We have been blind, but can learn to see

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: How clearly do we see our world? For an answer, look back to the early 1960s. Hindsight reveals that we were wrapped in illusions about our government. These were ripped away during the 1970s. Then we were fed new lies, and many of those have been revealed to be false. Do we still see the world as poorly as we did in 1963? We cannot govern ourselves until we learn to do better.

Truth paid for in blood - Dreamstime_24169126
ID 24169126 © Photowitch | Dreamstime.

How we saw the world in 1963

In the 1960s we were wrapped in illusions about the nature of our government.

We knew that Kennedy was the star of Camelot, an ideal President. He was an athletic man, a devoted father, an author and a war hero. But he was almost a cripple, sustained by a diet of powerful drugs. He was the very opposite of a “family man” (I’ve long suspected Jackie had him killed; no jury of women would convict her). He received a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, which was mostly written by Ted Sorensen. He was a war hero. JFK might have stolen the election of 1960 (we will never know for sure).

We knew that FBI agents were honest, incorruptible guardians just like Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. on “The FBI” TV show (1965-1974; see Wikipedia). The reality was quite different. The FBI denied even the existence of the Mafia until public pressure forced action after 1957. The fabled FBI crime lab was found to be corrupt (Wikipedia). Much of the FBI’s effort went into illegal political operations, such as COINTELPRO.

We knew the CIA was an effective secret organization, like the Mission: Impossible Force. In fact, generations of revelations (most recently in Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA) reveal it to be a clown show, with a long history of failed forecasts, missed major developments (e.g., surprised by Iranian Revolution and collapse of the Soviet Union), and repeatedly botched its operations (e.g,, the Bay of Pigs).

We knew that only the massive waves of military spending fended off the Soviet Union gaining superiority during the Bomber Gap and Missile Gap. In fact, both were fake news to boost military spending.

We knew that America’s troops were the Knights in the Vietnam War, fighting evil. In November 1969 news broke about the My Lai Massacre.

Bleeding eye
“Bleeding Eye” by C. Bayraktaroglu.

Shocking revelations of the 1970s

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the film The Odyssey (1997).

Sadly, that is only a partial list of our delusions in the 1960s. The revelations of the 1970s shattered our delusions. These revelations began the era of cynicism about government and about America that continues today. A few of the highlights …

  • In 1971, the New York Times published The Pentagon Papers, the secret DoD study of the Vietnam War 1945-1967, showing its foundation of lies and incompetent execution.
  • In 1971 newspapers published information about CONTELPRO stolen by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI from an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.
  • In  1975 Church Committee revealed large-scale long-term violations of laws and basic constitutional rights by FBI, CIA, and NSA. See their reports here. on US government assassinations of foreign leaders.

Our reaction to the news is the real news

There were reforms in response to those revelations that seemed substantial at the time. Such as Executive Order 11905 in 1976, banning assassinations. But they were criticized at the time, and proved shallowly rooted in the US political system.

“Early on, critics in the entertainment and news media such as Bing Crosby and Paul Harvey accused the committee of treasonous activity. The 1975 assassination of Richard Welch, a CIA station chief in Greece, intensified the public backlash against its mission. The Committee’s work has more recently been criticized after the September 11 attacks, for leading to legislation reducing the ability of the CIA to gather human intelligence.” {Wikipedia.}

To learn more about this, see …

  1. Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA” by Stephen F. Knott (Prof National Security, West Point) on the History News Network (2001).
  2. Back to Church” by Chris Mooney at The American Prospect (2001) – The Church-bashing started before the WTC’s ashes cooled.

Our reactions to the other incidents were even milder. Failure to learn is one of our greatest weaknesses.

We are still learning

“Unless you expect the unexpected you will never find truth, for it is difficult to discover.”
— Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic “Weeping Philosopher” of Ionia.

Have we learned anything from the revelations of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden? Many people believed their government conducted surveillance of us, but the scale and power of its programs were beyond the worst that many of us imagined.

Have we learned anything from the recently released government reports about our Afghanistan War describing the military’s lies and incompetent execution?

Have we learned anything from the Horowitz Report about the FBI’s misconduct in the RussiaGate investigation?

We are even still learning more about the Cold War. We were often in greater danger from our generals than from the USSR. Tapes of meetings of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOM) during the Cuban Missile Crisis revealed our generals to be eager for war, willing to take insane risks of nuclear war for no rational reason. The eventual compromise – removing our nukes in Turkey for the USSR’s on Cuba (kept secret from us) – could have been made without taking us to the verge of WW3. For about this mad story see …

  1. Recommended: the amazing story told in Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived.
  2. Audio tapes of the EXCOMM meetings (JFK is often the only same man in the room).
  3. The World On the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis“, an Interactive Exhibits at the John F. Kennedy Library.

We prefer to keep our eyes closed and dream of a nicer world.

Girl with pretty closed eyes.
Photo 5297383 © Maxim Petrichuk – Dreamstime.

Have we opened our eyes?

Do we see the world clearly today, or are we as lost in dreams as we were 50 years ago?

Our credulity about what we are told suggests that nothing has changed. We accepted the bizarre government stories about the 2001 anthrax attacks that helped pass the Patriot Act. We accepted the Big Lies that justified our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of the US population accepted the bizarre RussiaGate stories – obviously disinformation (perhaps from Russian sources) washed through Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS.

I will bet that many such discoveries lie ahead of us about things only crazy people on the fringes see today – but will be revealed to all in the coming years. While we cannot know the future, today at least we can be skeptical about what we are told. Gullibility is a choice.

As a first step we can resolve to remember the Big List of Lies by Our Government Officials. They lie because we credulously believe them. When we treat them as liars, perhaps they will change. Either way, we will be less easily fooled. Then we can take the next steps: learning to keep our minds open, to see the world clearly, to evaluate information as best we can.