Remarks on the new book, American Assassination: The Strange Death of Senator Paul Wellstone On the second anniversary of his death.

Four Arrows

 Presented at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.,

On October 25, 2004

Mitakuye pi, my chante ata wo wogala ke, na nape chiuso pelo. My relatives, I offer each of you a warm handshake. I speak from my heart today and want to begin by commending you who have come sincerely to learn what we have to say about our book, for in this city there are pressures to stay within acceptable boundaries of critical commentary that make your presence here, unfortunately, an act of some courage. In fact, the strong-arm strategies of our national leaders that frighten journalists into compliance are becoming legendary. Film documentaries and books like “Unprecedented” or “The Hammer” continue to reveal the unscrupulous tyranny of Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other top officials who believe emphatically that the “the end justifies the means” and that the end is all about American power and dominance.

It is relatively easy to control what a journalist writes or at least what gets published in the corporate-owned media. However, it is quite another thing to demand the silence of a man like the late Paul Wellstone. In fact, strong-arm strategies did not work on him. They only motivated him further to speak his truth, a truth that to the dismay of the Republican party, increased his popularity, even after taking a stand against the Bush war policy early on. So there was only one option to assure a Republican controlled senate, multi-billion dollar war profits for certain corporations, Iraq oil and implementation of the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Wellstone had to be “taken out,” a Mafiosi phrase that seems fitting to use here.

Of course, one cannot justify murdering a U.S. senator for such reasons, especially if one is playing to the to so-called “ethics of good and evil” coined by the Christian right. The target would have to be an enemy of the country for a sufficient rationale. Well, leave it to Karl Rove to arrange this. Exactly one month before the fatal airplane crash, John Nichols wrote in an article published in The Nation,

Even as Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone announced his opposition to George W. Bush's call for Congressional authorization to "use all means" against Iraq, White House political director Karl Rove was busy unleashing the dogs of political war. Retired Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Denny Schulstad, a veteran Republican, appeared at a rally in support of Norm Coleman, Wellstone's opponent in a tight November race, and labeled Wellstone one of "the worst enemies of America's defense." (Sept.25, 2002, “Wellstone and the War”)

“The worst enemy of America’s defense?” Paul Wellstone? And one month later, just eleven days before his likely re-election to the senate (and the possible beginning of campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination) his King Air 100, one of the safest of all planes, crashed mysteriously, killing both the Senator and his wife, assuring that a replay of the Jeanne Carnahan scenario could not occur.

Of course, if all of this is too disturbing for you, it can easily be dismissed. You simply need to call our suggestions and our book a “conspiracy theory.” This is how the Washington Post dismissed five-term U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney’s call for an investigation to see what Bush knew before September 11 about the potential for a terrorist attack.  The paper said she was “spouting paranoid, America-hating, crypto-Marxist conspiratorial delusions,” and such allegations were mild compared to the anti-conspiracy theory gyrations of Fox News and other Bush administration representatives.

Somehow we are led to believe that high-level conspiracies cannot occur in America, in spite of the legal definition that a conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more persons to do an unlawful act that injures a person, persons or the commonwealth. Furthermore, according to conspiracy law, a person may become a member of a conspiracy without knowing all of the details of the unlawful scheme, and without knowing who all of the other members are. In U.S. history, there have been assassination attempts on nine American presidents, eight governors, seven U.S. Senators, eleven mayors, seventeen state legislators and eleven judges. To believe that all of these were lone acts of radical or insane individuals and that only in other countries are political assassinations ever the result of conspiracies is to believe blindly.

As an American Indian I neither buy nor fear a conspiracy theorist label. I know that conspiracies have led to the assassinations of many of our leaders, from Pontiac and Crazy Horse to the American Indian Movement members and supporters involved with Wounded Knee, all who were killed as a result of government conspiracy. I also know that “two or more people” have conspired against Indian rights and sovereignty for many decades in ways that have been injurious. And so did Senator Paul Wellstone know this. He served for years on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in support treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. He secured monies for clean water and schools. He co-sponsored the bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to pay interest on Indian funds invested and to authorize demonstrations of new approaches for the management of Indian trust funds that have been stolen from Indian people. He tried to strengthen healthy tribal governments, knowing that divide-and conquer conspiracies were in play to undermine abilities to protect reservation resources from corporate interests. 

Paul Wellstone was shifting the way the common person was beginning to look at politics. He was dangerous to the neo-conservative agenda. Once Senator Wellstone commented, “When I first met the President, he called me “Pablo.” Then they started trying to figure out how they were going to get rid of me.” That was just before a Wellstone amendment to Bush tax cuts diverted 17 billion dollars to veterans programs, just the beginning of a number of successes that thwarted the Bush-Cheney regime. Successes that have largely ended since they figured out how to “get rid of him.”

But we would not have written American Assassination if we believed there could not be more of the kind of successes for the commonwealth and democracy that Paul Wellstone championed. We believe that America can awaken from the hypnosis that fear, hegemony and propaganda have fashioned for us. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and other fascist regimes rose to power by assassinating rivals who generally stood for the people, like when Mussolini assassinated his rival in the Parliament, Giocomo Matteotti. Because the people turned a blind eye, the tyranny grew. It is high time for all of us to look squarely at the legacy of the Bush family history; at the corporatization of our government, media, schools, and at the extremism of our religious fundamentalism. As Rick Bass said, “we are in a war of the senses and Americans stand at the edge of one of the most frightening moments in contemporary history." (

        Too many people are already forgetting who Paul Wellstone was, what he stood for, and why he died. If he is forgotten, democracy will have lost its battle. Our book, American Assassination, is an effort to help us all remember.