Although we should do it every day, the Memorial Day weekend and our remembrance of D-Day, the 6th of June, should remind us all to honor those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should also not forget those who have been wounded; those who have lost arms, legs, and/or faces; and those who now suffer from spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, most of our casualties have occurred since President “Flight-suit” Bush declared his “mission accomplished” four long years ago. Even worse, the Iraq debacle began as a war of choice justified with intentional misinformation.
For well over 2000 years, governments have been based on the ideals of two ancient Greek philosophers and teachers, Aristotle and Plato. Aristotle favored democratic-republics which contained systems of checks and balances, like the ancient Roman Republic. Great Britain and the United States have evolved from Aristotle and Rome. However, Plato was inspired by the military city-state of Sparta, and his theories have been adapted and distorted by most dictatorships, such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Plato favored regimented states led by benevolent “philosopher kings,” who were allowed the use of the “Noble Lie.”
Plato was convinced that the ignorant masses – you and I – were incapable of understanding the issues or of being informed enough to make intelligent decisions. Hence, those who had been educated to rule the state had the duty to do whatever was necessary – even to lie – to do what they thought was truly best for the people. Unfortunately, if a state falls into the hands of incompetents and/or power-hungry megalomaniacs, this practice of lying becomes less than “noble.”
Pres. Ronald Reagan was a skilled practitioner of the “noble lie.” In the early 1980s, 70% of those polled opposed our aiding the Contras, rebel terrorists trying to overthrow the communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The American people still remembered our misadventure in Vietnam, and Congress prohibited Reagan from shipping American weapons to the Contras. Regardless, Reagan decided it was right to support them, and he seemed to believe they really were “freedom fighters.” The word freedom always sounds good – especially when involved in something you shouldn’t be doing.
Hence, Reagan secretly and illegally sold missiles to Iran (which was classified as a terrorist state) and used the money to purchase Soviet weapons from Yugoslavia in Europe and got Israel to fly them to Paraguay or Bolivia in South America. From there the Soviet weapons were flown to Panama in Central America. Panama’s dictator Noriega was an ally of the Reagan-Bush Administration. Noriega dropped off the weapons to the Contras and then flew his Columbian drugs on into the United States. Reagan didn’t want his aid to the Contras to become a re-election issue in 1984; so when reporters asked whether he was secretly supplying them with weapons, he simply lied: “No. That would be illegal.” The Iran-Contra scandal may have been a greater affront to our constitutional system than was Watergate.
The Bush-Cheney cabal is stacked with neoconservatives who have been rising to their present dominance ever since the Nixon Administration. Many people have no idea who the neo-cons are – even though they have been running our country for the last six and a half years. They are followers of the ideas of Leo Strauss, a German Jewish political philosopher who came here in 1938 and taught at the Univ. of Chicago and elsewhere. Strauss believed that the majority of the uninformed public could be controlled by using three principles: (1) Religion, (2) Continuous War, and (3) The Big Lie.Among the neo-cons who shrewdly got us into the Iraq catastrophe using evidence they knew to be erroneous or highly questionable were the usual suspects: (1) Dick Cheney; (2) “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff; (3) Donald Rumsfeld, Sec. of Defense; (4) Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Sec. of Def., former student of Leo Strauss, and later head of the World Bank; and (5) John Bolton, Undersecretary of State and later U.N. Ambassador. Before ever coming to power in 2001, they all wanted to invade Iraq. All of the above signed a 1998 letter from a neo-con think-tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), encouraging Clinton to use military force against Iraq.
Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and now Sec. of State, and Colin Powell, former Sec. of State, are not “certifiable” neo-cons. Rice has always seemed to be in way over her head, but she’s “a loyal Bushy” and has supported whatever the neo-cons wanted. Powell did his best to prevent their leading us into Iraq but eventually caved-in. He presented their deceitful case to the U.N. and may spend the rest of his days trying to restore his reputation. The “noble” lies he used to support the overthrow of an obviously bad man were Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” and Saddam’s ties to 9/11 and al Qaida – none of which existed.
Mr. Bush – certainly no thinking man he – has been an enthusiastic follower of the neo-cons. Remember, to avoid being invaded, the detestable Saddam Hussein allowed U.N. inspectors to return; and they began exposing him as being a bluffer insteady of a mighty threat. Nevertheless, Mr. Bush didn’t care. He told the inspectors to leave because he was eager to invade. Afterward, Mr. Bush insisted he went to war only as a last resort. As Mark Twain once said, “I wonder how (he) could lie so – the result of practice, no doubt.”
Many have speculated as to why Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair allied himself with the likes of the incompetent Bush-Cheney neo-cons, thereby destroying his own reputation and his own popularity. His superb domestic policies and his diplomacy in Ireland had made him possibly the most admirable leader in England since Winston Churchill, but he will resign his office at the end of June. It appears that he succumbed to the “noble lie.” He must have concluded that renewing a colonial-type war of 19th century imperialism would be good if it allowed the West to get control of the Iraqi oil fields. If he had to lie to do it, then so be it.
The prime minister’s residence is 10 Downing Street, from which we get the name for the infamous Downing Street Memos of July 23, 2002. From them we learned that Blair knew eight months before the invasion that our neo-cons had already decided to go to war and were cooking the evidence to gain popular support! Blair’s senior ministers told him “the case was thin” against Saddam and the U.S.’s “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of military action. When these memos were made public May 1, 2005, the British people found out Blair had lied and there had been little or no effort to avoid war. They lost confidence in his leadership and soon will be telling him “Goodbye and good riddance.” Many of us Americans look forward to January 2009 to say the same to our renegade co-presidents Bush and Cheney.
by David Offutt (slightly revised December 20, 2009)
A version of this essay was published June 2, 2007,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.