Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Words that should count—and shouldn’t

Express Staff Writer

Americans now know that Fox News brass instructed the news staff to abandon the phrase "public option" when describing part of President Obama's health care reform and instead use "government-run health insurance" to incite public opposition with an image of Big Government. The advice to slant news originated with Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

Those words shouldn't count—consciously designed to turn public opinion against noble efforts to impose controls on the nation's breakneck spending on health care. But, unhappily, they do effectively mislead the public.

Then there's the political rhetoric of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urging Attorney General Eric Holder to use a 1917 law to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and "any and all of his possible accomplices" for "espionage."

Rubbish. Sen. Feinstein knows (or should) that "accomplices" would mean prosecuting the likes of The New York Times along with Assange for merely publishing diplomatic cables purloined by an Army private first class. And hundreds of other Internet and journalism outlets as "accomplices." Feinstein is merely a latter-day mimic of the futile 1970s Nixonian chants to prosecute the Times and The Washington Post for publishing the Pentagon Papers exposing presidential lies about the Vietnam War.

More credible words about WikiLeaks were spoken by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who rebuked Sen. Feinstein's muzzle-the-media scare tactics, when he asked on the U.S. House floor whether the WikiLeaks incident or "lying us into war" in Iraq was responsible for more U.S. deaths (Sen. Feinstein supported the Iraq war). "In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth," he said. "In a society where truth becomes treason, we're in big trouble."

If Sen. Feinstein is so vexed about alleged wrongdoing, how come she isn't demanding prosecutions of President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney and various CIA and Pentagon officials for torture, kidnapping and a humiliating list of other Geneva Conventions violations?

Finally, the last words spoken by the late super diplomat, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, are not only a fitting epitaph for a giant among U.S. Foreign Service officers, but wise words that should count with President Obama.

"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," his family quoted him as saying.

If the history of other failures to tame Afghanistan is unconvincing, surely the death-bed wisdom of the man conducting futile peace efforts there should be a mandate for withdrawing from a hopeless, multibillion-dollar expedition destined for failure.

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