Todorov on War and Truth

Via normblog, which is critical of the piece, Tzvetan Todorov on concern for the truth in the context of the war in Iraq.

One of the most interesting conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report resides in the observations that, since the war in Iraq, the American government has often sought to rule out any information that runs counter to its policies, and that this refusal to take the truth into account has had calamitous effects. The report says so in measured, but firm, terms: “Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.” In other words, the American government has held truth to be a negligible value that could easily be sacrificed to the will to power.

This reflection is not really a surprise for observers outside the United States. The preparation and unleashing of the war were based on a double lie or double illusion – that is, that Al-Qaeda was linked to the Iraqi government and that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, biological, or chemical. Since the fall of Baghdad, this casual attitude to the truth has been in constant evidence. At the very moment when the images of torture in Abu Ghraib prison were being revealed to the whole world, the US asserted that democracy was being securely implanted in Iraq. Then, while hundreds of prisoners had already been moldering for five years in the camp at Guantanamo, subjected to degrading treatment, without any trial or any possibility of defending themselves, [the US government] declares that the United States is using its forces in defense of human rights. The very same people who declare that they are the incarnation of freedom have legalized the use of torture. The Baker-Hamilton report chose not to go into the past; it simply notes that the refrain repeated until recently that “everything is going well in Iraq” does not strictly correspond to the truth.