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Secrets and Lies


Patrick and I have been watching a number of things on TV this summer and have seen a theme - secrecy and lies. And it never turns out well. And it carries over into every day life. Eventually, the truth comes out, but the lies and secrecy create quite a lot of havoc in the meantime.

Early in July, we watched The Vietnam War documentary series by Ken Burns. Patrick and I were both woefully uneducated about the late 20th century. What was so striking was how little the government was telling the American people about the war. At times, the military would flat out lie to the politicians about the state of the war. And, after a certain point, no one believed that the war was winnable, but the military would not tell that to the President or anyone in government. When you have these kinds of lies being told, you can't make appropriate decisions. No wonder things went so poorly!

Patrick and I then watched the HBO docudrama "Chernobyl", which I highly recommend. (We followed it up with several other documentaries about the long-term follow-up, etc.) The amount of secrecy and lies going on during the Chernobyl disaster was just mind-numbing. Immediately after the explosion of the core, the technicians were giving the higher-ups bad information because they just couldn't believe what their sensors were telling them. There was complete cognitive dissonance. They didn't have dosimeters on-site that could read radiation levels as high as they were, so they gave out the lower numbers that their dosimeters read. And when the other dosimeters shower the higher readings, the technicians thought it was a malfunction. But, once they started to realize the magnitude of the disaster, they began to close ranks and limit information.

The supervisors who reported to the Communist party were consistently under-reporting the severity of the disaster. They said that there was less radiation than there was. It took them hours to believe that there was actually an explosion of the core. Even when they knew that the radiation levels were extremely high, they did not tell the civilians. The party cut the phone lines so that no one could call out to other cities. They did not report the disaster to neighboring countries where the radiation cloud was drifting. While German cities were keeping their kids indoors because of the radiation, Ukraine cities had heard nothing of the disaster and had no idea that there was any increased risk to their children playing. It was several days into the disaster before the Soviet government accepted how bad things were and communicated this information to the public. Even so, the full scale of the disaster wasn't completely known to scientists for several years.

A similar thing happened with Fukushima, but on a smaller scale. When their nuclear disaster occurred, Tepco played down the severity of the problem. They refused to use the word "meltdown" even though that had clearly occurred. There were delays in evacuation because of poor communication. Most of these issues were related to people wanting to make the accident look less severe than it was or to "save face". The prime minister eventually had to step down because of his poor handling of the situation, which was primarily about not communicating the severity of the problem to the public. Tepco was also implicated in lying to the public.

And just last week, there was another nuclear accident in Russia, near Archangelsk. We still don't know completely what happened but it appears that some kind of nuclear weapon exploded. The initial reports were that 2 people were killed, but a couple of days later, they reported that 7 people were killed. The radiation levels in the area rose, but the people in the area were not given any information about this. The physicians who treated the people injured in the explosion were not told about nuclear contamination at the time, so several days later, they were flown to Moscow for treatment of their own radiation exposure. There are many questions for which we have no answers because the Russian government, as it was with Chernobyl, is not being forthcoming.

But, there is plenty of secrecy and lies going on in our own country. From the beginning of his presidency, President Trump has been telling untruths, even things as trivial as the size of the crowds at his inauguration. The Washington Post reports that Trump has told 12,000+ lies since he entered the office of the presidency, which means multiple lies every day. He apparently can't speak or tweet without saying something untrue.

Mueller delivered a report to Congress that provided plenty of evidence that the President obstructed justice, at a minimum. But, the President seems to think that if he says the opposite, loudly enough, that reality will change. But, it won't. Whether or not Congress impeaches him, the evidence is there.

Truth. We can verify facts. We can show whether or not what our politicians are saying to us is honest. We know that the government was lying during Vietnam. They are probably lying about the war in Iraq. Trump lies about easily verifiable facts. And that has to stop. We don't live in the USSR or Russia. We live in the USA where we have free speech and a free press, so we can find out when our government is lying and covering things up. We cannot let this current administration continue with their tenuous hold on the truth. Trump needs to be impeached (preferable) or voted out. For the sake of the truth.

Catherine

 

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