Saturday, April 24, 2004

Truth is On the Line

By now most of us have heard about the photos of flag draped coffins being loaded into a cargo plane, and the story of how the woman who took the photo was fired, along with her husband.

The government claims that the "no photos" policy was an attempt to be sensitive to the families. Maybe that is the case. Or maybe the government does not want to draw attention to the fact that at least 510 American soldiers have died in Iraq so far, with over 100 of them dying in the last month.

In recent remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, John Kerry had this to say about the incident:

If you don't believe that this is the most important election in our lifetime, then all you have to do is look at your front pages. We see the haunting images of our soldiers loading flagged draped coffins. We see rows of them in the belly of a cargo plane for their long flight home. We see images of them being saluted on their final march to their final resting place. And those images are paired with a story about a husband and wife who took photos to show the world the touching way we honor our fallen. And they were fired for their openness and honesty. My friends truth is on the line in the election.
It is now coming out that the reasons given for going into Iraq in the first place were less than the full truth. And now the price we are paying for this action is being hidden from our view. I think we need to see these fallen soldiers; we need to be kept aware that war is always a horrible thing. Whitewashing it with approved coverage by embedded reporters makes it all seem too clean; a five minute spot slipped in between the market report and the weather.

We have yet to be told what really happened in Fallujah, either. I doubt if we will ever hear that full story. After a few days of backing off, most likely hoping that the global outrage over the loss of civilian lives would move past the limited attention span of news consumers, the Americans are gearing up for yet another attack.

It has been mentioned to me by a few people, some of whom I have no doubt are well intended, that we should not put too much weight on the reports coming out of the foreign media. I would agree that most news is written with a built-in bias, but somewhere between Fox and Al Jazeera the truth can be found. I am convinced that something very ugly is going on in Fallujah.

The loss of access to the truth should be a very serious warning sign to us all that our freedoms are slowly slipping away from us; that we are in danger of suffering from the same disease that plagued those who brought us the tragedy of 9/11...fanaticism;

A maniacal idea, inspired by fear, also is quite extreme a danger. At the present time fanaticism, the pathos of an universally-obligatory orthodoxy of truth is to be seen in Fascism, in Communism, in extreme forms of religious dogmatism and traditionalism. Fanaticism always divides the world and mankind into two parts, into two hostile camps. This is a war setting. Fanaticism does not permit of the co-existence of various ideas and world-outlooks. There exists only the enemy. The hostile powers become blended together and present themselves as a single enemy. This is entirely like, as if a man were to make the division not into the I and a multiplicity of other I’s, but rather into the I and the not-I’s, wherein the not-I presents itself to him as a single being. This strange simplification facilitates the struggle...

... The man, fanatical over some sort of idea, like a person who would save himself alone, cannot be said to seek the truth. The search for truth presupposes freedom. Truth is not external to freedom, truth is bestown only by freedom. Outside of freedom there is only that which is useful, but not truth, there is only the interests of power.

- N. A. Berdyaev, Concerning Fanaticism, Orthodoxy and Truth, 1937.
I've lived through the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the Starr Report. The temptation is to not expect to hear the truth from our leaders. But this time I think it is different. Our access to information around the globe is greater than it has ever been before. We cannot plead ignorance. The cost in human lives continues to rise each day. In order to chart a way out of this killing, we need the truth. And we need it now.


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