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DANGEROUS WORDS

The Six Most Dangerous Words: "They Must Know Something We Don't"

November 8, 2001

One can support the goal of eliminating Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda group as threats to the United States -- and I do support that goal -- and at the same time still differ with the Bush administration on the proper tactics and strategy to achieve that end.

In the context of just such discussions -- not whether, but how to get rid of bin Laden and Al Qaeda -- I'm beginning to hear a certain six disquieting words that reverberate down from the days of the Vietnam War: "They must know something we don't."

Those of us protesting the Vietnam War were often told by our opponents that we did not have all the facts, that there was undoubtedly top secret intelligence-type information which would put a lie to our otherwise seemingly intelligent arguments.  Accordingly, our opponents told us, they would continue to support the Johnson or Nixon administration in prosecuting the war because, as the conveniently short, all-purpose, and conclusive (at least in their eyes) counter-argument went: "They must know something we don't."

As eventually became obvious, not only did "they" not "know something we don't," but they didn't even know what we knew: that the war was not winnable because we were on the wrong side, and that we never should have intervened in the first place.

The present situation with the Afghanistan War is quite different in that I believe the war is quite winnable, and that we are properly intervening there.  As I've written elsewhere, it is our war tactics and strategy that I vehemently object to.

And in that context of discussing the proper means to win the war, I've had "They must know something we don't" thrown in my face.

No, they don't know anything we don't that will support their position.  If they did, they would offer it to bolster their arguments.  I just don't buy this "national security concerns and a desire to protect our sources prevent our disclosing this information" line.  Bin Laden et al know we can intercept any and all of their electronic communications, so revealing the content of such intercepted communications doesn't compromise anything -- at least not according to any logical line of reasoning I've ever heard.

Indeed, to the extent "they know something we don't" is true, "what they know" would be precisely that information which discredits their position, and which they therefore simply don't want to reveal.

That this is the case is borne out by a recent revelation concerning the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.  After a reported attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, Congress authorized President Johnson "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

This resolution was used by the Johnson administration as the basis for escalating the war.  As many historians have long concluded, and as the recent disclosure confirms, President Johnson knew at the time that the attack had never occurred.  So the only thing they knew that we didn't was a fact which would have undermined their entire authorization to fight the war in the first place.

In 2001, of course, in direct contrast, the attack on America did occur, and  -- as I apparently can't state often enough since many readers still accuse me of not wanting America to protect itself -- we do now have the right to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda.

But that doesn't mean that we have to accept everything the Bush administration tells us about the war effort as gospel, and follow in lock-step supporting every aspect of their war policy.  We have the right -- indeed the duty -- to think for ourselves. 

And if something doesn't smell right, if our own eyes and ears and sense of logic and propriety tell us something is seriously amiss with our war effort, those six most dangerous words -- "They know something we don't" -- should not be allowed to deter us from speaking out and achieving changes in U.S. policy.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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