DURING the recent presidential election, I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Truth, for a change." Forget who the message was endorsing and ponder its refreshing naivet when applied to the news of the day. The sentiment is wonderfully refreshing on one hand. Imagine, for example, the truth being spilled by the Putin regime about what really went down in the Ukrainian election and what really happened to physically deplete and disfigure opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in the months before the balloting was blatantly rigged.
Imagine truth for a change about the war in Iraq from the Bush regime. The administration has never been straight with the American people about the whole messy affair from why the United States had to invade the country to why it can't extricate itself sooner than much later. The strategy is to actively ignore the mounting bad news on Iraq from expert intelligence, military, and political eyewitnesses and hope it will all just go away.
But it is increasingly hard to reconcile the growing gap between the administration's truth and everybody else's. The truth is, the administration insists, progress is being made in Iraq, the pesky terrorist/insurgents causing trouble there are on the run, and as soon as elections are held as planned by Washington, Iraqis will reclaim full sovereignty and control of their land with no further need of 150,000 American troops. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speculates troops could be home in time for him to retire in four years.
Truth is, say folks who have been there and done that, the prognosis for Iraq is even bleaker than anybody thought. Some say the country is already in the throes of a civil war with Shia militias organizing against Sunni militants while the armed Kurds dig in to protect their turf. It's not so much Islamic zealotry or terrorists gone wild as it is a fierce political struggle to fill a power void. It falls to U.S. soldiers to put out the new fires with hapless Iraqi security forces straggling in tow.
Truth is, all the White House is aiming for is the appearance of closure so Iraq doesn't become what Afghanistan was to the Russians or what Vietnam was to the Johnson Administration. But truth be told, Iraq may need an open-ended U.S. military commitment coupled with a blank taxpayers' check for capital investment to rebuild what is regularly destroyed by civil strife. Yet it's nave to expect the Bush Administration will ever come clean with the American people about the long, painful, sacrifice it dumped on them and their children when coloring the truth with heavy shades of spin works just as well.
Speaking of our children and their children, it is they who will shoulder the financial burden growing exponentially by the administration's fiscal follies. Truth is, government is spending like there is no tomorrow with unprecedented levels of appropriated pork, with bigger bureaucracies, by staying the stubborn course with trillion-dollar tax cuts to the wealthiest and slipping in supplemental budget requests for billions to pad the war effort in Iraq. Helloooo? Truth is, something's gotta give, like the value of the greenback and the economic rise and fall of a superpower.
In Ohio the highly partisan and blindly ambitious Ken Blackwell, who co-chaired the Bush-Cheney Ohio campaign while simultaneously presiding as the state's chief elections officer, deserves his own personal truth squad. The secretary of state says the final Ohio vote that put the Republican ticket over the top by a slimmer lead than tallied on election night is legit. But the Kerry campaign and a number of third-party candidates want to verify it for themselves with a statewide recount after reports of numerous Election Day problems in Ohio - and can you blame them?
Honest to God answers on war and peace and election outcomes would be quite the switch from the circuitous semantics that too often clutter the plain truth. In the old days we could count on the media to lay bare the truth for all to see no matter how much it afflicted the comfortable. It was the media one could rely on for just the facts, ma'am. But now there's FOX News, which never lets a fact get in the way of its partisan diatribe, followed by a majority of news organizations too timid to practice journalism or step out of corporate bounds.
Fact is the malleable media and the newsmakers they purport to cover can't handle the truth because it comes with too many strings attached. So the public lives with half truths or outright lies and imagines a time when reality will reign supreme again - for a change.
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