If the Shoe Fits

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If the Shoe Fits

You see reasonably often on lefty blogs (though, it seems to me, less so recently) descriptions of the Dubya administration as "Orwellian." I've never bought into "fascist" (let alone "Nazi") or similar epithets, but I've long thought that "Orwellian" was pretty well justified.

All administrations have propaganda, but this one has gone to lengths, and used methods, that are really extraordinary. Politicians lie, and they spin, and they use true facts in misleading ways, and so on. These things don't make the Bushies unique, although the scope of the lying has been impressive. But if that were all there were to it, Orwell's dystopia wouldn't come to mind so readily.

What seems particularly Orwellian are three kinds of technique. The first two are dissembling (i.e., rigging up elaborate mechanisms to make things seem to be what they're not) and the "Memory Hole," where unpleasant history gets disappeared. The fake "news" videos and the payoffs to supposedly independent pundits go in the former category. Memory Hole program-related activities have been well documented, though not widely appreciated by the public or even most of the media most of the time.

The third technique is related: making embarrassing current information disappear. They've done it with economic data and scientific reports, among other things. And they're at it again.

The State Department has decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered....

According to...U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the issue, the National Counterterrorism Center reported 625 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2004. The 2003 figure was 175.

Why would they stop publishing the data? There is an obvious inference: because we lefties were, once again, right about the war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, and the neocons were wrong. Bush isn't doing some fairly elementary things to make us more secure, like spending money on port security and directing useful spending to places that are more likely to be targets (e.g., New York) rather than sending pork to unlikely places (e.g., Wyoming). And his reckless Iraq war has been counterproductive, just as we predicted: it's created more terrorism, not decreased it.

Hence the, as I say, obvious inference:

"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who on Thursday first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report.

This administration has never been big on dealing with facts "in an intelligent fashion"--at least not in its public pronouncements. Sure, they've got a lot of smart people; Rumsfeld may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he's hardly stupid. But the public approach has always been to go to people's most primal emotions: fear, hatred of the Other (boy, how I miss college B.S.), and so on. Why actually try to combat terrorism in low-key and sensible ways when you can lock up hundreds of people and hold them incommunicado apparently on no better basis than that they're Muslim; and when you can whip up a majority of the public into believing that the Man Behind 9/11 is sitting there in Baghdad laughing at us, building his nukes and his bioweapons, and we'll all be safer if we blow up his country?

In the meantime, back in the reality-based community, we might note that the suppressed data show that even the stupid "flypaper" justification, otherwise known as "better to fight them over there than over here," doesn't work. We're fighting them over there and getting hit over here.

The totals didn't include attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, which President George W. Bush as recently as Tuesday called "a central front in the war on terror."

But who wants those silly facts to obscure our faith-based foreign policy? Well, Congress, that's who. At least it did at one time.

By law, the State Department was required to publish "Patterns of Global Terrorism" and circulate it to Congress by April 30.

A report on global terrorism will be sent this year to lawmakers and made available to the public in place of "Patterns of Global Terrorism," but it will not contain statistical data, said a senior official.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist to demand that the State Department give them the information they need in order to protect their constituents.

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