The other day I was involved in a conversation about whether or not Osama bin Laden was trained by the CIA. A friend posted a link to a story that claimed the OBL had been directly trained and funded by the CIA. Where the article fell short for me was that it made wild assertions with absolutely no evidence, source material, or citations.
To this point, I have not formed the belief that there was direct funding, financing, or training of OBL by the CIA as I haven’t, to this point, seen any actual evidence that supports that assertion. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist: I’m saying I haven’t seen it. What I have read seems to say exactly the opposite thing. I posted a comment with a link to this interview with Peter Bergen, a news correspondent with CNN.
This garnered a response from my friend who asked if I was really going to trust CNN on this one, given their support for American wars. I think that one could debate that point from each side, but I’m willing to concede that point for the time being. Here’s my reply:
“Well, a little more likely to trust them, than just some guy with a web page who doesn’t back up any of his assertions with evidence. I think it’s most likely to say that he was connected to the CIA in the same way that I’m connected to Harper because I received an income tax return this year. There is no doubt that money went to an organization to which he was attached, but I don’t think one can actually say that it went directly to him, and I certainly don’t think that there is anyone who can prove that he was trained by the CIA directly, as they didn’t train anyone directly. The CIA paid the piper, but was rarely able to call the tune. Mistake by the CAI? Yes. Directly funded and trained bin Laden? Highly doubtful.”
And the reply to that from my friend:
“@Mark John, I’d suggest you read *In Search of Enemies* by John Stockwell, the highest ranking CIA official to leave the agency and spill the beans. You may be making more of the word “trained” than is necessary. Was it like a college? No. Was it along the lines of “Here are some techniques we use to blow shit up/move money/kidnap/torture/etc.”? That’s common.”
So far, quite a civil discussion with both sides sharing information with each other. Then it took a bit of a turn. Someone else posted this comment:
“@Mark: “More likely to trust them, than just some guy…”
Then you’re silly. Because “they”, being a huge U.S. multinational corporation, and for that tied up intimately into American imperialism and war-for-profit, have a discernible agenda for not challenging or questioning our leaders on the decisions they make, or have made.
Some random dude on a blog may be misguided, or even wrong on some points, but usually billions of dollars and a long-standing agenda aren’t at stake. That you trust a news media the function of which is *ONLY* – make no mistake, ONLY – to profit, is utter foolishness.”
Silly and foolish.
I’m not new. I know what CNN is. I also know that in order for me to get as close as possible to the truth of something, getting information from multiple s sources and parsing that is often the best policy. I’m also not ignorant to the fact that ALL news agency are attempting to make a profit, and that most push certain agendas. Again, I would argue with the statement that CNN NEVER challenges leaders or the decisions they make, but, again, that’s for another discussion.
What I found distasteful was this person’s willingness to speak to me in this way without knowing anything about me, especially given the tone of the back-and-forth up to that point. In the time that it took for him to make this comment, I had already gone to Amazon and ordered the book that had been recommended. I’m looking forward to reading it. Silly and foolish.
Hoping to inject some humor, I commented, “Well, thank you so much for saying so. That’s very decent of you. You have opened my eyes.” I guess I should have put a winky face. Or not said anything at all. In fact, I’ll say this: I should not have responded at all. But I did. And this is what I got in reply: “A blind man can’t see whether his eyes are open or not. This is me, shrugging.”
At that point, there was not much else to feel but real amusement. A great conversation in which I was actually learning some information had been hijacked by someone whose only agenda was to try to make me look like an asshole. But I have no time for that. I’m a busy guy. If I get involved in a conversation like this during the day, it’s because I’m truly interested. I really just do not have time for anything else, and I’m certainly not willing to engage in calling people names in the comments section of a friend’s Facebook page. I do not know why people do this.
Here’s what I know for sure: I know that there are people in the world who are vastly more informed than I am about almost everything. In order for me to get more information, it is necessary for me to make statements, assertions, and propositions, and to ask questions. The more I argue, the more information I get.
The caveat to that is that the person which whom I’m engaged in discourse must be able to respond to me with actual information, as opposed to rhetoric, dogma, vitriol, or spite. What’s most disheartening to me is that vomiting bile all over a discussion is in no way dependent upon political affiliation; either side does it with equal aplomb. I have, I am ashamed to say, done it myself. And, in the example in question, I most likely added fuel to a fire that should have just been ignored.
When engaged in an argument of facts, I’m not interested in what anyone hopes is true, or wants to be true, nor am I interested in their emotional attachment to the subject. I’m interested in what they have found out by research, investigation, and through the organic outcome of natural curiosity. Emotions do not belong in intellectual discussions.
The problem is that it is so easy to just spout hate at someone as a comment, that it is a practice that is more popular than viewing pornography on the Internet. Someone can say something to me and leave it in the ether that they would never in their entire lives have the balls, chutzpah, or wherewithal to be able to say to me in real life. To me, this is the saddest thing about the Internet, and is really an entire discussion on its own. The only point that I want to make here is that I’m interested in finding out more from you, and I’m interested in telling you about what I have learned. I’m just hoping that we can do it in a way that is mutually respectful.