Dashiki Dialogues: Politics and the incapacity for truth

2014-06-25 10:00

Politics and its expedient language went to war with truth last week. Scrolling through news channels revealed a world fast losing its capacity to be truthful with itself.

But any person interested in genuine democracy and equality before the law should at least agree that truthfulness in public matters is indispensable to guaranteeing justice for all.

It was with a mixture of worry and loathing that I watched both the debates in Parliament and the media reports over the crisis in Iraq.

Let’s start with Iraq, where the radical group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) is being framed by Western media.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Isis has seized a chemical weapons facility built by Saddam Hussein that contains a stockpile of old weapons. They quoted the US state department and other government officials as sources.

This, interestingly, is much like the language that characterised the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as a mission for “good”.

It might be important to ask: why is such a facility there if, as George W Bush put it in March 2003, “Saddam’s removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction.”

Shouldn’t these “stockpiles” have been destroyed in the 10 years the US was in Iraq spending billions installing the partial and sectarian regime led by Nouri al-Maliki? So much for the US’s campaign to “take liberty” to Iraq.

Much grammar is now being spent on apportioning the crisis to the Isis militias and the army that refused to fight them off. Where is the truth about the folly of bullet-imposed liberal democracies?

Then there are the events that took place in our own National Assembly as MPs debated President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.

We saw an untidy session where Julius Malema stated the ANC-led government massacred people in Marikana in 2012, which was objected to. After some deliberation, the chair of the National Council of Provinces instructed Malema to withdraw his comment. He refused and was asked to leave the House.

There might be something to be said about the extent to which a government can be held responsible for the actions of its organs.

Or, put differently, can we now not say in Parliament that the National Party government massacred people in Sharpeville in 1960 and Soweto in 1976? If not, I fear the traditions and threads of our parliamentary dashikis are unfit for a dialogue with honesty.

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