Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Republican Terror Campaign

The country is being inundated by so many Republican lies that it is impossible to keep track of them all.

The Path to 9/11

One of the top items on this list is the Disney/ABC miniseries, "The Path to 9/11,” This show is admittedly filled with falsehoods about the days leading up to 9-11 intending to give the impression that the Clinton Administration had several opportunities to eliminate Osama Bin-Laden and refused to do so for political reasons.

Strangely, though the movie apparently makes this claim it remains silent on what must be a logical implication of this. That implication is that the “political fall-out” would have to come from the Republicans, and it would have had to take the form of condemnation for striking at Bin-Laden.

I had a philosophy professor when I was a graduate student who I once overheard saying, “You can tell the people ‘P’, and tell them ‘P implies Q’, but often you still have to hit them over the head to see, ‘Therefore, Q.’ So even if the movie’s premises are true – that Clinton did not attack Bin Laden because of the potential political consequences, and those political consequences would have to come from the Republicans, the movie’s unstated implication remains hidden – that the Republicans would have punished President Clinton if he had taken out Bin Laden.

However, this is only if the premises of the movie were true, which they are not. Though the movie claims to be based on the report of the 9-11 Commission, many of its scenes contradict the findings of that commission. This means that we should not really be asking why the Republicans would have sought to punish the President who attacked Bin Laden, but why the producers, distributors, and, most importantly, the financial backers and sponsors of this product would think it appropriate to engage in such a blatant act of political manipulation through deception.

We are dealing with people so uninterested in truth that they would invest huge quantities of time and energy to mass produce a lie, and we are left to ask, “Why?”

In order to acquire votes, they have declined the option of saying, “Rational and fully informed people would support us – therefore, here is the information that rational and fully informed people can use.” Instead, they come to us and say, “We do not like to think of what you would do if you actually knew the truth, so we are going to tell you a lie. The reason we are going to tell you a lie is because it is a more cost-effective way to manipulate your decisions than the alternative – brute force. I mean, we could threaten you in order to get you to do what we want. But, that would be messy. So, we lie to you instead.”

It is also relevant to point out, as Glen Greenwald has done, that these liars (or those who support them) are also hypocrites in that they are currently supporting the very actions that they once claimed to be immoral. When people made a “docudrama” about Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 2003, these people protested about how wrong it was to fill the public mind with distortions and lies about a very recent event – that if somebody wanted to report on the Reagans they had an obligation to support the truth.

Yet, here they are supporting people whose purpose is to produce and distribute a lie.

We can conclude from their behavior that these people have no love for the truth. They have a love of power. Towards the end they will embrace truth and honesty when it is useful for them to do so, and abandon truth and honesty when it proves useful.

Unlike Mr. Greenwald, I would like to make a bet that if one went back to 2003, we would discover that these conservatives are not the only hypocrites. I suspect that if somebody took a list of Democrats who are talking about the need for truth today, and looked up their statements in 2003, they would be defending the legitimacy of “artistic license” in presenting a fictionalized (and sometimes false) account of the Reagans. I have no party loyalty that requires that I turn a blind eye to the transgressions of either party.

At this point, it might be useful to point out how the Democrats could have stood to benefit if they had been the defenders of truth in 2003. Instead of defending political expediency, they would be able to point out how, in 2003, they opposed the broadcast of a “fiction presented as truth” about Ronald Reagan because they have a strong devotion to truth over party. Then, today, we would have a stronger “culture of truth” that would hold the distributors and sponsors of “The Path to 9/11” in even stronger contempt. However, because the Democrats were such weak defenders of truth in 2003, they must deal with an insufficiently well developed culture of truth in 2006.

Bush's Request for New Powers

My last point in the previous section has to do with the moral principle of “universalizability.” Moral principles are supposed to be universal. What you say others are obligated to do is supposed to be the same thing that you think you would be obligated to do under the same circumstances. If you say that it is wrong to produce a deceptive piece of political propaganda and release it on the national airwaves as “a docudrama of historic events,” – that is, if you claim that it is wrong to lie. This implies that you would not lie under similar circumstances.

Those who are responsible for producing and financing, “The Path to 911” are not the only ones who fail to understand this. The Bush Administration does not understand it either.

If the Bush Administration says that it has the right to hold prisoners without charges for an indefinite period of time and torture them, then they are saying that every government has the right to arrest people without charges, hold them indefinitely in prison, and torture them.

President Bush has recently admitted to secret CIA operated prisons in foreign countries where it subjected prisoners to "intensive questioning." It has transferred these prisoners to Guantanamo Bay and sent instructions to Congress to authorize its secret military tribunals to try these people – and to permit continued use of ‘intensive interrogation.”

