War in Syria, Yogi Berra, & the two John Kerry’s
Because, if you’re one of those Americans unlucky enough to have left your security clearance in your other pair of pants, questions about either receive essentially the same answer:
“You’re not cleared for that information.”
An informed citizenry is the basis for democracy, say the civics books. But whether the subject is the coming punitive attack on Syria, or the latest developments in the drug war, an informed citizenry is less popular than a 4 am car alarm with Administration officials. It's less welcome than French kissing at a family picnic.
The evidence of Wednesday's televised House hearing on Syria—which featured Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presumably too powerful for anyone to have told him that his comb-over looks ridiculous—was clear and unequivocal:
Walter Cronkite’s famous phrase “the public’s right to know,” has been officially replaced in the American lexicon with two deadly words designed to stop discussion in its tracks: “It’s classified!”
The botched intelligence about Iraq still casts a long shadow over decisions about waging war in the Middle East. But both Kerry and Hagel's explanations why the US needs to strike Syria were so vague as to be insulting.
Watching the two men act like Iraq never happened was stupefying. It was surreal.
You had to go back a long way to find someone who knew how to explain it, to New York Yankees great Yogi Berra…
Yogi said, "It's like deja vu all over again."
What happened to hope and change?
GRAYSON: There’s been a report in the media that the administrations has mischaracterized post-attack Syrian military communications and that these communications actually express surprise about the attack. This is a very serious charge. Can you please release the original transcripts so that the American people can make their own judgment about that important issue?
HAGEL: What transcripts are you referring to?
GRAYSON: The transcripts that were reported to take place after the attack in which the government suggested that they confirm the existence of an attack but actually its been reported that Syrian commanders are expressing surprise about the attack have taken place, NOT confirmed it.
GRAYSON: You will agree that its important the Administration not mislead the public in any way about these reports won’t you?
HAGEL: Well of course, but I’m not aware that the Administration is not misleading the public about this or any other issue.
Yogi said, "Even Napoleon had his Watergate."
"Most likely, its classified.”
Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel's attitude was as dismissive as an Exxon executive in a meeting with Greenpeace.
Still, Grayson, almost heroically, persisted. Someday in the future he may be credited for making it possible to utter the words "Florida" and "Congressman" together in a sentence without sneering.
GRAYSON: Will you agree the only way to put the matter to rest is to release the original reports in some redacted form?
HAGEL: Well, I’m not going to agree to anything until I see it, and see what it is. But, most likely, its classified.
HAGEL: I just gave you my answer. I have no idea what exactly you’re talking about. I’d have to go back and look at it, I’d have to confer with others in our intelligence community. That’s all I can tell you now. Thank you.
And, with that, Hagel indicated just how done he was with Grayson. He reached forward and peremptorily turned off his microphone.
Yankee great Yogi Berra was ahead of his time. He said, "The future ain't what it used to be."
The Two John Kerry’s
Kerry accused Syrian government forces of killing 1,429 people in the chemical weapons attack, an absurdly specific number which showed him offering up statements incapable of standing up to the simplest tests of verisimilitude.
"Secretary Kerry seems to have been sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number," said Anthony Cordesman, former director of intelligence assessment at the U.S. Defense Department.
An intelligence analyst was quoted saying, 'There’s no way in hell the U.S. can back up an estimate of the death toll this exact."
It wasn’t a yellow cake moment by any means. But it was palpably untrue. .
When an anti-war protester interrupted the Senate hearing on Syria to yell, “We don’t want another war,” Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the irony that he first appeared before the same Senate panel 42 years ago as an anti-war activist.
“When I was 27 years old, I had feelings very similar to that protester. And I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country, and that the Congress itself will act representing the American people,” Kerry told the Foreign Relations Committee.
Huh? It was a non-answer; it said nothing about how Vietnam Veterans Against the War protester John Kerry would view his current incarnation as a salesman advocating an attack on Syria. We’re left wondering: What happened to John Kerry?
“It’s the arc of a man’s life,” said Bill Delahunt, a former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who has known Kerry since the two were young prosecutors. “His history gives him credibility. He speaks with such moral authority now — just as he spoke with moral authority when he entered the national stage.”
Sounds good. Too bad its not true. Then or now—a bad war is a bad war.
One of the most insidious things about American society today is officials feel they’re doing the public a favor by lying to us. We’re feckless morons incapable of critical thought. We can’t handle the truth.
Kerry didn’t used to feel that way. Clearly, his views have changed.
"He hits from both sides of the plate," Yogi Berra said. "He's amphibious."