Tuesday, December 20, 2005

AlterNet: In the Kingdom of the Half-Blind

I just listened to this via the iTunes podcast system, and you can listen to it here: In the Kingdom of the Half-Blind (By Bill Moyers, AlterNet. Posted December 16, 2005.) It is a speech given by Bill Moyers about the Freedom of Information Act, the work of the National Archives, and about official secrecy that he's witnessed both working inside the White House (he was Lyndon Johnson's Press Secretary) and as a Journalist. Bill Moyers is a great man who has been doing wonderful work for decades. His speech is a wonderful and eye opening account of official secrecy and the ideal role for independant journalism to counter official secrecy.

He begins his speech with his recollection of the opening salvo of a different war which was launched under official lies. He was LBJ's Press Secretary, as I said, and on August 4, 1964 he was by LBJ's side as he received the information that led him to launch the counter-attack on North Vietnam which precipitated the Vietnam War. Unfortunately there was no pretense for a counter-attack, because there had been no attack in the first place, but it wasn't even clear to Moyers, who was in the room at the time, that there was any subterfuge.

Maybe it's helpful to remember this as we think of the lies and deceit showered on us by the Bush Administration. Clarity isn't always available when it comes time to make a decision. LBJ was in a great deal of doubt, it was unclear what actually was happening, and he made decisions which were later shown to be influenced by false information, yet which led to a disastrous war. Perhaps some of the decisions made by GWB have been alsoo clouded with bad information. We can't really know because of official secrecy, however.

In any case it is interesting to listen to Moyers speech and think of the day it was recorded, and the day it was published on AlterNet's web site. On December 17, 2005, we learned that GW Bush had ordered the NSA to bypass the law and spy on American citizens. AlterNet published Moyers speech on December 16, and it was given on December 9. I think Moyers would have given a different speech today, just 4 days later.

He was speaking of official secrets -- and one can't think of a more important official secret to have been disclosed than this one about domestic spying.