Saturday, April 1, 2017

History and Records and Secrets, Oh My!

One of the things I value about U.S. foreign policy work is the care taken to preserve a historical record that is as open and transparent as national security will allow. (For example, every work email I write is part of the historical record of making and conducting U.S. foreign policy and is preserved as such.)

The U.S. is astoundingly open about many things. We're one of the few countries in the world that declassify covert operations, for example. It's in light of these facts that I find far-reaching conspiracies about the U.S. government even more hard to entertain than run-of-the-mill conspiracy theories. Not only would a massive number of people be required to keep most suggested conspiracy secrets, but clearly any attempts to silence the conspiratorial masses have utterly failed (considering proponents of documentaries, blogs, entire publications, and communities persist in openly discussing and sharing their anti-U.S. government views instead of languishing in prison or simply "disappearing" as they would in a truly repressive state).

A great place to start if you want to read for yourself is the National Security Archive, housed at George Washington University. It's a gold mine, and it seems that new documents are becoming declassified and shared online almost every week. One of my favorite documents to share is the CIA white paper from 2002 about suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, which was relied upon in justifying the Iraq War. You can read it in full here. It can help us understand why the U.S. government decided to intervene in Iraq and why the American people supported it so strongly at the time.

The National Archives also preserve extremely valuable records for the benefit of present and future generations. Even if you can't visit them in Washington, DC, you can enjoy the many resources they've provided online. One of my favorite ones to share from not-so-distant history is President George W. Bush's remarks at the Islamic Center in DC mere days after 9/11. President Bush, in this particular instance, exhibited wonderful statesmanship by declaring that Islam is peace and that terrorists are not true Muslims. He went on to condemn those Americans who would take out their anger on innocent Muslim people. The whole thing is quite short and very beautiful, and I highly recommend reading it here.

With the aid of original sources like these, we can debunk myths. We can challenge our assumptions. We can more fully understand decisions that changed the course of history. Therefore, we owe it to our posterity to preserve these records to the best of our ability.

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