Senators' Confidential Worries About Democracy Itself

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Amid the constant
fracas of daily political life, it is often hard to see the big
picture of power in America (and, for that matter, the world.) In
researching my book, Family
of Secrets
, I came to a fresh appreciation of this big picture,
assembling a vast amount of new evidence of the extent to which
the visible democratic process has historically been covertly shaped
by powerful interests, and how this shaping has gone largely unnoticed
and unremarked-upon, right to the present.

My work has
been praised by some and attacked by others, but since its publication,
new evidence keeps emerging, in bits and pieces, that the public,
its elected representatives (and often even presidents too) are
being constantly manipulated to support outcomes favorable to wealthy

The latest
comes in the New York Times. In an article headlined “Records
Show Doubts on ’64 Vietnam Crisis
,” Elisabeth Bumiller
reports on newly released documents that confirm this.

In an echo
of the debates over the discredited intelligence that helped make
the case for the war in Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
on Wednesday released more than 1,100 pages of previously classified
transcripts that show senators of the time sharply questioning
whether they had been deceived by the White House and the Pentagon
over the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident.

this country has been misled, if this committee, this Congress,
has been misled by pretext into a war in which thousands of young
men have died, and many more thousands have been crippled for
life, and out of which their country has lost prestige, moral
position in the world, the consequences are very great,”
Albert Gore Sr.
of Tennessee, the father of the future vice
president, said in March 1968 in a closed session of the Foreign
Relations Committee.

B. Johnson
cited the [Tonkin Gulf] attacks to persuade Congress
to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but historians
in recent years have concluded that the Aug. 4 attack never happened….

[T]he transcripts
show the outrage the senators were expressing behind closed doors.
“In a democracy you cannot expect the people, whose sons
are being killed and who will be killed, to exercise their judgment
if the truth is concealed from them,” Senator
Frank Church
, Democrat of Idaho, said in an executive session
in February 1968.

another point, the committee’s chairman, Senator William
Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, raised concerns that if the senators
did not take a stand on the war, “We are just a useless
appendix on the governmental structure.”

the rest of the article

5, 2010

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