the ground and exploded into flames about
      two miles from the Eveleth-Virginia airport in the Minnesota iron
      range. The Beechcraft model has an excellent safety record, with only
      two fatal crashes - both in December 1997 - in the past six years.
      Debris recovered from the crash site includes both the plane's
      engines, which suffered blade damage, suggesting that the engines
      were running when the plane crashed.

      While weather conditions were less than ideal, with some ice and
      freezing rain, two smaller Beech Queen Air planes had landed at
      Eveleth without incident two hours before the crash, when
      temperatures were colder. Wellstone's plane was reportedly equipped
      with two separate de-icing mechanisms.

      Visibility was limited but well above the minimum required - between
      two and two and a half miles. Although the approach to the airport
      was being made using instruments, the airport would have been in
      clear view of the pilot once he descended below the lowest cloud
      layer at about 700 feet.

      The plane's two pilots were both experienced, with the senior man,
      Capt. Richard Conry, 55, having airline transport pilot
      certification, the top industry qualification. Co-pilot Michael
      Guess, 30, was a certified commercial pilot. Wellstone was by all
      accounts a cautious flier, and there is no suggestion that the
      decision to fly that day was a reckless one.

      The acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board,
      Carol Carmody, said there was a slight irregularity in the Eveleth
      airport's radio beacon, but it was not yet possible to say whether
      this contributed to the accident.

      The plane's altimeter and "possibly one other gauge" have been
      recovered and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington for analysis,
      Carmody said. The plane was not required to have a cockpit voice
      recorder and was not equipped with one.

      According to air traffic control records, the flight had proceeded
      without incident until its last moments. Wellstone's plane took off
      at 9:37 a.m. from Minneapolis-St. Paul, received permission to climb
      to 13,000 feet at 9:48 a.m., and received clearance to descend
      towards Eveleth at 10:01 a.m., at which time the pilot was told there
      was icing at the 9,000-11,000 foot level. The plane began its descent
      at 10:10 a.m., passed through the icing altitude without apparent
      difficulty, and at 10:18 a.m. was cleared for approach to the
      airport. A minute later, at 3,500 feet, the plane began to drift away
      from the runway. It was last sighted at 10:21 a.m., flying at 1,800

      Carmody said that the impact area was 300 feet by 190 feet, with
      evidence of "extreme post-crash fire." The plane apparently was
      headed south, away from the Eveleth runway, when it hit the
      ground. "The angle was steeper than would be expected in a normal
      stabilized standardized approach," she said. Some press reports cited
      eyewitness accounts of a near-vertical plunge.

      Under different political circumstances it might be possible to
      dismiss the Eveleth crash as a tragic accident whose causes, even if
      they cannot be precisely determined, lie in the sphere of aircraft
      engineering and weather phenomena. But the death of Paul Wellstone
      takes place under conditions in which far too many strange things are
      happening in America.

      Wellstone's death comes almost two years to the day after a similar
      plane crash killed another Democratic Senate hopeful locked in a
      tight election contest, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, on October
      16, 2000. The American media duly noted the "eerie coincidence," as
      though it was a statistical oddity, rather than suggesting a pattern.

      One might say, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, that to lose one senator is
      a misfortune, but to lose two senators, the same way, is positively

      Last year two leading Senate Democrats, Majority Leader Tom Daschle
      and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, were targeted for
      assassination with letters laced with anthrax. The federal Justice
      Department - headed by John Ashcroft, who lost to the deceased Mel
      Carnahan in the Missouri contest - has failed to apprehend the
      anthrax mailer.

      Wellstone was in a hotly contested reelection campaign, but polls
      showed he was beginning to pull ahead of Republican nominee Norm
      Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, in the wake of the vote in the
      Senate to authorize President Bush to wage war against Iraq. The
      liberal Democrat was a well-publicized opponent of the war
      resolution, the only Senator in a tight race to vote against it.

      More broadly, with the Senate controlled by the Democrats by a margin
      of 50-49, the loss of even a single seat could shift control to the
      Republicans. The immediate effect of Wellstone's death is to deprive
      the Democrats of a majority in the lame-duck session scheduled for
      late November.

      Without exaggerating Wellstone's personal significance - he was a
      conventional bourgeois politician and no threat to the profit system -
      there are enormous financial stakes involved in control of the
      Senate. Republican control of the Senate would make it possible to
      push through new tax cuts for the wealthy and other perks for
      corporate America worth billions of dollars - more than enough of an
      incentive to commit murder.

      The neo-fascist elements within and around the Republican Party have
      already demonstrated their contempt for democracy, first in the
      protracted campaign of political destabilization against the Clinton
      administration, then with the theft of the 2000 presidential
      election. They are now preparing to slaughter tens of thousands of
      Iraqis in order to grab control of the second largest oil reserves in
      the world. To imagine that they would suffer moral qualms over a
      conveniently timed plane crash would be naïve in the extreme.

      There is another curious and suggestive factor. Virtually every day
      the Bush administration issues warnings of terrorist attacks on
      trains, nuclear reactors, airports or government buildings, to keep
      the American people off balance and stampede the public into
      supporting the impending war against Iraq. Government officials are
      prepared to attribute virtually any act of violence - such as the
      Washington sniper shootings - to Al Qaeda. Yet there has been no
      suggestion that the destruction of Wellstone's plane was the result
      of terrorism. Perhaps in this case they prefer not to inquire too
      closely into the causes.

      In the current climate of war, repression and right-wing provocation,
      it is perfectly reasonable to ask whether Wellstone was the victim of
      a political killing. No investigation deserving of the name can
      exclude sabotage as a possible cause of the plane crash. And yet,
      given the cowardice of the Democratic Party and the advanced
      putrefaction of American democracy, the official investigation will
      in all probability conclude that Wellstone's death was the result of
      an unfortunate but unexplainable mechanical malfunction.

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