It's time for Obama to talk about Brown
© Jack Cashill
In early December 1997, after eighteen months of successful damage control by the White House, the black community in Chicago finally learned of the anomalies in the death of Ron Brown.
Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, Brown had dreamed of becoming America’s first black president from the time he was a little boy. And although he was, as Joe Biden might have put it, as “articulate and bright and clean” as Barack Obama, he never got the chance.
Brown died on April 3, 1996--twelve years ago today--when the USAF plane in which he and 34 others were flying crashed “inexplicably” into a Croatian mountainside near Dubrovnik.
As reported in the Chicago Independent Bulletin, a group of black pastors, led by Rev. Hiram Crawford of the Israel Methodist Community Church on Chicago’s south side, “blasted local black legislators for their apparent silence in this matter.”
The Bulletin article does not specify whether the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was among the pastors or whether then Illinois state senator Obama was among the lblasted.
Given the proximity of Crawford’s south side church to Wright’s church and Obama’s senate district, however, the pair had to have at least known about the protest.
As the Bulletin article reported accurately, Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a doctor and deputy medical examiner with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), had gone public with his concerns.
“When you get something that appears to be a homicide, that should bring everything to a screeching halt," Cogswell was quoted as saying of Brown’s death.
Cogswell was referring to the “.45-inch inwardly beveling circular hole in top of [Brown’s] head,” which he described as “essentially the description of a 45-caliber gunshot
wound.” Cogswell argued that at the very least the wound should have prompted an autopsy, but it did not.
So troubled were the Chicago pastors by what they saw as a “conspiracy to divert justice” that they called for the impeachment of President Clinton along with the opening of an investigation into Brown’s death.
Had the pastors known about the likely sabotage of the Dubrovnik airport’s aviation systems, the death by gunshot wound to the chest of the manager of those systems, the purloining of Brown’s head x-rays, or the “lead snowstorm” visible in the photos of the same, they would have been more outraged still.
There was something else the pastors did not know: Brown was desperate after his son Michael had been targeted by an independent council.
Nor did they know that Brown had threatened to reveal the still buried details of the China fundraising scandal when President Clinton refused to intervene on Michael’s behalf.
After Cogswell’s revelations, White House troubleshooters went into overdrive. They had the AFIP imposed a gag order on Cogswell while military police escorted him to his house and seized all of his case materials on the Brown crash.
The following day, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post did what the mainstream media routinely did during the Clinton years—attacked the president’s critics.
“Cogswell never actually examined the body,” Kurtz snickered about Cogswell, who had covered the Croatian end of the crash. Kurtz then added with preposterous certainty, “There definitely was no bullet because there was no exit wound.”
If the Post or the White House thought the outbreak had been contained, they were in for a surprise. In a refreshingly noble gesture, Lt. Col. David Hause, a pathologist who had been present for the Brown examination, went public in support of Cogswell.
To Kurtz’s claim that there was no exit wound, Hause and Cogswell both agreed a bullet could have traveled down the neck and lodged elsewhere in the body. They knew too that given White House pressure, there had been no time to search for an exit wound, let alone perform an autopsy.
The pressure from the black community continued to grow. On December 18, the head of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, took the Brown case to the White House and demanded answers.
On Christmas Eve, veteran activist and former comedian Dick Gregory staged a protest and prayer vigil at the AFIP headquarters in Washington that culminated in the TV-friendly gesture of wrapping yellow crime scene tape around the area.
“We are not going to allow this to pass,” Gregory vowed. “There is very strong evidence the AFIP found a gunshot wound on Brown’s head and decided to cover-up this evidence.”
The mainstream media largely ignored Gregory, just as they had Mfume. But there was one black leader neither the media nor the White House could ignore.
That was Chicago’s own Jesse Jackson, and he came forward on January 5. With Jackson on board, reporters finally raised the Brown question at a White House press conference on that same day. They obviously struck a nerve.
“It’s time to knock this stuff off,” snapped press secretary Mike McCurry. “I’m not going to talk about this further or take any further questions on the subject.”
But the questions would not go away. A week later a third AFIP pathologist came forward, Air Force Maj. Thomas Parsons. He agreed the hole was “suspicious and unusual” and worthy of an autopsy.
The chief forensic photographer who had first discovered the hole, Kathleen Janoski, offered public confirmation and support as well.
With momentum still building in the black community, the Washington Afro-American ran a lengthy front-page story on January 17, 1998.
At this moment in time, the story had enough substance and bi-racial support to breach the firewall the mainstream media had constructed around the White House and shake Washington to its foundation, but this was not to be.
On that very same January 17, Bill Clinton was about to swear under oath that he had no idea who Monica Lewinsky was. True to form, Newsweek tried to suppress the Lewinsky story as the Washington Post had successfully done earlier.
The Internet, however, now made suppression all the more difficult. Matt Drudge ran with the story and forced the major media to follow. By January 21, the Monica tale had inundated the land and left every other news story gasping for breath.
Jesse Jackson and other ambitious black politicians had a choice to make. They could either pick away at the administration on a story that had just lost its legs or exploit the president’s Monica problem to their own best advantage.
Jackson chose to exploit. Dick Gregory continues his protest to this day. The three pathologists and the photographer had their careers destroyed, and it is unlikely that in his visit to Croatia this week President Bush will vindicate them.
As to Obama, he has kept his powder dry. Apparently, he feels no need to talk about Brown’s death unless he has to.
And unless he does, there will never be an investigation.
About Mega Fix:
In this stunning, surprisingly entertaining, 90-minute DVD video documentary, Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Jack Cashill traces the roots of Sept. 11 to the perfect storm of disinformation that surrounded the Clintons' desperate drive for the White House in the years 1995-1996.
Cashill leads the viewer from Oklahoma City to Dubrovnik, where Ron Brown's plane crashed, to the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia to the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island to the Olympic Park bombing. Jack Cashill's "Mega Fix" DVD is now available.
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