Saturday, June 4, 2005

What "National Security" Really Means

I've been hoping to write an essay loosely based on those old Mad Magazine strips called "What They Say And What They Really Mean". In essence, it would be a list of ordinary words and phrases which take on unusual meanings when used by the ruling regime and their supporters.

Here's a topical example: bush says Amnesty International's allegations against the United States are "absurd".

What does the word "absurd" really mean? According to, "absurd" normally means "ridiculously incongruous or unreasonable". But that is not what bush means when he says "absurd". He means "We are guilty as sin so we're not going to talk about it."

He used the same word when it was suggested that he may have known something about 9/11 before it happened, but in that case he said "it's an absurd assinuation".

Look, I know there's no such word as "assinuation", but that's what he said. But, strangely, there's hardly any evidence of this gaffe on the net. Everyone seems to have changed their stories to agree with the White House transcript reproduced here:
Q I know you said there will be a time for politics. But you've also said you wanted to change the tone in Washington. Howard Dean recently seemed to muse aloud whether you had advance knowledge of 9/11. Do you agree or disagree with the RNC that this kind of rhetoric borders on political hate speech?

THE PRESIDENT: There's time for politics. There's time for politics, and I -- it's an absurd insinuation.
OK, I admit that I was being sarcastic when I used the word "strangely". Reporters -- no, make that "stenographers" -- cover for bush on a regular basis, as seen in this example, and in this follow-up...

I seem to have strayed some distance from the path I intended to [ahem] blaze. So you can see why I have never even started the essay. It could easily turn into a book. And the historical implications are enormous. [I'm too old to start a project that big!] So my patient readers will have to be content with an occasional post about "what they say and what they really mean".

For instance ...

What do you think when you hear the phrase "National Security"?

Our friends at do the usual thing with this two-word phrase. They consider the two words separately and combine the results, thus:
National: of a nation as an organized whole.

Security: Freedom from risk or danger; safety.

National Security: a collective term for the defense and foreign relations of a country, protection of the interests of a country
Does this look reasonable? Is this more or less what you might think of if I said "national security"?

Pretty close? Ok, we're on to something...

What do you think richard nixon meant when he said "National Security"? Do you think he meant "the protection of the interests of the United States"? Or do you think he meant "the protection of the presidency of richard nixon"?

I'm asking because I can still hear echoes in my mind of nixon's lawyers telling the Supreme Court that they couldn't possibly release the tapes of certain Oval Office conversations, because such release would endanger "National Security" ... when in fact those tapes showed clearly that the president was at the center of a large and spreading conspiracy -- involving blackmail and much else -- to cover up incriminating facts about how he and his men had abused the reigns of power. They were obstructing justice and subverting the democratic process in many ways, and they knew that if these facts ever became known they would be in trouble.

Some people believed [and still do believe] that the cause of national security would be enhanced if justice were less obstructed, and if the democratic process were less subverted. These people viewed richard nixon as a hypocrite because he hid is crimes -- and those of his subordinates -- behind the banner of "national security". But in nixon's mind, there was no hypocrisy at all, because -- to him -- the twin definitions of national security, "the protection of the interests of the United States" and "the protection of the presidency of richard nixon", meant exactly the same thing.

How could he have got the two confused? That's easy! He "knew" that the country was better off with himself as president than it could possibly be under anyone else. And this was all it took -- this solitary leap of faith was the only thing nixon required to justify all these elaborate plans to subvert our democracy and obstruct our system of justice. And evidence of these schemes had to be hidden from the public, supposedly on the grounds that its release would jeapordize "national security".

Thus "national security" came to mean "keeping the president in office".

It still means the same thing.

Sybil Edmonds knows an awful lot about 9/11. But she can't tell her story because of "national security". Everything about her is classified -- including her country of birth and the languages she speaks. It's a matter of "national security" and the rarely used "state secrets" act has been invoked to prevent her from telling us what she knows.

Why? National security. Keeping the president in office.

One more reason to help John Conyers.