New Hope for Defending Democracy
Continued from previous page
Given their decades-long record of misleading the American public about life-and-death issues, from the Tonkin Gulf to Iraq's fictional weapons of mass destruction, it is naive to give Executive officials the benefit of the doubt when they respond to charges of abuses. It is only logical to assume they are lying unless they provide evidence to the contrary. This is why they need to be sworn in and indicted for perjury when they lie to Congress.
The Pentagon Papers is the gold standard for understanding how Executive officials think since they have rarely written down their inner thoughts since. The Pentagon Papers reveal that Executive Branch leaders were not only indifferent to Vietnamese life, they were even willing to betray American youth for their own political ends. While the Johnson administration publicly claimed it was sending U.S. troops to help the people of Vietnam, Deputy Defense Secretary John McNaughton described U.S. Executive Branch objectives as "70% to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat. 20% to keep SVN (South Vietnam) from Chinese hands. 10% to permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life."
And while Robert McNamara was publicly claiming the U.S. never killed civilians, he privately wrote that "the picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission (might) produce a costly distortion in the American national consciousness and in the world image of the United States."
McNamara did not express concern about his mass murder. He focused only on keeping it secret from the world and the American citizens he claimed to represent.
Daniel Ellsberg, in Secrets , tells of accompanying McNamara on a plane trip from Saigon to Washington, during which McNamara privately stated "we've put more than a hundred thousand more troops into the country over the last year and there's been no improvement. Things aren't any better at all. That means the underlying situation is really worse!" But when McNamara deplaned he told a crowd of reporters:
"Gentlemen, I've just come back from Vietnam, and I'm glad to be able to tell you that we're showing great progress in every dimension of our effort. I'm very encouraged by everything I've seen and heard on my trip." (2)
Such countless lies betrayed a generation of American youth. Many volunteered to fight in Vietnam because they idealistically believed their leaders' public statements that the U.S. goal was to help the Vietnamese people. Others were forced to fight and die as their leaders concealed from them that they knew their strategy wasn't working. And U.S. Executive Branch leaders' lawless mass murder of the innocent fatally divided their nation at home, creating deep fissures which continue until today. Had Americans simply been told the truth by their leaders, had U.S. leaders said in public what they wrote in private, the war might well have ended years earlier, and thousands of American lives and tens of billions of dollars would have been saved.
As the Executive Branch now extends its operations in the U.S., its bureaucratic interests are similarly opposed to those of the American people. Huge sums given to the Pentagon, CIA and NSA diverts money from the public's top economic needs: investment in infrastructure, education and a high tech manufacturing base. And so the Executive must wage constant disinformation campaigns offering relief from exaggerated fear, false accomplishments and, above all, operations to defeat criticism.
The key concept for understanding how the U.S. Executive manages to convince taxpayers to fund it despite its countless failures is that of "information operations." In The Operators Michael Hastings explained that the military officially draws a distinction between its behavior toward the American and foreign publics, as when David Petraeus explained in April 2008 that "public affairs is there to inform [domestic audiences] and Information operations is there to influence foreign audiences." (3)