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12 Jun, 2005

Courageous whistle-blowers are loyal to Constitutions, not to political leaders

Originally Published: 12 Jun 2005

The issue of ‘whistle-blowing’ regained some media attention week before last with the coming out of “Deep Throat,” the man credited with leaking the stories that ultimately led to the resignation of former President Nixon in August 1974.

Whistle-blowing was the subject of this column way back on September 22, 2002 headlined “Let’s hear it for whistle-blowers”, in which I referred to the then mysterious “Deep Throat” as the “quintessential whistle-blower.”

That column was motivated by news that former Arthur Andersen partner David Duncan had decided to plead guilty to obstructing justice by ordering employees to destroy documents related to the former energy giant Enron.

He was quoted as saying at the time that he had decided to do so after extensive “soul searching about my intent and what was in my head at the time.” He said he feared a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and civil litigation after Enron’s questionable accounting practices came to light.

I wrote then, and reaffirm today, that “those exposed to the real dangers, those with the really strong principles and conscience, are the whistle-blowers.

Whistle-blowing is all about walking the talk of “transparency and accountability,” the same “transparency and accountability” that we in Asia were accused of lacking and hence bringing about our own downfall in the form of the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

Today, in a remarkable reversal, those who were once at the forefront of demands for “transparency and accountability” are most reluctant to show it themselves. The US media, once gung-ho to expose deception and skulduggery, marches to the tune of patriotism sung by embedded journalists parroting the lies told by their leaders.

As it is not possible to fool all the people all the time, a refrain I have often repeated, nor is it possible to sweep information under the carpet in the age of the Internet and weblogs, the emergence of more soul-searching whistle-blowers is a foregone conclusion.

Indeed, the real stories are yet to be told about the role of America’s neocon hawks in fomenting the Iraq war which, as I have mentioned before, is beginning to resemble America’s other militaristic disaster, Vietnam.

Hence, it was no surprise that the coming out of “Deep Throat” was followed by comments by another famous whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, thus helping to bring an end to the Vietnam war.

In a weblog [http://www.ellsberg.net/weblog/2005_05_31.html], Ellsberg was quoted as saying in a TV interview, “As we learn about his (Deep Throat’s) courage, I hope his example will encourage other people to do what he did and what needs to be done right now, which is come right out with documents that expose the lies of this current administration.”

He recognised that all whistle-blowers, himself included, “feel at some point a conflict of loyalty: a loyalty to their boss, to their team, to their promise, and on the other hand, a loyalty to the Constitution, which is actually what we civilians were sworn to uphold.”

But, he added, “We didn’t swear an oath to uphold the Führer, in effect, or the secretary general, or the president. We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. And when the president is clearly violating the Constitution, by deceiving congress on reasons for going to war, or he’s clearly violating his oath to uphold the law, as Nixon was doing, what is your highest loyalty?

“(When) the president, is embarrassing the country by violating the law, or, as in my case, getting us into a wrongful war — and I would say that applies to the current president — then I think people who know that, and who have documents, should realise that their highest loyalty is to this country, or in the case of a war, to our troops in the field, who are not being well-served by keeping secrets about their having wrongfully been sent there.”

That is powerful stuff. It’s out there on the Net, and it’s being read by millions of people who appear to be realising, finally, that they’ve been had – yet again.

Greg Mitchell, editor of the US media industry publication Editor and Publisher, wrote thus: [http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/22184/]

“(In) this past week, widely scattered newspaper editorialists roused themselves from seeming acceptance of the continuing slaughter in Iraq to voice, for the first time in many cases, outright condemnation of the war.

“While still refusing to use the ‘W’ word in offering advice to Dubya — that is, ‘withdrawal’ — some at least are finally using the ‘L’ word, for lies.

“Memorial Day seemed to bring out the anger in some editorial writers, who at that time are normally afraid to say anything about a current conflict that might seem to slight the brave sacrifices of men and women, past and present. Maybe it was the steadily growing Iraqi and American death count, or the increasing examples of White House ‘disassembling’ (to quote the president this week), or the horror stories emerging from Gitmo.

“Or perhaps it’s a hidden trend that might have even more impact than the rest: the writing on the wall spelled out by plunging military recruitment rates. That only adds to the sense that, overall, the Iraq adventure has made America far less safe in this world.

“For whatever reason, it’s possible that more than a few editorial pages may finally be on the verge of saying ‘enough is enough.’ Perhaps they might even catch up with their readers, as the latest Gallup polls find that 57% feel the war is ‘not worth it,’ and nearly as many want us to start pulling out troops, not sending more of them,” Mr Mitchell said.

May I remind my readers that when the lie-based war on Iraq first began to be planned as part of the response to 9/11 and the so-called ‘War on Terror’, it was originally designated as “Operation Infinite Justice.”

When Muslims protested on the grounds that only God could dispense ‘infinite justice,’ the name of the military response was changed to “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Today, “Operation Enduring Freedom” is on the wane. The real “Operation Infinite Justice” has just begun.

What’s likely to happen next? See the movie, “Wag the Dog.”