Gagging the sceptics
The US, founded to protect basic freedoms, is now insisting that its critics are its enemies... If we are to preserve the progress, pluralism, tolerance and freedom which President Bush claims to be defending, then we must question everything we see and hear. Though we know that governments lie to us in wartime, most people seem to believe that this universal rule applies to every conflict except the current one. Many of those who now accept that babies were not thrown out of incubators in Kuwait, and that the Belgrano was fleeing when it was hit, are also prepared to believe everything we are being told about Afghanistan and terrorism in the US.
There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical. The magical appearance of the terrorists' luggage, passports and flight manual looks rather too good to be true. The dossier of "evidence" purporting to establish Bin Laden's guilt consists largely of supposition and conjecture. The ration packs being dropped on Afghanistan have no conceivable
purpose other than to create the false impression that starving people are being fed. Even the anthrax scare looks suspiciously convenient. Just as the hawks in Washington were losing the public argument about extending the war to other countries, journalists start receiving envelopes full of bacteria, which might as well have been labelled "a gift from Iraq". This could indeed be the work of terrorists, who may have their own reasons for widening the conflict, but there are plenty of other ruthless operators who would benefit from a shift in public opinion.
Democracy is sustained not by public trust but by public scepticism. Unless we are prepared to question, to expose, to challenge and to dissent, we conspire in the demise of the system for which our governments are supposed to be fighting. The true defenders of America are those who are now being told that they are anti-American.*********************************************************************Amen to all that.
Sixty-four months on, witness the deterioration in Monbiot's latest articles, which do nothing more than convey some not-very-fascinating news about George Monbiot: In the sixth year of an oxymoronic Global War on Terror conducted by the most ruthless and secretive government in US history, he has noticed that many of that government's opponents are now quite deeply confused. This is a scandal, or so we're told. As George shows us some (very carefully selected) "morons" [sic] thrashing about inelegantly in the dark, he praises himself for having so cleverly noticed their confusion. So preoccupied is he with wrinkling his nose in ostentatious disdain that he neglects to notice one thing: his own current approach to the topic relies entirely on a crass and inexcusable reversal of the burden of proof.
Strange times we live in, when people who call themselves leftists claim to be omniscient and tell us to trust our governments. There is indeed, as Monbiot says, an "epidemic of gibberish" doing the rounds, and it is not pleasant to see him and Alexander Cockburn succumbing to it. Let's hope they both make a full and speedy recovery. Because "we must question everything we see and hear" -- mustn't we? -- even from a source as unimpeachably trustworthy as the Bush-Cheney White House.