Adrian Hamilton: Once again, those who reveal the truth are punished

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The Independent Online

How ironic, and how typical, that so many commentators have joined in censoring General Stanley McChrystal for speaking out too openly to a reporter on Rolling Stone. The result of his own arrogance, they declare. Some even accuse him of naivety in choosing to talk to this particular journalist, Michael Hastings, on this particular publication.

Come off it. General McChrystal may have been foolish but he knew what he was doing. He and his entourage, who spoke out to Michael Hastings over two months, accepted they were on the record and have never denied or withdrawn what they said about the White House, the State Department and the political direction of the Afghan war. The press should be grateful, not censorious, for them doing so.

Whenever military operations are concerned, there is a ferocious effort by the political and military establishments to impose obedience. Any criticisms from within are silenced and any communication of them to the outside world is punished.

Fine for those in authority to talk of the necessity of discipline and loyalty. But it's not the job of journalists to accept the same premise. Our task is to find out and reveal the dissatisfaction and the conflicts inside.

Nowhere is this truer than in Afghanistan. The public is not behind the war; there is a confusion over war aims, an uncertainty about withdrawal and growing tensions between the people running it. Why shouldn't the citizens who pay for the war and the men who give up their lives for it know what is going on? General McChrystal may have been motivated by self-aggrandisement. But that is true of half the people who speak out to the media. We should be acclaiming him as a hero, not an errant soldier whose openness to the media must be condemned.

The invasion of the wet suits

You can tell the triathlon season is upon us. The pool fills with men, and women, in wet suits. Big watches, hard splashing, targets to achieve; like scarabs with tails from an Egyptian horror film they swarm into the water, scattering the old and the slow in their wake. It's not that they're boisterous, just that they leave so little room for anyone else or for the quiet courtesies that keep a municipal facility both anonymous and discreet.

When did "exercise", as the Government keeps calling us to undertake, move from being a simple form of relaxation to an aggressive assertion of self? Just swimming along with nothing particular on your mind seems something from the past.

It's the same with cycling. It's not the jumping of lights that upsets me – although it can be startling if you're walking the dog or managing a pushchair. It's the competitiveness that bemuses. Safety hat on, head down, their task is to beat the time and pass the cars in an intensity of endeavour that has little to do with John Major's vision of the casual cyclist communing with the landscape around. They're not like this in Holland.

It makes one almost nostalgic for the team sports I railed against in my school days – mostly, I admit, because I was so bad at them.

The not-so-nice Liberal Democrats

In my part of south London, we have a local by-election caused by the sudden resignation of a Labour councillor soon after being elected in May. I hadn't really taken the reasons on board until a flyer came though the door, its front page covered with headlines about "local councillor caught in internet porn swoop" and so forth.

It was from the Liberal Democrat candidate. Inside was an assault on the replacement Labour candidate, declaring not only that she wasn't resident in the ward but that she lived in a "house in a leafy avenue". Not a word about Lib Dem policies.

Class war and guilt by association – this is not what I thought were the values of the party. Perhaps I've been mistaken. I'm told by my political colleagues that the Liberal Democrats have a terrible reputation for viciousness at the street level.

The charge against Nick Clegg and Vincent Cable is that they have sacrificed principle for position. But maybe the grasp for power at any cost runs deeper than that. Maybe it comes from the bottom up, from the left of centre as much as the right.