Life without accountability, it seems to me, is like language without grammar.
No rules, no checks, and therefore nothing but empty words, void of meaning.
Perhaps the most important factor in governance, professionalism, and relationships in general, this fundamental concept is often neglected and scoffed at.
The most obvious example seems to be our own national government, one that has given my generation a terrible example of accountability.
As a freshman, my first editorial written for The Torch (“The old will lead us to war; the young will fall,” Feb. 5, 2003) was about whether or not we should go to Iraq. Over four years later my worst fears about this war have been realized.
“Iraq is a beehive,” wrote my 17-year-old self, “the closer we get the more it will hurt- First the standing army will go, the reserves, then new enlistments, and then the draft.”
Though I was wrong about the draft and other things, I now realize that attacking Iraq was a debatable strategic move in the war against terror. But no matter what I still have the words “weapons of mass destruction” emblazoned upon my memory.
These words were repeated ad nauseum by the Bush administration and conservative pundits before and during the initial stages of the war, only to be silenced by the truth.
Accountability? Eh, not so much.
Though it is fashionable to point out failures and laugh at them, that type of criticism is cheap and aids nothing. Instead let us look to some disheartening facts.
According to the New York Times, several British memos, including the so-called Downing Street memo written in July 2002, showed that some senior British officials had been concerned that the United States was determined to invade Iraq, and that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” by the Bush administration to fit its desire to go to war.
Also during a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, President Bush informed Prime Minister Tony Blair that he was determined to invade Iraq without a second United Nations resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, according to a confidential meeting memo written by David Manning, Blair’s top foreign policy adviser, according to the New York Times.
“Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning,” wrote Manning in the memo that summarized the discussion between Bush, Blair and six of their top aides.
When faced with the prospect of not finding WMD’s, President Bush floated the idea of painting a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire from the Iraqi military, or simply assassinating Saddam Hussein, according to the British memo.
The meeting was five days before Colin Powell, then secretary of state, made his now infamous presentation to the United Nations regarding WMD’s.
It has now been three years since this debacle began and only one head has rolled, with former director of the CIA George Tenet serving as the sacrificial lamb.
More than anything else this reminds me of the quote by attorney Louis Nizer, “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.”
Even former neoconservative author and thinker Francis Fukuyama, who has turned against the Bush administration and the entire movement, recently released “America at the Crossroads” a book detailing the errors of neoconservative thought and policy objectives.
“Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony,” wrote Fukuyama.
Translation? Events like the second Iraq war make us look like big bullies that think they are the best and don’t care about what anyone else thinks.
Don’t expect anyone in this administration to own up to that.
Another flabbergasting event occurred when Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, radically changed several reports issued in 2002 and 2003 regarding climate change.
Cooney, who resigned on June 14, 2005, is a lawyer and holds a bachelors degree in economics. Before working for the Council on Environmental Quality he was a “climate team leader” and lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute, according to Source Watch, Center for Media and Democracy.
Yes, the president appointed a former lobbyist for the oil industry to an environmental agency.
The New York Times reported that “In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, he crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was ‘straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'”
In a memo Rick S. Piltz, a former senior associate in the Climate Change Science Program, revealed that Cooney had edited government climate reports in an effort to emphasize doubts about climate change. According to Piltz’s memo, Cooney changed one 2002 document to “create an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about climate change and its implications.”
Actions like this make me sick.
Freedom of information acts, sunshine legislation and C-SPAN just don’t cut it with this administration.