The Need for Truth

Valerie Plame is dead right in defending a Navy Seal's right to give a true account of the raid which took out Osama Bin Laden (Huffington Post Sept. 14).

No exposure of intelligence sources or methods is involved. The whole world has seen the graphic television coverage of the event.

Can classified information be involved? It is hard to see how.

The real issue at stake is the right of enlisted personnel and junior officers to tell the truth about their combat experiences. That truth needs to be known by a free people.

From sad experience we know it is commonplace for high-ranking military officers to cover up the truth, particularly if they fear criticism from political leaders.

The cases are legion -- from the scandal of MyLai to the cover up that Ranger and football hero Pat Tillman was actually killed by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

The devastating aerial bombardment of Laos and Cambodia remained unknown until revealed by the affidavits of young lieutenants who still remembered the concept of Duty- Honor- Country taught at our service academies.

We have gone to war at least twice in the past half-century based on deceit by our leaders. Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense had good reason to believe that the Turner Joy and Maddox had not been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. Yet they told the Congress and the American people otherwise.

George Bush and Colin Powell knew the facts they alleged were untrue when they wanted public opinion to support going to war in Iraq.

Faith in the truthfulness of our leaders remains an essential element in the country's strength. The abuse of that faith by high-ranking officers and politicians strains the fabric of our political system.

Often it is only the lower ranks of our military who tell the truth. Officers of Field Grade and above, presidents and defense secretaries cannot be expected to be candid about combat casualties, operations and embarrassing failures.

The need to support the troops should never obscure the need to distrust generals and presidents until the voices of the lower ranks can be heard.

Ms. Plame was a loyal and patriotic public servant who had a promising career cut short by Vice President Dick Cheney's exposure of her covert CIA status. Cheney sought to discredit her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson's report to the nation that the president had been untruthful.

Wilson, serving as Acting Ambassador to Iraq under president George H.W. Bush, had been the hero of Baghdad when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. It was a sad and disgraceful day when our Supreme Court ruled that Vice President Cheney was above the law that made disclosure of covert CIA agents illegal.

Blessed be Ambassador Wilson, Valerie Plame and the Navy Seal who chose to tell the truth. They should have the respect and gratitude of the nation.

Pete McCloskey

Mr. McCloskey earned a Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts as a Marine Lieutenant in the Korean War. As a Republican Member of Congress, he made the first floor speech suggesting that President Nixon be impeached for obstruction of justice. He is now a farmer in Northern California.