The First Casualty of War…

…is truth.

Attribute it to whomever you like.

War, though, as we know from Clausewitz, is not just physical combat, and war and politics, we might say, are different, more or less heightened modalities of the same material and ideological contention. So maybe less neatly, and with the greater complexity of reality, we have Samuel Johnson.

Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.

The Idler, 1758

Chaz Pazienza offers his own more extended consideration, focus on Julian Assange.

But there’s another thing worth exploring here: The question of whether, in the internet age, the age of seemingly absolute media transparency, war can survive. Not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but any war. Now that it’s almost impossible to hide the reality of what armed conflict is — how brutal and devastating it is to those on both sides of the gun, how innocence and morality are often the very first casualties of it — will there ever be such thing as a truly “just” war again? Julian Assange and those who laud his efforts and who believe he’s entirely justified in indiscriminately spitting sensitive information into the ether — not even filtering it through, say, a responsible press, as Ellsberg once did, but just putting it all out there and letting the chips fall where they may — these people likely wish to see the entire concept of war become a relic of the past, a modern day impossibility, made so by the inability to keep anything a secret anymore. The problem with this, of course, is that sometimes war really is necessary; there will always be people or situations which leave you no other option but to fight. And those fights will always be ugly. Innocent people will die. Once moral people, their psyches turned inside out, will kill without cause. Governments and generals will make decisions that seem unspeakably ghastly. Because war truly is hell.

And as is the case with Assange, there will be nothing wrong with holding those who take us into battle and who put our men and women in the line of fire accountable. The issue then may be how much naivetĂ© is displayed by those who choose to be insurgent whistleblowers to the battlefield horrors and propagandizing at home that go hand in hand with a lengthy war. Would you really believe that innocents aren’t dying? That the military isn’t engaging in tactics that many might see as underhanded? That the government isn’t hiding some of the facts about both? Admittedly, there’s an argument to be made that people like Julian Assange exist only because the press isn’t doing its job; this is as true on many levels as it is unfortunate, because, once again, Assange isn’t doing what he does to satisfy some lofty commitment to the truth — he’s doing it to serve his own agenda, which asserts that war, particularly in the modern age, is inherently immoral. He wears his personal bĂȘte noire proudly and pompously on his sleeve, and engages in his own kind of war in the service of its destruction, which he finds entirely justifiable.

via Chez Pazienza: Julian Assange: God of War.

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