JR'S Free Thought Pages
Most Politicians are Lying Bastards
A Case Study: George W Bush and the War in Iraq
by Johnny Reb
Most people consider lying to be a reprobate form of behaviour, at least when you first broach the subject. Nearly everyone would recoil at being called a liar, even if they occasionally tell a lie themselves. Indeed, it is such a serious charge that people sometimes hesitate to call someone a liar even when they think the charge applies; instead they play language games, using softer language.
In the recent political debates both Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff attacked Stephen Harper on at least four points that I can recall. On each occasion, Harper, rather than just saying "that's a lie", responded with "that's simply not true". If you are willing to take the time to do your own research you will discover that all four claims were, in fact, true. Now, a Christian man like Harper probably takes lying to be a "sin", since it's mentioned in one of his precious ten commandments. Most people perceive all lying to be immoral; but that's absurd. For example, there are times when it may be necessary to lie to save someone's life. But politicians and other people who hold responsible public or legal politicians are held to a much higher standard than most of us. So why do they so often spew out so much bovine excrement?
Bill Clinton lied when he said "I didn't have sex with that woman" by redefining what is meant by "sex", restricting it to sexual intercourse. Bow jobs don't count. There are countless examples of politicians lying, but when it results in the deaths of over one million innocent people in an imperialistic war, it's not only immoral, but criminal.
The Lying Bastard Bush Administration
Most well-informed people now believe that the Bush administration lied to the American people in the run-up to the Iraq War, which has turned into a strategic disaster for the United States and death to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, to say nothing of the almost total destruction of the country. The atrocities, including torture, and the killing, continue unabated. When a war goes badly and the public believes that deception helped make the war possible in the first place, people invariably get very interested in talking about why leaders would lie to their own citizens and what the likely consequences are.
The key individuals in the Bush administration who pushed hard for the United States to invade Iraq before March 19, 2003 maintained that they were certain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD),i.e., weapons with nuclear warheads. Their claims, they said, were based on hard evidence. Proponents of the war who were not in the administration frequently repeated those claims, creating a chorus of hawkish voices that helped convince many Americans that it was essential to disarm Iraq and depose Saddam. In this view, Iraq was a necessary war, not a war of choice. Anyone who doubted that claim was almost certain to be labelled an appeaser or a fool, or even accused of being unpatriotic. When no WMD were found in Iraq, those in the war party had to explain why they were so profoundly mistaken. How was it possible that so many who were so sure about Saddam's capabilities were so wrong?*
*Of course no one seems to talk about the hypocrisy of the United States in this crude deception. After all, the United States holds the vast majority of WMD in the world, spending about one-half of its annual budget on weapons and military equipment. Moreover they are the only country in history that has used such weapons on other people around the world. Hiroshima anyone? Why don't they apply their own rules about disarmament on themselves?
One explanation offered for this blunder placed the blame squarely on Saddam, arguing that he effectively lied to us about whether Iraq had WMD. Specifically, he is said to have been deeply worried that Iran—or maybe even the United States—might attack Iraq, which had been badly weakened by its drubbing in the 1991 Gulf War as well as the sanctions and inspections regime that was imposed on Baghdad after that devastating defeat. Moreover, the Americans bombed Iraq relentlessly during the interval between the two thrashings in 1991 and 2003. To deter an attack on his country, so the story goes, Saddam put out false information that was designed to make Tehran and Washington think that he had WMD which he would use in the event of war. His job was made easier by the fact that the United Nations (UN) was not able to establish with a high degree of certainty that he no longer had any WMD, although it had no hard evidence that he possessed those weapons.
This line of argument is laid out in the "Duelfer Report," which was released in September 2004 by the Iraq Survey Group, an international team comprised of more than one thousand members that was tasked with finding Iraq's WMD stockpiles as well as the infrastructure used to build them. Former UN weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer led it. After describing the various threats facing Iraq, the report tells us, "in order to counter these threats, Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability.'- The report goes on to say: "While it appears that Iraq, by the mid-1990s, was essentially free of militarily significant WMD stocks, Saddam's perceived requirement to bluff about WMD capabilities made it too dangerous to clearly reveal this to the international community, especially Iran." George Tenet makes the same argument in his memoirs. He writes in At the Center of the Storm: "We had no previous experience with a country that did not possess such weapons but pretended that it did.... Before the war, we didn't understand that he was bluffing.
These claims notwithstanding, there is no evidence in the public record that Saddam tried to convince the world that Iraq possessed WMD. The Duelfer report, for example, furnishes no proof to support its claim about the Iraqi leader's bluffing. That claim is merely an assertion, and the authors of the report do not provide facts to back it up. Indeed, the report itself provides evidence that casts doubts on that contention. It notes "Saddam never discussed using deception as a policy," and that one of his most trusted deputies stated that he "did not reveal he was deceiving the world about the presence of WMD." This is hardly surprising, since there is no evidence that he was deceiving the world. In fact, he said on a number of occasions that he had no WMD and he was telling the truth.
The Bush administration, on the other hand, told four major lies in the run-up to the Iraq War. They are all discussed in detail below, but let me briefly summarize them here. Key figures in the administration falsely claimed that they knew with complete certainty that Iraq had WMD. They also lied when they said that they had foolproof evidence that Saddam was closely allied with Osama bin Laden, and they made various statements that falsely implied that Saddam bore some responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the United States. Finally, various individuals in the administration, including President Bush himself, claimed that they were still open to peaceful resolution of their dispute with Saddam, when in fact the decision to go to war had already been made. Then to put the icing on the bullshit cake ,there was "Uncle Tom" Colin Powell and his outrageous lies to the United Nations.
In short, Saddam told the truth about his WMD capabilities before the 2003 Iraq war, while senior figures in the Bush administration lied about what they knew regarding those weapons. They also lied about some other important matters. This behaviour by the two sides might seem surprising, maybe even shocking, to some readers. One might think that at the very least it is a highly unusual case. But that conclusion would be wrong. Both sides acted in ways that are consistent with two of the main findings in this book. Specifically, I find that leaders do not lie very often to other countries, but instead seem more inclined to lie to their own people. There are those such as the psychopathic Dick Cheney, and a few deluded patriotic victims of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, who will always believe what they want to believe.
I suppose it is hardly surprising that key figures in the Bush administration - including the president himself - lied to the American people in the run-up to the Iraq War. Bush was following in the footsteps of illustrious predecessors like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who lied about a naval incident in 1941 to help draw the United States into World War II, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who lied about events in the Gulf of Tonkin in the summer of 1964 so that he could get congressional support to wage war against North Vietnam.