No More Lies
As every child learns, there are a few inescapable problems with lying. The first is that you tend to get into trouble, because lies inevitably seem to hurt someone, somewhere. Then, if you keep lying, your lies tend to compound each other, becoming more and more complex and interwoven, to the point where they become utterly contradictory. And if you still keep on lying, you lose your credibility and nobody believes you any more, even when you ARE telling the truth.
The Bush administration is experiencing just such a crisis, brought on by repeated and seemingly compulsive lying across a whole range of issues. Sure, politics almost by definition requires an artful capacity to manipulate facts, but the Bush team have elevated this diplomatic art beyond the realms of the absurd and into the territory of bare-faced and repeated lying. (I am not going to attempt to list all the lies here: just visit a few Web sites like www.bushlies.com)
These are not just distortions of figures or simple "mis-speaking" lies, either. The Bush administration has regularly turned truth completely on its head, to the point where this seems to be a concerted effort to confuse or distort public perceptions. For example, when anti-war protestors accused Bush of rewriting facts and denying his own quoted words, he labelled them "revisionist historians". The invasion of Iraq did more to promote the spread of terrorism than any other act in decades, yet it is promoted as "anti-terrorism" and anyone who criticizes it is labelled a "terrorist sympathizer". One GOP congressman even compared John Kerry to Hitler, after repeated comparisons between Bush and Hitler refused to die down.
How does one respond to such outright distortion? Logic flies out the window and genuine rhetoric is replaced by bite-sized verbal impressionism. Just look at some of the Bush team's Orwellian policy names: the "Clear Skies" initiative, which pollutes the skies, or the "No Child Left Behind" policy, which leaves not just children but also their families on the breadline. Even the term "war on terror" is a ridiculous distortion of words: terrorism is an idea that can only be discredited, not militarily defeated. Language, as well as truth, lies bleeding.
Although Bush has been caught out lying many times, the US public has tended to gloss over it. Interestingly, many people simply do not care. If these people did not vote, their indifference might be understandable - most people nowadays are sick to the back teeth with politicians, and perhaps rightly so. But many of these people DO vote, and even take an active interest in politics. It's just that they don't mind their President lying, as long as they believe that he might be doing it for a good reason. And a "good reason" might not even be a morally defensible position - for example, many voters would probably support Bush's invasion of Iraq just for the sake of getting cheaper petrol in their SUVs.
Is this lack of concern with Truth a sign of Western society's degeneration? Virtues like Truth, Honesty and Humility sound increasingly old-fashioned in today's greed-is-good world of individuality and materialism. But Truth certainly does matter. As history shows, the consequences of lying will inevitably become apparent.
So what are the consequences of Bush's lies? Firstly, the USA has lost credibility internationally. Not only have old allies been alienated, but the oppressed people of foriegn regimes, who once looked to the USA as a beacon of hope, now look on them as dark accomplices in their oppression. These people then become ready fodder for the inflammatory propaganda of anti-US groups like Al Quaeda.
Furthermore, Bush's lies have damaged or destroyed important treaties and institutions that have safeguarded the world for the past 50 years. How long will it take to repair the damage Bush & Co have caused to international treaties like the Geneva Convention, the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, or even Kyoto? And how will the US be able to pressure other nations to conform to such agreed norms, when they themselves have flaunted them? Most importantly, how will the US dare to criticize a country that invades another country with a pre-emptive strike? If the USA could claim removing Saddam was an act of urgent national security - even though he had no WMDs, or links to terrorists - what is to stop another rogue state from making similarly ridiculous claims?
Domestically, the full impact of Bush's lies may not be evident until and unless the Democrats win a landslide in November. On the other hand, the thousands who are already joining, or stuck on, the unemployment queues will remember the lies about how Bush's tax cuts for the rich were supposed to benefit them. Families who have lost loved ones in Iraq will remember the lies about WMDs and "imminent threats". And generations ahead will remember Cheney's comment that "deficits don't matter".
The question arises, then: do Bush and his colleagues actually believe their lies? Are they stupid, deluded, mislead or blindly fanatical? Or are they just playing hard-ball politics?
I would imagine that some officials, particularly the outspoken evangelical crusaders, are true believers with an unshake-able faith in their right-wing ideology, which they consider America's God-given destiny. These people would do well to remember Jesus' admonition, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," or Albert Einstein's warning: "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
Other administration members, however, must surely have more specific and personal agendas. These people cloak their lies in patriotism and religious fervour, but their real goals appear to be corporate profiteering and the building of dynastical power-bases that will survive this administration and allow them to influence US government policy for many years.
Both groups represent serious and growing dangers to genuine liberal democracy, especially at a time of rapid globalisation. On the one hand, religious supremacy fans intolerance and alienates foreigners, particularly Muslims. On the other hand, the increasingly blurred line between government and big business drags us back towards Nazi-style Fascism and threatens to create an unchallenge-able political and financial elite, backed by a powerful military-industrial complex, protected by a corrupt judiciary, and served by a majority of working class "slaves".
This is the nightmare future that keeps anti-globalisation protestors awake at nights. It doesn't have to be that way, but it is up to us to stop it. Let's start by demanding the Truth.