October 25, 2010

Saturday was the twenty-seventh anniversary of another American military disaster that might have been avoided if the public had known all the facts before it happened. On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber detonated what the FBI later called the largest conventional blast its forensic experts had ever examined. That truck bomb killed 241 American servicemen in a barracks at Beirut Airport, and it led to the US Marines”€™ withdrawal from Lebanon in February of the following year. Secret diplomacy, now being uncovered by former Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal for a new book, had sent the Marines to Beirut in 1982. The Israelis wanted the Marines in Lebanon to guarantee that the PLO left. US negotiator Phil Habib and his masters in the Reagan Administration obliged. There was no public discussion, and Congress was not consulted.

With Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush Administration consulted Congress first. Our supine legislative representatives accepted the lies they were told without asking many questions. Someone long ago established as reality the fiction that to oppose going to war was unpatriotic. But those who question war may only be seeking to save their own soldiers”€™ lives, to protect their country’s reputation, to spare young troops the ignominy of killing innocents, and to save working people from paying extra taxes for costly adventures. Is that so unpatriotic?

Along comes Julian Assange as a conduit of official records showing that, not only were two wars based on lies, their continuing prosecution is similarly fraudulent. The soldiers who wrote most of the internal reports that you may now read at wikileaks.org (don”€™t forget to mail them to the Pentagon after you print them out) show themselves to be remarkably honest. A few of them went out of their way to try and stop the Iraqi security services from emulating the Hussein regime’s torture techniques. For the most part, though, their superiors told them to lay off. Their superiors aren”€™t expending energy to end the abuses or to tell the White House’s “€œanti-war”€ wartime incumbent that the wars are military catastrophes. Instead, they”€™re seeking out the Dr. Kelly-like honest civil servant who told his nation what is being done in its name. Let us hope they do not drive him to take his life.

Now the public has the information about Iraq, just as Wikileaks provided it about Afghanistan in July. The question is: What are you going to do with it?


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