Frederick Turner on dubious judgement

Frederick Turner, classicist, poet, teacher, and polymath, is one of our most important and unfortunately least known intellectuals and philosophers. His remarkable body of work transcends genres and easy political categories. He is a biologically and scientifically literate humanist and a poet who writes epics and metered lyrics. A quick view of his work can be seen at the invaluable 2Blowhards here, and his own website is here.

His best prose may be in The Culture of Hope, linked to in the Blowhards site. But my favorite of all his books is Genesis, a novel in the form of an epic poem, in various meters, about the colonization of Mars. There is nothing like it, and everyone I have ever given it to loves it, even if they dislike science fiction.

Recently Fred wrote a post in Tech Central Station on what he believes was a severe lapse in judgement, to say the very least, in the New York Times: “A recent article by Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams in the New York Times revealed the use of aircraft charter companies by the CIA and other intelligence agencies, together with specific aircraft markings, bases, routes, and other information helpful to identification of such flights.”

One doesn’t have to believe in the Iraq war to think that this is just plain wrong (for the record, I am comfortable with the Afghan invasion, and think Iraq was at least partly the result of faulty intelligence, though not malice. But I don’t know that the best way to deal with the insurgents is to cut and run immediately –a LOT too much to go into here!

Fred says it well: “A fourth motivation could be that the patriotic authors believed that the US is making a huge mistake in the current war, and any hindrance to its use of secret intelligence and covert action will help prevent the continuance of this mistake. Two problems present themselves here. The first is that if this were the motivation, their proper role would be to say so in an opinion piece, in which citation of specific secrets would be unnecessary, since America already accepts and has voted for covert services that employ private companies.”

He, like so many of us, knows someone well who is being deployed there: “If my friend dies in his tour of duty I shall be thinking very specifically about Mr. Scott, Mr. Grey, and Ms. Williams. Quite likely they would have had nothing particularly to do with this misfortune. However, human nature being what it is, I know that I would not be able to exclude them from my meditations. If the authors were just publishing their article to get a chance at a Pulitzer, I really have no moral quarrel with them at all, any more than I would have with a crocodile that eats a child or a raccoon that raids my larder. However, if they do have a moral identity as human beings, they should know that, if a certain civilian plane comes down over an unnamed Middle Eastern country, and all the US personnel aboard are killed, there is one compatriot who will regard them as murderers. “

Amen. Could you have imagined such harebrained idiocy in WW II?

1 thought on “Frederick Turner on dubious judgement”

  1. Yeah, I’m a big fan of Fred Turner’s too. Of course, considering that he was on my dissertation committee, he should be. BTW, he’s as wonderful a person as he is a poet and thinker. I wish everyone could have the honor of knowing him.

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