We're fighting for "freedom" in Iraq – but certain
Web sites are off limits to U.S. soldiers
"Government is not reason," George
Washington reputedly said, "it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire,
it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." The fear factor works
both ways: the present administration has spent a great
deal of time
and energy on
scaring us half to death with tales of imminent
terrorist attacks – especially around
election time – but they, in turn, stand in fear of their own subjects,
ones in uniform. That is why the Pentagon is now censoring the Internet,
declaring certain Web sites – including those of some major news organizations
– off limits to military personnel. Check
out this e-mail from a U.S. soldier in Iraq (via Wonkette):
"Just to let you know, the US Marines have blocked access to 'Wonkette'
along with numerous other sites such as personal email (i.e. Yahoo, AT&T,
Hotmail, etc), blogs that don't agree with the government point of view, personal
websites, and some news organizations. This has taken effect as of the beginning
of February. I have no problem with them blocking porn sites (after all it
is a government network), but cutting off access to our email and possibly-not-toeing-the-government-line
websites is a bit much.
"Initially all web blocking was done locally at the hub sites in Iraq.
If you wanted a site 'unblocked' you just had to email the local administrator
with a reason (like, 'I'd like to read my email, please.'), and if it wasn't
porn or offensive, they'd allow it. Now, all blocking is done by desk-weenies
at the USMC Network Operations Center in Quantico, VA, who really don't care
if we get our email (or gossip) out here, as they get to go to happy hour
after working 9 to 5 and go home to a nice clean, warm home with a real bed!
(Sorry, I'm a little peeved.)"
So, we're fighting for "freedom"
in Iraq – according to George W. Bush and those desk
weenies over at The Weekly Standard – but we don't practice
what we preach when it comes to our own enlisted personnel. America's fighting
men and women aren't just being asked to sacrifice their physical
well-being, including possibly their
very lives, but their freedom, too.
I suppose it's possible to justify anything
under the rubric of "military discipline," but one can't help thinking
that the impetus for this clampdown was a noticeable uptick of antiwar dissent
within the ranks. That recent
poll reporting that over 70 percent of our troops on the ground in Iraq
want us out by the end of the year shocked even me: it must have sent the
boys in the Pentagon into gibbering conniptions.
Yes, the whole world is afraid of the
U.S. military – and that includes our rulers in Washington, who stand
in such fear that their armed servants will discover the truth about this rotten
war that they have resorted to censoring the Internet. Hey, what is
this – Red
Actually, it's worse: the Chinese Reds block
access to the kooky cultists of Falun
Gong and Western accounts of the Tiananmen
Square massacre: the range of what's forbidden is relatively narrow compared
to the broad restrictions described above.
I don't know that Antiwar.com is among the
blocked sites, but I'm assuming it is: I often get letters from U.S. military
personnel, but none, suspiciously, directly from Iraq. Hmm… At any rate,
perhaps someone reading this will write in to correct me, but if we aren't among
the censored sites I'd be very much surprised.
The Zogby poll
of U.S. soldiers in Iraq noted that 77 percent said they also believe the main
or a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda
in Iraq." What happens when they discover that this is a
The War Party can't afford to take chances with the body of armed men and women
that is the source of their power, and it is no wonder they are doing their
best to shield the troops from the
truth. Because when our soldiers discover how
and why they were
lied into war, and when most of them
are on their second and even
their third tour of duty in Iraq, they are bound to get pretty angry –
and who knows but that they just might decide to do something about it.
That is every ruling class's worst nightmare: the day their own servants turn
against them. When that happens, we call it a revolution.
It's funny, but the minute some obscure blogger in some godforsaken
Third World hellhole with no tradition of civil liberties is shut down by
the authorities, the entire blogosphere is up in arms, firing off outraged e-mails
of protest. And when Google compromised with the Chinese government's attempts
to censor search engine results within its territory, the outcry was immediate.
Yet we hear nary a peep out of these prophets of cyber-freedom when it comes
to the efforts of their government to limit American citizens' access to the
Gee, why am I not surprised that Glenn
L. Simon, and all the rest of the Usual Suspects have yet to leap to the
defense of an American soldier's right to surf the Internet unconstrained by
meddling desk weenies? Why has the usually
voluble Christopher Hitchens said nothing about this outrage? Doesn't he
support our troops?
And what about those desk weenies in Congress, you know, the ones who gave
George W. Bush a blank
check to wage a war based on a lie.
Oh, but we didn't know they were lying, our congresscritters cavil:
they had us fooled!
Then why, one hastens to ask, do they sit passively by while the U.S. government
prevents its own citizens from learning the truth?
There is no way the
warlords of Washington – or any government – can control the
Internet. This is true because of the nature of the technology, and also
because the very act of forbidding something makes it attractive – especially
to Americans, a cantankerous and inherently
anarchic people who don't like being told what they can or cannot know.
Our rulers live in constant fear: of exposure,
of the sudden realization on the part of their subjects that the
game is rigged in favor of a self-perpetuating elite. One day, the people
simply refuse to go along with the rules and start breaking them en masse: it
happened to the Soviet Empire, and it can happen to us.
Of course they're trying to interfere with access to the Internet
– I'm only surprised they are limiting their efforts to military personnel
in Iraq. After all, the Pentagon has come up with a program to counteract the
power of the Internet to spread the truth about this rotten war, appropriately
the net," including the development of "computer network attack
Hostility to the untrammeled freedom of the Internet is a bipartisan phenomenon.
Hillary Clinton said about the issue back in 1998, as she accused Matt
Drudge of spreading lies when he was exposing
her husband as a serial
slut and brazen perjurer?
"'We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this, because
there are always competing values. There's no free decision that I'm aware
of anywhere in life, and certainly with technology that's the case.'
"Although technology's new developments are 'exciting,' Hillary continued,
'There are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function
or gatekeeping function. What does it mean to have the right to defend your
What it means, one is tempted to reply, is that you can set up your
own Web site to refute the "lies" – the
answer to false or hurtful speech is not censorship but more speech, i.e.,
a debate. But tyrants aren't interested in debates: their whole shtick is to
limit debate as much as possible. And that is the instinct of any and
all governments everywhere, be they dictatorships or democracies.
In the end, however, the truth will come out: they can't hermetically seal
their own soldiers in a womb-like cocoon of ignorance, at least not for very
long. Through contacts with family and friends, word is bound to get out of
what is really
going on with this war – and with a foreign policy that has nothing
to do with fighting terrorism, least
of all protecting the continental U.S. from al-Qaeda. The War Party's crude
attempts to circumvent the truth and create
their own reality is bound to fail and backfire badly in their faces.