One of the many reasons that I adore Dan Froomkin is his ability to cut through the power envy that pervades the Beltway and state the obvious in such a way that all but the most kool-aid addled ought to be able to comprehend. Froomkin has pulled together a series of lessons that we all — ALL — ought to have learned in the run up to the mess in Iraq, just like we ought to have learned them from the mess that was Vietnam so many years ago. Dan is talking to journalists, but the lessons he highlights apply equally to regular folks like you and me. And they apply not just to evaluations of war and peace and national security, but also to pretty much any governmental undertaking and public load of manure that passes for promises and gifts with strings attached.
You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority
— Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
— Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
— Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion — or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion — may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
— Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.
Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War
— War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better.
— Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned?
— Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”?
— Ask them: Isn’t it possible this will make things worse, rather than better?
Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy
— Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.
— Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.
There is so much more Froomkin goodness in this article. Trust me — go read it. And then send it to the people you love. To your elected representatives. To every member of the media that ought to be asking these questions not just of the Bush Administration and people in power, but also of themselves. Write a letter to the editor about these issues. Wake someone up and get them to think for themselves again.
In the words of the late Molly Ivins, "The President does not have the sense that God gave a duck, so it is up to you and me." (H/T to TheOtherWA for the link to this great cartoon. Love it, it's just perfect.) It is not just our members of Congress who are charged with providing oversight of our government — it is all of us as well.
Stand up and be counted. Be a skeptic — your nation is counting on you. Molly Ivins was right — it IS up to you and me.