What a Difference a Year Makes

By Lisa Ashkenaz Croke

On November 11, 1998, I received a most unwelcome reply to an e-mail I had sent to Jean Duffey, the former administrator of the Saline County Drug Task Force in Arkansas. After reading what she wrote over and over, one thought repeated in my head: My God, it’s real.

A month earlier, I had finally sat down to read a copy of The Clinton Body Count List. As an ardent Democrat and outspoken Clinton supporter for almost eight years, my only concerns regarding the President’s scandalous exploits were focused on the fact that our Republican representatives might impeach a successful, popular president over partisan politics. With my best friend, Sue, and her computer at our side, we used the internet to research Ken Starr (talk about a conflict of interest), and to write our representatives in DC to protest Starr’s ludicrous grounds for impeachment.

We even discussed putting up a website to inform people on the steps they could take to end this madness, and we signed petitions—anything we could think of to help “Save Bill.”

When Sue first read me the list over the phone in September; we laughed.

Not at the deaths, but at the ridiculous and seemingly desperate allegations. I remember saying that there seemed to be an awful lot of people in Arkansas committing suicide by shooting themselves in the back of the head.

October 19...I read the list for myself and became curious. Surfing the net, I found body count lists with anywhere from 80-20 victims. A search for a site not associated with the “Right” or with the “Nuts,” yielded few results.

It was the word Mena that caught my attention. Every list posted on the most conservative websites included deaths linked to a drug-smuggling operation at the rural airport in Mena, Arkansas, and named then-Governor Clinton as the operation’s protector. At first glance, I assumed I’d discover some bizarre attempt to blame Clinton for the drug-smuggling and gun-running that supported the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, while absolving Reagan, Bush, and Ollie North. Yet, this was not the case. Not one website, from the Wall Street Weekly to the American Spectator, refuted Reagan and Bush’s actions in the operation, not that many accounts even mentioned the former presidents, but their involvement was not denied..

Why? Why, oh why, would any conservative right-winger [I took out “Republican” here, because Republican Senators and Representatives ARE trying to hide Mena.] want to dredge up the Iran-Contra scandal to get Bill Clinton? By their own allegations, these sites acknowledge Clinton’s comparatively small participation in the biggest “Whew!” of Republican politics. No big secrets here; just the pathetic truth that they all got away with it (Wake-up call to the media and politicians everywhere - THIS is why no one cares about Clinton committing perjury).

Clinton accuser, Terry Reed, says the Governor took a 10% kick-back of cash and coke for looking the other way. It boggles the mind, Reed who claims to be an ex-CIA operative writes such a detailed account in his book “Compromised: Clinton, Bush, the CIA,” that shrugging it aside seems irresponsible. Which is why I’m writing. At the end of that night-day-night in October, utterly exhausted in body and soul, I faced an undeniable truth that something may be horribly wrong with our president. Since that day, I’ve reviewed court cases, read books, and visited sites hoping, desperately hoping, to be proven wrong. Unfortunately, as in my search for a left-wing website refuting the Body Count List, I’ve been unable to find any satisfactory answer other than “it’s a vast right-winged conspiracy, ” which just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Now I’m not asking for the life upheaval experienced by investigators Russell Welch and Bill Duncan, or the unwitting victims of Mena crimes, but I want answers. I demand them, and I demand that the press give them to me.

In twelve hours I was able to find enough information to turn my blood cold. In four months, I’ve been able to find enough verification to compel me to put my name to this editorial.

There are two dead boys on those Body Count Lists. Kevin Ives and Don Henry, who were found on the railroad tracks near a drop- sight of drugs, money, or both. The FBI acknowledged that the boys’ murders were related to the Mena operation, but later changed it’s position, saying now the deaths were accidental, the absurd ruling of State Medical Examiner Fahmy Malak who was supported by Governor Clinton in the face of severe media ridicule.

Two grieving families want to know why state and federal investigations of the murders have been either stalled or shut down all together. Why won’t the FBI give them a consistent answer? Why, despite the accounts of investigators such as Jean Duffey, has mainstream medai backed off of this story?

With the amount of information and evidence regarding Mena-related activities, no reason exists as to why responsible journalists should be disallowed to report these stories. The job of the media is not to shelter us from harsh truths, but to serve as a watchdog for the people. No opinions or judgment calls are necessary, thank you - just report the information.

It was about two months after initially stumbling onto all of this that I once more sat before Sue’s computer, trying to make sense of the whole mess. Looking for information dated after 1996 (when these stories wafted in and out of the media), I found the “train deaths” website where Jean Duffey and Linda Ives update the public on their quest for answers. After browsing through links, reviewing Duffey’s experience with the Drug Task Force, and reading the heartbreaking account of Linda Ives, I sat back dejectedly on the verge of tears. “It can’t be real,” I thought.

I decided to write Jean Duffey; to tell her that I was a Clinton supporter, that I was frightened about the information I’d come across, and to offer support to the Ives and Henry families. I never expected to receive a reply, but several days later, Duffey wrote me back. Not a form letter giving me more information about the site, nor a request for a donation to help the families. She said she was writing because like me, she too is liberal and she too had found her way “to the truth” about Clinton.

Duffey’s reply brought me up short. You see, I’m still desperately hoping to be proved wrong, and when one of the figures that I’ve been researching turns out to be a real person, it distresses me. More than a purveyor of a website reprinting information, Jean Duffey has actually been a participant in these events, and with her reply, the last pane of rose-tinted glass crashed to the ground.

I’m still a liberal, and I still think that Kenneth Starr and the House Republicans are wrong, wrong, wrong. Sue suggested that perhaps the Republicans are using Monica Lewinsky the way Elliott Ness used tax evasion on Capone. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. When Ken Starr spends our time and money investigating sex and perjury, while ignoring Mena , he tramples the justice he so stridently and hypocritically promised to obtain.

So, what happens next? That’s up to you, to us. I would suggest writing your representatives in Washington, the editors of your newspapers, hosts of talk radio shows, and the managers of your local news affiliates, and demand investigations. There are people willing to talk, begging to have their stories told - let your media and your public servants know that you need to hear what these people have to say.