View Full Version : Aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?
April 29th, 2003, 12:21pm
"We were not lying," a Bush administration official told ABC News. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." The official was referring to the way the administration hyped the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. According to the ABC report, the real reason for the war was that the administration "wanted to make a statement." And why Iraq? "Officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target."
A British newspaper, The Independent, reports that "intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political leaders were distorted in the rush to war." One "high-level source" told the paper that "they ignored intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a threat."
Sure enough, we have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction. It's hard to believe that we won't eventually find some poison gas or crude biological weapons. But those aren't true W.M.D.'s, the sort of weapons that can make a small, poor country a threat to the greatest power the world has ever known. Remember that President Bush made his case for war by warning of a "mushroom cloud." Clearly, Iraq didn't have anything like that — and Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't.
Does it matter that we were misled into war? Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions — not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.
First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization — the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS — called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year — a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.
Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true — we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?
So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. I guess it's just a matter of emphasis. A cynic might point out, however, that saving lives peacefully doesn't offer any occasion to stage a victory parade.
Meanwhile, aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?
One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement — if it is ever announced — that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.
Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.
Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.
Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?
April 29th, 2003, 3:53pm
April 29th, 2003, 4:22pm
I feel the same way Dave.
Or if they could have said we need to protect the oil because it's in the interest of our economy and well being. Insted they make up these half truths that think the average joe will buy to promote patriotism. I guess it's hard to get soldiers to fight over oil although the Japanese did it in WWII. Americans that haven't traveled overseas usually don't get it. Europeans don't drive SUVS and have much waste. It's almost embarrassing to admit you're American. I think that's what the Dixie Chicks were referring to overseas, although I'm sure they have their SUVs too.
April 29th, 2003, 5:55pm
You know, I'm beginning to doubt that we're a democracy. (Well, actually, we're a republic, but I'll let that slide.)
Informed consent? HA! That went out a long time ago, didn't it? Maybe with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution? Maybe before that?
The people in this country are lied to all the time. You can't believe the media - they're in on the game.
We had to invade Iraq because of the threat they posed with their WMD. What WMD? For heaven's sake, this administration hasn't even bothered to plant any WMD! I at least expected them to plant WMD "proof!"
It's a very depressing thing to be brought up to believe in the ideals of the United States and to find reality: ideals are subverted to make money for someone else. Ideals are garbage. They don't amount to anything.
Boy, it's a good thing that I'm being restrained.
April 29th, 2003, 6:24pm
The BUSH administration should be called the "spinning top gang".
All politicians spin to their favor but THIS administration is hell bent on world domination and turning this country into a "police state". The "truth" is least of what they are willing to sacrifice. THEY are willing to sell our children's and grandchildren's future for money and power. Not to mention the earth itself. ( see Bush's plan to remove the clean air act)
Anyone who had really checked would have known that Iraq was NOT a threat to us. Hopefully, as more of the "truth" is exposed about this administration, some of the americans who responded with this administration out of "fear" from 9 11 will see this administration are the "ones" to really "fear".
April 29th, 2003, 6:48pm
Yeah, but they don't want to start a mass panic. :grin2:
April 29th, 2003, 7:05pm
I just wanted to Thank-you for this post.
April 29th, 2003, 7:48pm
I hate to be too cynical - I feel like I'm making a living at it lately - however this would explain why they didn't want to wait for the inspectors to find the smoking gun for them - there wasn't one or it was a very small gun with just a little haze for smoke.
April 29th, 2003, 8:01pm
Is that a trick question? All politicians are liars. Some are just worse--or better at it, depending on how one looks at it--than others. The previous president was a poor liar in my opinion. He always looked like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Not that he didn't try. He got away with a many things but overall his face usually told the story. Maybe that is just the mom in me. Bush however is another story altogether. I feel that this person is a masterful liar. He likes to smile in your face and mention God while he is stabbing you in the back. I feel so sad for the people, on both sides who lost their lives in a war that did not have to be waged. I read an article about some of the counseling that returning troops go through to unlearn how to act and react like a soldier and one gentleman described how he felt after killing an Iraqi husband and father and his daughter at a checkpoint. The wife/mother was also there but somehow she was not shot. This soldier was having a very difficult time coming to grips with what had happened to this family. I feel like the U. S. government needs to tell the truth regarding the motives of why this war was fought. Like that would ever happen! I also feel that The U. S. needs to focus more on national issues as there are plenty enough things in that area that need to be addressed. Yes, there are countries like North Korea that must be dealt with and anyone could understand that as that country is a real threat unlike Iraq. So Saddam was or is a madman. There are plenty of madmen in the world. Is this government prepared to go to war with each one? You cannot expect to keep sticking your hand in the lion's den without pulling back a nub at some point. Having this administration in power is like watching a kid having a temper tantrum when it does not get what it wants. If I had the money, I would choose to live elsewhere.
