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Who Can I Trust?

Christen M. Gray

While looking for information, it is easy to flip over to CNN and get the latest briefing on the anthrax threat or the war with Afghanistan, but even the most trusting people should be able to sense that there is something missing from those reports.

Some will say its just tactics. “Yes, tactics, they can’t very well reveal every movement of the troops. Osama bin Laden could be watching.”

Yes, indeed, our enemies have satellite TV. But if the Average Joe realizes that, so does our government, and so does the media. Ultimately, whatever runs across our TV screens is propaganda for Uncle Sam. Perhaps it is effective in that purpose, but then how are we to find answers to the questions they won’t ask?

Search the newspapers, scan the internet. The New York Times and The Boston Globe will give you a body count. But why does the BBC give a different, higher number?

Walking down the street, I am given a flyer called “Myths Behind the War on Afghanistan.” Dutifully, I read through it. But I can’t trust a paper some random person typed up and decided to pass out to strangers.

Sanjay Basu’s column this week [“The Wrong Way to Break Bread,” October 23] painted a very real picture of the actual effects of our government’s “humanitarian” efforts, pointing out that our food drops are doing more harm than good. Yet, still, every pro-war person I find cites the food drops as evidence that we are helping the people of Afghanistan, or at least of our good intentions.

Some people are especially accusing and suggest certain “conspiracy theories.” Francis A. Boyle, a professor of international law, even goes so far to accuse the war of being pre-planned. Citing Pentagon war games and convenient location of troops around September 11, he claims the terrorist attacks to be either a pretext or a trigger, but not the actual cause. No one wants be paranoid, but why not? There are some answers missing.

To make things worse, there are hundreds of people exploiting all this confusion for their own personal gain. With regular frequency, various groups send out people to 77 Mass Ave to pass out literature and collect money. Everyone is trying to tie their cause to September 11; they prey on both patriotism and paranoia. It is easy to confuse this propaganda with actual news and reporting. However, no matter how pretty or organized, it is still just one person’s view, no better than the woman with the leaflet from her home computer.

As I walked by the student center one day, I saw a man with a table full of booklets, newspapers, and handouts. At the time, I was attempting to find various sources of information, and I asked him for some. The man replied that he could only give me information if I “donated” money. I was suspicious from there, but I purchased the five-dollar package anyway. Later on I even read through it. It was Lyndon LaRouche, former Presidential candidate, simply cashing in on an opportunity to claim that he had predicted the attacks, that he was the man to turn to. He’s using this tragedy and the resulting confusions to campaign for the 2004 Presidential election; sounds like a wonderful candidate.

An Army officer-in-training describes to me the plans and operations of the military in Afghanistan. He is certain of the right in what we are doing. He explains it all, and I find myself quite often with no rebuttal, because in debating with him there is no room for distrust of the government. I wonder how much of what he says is doctrine from the Army. I wonder if there is much that he questions.

At a Peace Rally in Boston, I listen to about a dozen speakers speak about everything from the treatment of Airline workers to the effects of economic sanctions in Iraq. These are first-hand accounts. How can I not put weight in them? Yet, again, what am I not hearing? How do I weight this against the Army’s claim that backing away from a fight would invite more chaos?

From all sides people are talking. You hear one thing consistently: people are blind. The other side, the other point of view just doesn’t get it, or is uninformed. A man wrote a letter to his local paper saying that “a new generation of academics and college students ... seem blind to the reality that our country has been invaded by determined militants dedicated to our physical and economic destruction.” On the other hand, the peace speakers cry that the country is blind to the fact that “hate breeds hate,” or to the fact that 5000 people die monthly due to our economics sanctions in Iraq. Are we all blind?

We are at war. Congress did not declare it, but the bombs are falling and fear is mounting. Laws are being made quickly that will restrict our freedom and affect our lives. These things beg so many questions, but there seems to be an amazing desire for answers. It is not patriotism to trust unquestioningly in the government; it is apathy. It is supposed to be a government by the people and for the people, and if the people don’t start asking questions and getting real answers, our system is a fraud.