Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Real Enemy of Truth

"The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth persistent, peruasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

-- John F. Kennedy (May 29, 1917 - Nov. 22, 1963)

On this forty-second commemorative date of the assassination of John Kennedy, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post makes exactly the same point the former president did. The real enemy of truth is not an outright lie but misjudgments that rest on ill-considered myths.

"Even if you give the administration the benefit of the doubt and assume that the prewar intelligence failures stemmed from incompetence, not dishonesty, there's still no defense for the mistakes that were made in the conduct of the war."
As Arthur Silber reminds us at his new blog, Once Upon A Time, the late Senator William Fulbright, a widely acknowleged expert in foreign policy in his day, made much the same point in the wake of the Vietnam War:
"Acquiescence in Executive war, [Fulbright] wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only [is] this questionable, but major policy decisions turn "not upon available facts but upon judgment," with which policy-makers are no better endowed than the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge "whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve the overall interests as a nation."
The list of Bush administration lies is long and growing longer by the day. But even those who can't bring themselves to accept the notion that our leaders lie to us can see that serial misjudgments and miscalculations about our national interests have led us to this egregious point: Now, even the people we claim to be helping, both Shia and Sunni, want us gone.

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