“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act”-George Orwell
“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!”-from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men”
With twenty-one U.S. Marines killed in Iraq over the last three days, it is crucial we continue a relentless look at the lies leading us into this botched war. Our American soldiers are paying the highest price for these lies, and no amount of “We Support Our Troops” car ribbons will bring them back to life or give their deaths more meaning.
As many progressive commentators have noted, the political scandal now called Rovegate has a larger meaning than the various nuances and mishaps of its principal players and whether Karl Rove broke the law when he apparently outed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame to a Time Magazine reporter or whether jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller should be fired for her lies about weapons of mass destruction.
A more important issue is the scandal shows how the Bush administration deceived the American public in taking this country into a war that has now turned into the worst military debacle in the country’s history. Rove was just one of many White House officials who abandoned the truth so “W” could have his meaningless war over weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
The war has increased the world terrorist threat and costs billions of taxpayers’ dollars. More than 1,800 American soldiers have been killed and nearly 14,000 have been wounded. More than 25,000 civilian Iraqis have been killed. The toll goes higher every day. Now our guys in Iraq are forming alliances and agreements with Iran, another axis of evil nation.
We have not won the war under the terms given to us by our president, and we will not win the war no matter how the Bush administration spins/lies a victory. We are losing. Let me say this again. We are losing. We are getting our butts kicked by the Iraqi insurgency, just like we got our butts kicked in Vietnam by the Viet Cong. Meanwhile, those we support in Iraq are joining forces with a nation hostile to the United States. Any other reading of the war facts is yet another White House-sponsored lie.
Taking the country to war on lies is the most grievous act a United States President can commit. This is a non-partisan issue. It transcends party politics. We cannot, or at least we should not, let our presidents lie us into wars.
But there is an even the larger issue of how Bush’s war lies represent the growing fragility and vulnerability of American democracy.
Millions of Americans, for example, still will not demand an investigation of Bush’s war lies. Some of these people are certainly ill-informed, brainwashed by the ultra-conservative Fox News or any other number of right-wing, corporate mediate outlets that spew Bush propaganda and have the audacity to call it “journalism.”
But some, it is fair to say, are lifestyle liberal, political conservatives who frankly do not care an American president has lied the country into war. (They would call me “naïve.”) They are reaping the rewards of corporate-worship and lower taxes on the wealthy. Others are religious zealots who also do not care about the president’s lies as long as their fundamentalist, medieval views—which emulate the views of Islamic extremists in so many ways—are validated by the White House. Then there are those in the mainstream corporate media who refuse or are afraid to discuss the lies at any length or depth.
These last three groups of people are not only immoral but also short-sighted. By allowing a president to take the country to war on lies, they have, in essence, removed any barriers, any threshold, of presidential power. They have done immense, immeasurable harm to this country.
It is not hyperbole to say that after George W. Bush, American presidents, Republican, Democratic or whatever, will be able to lie at will about anything without repercussion. The question, then, is this: Will we have a democratic government after George Bush, no matter who is elected?
In their zeal to support the president despite his war lies, many Republicans have lost sight of what will happen when Bush is no longer president. It is quite possible a Democrat could be our next president. What will prevent this new president from also lying about anything, even another war? Given Bush’s ultra-divisive politics, what will prevent millions upon millions of Democrats from ignoring these hypothetical lies in order to overturn some of the more insidious and immoral acts of the conservative agenda or advancing progressive programs?
I want to say the Democrats have more honor, more respect for democracy, and there is truth to this in the “left-leaning” sections of the party. But I also fear the new political climate will be so firmly entrenched by the time Bush leaves the White House that lies and distortions and double-speak from our presidents will be the new architecture, the new platform, the new frame of American government. And that simply means we will longer live in a democracy.
Oh yes, American presidents lie. Nixon about Watergate, Reagan about the Contras, and Clinton about Lewinski. In retrospect, though, these lies were minor, historical blips showing lack of character and hubris. But lying the country into a major, unilateral, meaningless war is the coupe de grace of lies, the ur-lie, the uber-lie, the quintessential lie. After this presidential war lie, any presidential lie will pale in comparison and will be so judged. Already, for example, we have to deal with the disparity between how the media attacked Clinton over lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinski and how it gave a free “lie-at-will” pass to Bush about war. It remains incomprehensible to millions of Americans and people throughout the war how and why this has happened.
Ultimately, then, the future of democracy in this country is in the hands of people who are placing partisan politics and short-term, personal gain above democracy. When these people wake up, there can be hope. But not until then.
All roads then lead back to Rovegate which shows, once again, undeniably that the administration lied to go to war and continues to lie about it afterwards by attacking those who told the truth. In his quest to smear Ambassador Joseph Wilson who was reporting the truth about Saddam Hussein’s lack of weapons of mass destruction, Rove was merely participating in the conspiracy of lies sanctioned by the president and perpetuated by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, all of whom will live in historical infamy for their assault on American democracy.
Each of these people sold out their country for personal power and gain. Let us hope our history textbooks will one day reflect this because it would then mean we were able to rescue democracy.
The lies leading to the Iraq War and the acceptance of these lies by some American people will become known as the turning point for our country’s short-lived run with democracy unless Republicans step up soon and demand an independent investigation, possibly leading to Bush’s impeachment. Those who turn away from this difficult task turn away from their country in one of its most dire times.