A Tissue of Lies
BY ANDREW GREELEY
As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president is in Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms, of course. The White House propaganda mill hails it as another victory for the president and ignores the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.
One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."
Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?
It is also asserted that the election settled the matters of the war and the torture of prisoners. These are dead issues that no longer need be addressed.
But the president received only 51 percent of the vote and carried only one more state than the last time (picking up New Mexico and Iowa and losing New Hampshire). This is a validation of the war and of prisoner abuse? This is a mandate to do whatever he wants to do and whatever the leadership of the evangelical denominations want? A percentage point and a single state are a mandate for more war? Never before in American political history!
Finally, we are told that the Iraqi election confirms the Bush administration policy in Iraq. The president's supporters must be in deep trouble to reach so far for that one. All the election proves is that the Iraqis want to run their own country. It also raises the possibility that Shia clerics will deliver Iraq into the hands of the Iranians. Some kind of victory!
How do these kinds of arguments play in the precincts? The survey data suggest that war has become more unpopular. The majority of the American people now think it was a mistake, in a shift away from the 51 percent that endorsed it on Election Day. Admittedly this is only a small change in the population, from a majority to a minority. Nor do the changers earn grace for their new opinions. They still endorsed the war on Election Day and are still responsible for it.
How long can the administration get along with its policies of spinning big lies into truth -- as it has more recently done on Social Security?
Note the three most important Cabinet positions. Rice said that it was better to find the weapons of mass destruction than to see a mushroom cloud.
"Judge" Gonzales said the Geneva Convention was "quaint" and in effect legitimated the de facto policy of torture.
Rumsfeld repealed the "Powell Doctrine" -- only go to war when you have the massive force necessary to win decisively and quickly. Brilliant businessman that he is (like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era), he thought he could win with 130,000 troops (unlike the at least 200,000 that the Army chief of staff insisted) and hence made the current "insurgency" inevitable.
The presence of these three towering giants in the administration certainly confirms that the president is confident that he is "right" on Iraq and that he has mandates from the American people and from God which confirm that he is "right."
Nothing, in other words, has changed in the last two years. The war is still the "right thing to do," it is still part of the "war against terrorism," it is still essential to keep Arabs from blowing up our skyscrapers.
You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long-suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country? How many people have to die before the public realizes that American foreign policy is a tissue of lies?