Friday, June 23, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

Readers will notice that ever since I began writing this blog, one thing I haven't done is mince my words when I criticize something. From the government in Beijing to the mass media in Taiwan, from suffocating Kowloon to the security intelligence service in Canada and the whole recent "terror circus," all have been at the receiving end of my sometimes provocative (or so I like to think) opinions.

Though I do not always agree with everything Christopher Hitchens, the chain-smoking contrarian, says and writes, one thing I definitely admire in him is his great equanimity; no deserving soul, whether he be layman or former National Security Advisor, escapes his scathing and sometimes downright vitriolic remarks. If one is to speak truth to power, as the late Edward Said once wrote, then one mustn't shy away from using the pen or the spoken word against whomever or whatever deserves to be put in the penalty box.

That being said, I would like to preempt the criticism that I see looming on the horizon with regards to certain comments that I have made concerning the organization that I used to work for and in which many of my good friends still spend the majority of their time. As a number of my readers come from that organization, the last thing that I want is for my writings to be construed as a slight against them. Whoever you are out there, please be assured that my opinions, however incisive and contrarian, are in no way, shape, or form against the individuals. When I write about intelligence officers wasting away in their airless office corners, for example, I am not attacking the people themselves, but rather the organization, in this instance CSIS, and what it does to them and what it forces them to do. I am convinced of the altruistic intentions of most of the individuals who join that organization, and would be the last to claim that security intelligence is but a waste of resources and money. However, when the institution takes on a life of its own, and when its purpose becomes something other than the protection of the constituents, I cannot but put ink to paper, as it were, and reveal things for what they are. It is most unfortunate if, in the process, I end up ruffling some egos. But I won't apologize for it. At worst, battered egos are collateral, the by-product of the to-ing and fro-ing of intellectual debate. As the British writer and journalist Timothy Garton-Ash recently said in an interview in the Canadian magazine Maclean's, the job of intellectuals "is to find the facts as far as [they] can and then to tell it straight. Anyone who's involved in democratic politics has to work with half truth, [meaning that] the government gives one side of the story, one half of the story." That's where the clash comes from. As an intellectual who has spent some time within the halls of government, I feel it my duty, inasmuch as it is within my power, to tell both sides of the story.

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to once again invite all the readers who feel the need to do so to share their comments on the things that I write about in here. Never have I claimed (nor will I ever) to hold unassailable truths on the topics that I tackle; what I write is nothing more than an informed opinion on certain things. If only my entries could spark debate, make people think and react, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do when I first started writing this blog.


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