Blog Archives

Trust in government

July 30:

Syria in ruins.  These are Reuters photos that make me wonder why people still believe that there’s something heroic in fighting each other.  When it’s all over, as it will, eventually, be over, won’t they say, “What was it all for?”  They will have nothing.  Will anyone help rebuild such self-destruction?  What if the old city of Damascus gets destroyed along with everything else?  Was one man’s life (Assad), worth the destruction of thousands of years of culture?

August 1:

Tim Wiener of Enemies: A History of the FBI and Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, has an editorial in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer that appears generally sympathetic to Pfc Bradley Manning.  I have admired Mr. Weiner’s writing, especially his history of the CIA, but he has some phrases in his column today that I find deeply disturbing.  Perhaps I misinterpret, but read the piece for yourself and decide what you think.

Speaking of the files leaked to Wikileaks that had to do with the Iraq war, Weiner says this:

“What the files reveal is a slice of what life during wartime was like under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. And understanding what war is, and what it does to people, is dangerous knowledge.” (Italics are mine)

Why does Weiner say this is dangerous knowledge?  Understanding what war is may well make us less willing to go off on similar disastrous adventures in the future.  Understanding the depths of brutality and depravity war causes in people should make us wary of ever engaging in it except for the defense of our nation on our own soil.

He goes on:

 When the Pentagon Papers were first leaked to the New York Times, White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman shared a fascinating insight with President Richard Nixon. Haldeman had been talking about the papers with another Nixon aide – Donald Rumsfeld – who had said that “to the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook.”

But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing,” Haldeman told Nixon. “You can’t trust the government. You can’t believe what they say. And you can’t rely on their judgment“. (Italics are mine)

Well…?  Relying on “their” judgement is exactly what we should not have done in 2003.  Is that lack of trust in government what’s “dangerous”?  Frankly, I’m not ready to put away my critical faculties or the ability to see what’s real in favor of some higher power that calls itself my government.  As Americans, we need to treasure the skepticism our nation was born with, not relinquish it to some Washington DC power that tries to tell us what to think.  That’s what the Germans did before and during WWII to their sorrow.  That’s what many of the citizens of Communist countries did during the Cold War, and that’s what we did during the long fight for Vietnam that turned out not to be the “domino” we were sold.  Unquestioning trust in any authority usually leads to some sort of disaster after which we live with the dead, the maimed and impaired, the suicides and substance abusers, the broken and scattered families, the homeless former warriors who walk our neighborhoods as pariahs, and the fanatics with murderous intentions.

Seems to me Life is more precious than that.  Think about those Reuters photos of Syria and think about the people who did the destruction and what it has done to them and those whose lives were destroyed.

Total trust in government is what gets us to the point where we don’t mind that our government can mine everything we say and do on the Internet or other electronic device, where something we believe to be safety leads us to relinquish our rights as citizens.  I think it could well be a slippery slide to authoritarianism.