TO TELL THE TRUTH

              I began this post going in a completely different direction than the one I now take. That piece was to be about the truth or lack thereof in chain emails and political proclamations and election campaigns. Potentially serious topics all, but my approach was more whimsical than outrage.

                Well, you’ll find no whimsy here. You will find rage, controlled and rational though it may be. I read this article in The Huffington Post a while ago.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/22/the-two-most-esssential-a_n_786219.html

               The author of the article, Dan Froomkin, cites two essential lies in George W. Bush’s new memoir. The first is that the war in Iraq was necessary. The second is that the use of torture, particularly waterboarding, was justified.

               Froomkin assesses these claims with a cold eye and apparent utilization of many sources, including official government records and the memoirs of former members of the Bush administration such as CIA Director George Tenet and Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

              He traces the development of the invade Iraq policy from the earliest days of the administration, even before 9/11. But immediately after that horrible day Bush set his minions in motion to find any rationale to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.

               None of this is exceptionally revelatory. I have read many accounts presenting similar tales. But the Bush propoganda machine, and that is precisely what it was, manipulated shreds of data, kept repeating the mantra that Saddam posed a threat to our security, and capitalized on the American people’s desire for revenge for 9/11 and the fear of further terror attacks.

                Now in his memoir Decision Points,   Bush perpetuates the lies he told in 2001, 2002 and 2003 to build his case for an invasion. He speaks of the process as if  all ramifications were thoughtfully considered and he objectively chose his final course after due deliberation, and then only reluctantly. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

                     Yet he has the nerve to propound this interpretation as if its rote repetition will negate so much existing evidence to the contrary.

                 Personally I was outraged during this entire run-up to the war. I saw through the lies but even if some vital claims were true, there was still no justification for the war. Regardless of WMD’s, I felt no danger or threat from Iraq. To invade a sovereign nation without direct provocation seemed to fly in the face of established international law and was setting a bad precedent for our own nation. And sometimes I looked at the stated reasons such as Iraq had WMD’s and had used them on civilian populations as ironic. After all, The United States has a huge arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction called nuclear bombs, or in Bush’s vernacular, nukular arms, and those bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Maybe we should have been invading ourselves?

             In the months before the invasion I kept hoping that war protestors would build momentum and bring enough people to the non-war side to make a difference. I kept waiting for the media to take a strong stand editorially against any war and do a thorough job of vetting and disproving Bush’s assertions.  I kept believing that members of Congress in both houses and of both parties would see the potential folly and block any endorsement of aggressive action in any form.

                Alas, none of this was to pass. The anti-war movement never gained enough credibility to matter. After all, these weren’t just some spooky slant-eyed pajama wearing peasants in Vietnam who were never going to attack us domino theory or no. These were flesh and blood Muslims we were going to kill and millions of them lived among us.  And we all know how the irrational fear and loathing of Muslims has only increased in the interim.

             Be that as it may, all the lies, propaganda and other efforts of the executive branch to launch an irresponsible war may have failed if the checks and balances in our political system had acted properly.

             Congress as an institution was almost criminally remiss in acquiescing to Bush and his call for armed intervention in Iraq. There were three elements important to our elected representatives’ failure to block war.

            The first was the desire for revenge for 9/11 based on the notion, actively promoted by The White House, that Saddam Hussein was at least partially responsible for that atrocity. Ample evidence existed to refute that notion in total, but it was ignored by both houses of Congress.

                 The second was the acceptance of the argument that Iraq posed a danger to the security of the United States with no objective  examination of the offered proof. It absurdly discounted what the greater effect on our entire foreign policy would be and whether the idea of pre-emptive war was ever a wise action for the U.S. to pursue in Iraq or elsewhere.

                The third was that many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle acted in fear. Not fear of another terrorist attack. But fear they would be labeled soft on terror, soft on national defense and security. How else do you explain the pro-war votes of John Kerry who, though a decorated Vietnam war hero, had returned home and taken an active role in protesting that misbegotten adventure? Few, such as Senator Robert Byrd, had the courage to stand and be outspoken  in their declarations that the coming war was wrong. To protect their asses they, to use a popular expression, drank the kool aid served with the propaganda they were fed. You can call them too blindly patriotic or naive or gullible for trusting Bush. You cannot call them clear thinking or protective of what was right. They totally failed in their implied constitutional obligation to serve as a check and balance against tyrannical executive power.

              Even worse, post-invasion, after the folly became evident, those Democrats who had supported the move toward war, now revealed their wimpiness and total desertion of principles at that time when they were on the stump campaigning for a Presidential nomination. Kerry was one and though I voted for him in 2004, I did so only with the belief that Bush had to go.

                 Now the final part of our unholy triumvirate comes into play. Sarah Palin has made a habit of calling the traditional news sources the “lame stream media”. Her reasons for doing so are fatuous and entirely self-serving and immensely biased  even more so than what she accuses that media of. But again, in the period between 9/11 and the invasion, indeed for quite some time afterward, that media, rather than providing an objective counterpoint to and thus a check on an exertion of excessive Presidential power, instead became a virtual cheerleader for the war movement.

               Rarely did you see or hear any complex analysis of the government’s arguments. Rarely did you see or hear commentary opposing the war or at least calling for caution. Rarely did you read a newspaper editorial disputing the wisdom of the war. The Post Gazette, frequently called a blindly liberal organ by its critics, gave editorial support to Bush’s action.

                   And how appropriate that the networks in particular coined a new term, embedded, to describe the fact their correspondents traveled with soldiers and were eyewitnesses to the carnage. For the media and the military were deeply in bed with each other and guess which one was getting the screwing.

                     Yes my rage at those dark days and the entities involved was fully justified. And I had no special insight or ability to parse what was happening. Much as I consider myself superior in intellect, even if true, those powers did not need tapped to draw my conclusions. Any person who remained awake and not mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors could have done the same.

                   Now we are here close to eight years after this wasteful and needless invasion and the constituents of my unholy triumvirate are still busy.

                  Bush promotes his memoirs and blatantly defends the invasion, as well as the torture that accompanied it and related actions in the terror war.

                   Congress has yet to attempt to undo the damage it contributed to by using its pursestring powers and other means to bring about an earlier conclusion to Bush and Cheney’s not so excellent adventure. True, many of the faces have changed. But the Democrats gained control of both houses in 2006 in large part due to their attackes on Bush’s folly.

               Finally, on the ongoing Magical Mystery of Perpetuated Lies Tour the claims of Bush are only superficially challenged, if that. I’ve seen more soundbites of Bush making fun of his own malaprops than I have of him facing tough questions.

                So my rage, if dormant at all, has awakened from its hibernation and will undoubtedly continue unless and until George Walker Bush is publicly and irrefutedly portrayed as the liar he was……and is. For Bush, To Tell The Truth is not a TV show and to tell the truth is not merely a conversational meaningless cliche. For Bush, to tell the truth is simply an incomprehensible foreign concept.

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