Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's Not About What You "Believe" To Be True

One form of argument that is very prevalent today and displays a fundamental disregard for research and for history is the one that goes like this: “Because I don’t believe it, it is not true.” You see this trope in the political arena as well as prevalent among political blogs. Today, for example, after the report that the missing GIs in Iraq had been tortured before they were killed, a right wing blogger wrote that he didn’t believe “Kerry's absurd assertion that American soldiers ‘terroriz[e] kids and children’,” or Jane Fonda’s assertion that “US troops have been trained to commit atrocities against innocent civilians.” Not that anything could justify this type of brutality against our soldiers (remembering, please, that I served overseas in the U.S. Army from 1970- through 1972), it is interesting to dissect the blogger’s ability to understand the truth.

This ability to discern “the truth,” comes, of course, only from research. The truth is not something you “believe in,” but rather something you have documented and analyzed through careful research. For instance, as to Kerry’s claim, just look at these images: the image to the left is the world-famous shot of a young girl fleeing a Vietnamese village that has just been napalmed by US forces. The image above is of the equally notorious My Lai massacre. Surely these children are “innocent” in all regards. Are you not glad they are not your children? Think about that. And for those who are skeptical about the Internet – just travel to the National Archives in Washington DC – these same images may be found there.

And Jane Fonda’s assertion, as ill-timed as it was, is, unfortunately an historical fact dating from the days of George Armstrong Custer. Countless readily available diaries of soldiers, not to mention press editorials, document in grave detail the utter disregard for the live of women and children as US soldiers fought battles against indigenous populations from South Dakota and Colorado to Cuba, Central America and the Philippines. Not that you’d want to dwell on this, but if you’d like to see the documentation, just read Stephen Kinzer’s new book, Overthrow : America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Kinzer was in Nicaragua in 1987 during the so-called Contra War at the same time I was, and he took many risks to report from the front-lines of an unnecessary war that took many innocent lives.

The point of my own argument here is not to disparage our own troops –I learned in Basic Training at Ft. Bragg, NC, in the hot and historical summer of 1969, that war is a nasty business and the goal, as in pro-football, is to survive and win at any cost. However, unless we are able to face our own reality, to learn the lessons of our own history, today’s so-called “War on Terrorism” is doomed to fail.

The rest of the world, in today’s new nuclear age with N. Korea and Iran both threatening us with instant annihilation, does not view us with the same rose-colored glasses that so many here in this country seem to believe raise us above other nationalities and cultures. Unfortunately, with the Internet readily available in even the remotest and poorest areas of the word, many people seem to know things about us that we refuse to believe ourselves. Quite possibly, if we would acknowledge our own shortcomings and try to make up for them in some fashion – at least we could try not to repeat history, that just might take some steam out of the movement that supports the hard-core terrorists. Who knows, maybe real research and an actual understanding of “the truth” could set us all free.