FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Dangerous Lack of Rigor

by BRIAN J. FOLEY

Two recent events reveal the lack of rigor that has come to pervade our public sphere: the failure of the UN (or anybody else) to question seriously the case for war against Iran, and the first presidential “debate.”

At its annual meeting, the UN General Assembly squandered an opportunity to invite U.S. and Israeli officials to produce their evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, and to substantiate their claims that if Iran builds a bomb, it presents a threat to world peace and security that cannot be “contained.”  As I’ve written here, such a process would be easy to set up in the UN or Congress. Indeed, any country could host such a tribunal.

Instead, the world slouches toward a replay of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The case against Iraq was built on flimsy and fraudulent evidence. That’s common knowledge – now.  But it could have been common knowledge then if the case against Iraq had been tested rigorously beforehand.

What’s painfully missing in our public discourse is cross-examination.  Lawyers have long agreed with jurist John Henry Wigmore’s assessment: “Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” Indeed, a criminal defendant’s right to cross-examine witnesses against him is enshrined in the Constitution.  In cross-examination, the questioner can probe where the facts came from and whether they’re built on faulty perceptions, mistaken memory, flawed methodology, untamed ambiguity, bias, or outright lies. The questioner can pin down a person’s position, clarify ambiguities, expose inconsistencies and logical flaws.  People are cross-examined every day in countless minor court cases across America, yet we routinely fail to cross-examine officials who claim it’s necessary to send U.S. troops to their deaths, kill and maim thousands of innocent people, and spend billions of dollars. We apply more rigor to a restaurant’s application for a liquor license than to a President’s war cries.

Had then-Secretary of State Colin Powell been cross-examined during his now-infamous February 5, 2003 presentation to the Security Council– a presentation mainstream U.S. media patsies reported as convincing  – the U.S. case would have been exposed as built on coerced confessions, lies, illogic, forged evidence, fear-mongering, and an interest in stealing Iraq’s oil.  Support for the war would have eroded. It’s shocking that such inquiry isn’t required by law, given U.S. leaders’ track record of defrauding Americans into war.

The U.S. case against Iran appears at least as flimsy – if not an out-and-out con job  – as its case against Iraq.  The UN, Congress, and corporate media’s failure to examine it is unconscionable.  It’s not as if no one knows this is a problem.  The New York Times and Washington Post actually issued mea culpas in 2004 for failing to ask rigorous questions about the U.S case against Iraq. No lesson was learned, apparently.  Instead of questioning the case against Iran, U.S. corporate media appear to be helping the Obama Administration make its case for war.

A brief example: On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, the Associated Press treated readers to an “exclusive” story that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees inspections under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), had “received” new intelligence about Iran’s bomb-building, from the U.S., Israel, and “at least two other Western countries.”  (George Jahn, “AP Exclusive: New Intelligence on Iran Nuke Work”)  The AP’s sources: six anonymous diplomats.  Anonymous diplomats? Really? This was newsworthy only in that it revealed a patent, comically cynical attempt to manipulate a public already over-manipulated with 9/11 remembrances into supporting a war.

A lack of rigor also pervaded the October 3 presidential “debate.”  These debates follow a format negotiated by the candidates with the business-funded Commission on Presidential Debates.  Not surprisingly, the debates are set up to avoid serious questioning – there’s no cross-examination! You can’t be on a college, or even high school, debate team if you refuse to submit to cross-examination, but you can rule the most powerful and destructive country in the world.

It’s a sign of our lame-brained, select-a-fact times that our leaders never have to face serious questioning, even when they threaten to get us into another war. Maybe that’s what it means to run the country as a business: empty-suited CEOs drive their companies over cliffs while espousing platitudes to angry, scared – and silent – employees. But we’re still a country, not a company. We must question authority.  If we don’t, history’s judgment will be against us.

Brian J. Foley is a law professor. Email him at Brian_J_Foley@yahoo.com  See his blog  Lawpaganda.

 

Clearance Sale of Vintage
CounterPunch T-Shirts!

We’ve marked down some of CounterPunch’s most popular t-shirts to only$8.00,including the CP shirt featuring Alexander Cockburn’s own scrawl.


Brian J. Foley is a lawyer and the author of A New Financial You in 28 Days! A 37-Day Plan (Gegensatz Press). Contact him at brian_j_foley@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail