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Demand the truth for democracy

University Wire
By Daniel Sherman, Iowa State Daily
AMES, Iowa

Consider the following questions.

Is honesty not truthfulness? Is truthfulness not a part of justice? Are justice and the law not bound together? Is the rule of law not used to sustain the social order and structure among people? In a democracy, is it not the people, bounded by the law of the land and protected within its body, who elect their leaders? And are these leaders not expected to be honest and just?

If our leaders do not value honesty but defer to deception, how are we to know whether the information they offer is the truth or not? If we are told our country is at war and the war is just, how are we to judge whether it is so? If our leaders do not value honesty, then why should we trust them?

Now, consider the following facts. The Downing Street Memo, a document that verifies the intentional tailoring of intelligence to "fit" a fabricated pretense for an illegal invasion of Iraq and the lack of foresight or concern for the aftermath, has generated a firestorm of fresh energy within the anti-war movement over the past month.

Just last Thursday, Rep. John Conyers hand-delivered more than 560,000 signatures of American citizens demanding answers to questions raised by the memo to the White House. Mention of the memo has increasingly become the subject of columns and op-eds throughout our nation's newspapers and other periodicals.

John Kerry is now enjoining his fellow senators to sign on to a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking answers about the memo. Also, families of soldiers killed in Iraq are now demanding that the administration address the memo.

Constitutional lawyer John C. Bonifaz has said that, if the document is proven to be true, it would imply that Bush violated federal law, misleading Congress, which is grounds for impeachment. To date, the memo's authenticity has not been disputed by the Bush administration.

Note that on the same day that Conyers delivered the signatures, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan had the opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the memo and to indicate just how much the White House values the truth. When asked about the memo and the obvious questions it raises, however, McClellan merely responded by stating that discussing the issue was "simply rehashing old debates that have already been discussed.... our focus is not on the past," he said.

Why is the Bush administration unwilling to discuss the Downing Street Memo if they pride themselves on the democratic principles for which they claim to stand? Why will they not address the issue in a manner that would indicate they value honesty? Don't we deserve to know the truth? The families of servicemen and women who have died so far deserve to know why their children are no longer alive, do they not?

Just three day ago, Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Cairo, said, "Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." In so saying, Rice implied that the administration actually understands democracy. Yet, if our leaders are not honest and truthful with us, how can we believe such a claim?

The truth is not always comfortable. Nevertheless, in a democracy we must demand it. We must demand it so we are not fooled into war, and we must demand it for those who have been led to leave this Earth for a lie.


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Daniel Sherman made the case June 23 that democracy cannot thrive on government secrecy and outright lies, especially when such deceptions commit the nation to war. Such misdirection inevitably leads to very costly misadventures and a diminished national purpose.

I wrote words similar to Sherman's for the Iowa State Daily 45 years ago while the Kennedy administration conducted secret preparations in Central American for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

It was true then. It was true of Vietnam. And it is true now.

The world must conclude that Americans are either very gullible or a nation of very slow learners.

Judging from the Daily's discussion thread on Sherman's Commentary piece, another generation is both gullible and slow to learn hard lessons.


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