Year of the liars: 2003 was a bad year for the truth
They lied us into war – and now they’re lying about the lies. Yes, my friends, it’s come to this. Having exhausted, for the moment , their supply of fabrications, the War Party is now rationalizing – in effect, recycling – previously exposed lies. The Guardian reports:
“British officials are circulating a story that Saddam Hussein may have been hoodwinked into believing that Iraq really did possess weapons of mass destruction. The theory, which is doing the rounds in the upper reaches of Whitehall, is the result of an attempt to find what one official source called a ‘logical reason’ why no chemical and biological weapons had been found in Iraq.”
Logical reasons for the apparent absence of WMD in Iraq – that they never existed in the first place, or else were destroyed after Gulf War I, as Hans Blix and Scott Ritter aver – are completely inadmissible, but logic has little to do with it.My theory that the 9/11 terrorist attacks ripped a hole in the space-time continuum – and fundamentally altered the laws of nature, and the structure of the human mind – is here, I fear, proved all too true. In the upside-down Bizarro worldwe’re living in, only illogic can help us understand events.
The idea, according to British officials, is that Saddam had his scientists and second tier military leaders so cowed that they vied with each other in exaggerating their achievements and capabilities. In a modern-day version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the Iraqi dictator’s obsequious subordinates assured him of his military prowess when in reality there was nothing there. Unfortunately for British intelligence, their sources of information were supposedly all in Saddam’s inner circle, while it was the second and third-tier apparatchiks who authored the deception. We are asked to believe that the effects of this massive and longstanding charade rippled outward, reaching all the way to London and Washington.
Setting aside the impossibility of maintaining such a large-scale deception, involving thousands of people over an extended period of time, one has to agree with former UN weapons inspector David Albright, who now heads the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, cited by the Guardian as arguing that “the system in which those scientists worked was guaranteed to produce misleading information. ‘Scientists would hoodwink their own bosses with all sorts of exaggerations of their achievements.'”
Authoritarian systems break down because they are based on lies, but the same principle applies to … us.
In manufacturing the case for war, the neoconservatives in the top echelons of the Defense Department set up their own parallel intelligence apparatus, as Seymour Hersh, Jim Lobe, Robert Dreyfuss, and Julian Borger have reported, devoted to churning out war propaganda rather than objective analysis. Rather than discover the facts, the “Office of Special Plans” and Vice President Cheney’s staff “cherry-picked” data to suit their agenda.
As Karen Kwiatkowski details in her multi-part account of life inside the Pentagon’s policy bunker during the run-up to war, the system in which OSP chief Abram Shulsky and his policy shop worked was guaranteed to produce misleading information. It was created for that purpose.
Saddam isn’t the only ruler with self-serving and disloyal subordinates. After all, somebody hookwinked a clueless President into repeating outright lies based on a forgery in his State of the Union address.
As millions marched against war, the neocons whispered in the presidential ear, reassuring him that they had the goods on Iraq. Thousands of troops – who might have been used to keep order – were diverted to the task of finding the missing WMD – and retroactively justifying the invasion. While looters carried away the ancient treasures of Iraq’s museums, and much else, the WMD-hunters came up empty-handed. Leaving our empty-headed President, pressed by Dianne Sawyer on the question of WMD as hard fact rather than mere possibility, to blurt out his essential indifference to the truth:
The liars who rule us have taken their art to a whole new level. Truth, falsehood, it’s all the same to this White House. Denying everything, conceding nothing, when caught in a lie they brush it off as irrelevant. This kind of brazen arrogance, combined with such power, has no real precedent in world history: not even the maddest of the Roman emperors, who claimed to be divine, exhibited such a lordly disdain for truth.
The Greeks had a word for the illness that afflicts the warlords of Washington: they called it hubris. This sin was always punished by the gods, who struck down the offender in his tracks: but instead of a bolt of lightning, divine blowback aimed at the Bush administration may come in the form of a Special Prosecutor by the name of Patrick J. Fitzgerald. His appointment by the Justice Department to look into the matter ofwho outed CIA agent Valerie Plame to columnist Bob Novak may teach this administration the meaning of humility, a word often used by candidate Bush in speaking about his foreign policy views. My prediction for the new year: the Fitzgerald appointment will reacquaint him with this virtue.
Plame is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson, a former diplomat, who believes her name was leaked in retaliation for his statements that the administration hyped phony “intelligence” on Iraq’s nuclear capability to bolster the case for war.
L’Affaire Plame disappeared beneath the media’s radar for what seemed like an awfully long time, but has now resurfaced with a vengeance. The trail leading to the leaker could take us to the office of the Vice President – or higher.
More importantly, the investigation into the attempt to discredit Ambassador Wilson could well unearth a number of other crimes committed by over-zealous officials who sought to make the case for war. Wilson’s allegations about the hyping of Iraq’s allegedly active nuclear program were validated by the provenance of the “evidence” – documents that turned out to be crude forgeries. Perhaps now we’ll find out who lied to George W. Bush and told him that Saddam had procured uranium in the African nation of Niger – an allegation that somehow made it into the President’s 2002 State of the Union address.
I can hardly wait to see if my own hunch is proved correct.
No matter what direction the investigation takes, one thing seems increasingly likely, if not certain, as far as the Bush White House is concerned: the Plame quagmire will soon come to mirror and exacerbate the one that ensnared them in the Middle East.
2003 was a bad year for the truth. Perhaps, with a bit of luck, 2004 will be a lot better.