April 29th, 2003, 8:10pm
Thanks for posting, MrDave.
Yes, I too feel completely disgusted. Not surprised, but just, well, as an American citizen, dirty.
April 29th, 2003, 8:17pm
Great post MrDave!
It's pretty scary how the American public can be so easily manipulated.
April 29th, 2003, 8:51pm
Mr. Bush said he had serious evidence that implicated Hussein in W's of MD, (sorry, I just cant do wmd's) at any rate, I waited and waited, but the story just faded. I am all for preventing another attack like the one on 9/11, ANYWHERE. However, if you say you have proof, prove it. He said he would show the world. There are many things the press has let go since 9/11. What happened to the Bin Ladin search? Is he or isn't he? With all this technology and these connections, we really don't know what happened. What happened to whoever it was that was sending white powder to politicians? We have been failed. I admit I don't really keep up any more on political issues, I don't feel like anyone is ever tellling the whole truth. I give up.
Thanks for the sounding board.
April 29th, 2003, 10:04pm
but where were these comments before we bombed? was the public too shocked or awed about what could possibly happen in the maybe land of this administration?
will we owe retribution down the road to the thousands of Iraqui's who were maimed or killed to help make a point?
thanks for the post dave ...
April 29th, 2003, 10:21pm
.....Or, as Friedman puts it, "Mr. Bush doesn't owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue.)"
Hyping? Is that how we are now to rationalize the ever more obvious truth that the American people and their elected representatives in Congress were deliberately deceived by the president as to the imminent threat that Iraq posed to our security? Is this popular acceptance of such massive deceit exemplary of the representative democracy we are so aggressively exporting, nay imposing, on the world?
It is expected that despots can force the blind allegiance of their people to falsehoods. But it is frightening in the extreme when lying matters not at all to a free people. The only plausible explanation is that the tragedy of Sept. 11 so traumatized us that we are no longer capable of the outrage expected of a patently deceived citizenry. The case for connecting Saddam Hussein with that tragedy is increasingly revealed as false, but it seems to matter not to a populace numbed by incessant government propaganda.
The only significant link between Al Qaeda and Hussein centered on the Ansar al Islam bases in the Kurdish area outside of Hussein's control. That's the "poison factory" offered by Colin Powell in his U.N. speech to connect Hussein with international terror. But an exhaustive investigation by the Los Angeles Times of witnesses and material found in the area "produced no strong evidence of connections to Baghdad and indicated that Ansar was not a sophisticated terrorist organization." Moreover, the purpose of this camp was to foster a holy war of religious fanatics who branded Hussein as "an infidel tyrant" and refused to fight under the "infidel flag" of his hated secular regime.
The embarrassingly secular nature of the government was summarized in another Los Angeles Times story on the status of women: "For decades, Iraqi women — at least those living in Baghdad and some other big cities — have enjoyed a degree of personal liberty undreamed of by women in neighboring nations such as Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates."
Those freedoms — to drive, study in coeducational colleges and to advance in the professions — are now threatened by the fundamentalist forces unleashed by the invasion. The former U.S. general now governing Iraq has stated that he will not accept a reversal of those freedoms, but our long history of cozy relationships with the oppressive Gulf regimes can't be reassuring to Iraq's women.
Such issues would be less compelling had the claim that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent security threat to the U.S. proved true. Our goal, the destruction of those weapons, would then have been clear, and once that goal was accomplished, an expeditious U.S. withdrawal would have been justified.
But in the absence of such a threat, the U.S. role in Iraq becomes inevitably stickier. For "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to be more than a catchy propaganda slogan assumes an enduring obligation to provide the content of freedom to the Iraqi people that Americans claim to believe in. It is hoped that will include the election of a leader who tells the truth. For more, please see the Robert Scheer archive.
April 29th, 2003, 10:25pm
Where are they? The world is waiting.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The sour joke is: "Of course we know the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts." At this point, the administration would probably be delighted if it could find the WMDs the Reagan administration gave Saddam Hussein. At least it could point to some WMDs.
This is a "what if..." column, since I have no idea whether Saddam Hussein was or was not sitting on great caches of chemical and biological weapons. What is clear is that not finding the WMDs is getting to be a bigger and bigger problem. And if we do find some, we'd better make plenty sure they come with a chain-of-evidence pedigree, or no one is going to believe us.
You don't have to be an expert on WMDs in the Middle East to know that when the administration starts spreading the word that "it wouldn't really make any difference if there were WMDs or not," it's worried about not finding any.
