Most of America does not realize that Paul Wellstone’s tragic plane crash eight months ago was fraught with extremely bizarre circumstances. In much the same way that the populace was led to believe Saddam Hussein was the mastermind behind 9/11, misleading ideas about the Senator’s death and his subsequent funeral were encouraged and promoted by the media, the FBI and the GOP.

The simple fact is that whether or not Paul Wellstone’s death was an extremely and possibly embarrassingly convenient accident for the Republicans or a successful assassination, everything that was suspicious and unusual about the circumstances has, intentional or not, been deftly ironed out of the popular consciousness. Now that America is starting to open up to the possibility that the Bush government may have knowingly lied about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that the press was apparently complicit in passing along the lies, I decided to risk being labeled a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy nut, revisit the Wellstone crash and set some things straight.

If anyone was a ripe candidate for assassination it was Wellstone. He’d once been the target of a possible attempt in Columbia in December of 2000. He was one of the few consistent critics of the Bush administration, voting against the Homeland Security act and the congressional resolution allowing Bush to use force against Iraq (although he did vote in favor of bombing Afghanistan). He was openly hated by both Bush administrations (Bush The First reportedly referred to him as “that chickenshit”) and was on the verge of winning his battle to retain his Senate seat against the hand-picked-by-George-W Republican challenger, Norm Coleman. This would have kept the Republicans from sweeping the Senate.

His death occurred eleven days before the election. If he had died just one day later, the Democrats could have left his name on the ballot, and he would have been a shoe-in as a sympathy vote. His wife died in the crash also, otherwise she could have taken over his seat and run in his place. This was what happened in 2000 with Senator Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash three weeks before his election. His wife survived, ran in his place and won. His opponent had been John Ashcroft.

None of this proves anything, but even the most unbiased observer would have to agree there is a bit of a funny smell to the whole thing.

Here’s what we know about the crash: on October 25, 2002 at 10:20 am, the Senator’s airplane, an eight-seat King Air 100, a top of the line model, was approaching Eveleth Virginia Municipal Airport in Minnesota. Wellstone was two miles from the runway; the last radio report said all was normal. Then, without any notification to the control tower, the airplane suddenly took a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction, speeded south and crashed in a muddy bog. The official explanation was pilot error and that there was a snowstorm and ice on the wings. If this were really the case, then we could reasonably put the issue aside and blame it on nature and bad luck.

But for some reason, the correct weather conditions were never broadcast. If the crash was an accident, why weren’t the facts given correctly? The media reported heavy snow and ice, but according to the bulk of the reports, including Doppler Radar maps put out by the National Weather Service, the temperature was 34 degrees, slightly overcast with a light, snowy drizzle and at least three miles visibility – hardly the snowstorm that media reports suggested. A local flight instructor, Don Sipola, reported that there was little ice and conditions were normal. While local pilots called the icing story “ludicrous” and Greg Spoden assistant state climatologist stated that visibility was about three miles, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/26/02). Nevertheless, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, while talking to a reporter on the scene, pushed the snow and ice scenario and ignored the reporter when she said unequivocally that weather conditions had nothing to do with the crash.

Even in bad weather, the pilots could have contacted the tower. They would have had at least two minutes to send some sort of message. Instead there was radio silence.

The FBI promptly arrived on the scene and, by the end of the day, released a report stating that there had been no assassination or terrorist activity, and that no flight recorder had been found. This instantly became the official word, but how could they have determined all that so quickly? Wasn’t anyone suspicious that such a politically charged incident could be wrapped up so succinctly? If it had been Bush on the plane, there would have been a huge government investigation into the circumstances.

We’ve seen plenty of evidence that the corporate owned press is reticent to criticize the current administration. At the time of the crash Bush was pushing for war. Then we were at war. Although there were off-the-record rumblings, Democrats were too cowed to demand action. The centrist DLC were probably on some level relieved, and no one in the media dared push any story that might embarrass the administration.

At Wellstone’s funeral tens of thousands showed up and Trent Lott was booed. The press cast the story exactly the way the Republicans wished it, as a slight to poor Lott, and a huge mistake by the Democrats. No one gave much credence to the fact that Wellstone’s supporters were all frustrated, angry and terrified that the GOP would pull off what they eventually did: total domination of the House and Senate.

The point is not that there is currently any solid proof that Wellstone was assassinated. It’s that, as with the debacle in Iraq, none of the right questions were asked by the press or the opposition party, either out of misplaced loyalty or fear of angering the powers that be and being labeled “unpatriotic.”

Now that the Bushies seem to have overreached and are starting to appear more vulnerable, maybe it won’t start to seem so crazy to ask some of these important questions.


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