Punishing the Truth-Tellers
It appears the most serious offense you can commit in Washington these days is telling the truth. You get a pass on torture, aggressive war, killing civilians, lying, destroying evidence and such, but don’t dare give honest information to the American people.
The penalties can range from possible life imprisonment for Pvt. Bradley Manning, who allegedly disclosed classified information to the public via WikiLeaks, to getting fired, like what happened to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley for calling the Pentagon’s harsh and humiliating treatment of Manning “counterproductive and stupid.”
Yet, no one suggests that what Manning allegedly released wasn’t true; nor could you dispute Crowley’s assessment that the forced nudity and the maximum security treatment of Manning hurt the U.S. image, especially since these acts recall George W. Bush’s mistreatment of “war on terror” detainees.
But it seems President Barack Obama is especially eager to go the extra mile to show the Establishment that he can be trusted with the secrets, that his administration can hide the truth as assiduously as the last one, if not more so.
There’s also the recent case of NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller who was secretly videotaped noting that the Tea Party included some “racist” individuals. For making that startling comment -- which the full video indicates he was attributing to some disaffected Republicans he knew -- Schiller was not only canned by NPR but was stripped of a prospective job at the Aspen Institute.
Yet, Schiller (and his Republican friends) may have been thinking about Tea Party activists who insist that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was raised with Mau Mau influences inherited from his father, causing the President to view the English as, god forbid, “imperialists.”
Oddly, some of these Tea Partiers, who are known for dressing up in American revolutionary garb, are now up arms over someone looking at English history and detecting imperialism. To do so may qualify you to be portrayed in Tea Party posters like Obama was, dressed as an African bushman.
But just as you must not see evidence of imperialism in the British Empire, you must not see racism in how the Tea Party reacts to the first African-American president. To do so in Washington makes you unemployable.
No Invasion Here
Similar rules apply to the behavior of countries depending on whether they’re categorized as “good guys” or “bad guys.”
For instance, in 1979, when the old Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan to bolster the country’s communist government, which was besieged by U.S.-backed Islamic fundamentalists, that was called an “invasion.” But on Monday, when Saudi Arabian troops rumbled into Bahrain to support an embattled Sunni monarchy against the country’s Shiite majority, it was an “intervention” or a "troop movement" or simply an "arrival."
On Tuesday, the New York Times’ front-page story suggested that Shiite-ruled Iran, a U.S. adversary, was behaving recklessly when it described the Saudi action as an “occupation.” The Times added, “Iran even went so far as to call the troop movement an invasion.”
Bring the smelling salts! Imagine calling a “troop movement” into a sovereign nation – against the will of a majority of its people – an “invasion.” Who would say such things?
Yet, while the Times thought Iran was going over the top with words like “occupation” and “invasion,” other comments – no matter how crazy when made by prominent Republicans – are treated with respect. So, the Times described Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour as “testing themes” when he said the following:
“Let’s look at [Obama’s] record,” Barbour told a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Chicago. “In the last two years, the federal government spent $7 trillion and our economy lost seven million jobs. I guess we ought to be glad they didn’t spend $12 trillion. We might have lost 12 million jobs.”
In a different political era, one might have expected responsible journalists to note how absurd – and dangerous – Barbour’s “theme” was. The reason the economy lost seven million jobs was the Wall Street financial crisis, which occurred on George W. Bush’s watch and was touched off by reckless gambling and scant regulation. The trillions in government bailouts were a reaction, not a cause.
While no one can stop Barbour from flipping the chronology – and essentially lying to the public – one might expect the New York Times to explain the facts. But the safe career play these days is to avoid speaking any truth that might get you in trouble.
[The Times’ print edition offered no balance at all, but the online version did include a paragraph from Barbour’s speech acknowledging that Obama faced an economic crisis upon taking office.]
Clearly, it is a far bigger offense in Washington to tell troublesome truths than to slide along with comfortable lies and distortions. According to the National Whistleblowers Center, Congress is even contemplating how to extend fear of retribution into a person’s retirement.
The group reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee may slip into an appropriations bill a provision to empower the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of intelligence agencies to strip retired employees of their pensions by simply accusing them of disclosing classified information.
“This provision is so dangerous because intelligence agencies often retaliate against whistleblowers by accusing of them of leaking information,” the group said. “Stripping pensions based on accusations of classified leaks will be yet another way that the government can retaliate against whistleblowers. …
“On the whim of the DNI, whistleblowers will lose their life savings and be forced into poverty.”
If only the Democrats would be half as aggressive in enforcing laws that were violated by the Bush administration as they’ve been in pursuing and punishing people who tell the truth.
[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege, which are now available with Neck Deep, in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.
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