Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This is evil.

And I spent several minutes thinking of the word to use to describe it. "Fascist" or "totalitarian"? But it's not those, strictly speaking, at least not by itself. "Beyond the pale"? I like that phrase, but it's unrecognizable to a lot of people because it's so archaic - I looked it up one time, and it comes from the Latin word "palus," which means "stake" - the stakes created a fence beyond which you couldn't go, that sort of thing. "Scary"? It is that, but that word gets overused. And now that I think of it, "reminiscent of Big Brother" is accurate and evocative, but it's also unwieldy.

So what has me so disgusted? It's a blog posting about how the Pentagon is underreporting deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently the bulk of the gap between the reports and reality comes from people who died from something other than actual enemy fire. Like a weapon misfire or a car accident or something.

It's hard to say how many people are missing, for obvious reasons, but "60 Minutes" said that there were 15,000 unreported injuries. And it's hard to say exactly what counts as a combat death or injury. If you get the injury in combat but you don't die until the hospital? If you get killed fighting looters or whatever, not actual insurgents?

I realize a lot of this is coming from unreliable sources, but the most important bits of it are from very legitimate, mainstream institutions like CNN or "60 Minutes." Even if you want to accuse them of bias, they aren't going to pull numbers and quotes out of their collective asses. And an apologist can't honestly complain that this is how things have always been done, because anyone who was injured or killed in a war zone in the first Gulf War or the Vietnam War was, apparently, counted as a casualty of war.

There's a fine line between making information confidential for reasons of security, and covering stuff up for political (let alone legal) reasons. Our government can't even see that line any more. An important condition for a country being called democratic is "Can the people get accurate and relevant information from the government? In the cases where they can't, is there an imminent national security reason why?" I mean, that's not just a made-up rule. For democracy to mean anything it's not enough that people have a chance to have opinions, they also have a chance to have those opinions be based in reality. But the Pentagon and/or current administration is trying to prevent that.

1 comment:

Ophelia said...

I think "Evil" fits. I'm sickened by what I read and hear regarding the number of casualties on both sides of the confrontation and misreporting of those numbers.
Both my brother and my co-worker's friend have heard soldiers coming back talking about burying dead Iraqi's quickly, to skew the body count.