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News ::
13 Oct 2002
Modified: 14 Oct 2002
To insure truth in government
There is more harm done in this country and the world as a result of misrepresentations, untruths and just plain lies than by anything else. It is human nature to shade the truth and even to tell untruths, and we do so on an astonishingly regular basis, as was demonstrated in a recent TV documentary. Usually the lies we tell are innocent enough, sometimes less so, but most are not malicious and most don't have momentous consequences.

It's a different thing entirely when public officials lie, and when they do so not for benign or innocent reasons but to prevent the public from knowing the truth and/or to secure approval for things that would invite tar and feather parties if the real facts were known. A case in point is the President's "case" for war against Iraq, a case which, apart from the fact that Saddam Hussein is not a very nice man, is built almost entirely on lies. The consequences of the President's lies are likely to involve nothing less than ever-expanding war, the deaths of untold thousands of innocent people, and devastation of unimaginable proportions both at home and abroad.

The astonishing thing about the War Powers Resolution adopted by Congress is that almost everything the President and his team claimed about Iraq had been promptly and utterly contradicted by the IAEA, UN agencies, foreign intelligence services, the former chief weapons inspector, high-ranking Intelligence and DoD officials and even his own CIA Director. It is one thing for the President to have been honestly mistaken in his fervent assertions concerning Iraq, but it is quite another when he turned a deaf ear to the very sources he claimed to be citing as each in their turn published disclaimers stating categorically that the President's claims were untrue. It is one thing for Congress to have been misled by the President, but inexplicable for that body to have voted to grant the President such extraordinary and deadly powers knowing the administration's justification for war against Iraq already had been thoroughly discredited.

Perhaps there is truth in the aphorism that politicians are lying whenever their lips are moving, and perhaps liars respect and honor other liars in the same way bands of pirates and thieves honored the boldest of their number by granting him an unspoken right of plunder even among their own. Perhaps it was this sort of "professional courtesy" or a sense of homage that led so many in Congress to disregard evidence of the President's lies and vote in the affirmative anyway. In any event, there is no question but that a huge number of innocent people will die because these men had so little regard for the truth.

The law imposes severe penalties on fiduciaries and others who violate their positions of trust; the law punishes perjury in cases where the matters at issue are relatively trivial. Yet there is no law to protect the public against the lies of its political representatives and other public officials, nor against the consequences of those lies, even though those consequences are invariably much longer lasting and of far greater moment. This has been allowed to go on for too long, with the result that our country - and now the world - stands on the edge of a dangerous and crumbling precipice.

A "Modest Proposal" to address this problem would be to put in place a system of laws and penalties that would provide (roughly) as follows:


An Act to prohibit elected officials, candidates for public office, and officials or employees of all agencies and departments of government from making material misstatements of fact concerning any matter affecting or relating to the formulation of public policy, the administration of public policy, the enactment or repeal of legislation, the budget process and allocation of funds, and in all other executive, administrative, or deliberative duties whether Constitutional or otherwise. The penalties provided under this Act, in addition to being punitive, are intended to stand as an essential deterrent with the goal of protecting and safeguarding the public interest. All statements by any public official or candidate for public office, whether made to the public, Congress, committees, or agencies or departments of government, would be deemed to be made under oath, and would be punishable under perjury statutes if proven willfully false. Penalties would be imposed on a sliding scale in accordance with the seriousness - or potential seriousness - of a false statement's consequence. A substantial fine and three-year prison sentence, for example, might be imposed for an offense involving willfully misrepresented program costs or inflated budget requests. Far greater penalties would attach in cases where willful or negligent falsification results, or could reasonably result, in the loss of life or liberty.

Material and willfully false statements of fact in any matter touching on national security, the armed forces, law enforcement, intelligence-gathering and analysis, and the war-making powers of the United States would fall under a special punishment category reflecting the substantially greater capacity of these governmental functions to inflict irreparable harm in destroying or interfering with the life or liberty of U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals. The most severe penalties available under this category would be reserved to any public official who, under false pretense or with ulterior motive or undisclosed agenda, plans, causes, advocates, promotes or initiates acts of war, declared or otherwise, or any military or police action, whether conducted on foreign or domestic soil, and whether directed against nation states or organized groups. Similar penalties would apply to any group or individual who makes or publishes any willful misrepresentation of material fact while acting in an advisory or consulting capacity to any department or agency of government, or any individual or group who does so in producing any report, analysis or recommendation that has the capacity to influence the making of public policy with respect to the security or strategic interests of the United States, particularly where the activation and/or deployment of military forces may be involved or may reasonably be expected to result from the said report, analysis or recommendation. This specifically includes private groups styling themselves as "Institutes", "Foundations" and similar groups colloquially known as "think tanks", whether political, religious, or ideological in nature, who advocate, promote or encourage the use of military power, including the making of foreign policy that would later necessitate the use of military power, or who counsel any aggressive military action, "preemptive" or otherwise.

Acts of omission as well as commission would be punishable under this Act, and negligence or willful blindness to the truth of any matter pertaining thereto would not be admissible as a defense.


Now the only problem is to get this sort of legislation enacted, and since to do so requires the votes of those who are the most guilty of committing the enumerated offenses ...

On the other hand, it might be interesting to put them all on the spot, and see who is most vocal in opposing the legislation and defending the status quo. Of course we saw how that worked with the proposed restriction of campaign contributions and soft money ...

Anyway - time for a change!
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Change - YES! (english)
14 Oct 2002
Or, we could tar and feather the bastards!