As usual the American people are misled by spinners in government and by misinformed, uninformed or intellectually-challenged pundits who love the sound of their own voice and editorial writers who shill for their political brethren – – make no mistake; what the electorate doesn’t know hurts us all and endangers the country.
National security is an excuse over-used by many administrations but never more than by this one. Things the public has a right to know are excised, redacted and clouded over by outrageously disingenuous rationales that would be laughable if they weren’t so infuriating and dangerous. And though it isn’t anything new, such deceptions have become an art massaged to perfection by this White House.
Years ago in the Viet Nam era President Johnson wouldn’t admit we had crossed into Cambodia not only in “hot pursuit” but with bombing raids. Until publication of The Pentagon Papers that information was withheld from the American people. Surely Cambodians knew the bombs were falling; secrecy was a domestic calculation. Currently one often hears President Bush refer to the terrible toll the Khmer Rouge regime exacted on the Cambodian people as another reason to engage in what might euphemistically be called freedom-forays around the world. The problem with the Bush historical rewrite is that we were not at war with Cambodia which is why our military engagement in Southeast Asia is referred to as The Viet Nam War.
Today, Congress and others who seek information about things of public concern are first stonewalled and then provided with reports that obscure most of the salient facts. Recent questions about the behavior of Blackwater security forces in Iraq have received the familiar national security disclaimers, although why forces ostensibly employed to protect contractors and visiting officials should fall into that category is a mystery. The Blackwater report finally provided was so redacted that many pages were almost entirely blank – – another tour de force of governmental intransigence.
We get more of the same obfuscation in the continuing effort by the administration and its apologists to cloud the issue of what constitutes torture – – a subject that should be abundantly clear to everyone by now. Yet in a recent interview Senator Kyl, R. from Arizona said he couldn’t discuss the methods used by interrogators for reasons of national security – – remember that one? And when asked if he would define water boarding as torture all Kyl would say was “we don’t torture” much as other government officials, including the president, dance around this issue and simply expect the public to accept the premise of “because I said so.”
And when it comes to the world around us you can’t beat the mental meanderings of writers and talking heads who wish to ‘explain things’ to listeners and readers. On a recent “Jim Lehrer News Hour”, for example, David Brooks of the NT Times suggested that political discourse might be affected by the fact that things were improving in Iraq and that Pakistan had ‘calmed down’ so those particular issues might be less important points for debate among presidential candidates. But for anyone wanting to be truly informed, people with long experience on the ground in the Middle East are far better able to speak about the complexities of the region and offer insights beyond the superficial pro forma media overview.
For example, support and safe haven for Al Qaeda and the Taliban across the Afghan border in Pakistan is well-documented by observers on the ground. Musharref, in a recent interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, says that his forces are perfectly capable of constraining terrorist insurgents, all reports from reliable sources to the contrary. The factions in Afghanistan are so many and so complex, the terrain so difficult to monitor, the economic ramifications for poppy growers so immense that there is nothing calm about the region and nothing reassuring about Musharref as a reliable ally. Most significantly, our country’s preoccupation with Iraq has been a distraction of monumental proportions with only a small US force in Afghanistan tasked with effecting solutions for huge and intractable regional problems.
It isn’t easy to clarify what the administration willfully mystifies, especially with media sources often complacent or complicit. But Congress and even ordinary Americans have more opportunities than ever to check facts and push back.