Thursday, June 16, 2005

Truth and Consequences

There is a growing pattern in the responses to the revelations of bad acts committed by the Bush administration in its execution of the war. Specifically, the controversies surrounding Guantonimo Bay and The Downing Street Memo are being disputed, not with the argument that the allegations aren't true, but that the publicity surrounding those controveries will simply encourage the enemies of the United States.

The logic goes like this:

  1. Talk about something bad that the U.S. has done.

  2. Enemies of the U.S. use those stories as grounds for attacking the U.S. and encouraging recruitment.

  3. The threat to the U.S. grows.

  4. Therefore, talking publicly about these controversies does nothing but increase the threat to the U.S.

  5. Furthermore, those who talk about these controversies are so desirous to embarrass the Bush administration that they aren't concerned about the threat posed by these public revelations.

Now, here's the thing: this is not an entirely bogus argument. We do not do our side any favors if we simply dismiss the argument that talking about these controversies increases the threat to the United States. It does. The publicity surrounding Gitmo and the Downing Street Memo will be used as recruiting tools by our enemies. They will encourage the recruitment of new terrorists. If we who are Bush administration critics deny this then we will look like naïve fools.

Unfortunately, those who make this argument want to put the onus on the critics for what happens next. If we criticize these acts then we are only encouraging our enemies, the argument goes. If we don't want to encourage our enemies then we should just shut up about it. This is the flaw in the argument.

It isn't the revelations of torture and war mongering that are endangering the United States. It is the acts of torture and war mongering that are endangering the United States. It is the approval of acts of torture and war mongering that are endangering the United States. Responsibility for the consequences of an act comes from committing the act, not the revelation of the act. It is self-serving naivete (or worse) that leads people to think that remaining silent about acts of torture and warmongering are the true signs of patriotism.

But then, respond the critics of the critics, even if the responsibility lies with those who commit the acts, doesn't the act of revealing these acts also bear with it a responsibility for the consequences? Wouldn't it be better to just â??move onâ?? and not risk the consequences that will inevitably come from the revelation of bad behavior?

No, and there are several reasons why:

  1. The information will get out anyway. Even if there is no full blown press media storm and/or Congressional investigation with the revelation of â??smoking gunsâ??, the stories about what is happening still manage to get out. Our enemies are incredibly media savvy. They know how to find out about this stuff. They know how to use google just as well as we do. So avoiding talking about these acts will not stop the consequences. At best it will just delay them.

  2. The information that inevitably leaks out comes through less reliable sources, therefore it is inevitable that that information will be distorted and appear even worse then it actually is. A negative opinion of the United States and its leadership will be the ground upon which the seeds of rumor will blossom into the most outrageous claims of attrocities. And you don't have to be a terrorist to be susceptable to this. The average citizen of the world already has the necessary negative opinion. By trying to clamp down on revelations of these acts out of some misguided notion of protecting us from the consequences we are only encouraging the wildest of speculations. It is better to get the true facts out in front of the ordinary citizens of the world before the wild facts grow like weeds in their place.

  3. Those who comitted these acts and approved the committing of these acts cannot be removed from their positions of authority without at least a partial revelation of the reasons for their removal. And if they are not removed then they will do it again. And when they do it again they just further damage the reputation of the United States. You don't leave a criminal in charge of your finances just because revealing that a criminal was in charge of your finances might damage your reputation.

  4. Finally, torture and war mongering are wrong. They are evil. A moral nation does not allow people to represent them who commit such acts. The failure to remove them is the approval of their acts and thus the guilt for those acts becomes the shared responsibility of all who want to bury the truth. Do we want to be accessories to evil?

If we fail to reveal the full nature of the acts that are being committed in our name then we become partners in guilt.

If we fail to reveal the information out of the fear that it will make us look bad then we will be bad.

There will be negative consequences to the public revelation of these acts. To deny that would be foolish. But to think we can avoid those negative consequences by simply shutting up about them is a level of foolishness that makes the previous pale in comparison.

The truth is the only viable option to a better future.


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