Reg Henry: No "Public's Right to Know?!"
I have some thoughts on the critical issue of the public's right to know.
One of your columnists (a few years ago) told me that she "would rather live in Cuba than in North Carolina," to which I said the weather was better in NC. Later, she told me she was "just kidding" (after she thought I might make that interesting revelation -- and her name -- public).
She had been singing the praises of Cuba under Castro, so I was suspicious that maybe she was not "just kidding." She seemed to believe that Cuba's universal health care (albeit provided rather selectively, which seemed oxymoronic) gave it a moral superiority to countries like the U.S., which did not have such a health care system.
She stayed away from sticky problems such as Cuba's lack of anything like freedom of speech, press, or religion. The absence of elections and the intolerance of political opposition didn't seem to disturb her.
Of course, at an earlier stage of her life, she had expressed admiration for at least one advocate of the philosophy of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), part of which philosophy was to kill policemen, kidnap people, and commit armed robberies.
This particular columnist wrote some very good columns, and she usually was an excellent reporter (always avoiding references to the joys of the Cuban dictatorship). Admittedly, I found several elements of her personality likable, and she seemed to be a good wife and mother.
Of course, much of my insight into this journalist came from personal communications. The general public was unaware of her positions on issues of interest, including Cuba and authoritarianism. For all most of her readers knew, she was a follower of traditional (and dreary) liberal principles.
My own view was that she believed dictatorship was sorta okay if it came with universal health care and lots of rhetoric about worker solidarity.
In other words, she was the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor." Give the people bread (or health care) and you don't have to give them a freedom they really don't want anyway.
Here was the question: did the public have a right to know what I knew (or strongly suspected I knew) about this woman? I think they did have such a right -- not so that they could prejudge her but rather so they could know where she REALLY stood.
Mr. Henry, maybe the most important thing I was saying to you is that the public has a right to know where you really stand. Yes, you despise Donald Rumsfeld and think his policies on fighting terrorists in Iraq were misguided.
But what exactly do you think were the right policies? What should he have done differently? Doing nothing is not usually an option, although perhaps you might disagree with me on that.
So, as Karl Marx once said, "What is to be done?"
Fighting terrorism (or even finding some high-value terrorists) is going to be a bloody mess. The Reg Henrys of the world can't abide such bloody messes. The sight of car bombs and fires generated by terrorists give them dyspepsia. They wonder if it wouldn't be possible to fight terrorism without shedding a lot of blood.
Wouldn't just expressing moral outrage at mass murder -- as we did initially in Serbia, and have done continuously about Rwanda and Darfur -- be enough? That way the mass killing could go on but no American boys and girls would die, so it would be, in a sense, endurable. That's what I call "The Kofi Annan" solution.
Is what the Reg Henrys of the world are really proposing -- remember the public's right to know? -- the old vision of the Fortress America. We will have better airport security, more vigilance at our ports, more "sharing" of (limited) information between the (deracinated) FBI and the (cautious) CIA. We will keep out some suspicious characters but not do so in a way that might injure the sensibilities of the ACLU and its supporters.
Of course, we won't have "warrantless wiretaps" or the NSA interception of communications between one or more pro-Al Qaida people. We won't have the Patriot Act "in its current form." We won't take the war to Al Qaida and its supporters, but rather we'll wait for them to break through our defenses and do another 9/11.
Then, we'll wait for Speaker Pelosi and President Hillary Clinton to express the collective outrage of the American people. We'll hear the same rhetoric we heard in the first Clinton Administration after the African embassy bombings and the Cole disaster.
Enlistments in the Marine Corp and Army may surge -- for a month or two. Perhaps we'll have a "surgical" military engagement with those who supported the attack.
Then, things will start to go badly (as happens in every military conflict, including WW II and the Civil War). At that point, Reg Henry, Dan Simpson, and Tom Waseleski will join their colleagues at the Post and the Times and start putting journalistic daisies into the guns. They may even (horror!) criticize Secretary of Defense John Murtha for his failed policies.
"And I Tiresias have foresuffered all, enacted on the same divan." (T. S. Eliot)
Steve maloney, ambridge, pa