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We Won't Deny Our Consciences

"We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.

In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society. The president's spokesperson warns people to "watch what they say". Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed. The so-called Patriot Act - along with a host of similar measures on the state level - gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure, supervised, if at all, by secret proceedings before secret courts."

This article highlights the difficulty of questioning the government's tactics since September 11. The administration has been very shrewd in walking the line where what it does isn't blatantly wrong (as far as public opinion is concerned), but pushes us to places that we ordinarily wouldn't go. The military tribunals are a great example. When they were first announced, the details were vague, with ominous portents about the rights that could be denied to prisoners. The administration left the plan vague long enough for civil libertarians to solidify their arguments about the potential abuses that could occur. Then details were released that indicated that many of the rights that could have been taken away were not. Opponents were left looking like paranoid overreactors, and those on the fence said "ah, it's not so bad" and allowed the plan to go forward.

Then you read something like this:

They Heard It All Here, And That's The Trouble

"I accuse the media in the United States of treason.

I do not understand the media's agenda here. This country is at war. Do you honestly believe that such stories and headlines, pointing out our vulnerabilities for Japanese and Nazi saboteurs and fifth columnists, would have been published during World War II? Terrorists gather targeting information from open sources and field surveillance. What other sources do they have? Do they have a multibillion-dollar intelligence community with thousands of employees? Do they have telecommunications satellites to intercept communications?"

The writer is a member of the Department of State and, while there is a disclaimer at the bottom, I find it hard to believe that nobody else in the department shares his zeal for censorship.

He seems to dimly realise the real function of reporting on the nation's vulnerabilities -- to inform the people of our weaknesses, so that we can address them. But he waves it away by proposing a sort of secret hotline to report security holes that the media uncovers (as if any reporter is going to put in the effort on a story that will only be read by a few bureaucrats), with reporters to be rewarded with Soviet-style honor desgnations like "Homeland Security Gold Stars". And really, there's something incredibly Soviet about the whole thing. The philosophical basis of the Soviet system was the idea that the people should trust the state to act in their best interests. The philosophical basis of democracy is that the people themselves monitor the condition of the nation. Censorship gives the nation an incentive to hide its weaknesses from its enemies and from the people at risk if the enemies find out about them anyway. Freedom of information gives the nation an incentive to face up to its problems. The Soviet Union lost the Cold War (and left its successor states with a mess to clean up) by pretending to be stronger than it was.


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