Friday, May 19, 2006


“I” – the ninth letter in the English alphabet and a pronoun; the first consideration in the various choices made every day by nearly everyone; the psychological center that enables the separation of the “me” from the “not me.”

Occasionally used as a modifier, as in “the I-word.”
Consider the following two examples.

Among the emails that have been piling up in my in-box was a news item that on March 8, the Chapel Hill NC Town Council unanimously voted for a resolution that would apply the “I word” – impeachment – to George W. Bush.

Their reasons for such action rested on three points. The president:

“lied to Congress and the American people to launch an illegal war of aggression”;

“violated human rights by torturing prisoners at home and abroad and detaining suspects with no due process”; and

"unleashed a massive unconstitutional wiretap and spying operation against the people of the United States."

On May 18, General Michael Hayden testified before the Senate Select “I-word” Committee in connection with his confirmation as the new CIA director. The nominee was at all times quite precise in his answers, slicing and dicing about his qualifications (extensive), his forthright, non-partisan approach to “Intelligence,” and his genuine belief that in telling the U.S. public about government intrusion of its civil liberties in the name of security, government would also tell the enemy something they don’t know or suspect already.

One can easily conjure a scenario, a world in which the I-word gradually drops out of the popular lexicon. Going back to Hayden, on many questions he declined to give an answer in public. This reminded me of the prosecutions the government doesn’t pursue because it might have to present classified information to make its case, or the judge would have to be given a security clearance to hear the case – heaven forbid an empanelled jury be told a secret that everybody but the U.S. public already knows.

In the end, the I-word and any public reference to it (like “the I-word”) would be criminalized. But no trial could be held because nothing could be said about the reason for the proceeding. Nor could the accused be let go for fear that more secrets would be disclosed. Eventually, even the Supreme Court would not be permitted to hear an appeal if anything about the case could be considered classified.

It sounds almost like Guantanamo Bay.


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