One of the implications of this is that the Bush Administration is saying that it cannot legitimately criticize any government who arrests people that its government considers enemies, holds them without a trial, and tortures them for information. Whatever criticisms we may have of other countries, these are not legitimate criticisms – not if our government is saying that these are perfectly acceptable things for a government to do.

This means that President Bush is giving other governments permission to commit these acts against American soldiers that they capture and any American citizens that may fall into their hands. We are saying, “Go ahead; these are legitimate acts for a nation at war.” He is also saying that foreign governments may do the same thing to those who that government considers its enemies. He is, in short, giving his approval for rendition, torture, and imprisonment without trial to become the standard throughout the world.

The military's own lawyers are arguing the same point. If we permit these types of actions against those we capture, then we will have no grounds for protest when others do the same to our soldiers and even civilians captured by agents of other countries. While we endure the stories of Americans being subject to such treatment, we must also endure the claims of those who say, “You were the ones who argued before the world that these were legitimate state powers. You are now living in the world that you helped create – that you said the world should create..”

This means that the Bush Administration is making this a far less secure world to live in. He is making a world where people suffer increased fear of being subject to this type of treatment, and nobody of strength is willing to stand up to those who commit such acts and say, “No! This is wrong!.”

One of Bush’s favorite propaganda slogans is that we now live in a post-9/11 world, and many of his critics are stuck in a pre-9/11 mindset. In light of his comments, in light of the powers Bush is claiming – the difference between a pre-9/11 and a post-9/11 mindset is this:

Before 9/11, people used to (naively) think that “good government” was a government that a presumption of innocence, protected basic human rights, promoted freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, warrants (for arrest or for spying), trial by jury, and truth.

Now, it seems, the Bush Administration has woken (some of us) up to “the truth.” In fact, these were not the signs of “good government”, and we were wrong to think so. With 9/11 to think of, the Bush Administration is telling us that “good government” is a government of torture, arbitrary arrest, indefinite imprisonment without a trial, governments spying on their own citizens, massive and unrepentant lies. The Bush Administration is working tirelessly to convince the people that these are the qualities and policies we should be voting for. Whereas the old policies of presumed innocence, fair trials, and rights against unreasonable searches and seizures are things we should be voting against.

Whatever we vote for or against in this world, we are setting the standard for the rest of the world to follow.

Under the moral principle of universalizability, that which we claim is permissible to do ourselves, we imply we will not criticize others for doing.


Chris said...

Greenwald has pointed out several prominent Republicans and conservative media figures and bloggers who were on record opposing "The Reagans". Can you point out any prominent Democrats or liberal media figures or bloggers who were on record supporting "The Reagans"?

Assuming for the sake of argument that "The Reagans" had distortions as big and important as those in "Path to 9/11", in order to establish hypocrisy you still have to show that the people who opposed distortion then support it now (as Greenwald has done), or that the people who supported distortion then oppose it now (which you imply, but provide no evidence for).

Furthermore, people who defended "The Reagans" *as accurate* cannot be called hypocrites if they support a controversial but accurate portrayal and oppose a controversial and inaccurate portrayal. They may be wrong (if "The Reagans" wasn't really as accurate as they thought), but not hypocritical. "Path to 9/11" has already been *admitted* to be fictionalized by its own creators and can't be defended on these grounds.

So in order to establish your charge of equal hypocrisy you would need to find people who admitted that "The Reagans" distorted the historical record, but nonetheless defended the practice of fictionalizing history as legitimate, and now oppose "Path to 9/11" because of its inaccuracies.

All this leaves out one other problem for both Greenwald's and your charges of hypocrisy: time. People's views can change over time and I don't think it's useful to characterize changing your mind as "hypocrisy". If "The Reagans" had been produced last week, it would be difficult for someone to claim that they just woke up and realized fictionalizing history was wrong (or OK), but over three years, I think some people may have really changed their opinions.

Like Greenwald, I am not engaging in partisanship for its own sake; if any Republicans want to return to the values of freedom, democracy and honesty in political discourse that this nation was founded on, I am willing to support them. But at present they will probably have to leave their party to do so. My political principles and values lead me to prefer one party over the other because of the present nature of those parties. The current Republican party is the party of lies, warmongering, extreme Christianity, and an increase in government power that arguably amounts to neo-fascism; while I have my disagreements with many Democrats, they are much less important than the issues on which I oppose Republicans.

Anonymous said...

I think you are very wrong about the path to 9/11 movie . It would not have been the Republicans that would have "punished" President Clinton for "taking Bin Ladin out" It would have been his own party or to be more accurate the Left Liberal side of his party. ,from sassy