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License to Lie

The Zogby poll which shows that 85% of American soldiers in Iraq believe Saddam was part of the 9/11 attacks startles. The general public in the US knows that isn’t so. In the movie Wag the Dog the DeNiro political character says ‘what do people remember of wars? Just the slogans-fifty four forty or fight, remember the Maine. People can’t even name the wars.’ Similarly, ‘9/11’ is our slogan for war, and our far-more-electronically-connected but radically jeopardized soldiers are sloganeered.

Filmmaker Emile de Antonio’s brilliant analysis of the Vietnam War, In the Year of the Pig-done in 1968 while the war raged-quotes a line from our Revolutionary War. The sentence is engraved on an eighteen-year-old soldier’s tombstone: “when I heard that liberty was at issue, my heart was enlisted.”

The need to organize idealism against a demon enemy is the constant warmaker’s challenge. And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has forthrightly championed the importance of disinformation and confusion in maintaining the war effort.

The license to kill in Iraq follows a license to lie. ‘Spin’ is a scurrilous euphemism to use here, because the game isn’t words, but wounding and killing and destroying. Rumsfeld is agile with words-he tried to contain the Abu Ghraib photos by saying they were ‘radioactive.’ He is a perfect machiavel-ruthless, arrogant, and single-minded, swathed in rimless glasses and sober, steadfast and stern demeanor. If Dante were around he’d have a new image for Geryon, the effigy of fraud “His face was the face of a just man, so mild an aspect had it outwardly; and the rest was all a reptile’s body.”

Dante saw deceit as the worst human perversion, the root. His Satan is a liar who set himself equal to God and deceived mankind. Dante draws him in human shape but triple-headed. Many-headed is a better critique, I think, than reptile body. Milton too stressed Satan’s smooth deceit. “The mind is its own place” his Satan says, “and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Thinking can make anything so.

No. A very big lie.

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

 

 

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

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