“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” —President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
When unpleasant truths emerge, when war crimes and abuses are revealed, when malfeasance is uncovered, when the existence of illegal surveillance is leaked, the United States Government embraces a policy of deception or when that is not possible, a calculated media campaign of deflection. The Obama administration’s decision to close and evacuate 19embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East is a crass and blatantexample of deception and deflection.
My caustic and jaundiced view of the administration’s latest gambit is founded on that old adage “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.
I go back to my childhood in the 1950’s and the civil defense drills that I endured at PS 22 in Flushing, New York. I remember our teacher pulling down dark green paper shades as somehow they would block an atomic bomb’s blinding light while being ordered to hunker down under our small wooden desks to avoid the bomb’s blast. We believed that bullshit then. In retrospect it’s clear that having tested the bomb in the Arizona desert and actually using it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki this was a government placebo, a palliative designed to deceive us in believing security was achievable.
In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg made the Pentagon Papers available to the New York Times and the Washington Post which disclosed illegal and unconstitutional actions in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia by a succession of Presidents. The Nixon administration rather than pursuing these abuses of power launched a preemptive campaign to indict the participants for espionage and treason in violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. The charges were dismissed due government malfeasance and the issues deflected by the Watergate scandal which was partially responsible for the dismissal.
More recent was the Iraq War based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction, a deception that was sold to the world by Colin Powell in an address before the United Nations. When that proved false, Saddam Hussein’s crimes against humanity, against the Kurds, against his own people were resurrected as an excuse to deflect our attention from the lies, gracefully avoiding the fact that we had supported his regime.
In May, 2004 Seymour Hersh revealed the torture, rape, sodomy that had taken place at Abu Ghraib prisonin an article forThe New Yorker. In June, in responsethe United States handed over sovereign power to an “interim” Iraqi government making Abu Ghraib an Iraqi problem not ours.
When Julian Assange and WikiLeaks published embarrassing secret State Department cables and Iraq war documents, including the notorious “collateral murder video” of the killing of civiliansand a journalist, a full press campaign was instituted: Australia, Assange’s country of birth, was encouraged and almost succeeded in nullifying his passport; Sweden was seconded to open an investigation into years old alleged sexual misconduct and England was persuaded to have him branded a fugitive forcing him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy where he remains today. The perfect example of kill the messenger and bury the bad news.
The latest chapter on deception and deflection is being written. In June Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the government surveillance allegedly authorized by the Patriot Act and other legislation. The revelations brought into light and question the secret workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We are now aware of the systematic all-encompassing review of telecommunications worldwide, a fact that many including me long suspected.
The ensuing debate is especially problematic for the Obama administration, an administration that had been elected on a platform of transparency which proved to be a lie. In response to this latest leak the Espionage Act was resurrected, Snowden was charged with crimes and his extradition demanded. Russia that had granted him temporary asylum was now the focal point of debate with a Summit Conference cancelled and up-coming Olympics in doubt due to anti-gay legislation, anything to keep your eyes from the ball.
Then the Obama administration announced that the surveillance program had born fruit. Terrorist attacks were imminent requiring immediate closing of embassies and consular posts.
I do not doubt that there was in fact terrorist chatter on the internet. I do not doubt that the chatter and the intercepted communications dealt with potential attacks on our Embassy in Yemen. What I question and view with jaundiced eyes is the decision to close the other 18 embassies and consular posts throughout the Middle East. It was a calculated move by the administration to justify the unfettered andto my mind, criminally unconstitutional surveillance conducted by the National Security Administration.
Now a President whobelieves in transparency would hold a press conference where questions could be asked and answered wouldn’t he? President Obama did no such thing. He went on comedian Jay Leno’s Tonight Show where he said “We don’t have a domestic spying program”. A lie or more charitably an obfuscation for he went on to state “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an e mail address that is connected to a terrorist attack. That information is useful.”
I find it troubling that President Obama in one breath can deny spying while in the next admit doing so on, appropriately so, a comedy TV show.
Having been fooled more than once, I cynically read today’s headlines and listen to the platitudes voiced by this administration and congressional leaders.
DeyanRankoBrashich, an attorney, was a longtime Washington, Conn., resident and is a frequent contributor. A collection of essays “Letters from America” has just been published in June, 2013. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com.