Thursday, June 14, 2007

History is written by the winners

American author Beau Riffenburgh wrote in The Myth of the Explorer: The Press, Sensationalism and Geographical Discovery of the injustice of attributing the finding of the Northwest Passage to Sir John Franklin rather than correctly to Dr. John Rae:

"Historians and geographers have agreed that what is perceived to exist or happen is equally as important as what actually exists or happens." He goes on to suggest that this is the case "because they could be designed for the consumption of select audiences - geographical societies, financial supporters, scientists, or the general public - bearing in mind little other than the benefit to the press and the explorers."

While Riffenburgh was writing of Arctic explorers, this same could easily be applied to the reasons and rationale provided at the time for invading Iraq. What is the truth but the rationalization of the actions you are about to undertake. If you are convinced you are correct in your conclusions, you'll find and cite the evidence that appears to strengthen your case. Only in hindsight do we have the data to determine if the "truth" was a convenient fabrication, and we'll judge the legacy of those who pitched us the truth appropriately.

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