Politics is About Policy NOT People

June 10, 2009

PopeYesterday U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham sponsored a provision to the $100B spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The provision would bar the release of photographs showing U.S. abuses of suspected terrorist detainees (read: Guantanamo Bay).

This is a sensitive issue with compelling arguments on both sides.  However, like many of today’s hot-button political issues it essentially boils down to freedom (the right to know) versus security (or the perception of).

The alarming aspect of this debate is not the prohibition itself but the justification provided for it.  Yesterday Sen. Graham addressed his constituents and the possibility his provision may be removed from the bill:

“I cannot believe that we’re about to do this.  That we’re going to dismiss the advice of our commanders who are leading our country in the time of war to give in to the fringe element.”

(an audio clip can be found here)

Senator Graham believes his provision should pass because “our commanders advise it.”

This kind of blind faith in “authority” lead Congress to authorize the Iraq war before confirming the existence of WMDs.  This kind of blind faith is not patriotic.  It does not safeguard America or Americans; quite the opposite in fact.

One of the beautiful aspects of America is our intricate network of checks and balances.  However, for the American government to function properly, each division must remain autonomous – pursue its own interests, voice its own concerns, and rarely (if ever) defer to an authority on the sole basis of rank and file.

There is a plausible argument for preventing the release of certain photos.  It is not one that I personally agree with, but that is because of policies I support (e.g. freedom of information, full disclosure of government actions, and torture is never acceptable in any situation) not because an authority or commander says so.

People are fallible, policies need not be, and political decisions should be based on the latter, not the former.