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Does It Matter That the Bush Administration Lied?
"I don’t believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons."
- Donald Rumsfeld, May 14, 2003
"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
- Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
- Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
– George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as the justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
- Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, 2003
It’s crystal clear now that the US government lied about its "intelligence" information regarding Saddam’s mythical, useless and totally unused WMD. Nothing. Nichts. Nada. How do you say "nothing" in French? From the above quotes, it appears that Rumsfeld is still lying. (What do you expect?) Wolfowitz of Arabia is a little more frank now that the damage is done. Bush is busy raising money and strutting his tax cut and military man stuff for now. He’ll start making big speeches about it again, come September 2004 and the election campaign. Does it really matter that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq?
On the one hand, you might think that a national issue as important as the reason for war would require official honesty, and that lying about it would be the kind of high crime identified as grounds for impeachment in the US Constitution. So based on those considerations you’d think it should matter that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
On the other hand, the ratings of the embedded and censored TV "coverage" of the war ("promotion" is more like it–the crucial means by which the lies were believed when it counted) were pretty good. The US casualties are still fairly low compared to past world & imperial wars. Bechtel and Halliburton, Raytheon and Lockheed are happy. Worldcom isn’t exactly happy with its $500 million fine for its $150 billion accounting fraud, but its new government contract to repair Iraq’s wireless network, and its $300 million tax rebate will all help it get thru. Reality TV helps the American People get thru America’s ugly economic reality–rapidly rising unemployment, institutionalized racism, stagnant wages, massive inequality, bloated corporate welfare disguised as "free trade," bankrupt state and local governments, a monstrous health care crisis and a virtual civil war over public education and the separation of church and state. The American Empire reigns supreme for now thru unrivaled military power. And under Bush & Cheney might makes right. The Democratic Party is completely useless. The American People are primarily consumers, and ads lie to consumers all the time. The American People are only incidentally citizens, so based on the basic facts of daily reality and politics–"the art of the possible" – in the 21st century, maybe it doesn’t matter much that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
But the basic reality of the Big Lie here is the "twoness" of the war. It’s supposedly a war against terrorism. But that’s really secondary. It’s even incidental to the real war when push comes to shove (as it increasingly does in America’s ugly economic reality today). The real war is the one against workers. This real war is on the verge of utterly destroying or at least severely damaging all of the following things: American Democracy, the Rule of Law, as well as multinational global governance under evolving principles of customarily accepted international law; minimum socioeconomic welfare and wage structures; civilian control over the US military; many of the American People’s most fundamental constitutional liberties; the ability of the American People to participate fairly and meaningfully in corporate-dominated elections; the separation of powers–both government and corporate – upon which all legitimate US governing authority is theoretically based; the rights of workers to bargain collectively; the national treasury; the civil rights revolution of the 20th century; and the planet’s resources, climate and natural environment. All in significant part because the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
The suffering of the victims of US Empire is (or should be) the real issue. The collateral damage in Afghanistan and Iraq, the millions of prisoners of the vast American white supremacist prison-industrial gulag, the millions of children born into "a world that’s been raped and defiled," where everybody knows that "Governments lie." The working families cheated out of the American Dream by warmed-over Reaganomics and chickenhawk neoconservative fanatics. Given the enormous human and historical stakes, producing immense cynicism, perhaps People of conscience should be much more concerned with minimizing the widespread human suffering than about how the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
Leading Peace Movement spokespersons will point out that the massive suffering is caused in large part by the Big Lie. This is indisputably true. And it is also true–and great reason for hope–that in time the passive consent of many People may eventually be withheld if they come to understand how and why the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
But the potential to expose and use the Bush administration’s boldfaced lies to slow and eventually stop their deadly crimes is much more important than the fact of the lies themselves. What seems to be indisputably important in theory to history, morality, society and culture may matter much less in terms of practical reality. If the masses of People focus most of their energies for the vast majority of their time on private, family, and leisure time consumer activities; if politics is an alienating and sick joke; if the fundamental(ist) driving force of contemporary history is a spiritual crisis & crusade of Judeo-Christian Coalition "rapture," in mutually reinforcing reaction to violent Islamic fundamentalism; if it’s totally obvious to those paying any reasonable amount of attention that the US government’s "war on terrorism" is really about economic, energy and environmental resources, US corporate/military power projection and control over those resources; if the Bush administration can get away with exploiting the pain and horror of the September 11 attacks this blatantly and shamefully, then maybe on any really existing levels of human and historical significance, it just doesn’t matter that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
As a consumer, an imperial subject, a worker governed by laws of the market, and a passive object of history, it doesn’t matter. Or it shouldn’t, by the disgustingly cramped criteria applicable to such degraded human states. As a citizen, a parent, a human being, and an active moral agent choosing my life’s essential meaning and content, it certainly does matter a whole lot. Whether or not it matters that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq depends on me. And us. We the People.
The current form of government – the Bush administration corporate fascist model–has become destructive of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, the ends for which Governments are instituted among Women and Men. Therefore it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. The fact that the US Government lied about its reasons for going to war in Iraq may well provide a basis for indictments, impeachment, even political revolution. But that fact matters much less than the fact that the American People now face a choice. A choice about who we are, how we will get thru the consequences of this Big Lie, and why we do what we do to shape, define, create, and rationalize the world we will leave for our children. A choice between war and justice, shame and responsibility, freedom and the power of money. A choice between a culture of life and one of death. Their lies ultimately matter much less than our will and our ability to make the right choices.
Wolfowitz’s creepy phrase "bureaucratic reasons" evokes the infamous Wahnsee Conference, when top Nazi officials attended a high level meeting in a big old house in Berlin, facilitated by Himmler’s deputy SS man Reinhard Heydrich, to plan the administrative nuts and bolts of the "Final Solution."
TOM STEPHENS is a lawyer in Detroit, Michigan. He can be reached at lebensbaum4@earthlink.