Friday, May 10, 2013

Obscurantism For The Sake Of Policy

Fr. Dale Matson

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

“Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known.”

“In restricting knowledge to an élite ruling class of ‘the few’, obscurantism is fundamentally anti-democratic, because its component anti-intellectualism and elitism exclude the people as intellectually unworthy of knowing the facts and truth about the government of their City-State.”  Seymour M. Hersh

Hersh wrote this in the New Yorker in 2003 regarding the Bush administration’s willingness to believe in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a reason to invade Iraq.
Much has been said about the attack on our consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans including our Ambassador Chris Stephens. There has been criticism that our State department did not pay enough attention to the events leading up to the attack, that adequate protections were not in place for the staff in Benghazi. There is criticism that there was an inadequate response during the attack. There has been criticism of the investigation of the event and the lack of interest in the truth of what took place.
A big concern is the conscious attempt to “scrub” the CIA report of all the terror references.

The talking points were changed (edited) so many times that the final document reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘original’ axe that he used for splitting logs. It had three new handles and two new heads. The last of the 12 versions was not intended to insure accuracy or clarity. Each version departed further from the truth.  It was intended to distort reality and delay discovery. It is the culmination of a failure to perceive an ongoing reality that ran counter to policy and ideology. This was a policy that downplayed Radical Islamic terrorism.

This was a policy, that like Bush, declared premature victory. How different is it than the Bush Whitehouse and weapons of mass destruction or Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin “incidents”.
What is the collateral damage in all this? There is a sense that the average Joe on the street does not trust his government to tell the truth. In a 2013 Pew research poll this year, only 3 in 10 Americans trust their government.

I can still remember the disillusionment and anger I experienced when President Eisenhower denied we flew over Russia to spy only to have the Russians parade Francis Gary Powers in front of the cameras as a captured U2 pilot. The same thing is true of President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs invasion yet 7 in 10 Americans still trusted their government during the Eisenhower/Kennedy years.

We claim to be a nation under the rule of law but we are really a nation that runs on truth and trust. We are not doing very well these days and I pray for a return to a government that respects those it represents. We can handle the truth. You can rightfully criticize me for the political tone of this piece but I am asking both sides to be more truthful. Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life." Without truth we lose our way and our life is diminished.


The Underground Pewster said...

Governments create their own truths for their own survival.

Another way of surviving the harsh truths that do turn up from obvious disasters such as Benghazi is to put forth multiple truths, or to cite the unreliability of multiple witnesses to the same event. Thus, there being no absolute truth to be found, and "your truth not being my truth" being a legitimate expression of the spirit of the age, our political leaders can get away with saying pretty much anything, talking points or no, up until the point when an enemy army actually lands on our shores.

Dale Matson said...

Politics is a heady and intoxicating wine. Those who are drawn to it should be carefully vetted not worshiped.