In the weeks before Gulf War II, the United States told the world Saddam Hussein was hiding mobile chemical laboratories, drones fitted with poison sprays, 15 to 20 Scud missile launchers, 5,000 gallons of anthrax, several tons of VX nerve gas agent and between 100 tons and 500 tons of other toxins, including botulinum, mustard gas, ricin and sarin. Also, we said he had over 30,000 illegal munitions. So far, we have found bupkes.
The United States, which insisted it could not give United Nations weapons inspectors so much as 10 days more to search -- so dangerous were these WMDs -- now says it needs months to find them. In the meantime, we are clearly being set up to put the whole issue of WMDs down the memory hole. Here are the lines of argument advanced by the administration so far:
Saddam did have WMDs, but in a wily plot, he poured them all down a drain right before we invaded, just so he could embarrass Bush.
The WMDs are still there, but in some remote desert hiding place we may never be able to find. "Just because we haven't found anything doesn't mean it wasn't there," one Pentagon source told the Los Angeles Times. Right.
Saddam had WMDs, but he handed them off to the Syrians just before we came in. Or maybe it was to the Iranians.
Well, maybe Saddam didn't have huge stores of WMDs, but he had critical blueprints, weapons parts and, most ominously, "precursor chemicals," so he could have manufactured WMDs.
Well, maybe he didn't have WMDs ready to deliver. The Pentagon has already backtracked on the Scud-missile claim.
So far, U.S. "mobile exploitation teams" and other special forces have visited 90 of the top 150 "hot" sites identified by U.S. intelligence. No wonder Hans Blix, head of the U.N. inspection team, says what he got from American intelligence was "garbage."
I'm sorry, but this does make a difference. The problem is called credibility. Tom Friedman of The New York Times, in a rush to be the first on his block to adopt the "it makes no difference" line, announced the other day it made no difference because Saddam Hussein was such a miserable s.o.b. on human rights. As one who long argued that there was a good case to be made for taking out Saddam Hussein on human rights grounds back when we were still sending him WMDs, think how pleased I am.
Unfortunately, that was not the case Bush made. Of the various shifting rationales advanced for this war, human rights was way, way down there. And WMDs were way, way up there.
If there are no WMDs, I would seriously advise this administration NOT to try to spin its way out of the problem. Bad idea. Will not fly. There's plenty of evidence that we believed in the WMDs -- took along chemical suits, antidotes, etc. So if there are no WMDs, it's time for a blame-game witchhunt. I really hate those things, but someone needs to go around roaring, "WHOSE FAULT WAS THIS?!" It's a splendid opportunity to fire half the CIA, which has needed to be done for years anyway. Let it be a lesson to all intelligence analysts not to let political pressure sway them on evidence. As a minor plot point: It would be interesting to see if George Tenet, a skillful warrior in intra-bureaucracy turf wars, could survive this one.
Maybe the American people can be brainwashed into forgetting why we supposedly went to war. Near as I can tell, our national memory span is down to about two weeks, and the media have been spectacularly unskeptical on this issue. But the rest of the world is not going to forget that WMDs were our primary reason for an unprovoked, pre-emptive war.
April 29th, 2003, 10:28pm
What do you expect from a voting public that half of them think one of the greatest presidents in the last 100 years couldn't even tell the truth in court. If people are that stuck in the current political system of us and them the truth will never matter it's only the Far left and the dems version and the far right and the repups version. As long as 80% of the voting public see the world from only thier own parties version there is no truth just the left and the dems version vs. the right and the repups version. And remember there is no such thing as any news organisation anywere in the world that will give you just truth just the version that fits thier own politcal belief. everyone in newsd and politics has an ajenda. the ones you have to watch are the ones that say they don't or say it's not them it is somoene else that is causing the problem.
April 30th, 2003, 2:03am
Great points warning. It is surprising to find out that the national media seems to gloss over the interesting policy decisions of our president while international news media has become the watchdog.
April 30th, 2003, 7:56am
The only bad part of the international media is that such a low percent of the population even knows there is anything out there. I know way to many people that are doing the same thing and going to the same places for the last 20 years and have not even left or looked out of the same city area they have lived in. With the world of the internet it is easy to find out what is going on outside of your own backyard.
April 30th, 2003, 11:53am
MSNBC and CNN used to be two of my favorite channels, but now I just skip right past them. These days I mostly use the BBC and regional American newspapers (i.e., not owned by one of the media giants) for information.
May 2nd, 2003, 2:53pm
I agree with every word of that editorial; I saw it in the NY Times the morning it came out.
I just want to point out that it was written by their excellent staff columnist Paul Krugman.
May 2nd, 2003, 4:03pm
Thanks for that - I did neglect to include the author.