I am surprised by the mild reaction to the shocking revelations about the Administration's disinformation campaign (Times, Oct. 4), "Reagan's Credibility Seen Hurt by Anti-Kadafi Effort." In fact, the President's credibility (and that of America) has been destroyed by such a flagrant abuse of our trust and confidence. It is a devastating blow to the most basic tenets of our democratic system.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz says that he doesn't "have any problems with a little psychological warfare against Kadafi. . . ." Well, Mr. Secretary, I do, particularly since in the psychological warfare was not against Moammar Kadafi at all, but against the American people. And it wasn't just a little psychological warfare, it was a fraud.
The issue is a constitutional one, rooted in the First Amendment. Freedom of press was intended by the Founding Fathers to be a two-way street; that is, it is the freedom not only to express, but to be informed. In a free society, we depend upon the press to disseminate information freely, and we assume responsibility individually to believe or disbelieve as we choose.
But we also expect that those in whom we entrust our most important concerns, as a nation, will not manipulate and exploit the press. We have the right to expect the truth from our government. The disinformation (misinformation) by the Administration not only violates a sacred trust, but also does so in a most dastardly way. Every totalitarian regime survives not only through control of the military but also through control of the press. What we have witnessed in this latest episode is, sadly, consistent with that very profile.
We have for some time known that the President has been writing fewer and fewer of his own scripts, inviting the dangerous propensities of his henchmen. Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger have been true to form in taking their places right next to the Melvin Lairds of the Nixon era. These are the people who hold the tools of inconceivable human destruction in their hands.
These are the people who respond to Soviet overtures on nuclear disarmament by telling Mikhail Gorbachev to go pound sand. These are the people who are offended when the President gives his word that Nicholas Daniloff is not a spy and the Soviets merely smile, apparently knowing something about the President's credibility we didn't know, or didn't want to believe. These are the people who are now telling us that a "little lie" is OK just as a "little bombing" of Libya was OK. Next, perhaps a "little nuke" will be OK also.
It is now quite apparent that either the President himself has succumbed to the corruption born of power, or he has relinquished the reins of that power to those around him who are ill-equipped to exercise it. The prospects are frightening.
TIM C. BRUINSMA