Recent disturbing events have called into question how the U.S. government manages that all important commodity: the Truth. To be more specific, both Vice President Cheney’s hesitancy to disclose the possible involvement of certain energy companies in meetings to formulate the nation’s energy policy and the recent disclosure of plans to sow disinformation in the foreign press to promote the war on terrorism are clearly symptoms of a deep malignancy in our leadership. Without the financial meltdown at Enron, no one would probably be asking what influence Enron and other megalithic energy companies might have had in the formulation of the National Energy Policy. Both President Bush and “Undisclosed Location” Cheney have deep ties with the oil and natural gas industry. Moreover, Enron has been generous with other elected officials, both Democrat and Republican.
Only within the last few months has the White House been requested to disclose notes and records from the actual meetings Cheney and his energy task force had with industry figures and lobbyists and how the influence of these men and their money might have greased the hinges of the doors of Capitol Hill and the White House, granting access to industry concessions, loopholes, favorable regulation and outright industry subsidization.
The question of what Enron and companies like it received in return for political donations and participation in the formulation of the NEP has not yet been answered. So far Cheney and the White House haven’t offered any answers. In fact, they have fought every attempt to shed light on the issue.
The stand-off has escalated to the equivalent of political blows as the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has threatened legal action to force the White House to release documentation of these meetings. There is something surreal about a bureaucratic agency suing the pinnacle of national leadership because our leaders are uncomfortable telling the truth. It must be something like trying to put yourself in a headlock to make yourself cry “Uncle.” With every action they take, our presidential dynamic duo look guiltier and guiltier. It is important that we put all elected officials in their proper place. We put them there to serve us. From President of the United States down to City Councilman and yes, even student government representative, they are our employees.
As employees, all of their job related materials, papers, e-mails, correspondence and contractual documents are owned by us, their employers. In other words, this information is public domain. It is yours and not for your employees to conceal, cloak, or shred before the FBI, or GAO in this case, storms the building.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that not only has the truth been taken away and locked up in some deep dank dungeon, but some in government are proposing that the truth be permanently replaced by a nearly perfect copy.
For example, the Department of Strategic Influence, one of the newest agencies in the Department of Defense, is responsible for managing information and public opinion outside our national borders. Now, there is no evil in communicating to the rest of the world the principles and ideals our nation supports.
However, the Department of Strategic Influence is considering adopting a campaign of disinformation to influence public opinion abroad in a direction that will benefit the U.S. and its war on terrorism. Planting disinformation in the foreign press is, for lack of a better word, “lying” to our allies and those that are sitting on the fence in the war against terror.
A policy of disinformation, of lying to our neighbors in the global community, is a dangerous policy for one major reason: it completely undermines America’s credibility. Our stand is in defense of several principles fundamental to what we believe our country is all about. Specifically, these principles are freedom, human rights, tolerance and democracy. Ignorance of the truth, and a policy of institutionalized dishonesty, flies in the face of every one of these principles.
In our stand against terrorism, the truth serves our nation best. Besides, if the nations that President Bush calls the “Axis of Evil” are as evil as he claims, why would we have to plant lies of even greater evil done at the hands of these despotic nations in order to sway the opinion of any world citizen?
There are some situations in which lying can be justified. Specifically, disinformation regarding the strategic location and strength of American troops may very well save the lives of American soldiers and their allies. However, should the truth also be sacrificed in order to paint one villain in an even darker light or falsely accuse a government of supporting extremist terrorist groups? Is lying really in America’s best interest? It certainly cannot help our nation’s credibility.
The Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have backed away from reports that U.S. agencies plan to plant any lies in the foreign press other than purely “strategic” ones. Nevertheless, in war, the line between truth and deception is often indistinct and indiscernible. It is almost a cliche to say that in war, truth is the first casualty. Our hope is that truth is still on life support both in the mountains of Southern Asia and on Capital Hill.