...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Monday, February 02, 2004
      ( 1:33 PM )
Ordinary, Decent Lies

In the mid 1970's people in prison in Northern Ireland who had actually committed crimes (like robbery, murder, etc) and were not there because they were interned or for political reasons, were known as "ordinary decent criminals." The British government, in trying to enact Margaret Thatcher's statement that "a crime is a crime is a crime" and that people arrested for political reasons (ie, suspected membership in the IRA) should not be distinguished as special, decided that political prisoners would not be separately categorized any longer. (as a historical note for the curious, when political prisioners lost their special designation, the Irish Republican prisoners began what became known as the Blanket Protest,which eventually became the infamous Hunger Strike in which 10 men died, one of them an elected MP in the Brisith Parliament, before Thatcher conceded they were actually different than "ordinary decent criminals").

I bring this up because I was reminded of the phrase this weekend as Bush tried to find new and different words to describe what he did last year to lead us into war besides "lie." The Republican leadership is also casting about, trying to find a way to defend a man and an administration that blatantly exploits 9/11 for its own neocon purposes. Bush saying now that he'd like to know the truth rings a bit hollow. And it's a bit disconcerting that he didn't care to know the truth back before thousands of people were killed. Even the media is shying away from calling Bush a liar. Why?

In his op/ed yesterday, Paul Vitello notes that there appears to be a difference between a president that lies about cheating on his wife and a president that lies about why we should go to war. The former is a horrible, government-stopping lie. The latter is, evidently, just an ordinary, decent lie.

Even from way out here on the edge of the
republic, you could feel official Washington
tremble and sway as it learned that President
Bill Clinton had had an affair with that woman
- and that he had lied about it.

The capital fell into chaos, you remember.
Through 1998 and most of 1999 (two years
during which Osama bin Laden was laying plans
for us, as it turned out) the work of the
Congress and the president stopped dead
while a Republican posse demanded Clinton's job.

They did so, they said, not just because he had
committed adultery but because he had lied
about it to the people and because presidential
lying represented a kind of cancer that
threatened the moral health of the nation. The
idea was that if a president lied, everything
might start to unravel in concentric circles of Evil.
They invoked Biblical absolutes and near-absolutes
such as the sanctity of truth, the rule of law,
the responsibilities of power.

DeLay, then-House Republican whip, said
that unless President Clinton was impeached
for lying, somewhere someday a mother would
"lose custody of her baby in court because a
father lies," and professors would sell good
grades for cash, and brave men would die due
to lies in the military, and businesses would
collapse from "a cancer" of lying throughout
the land. You can look this up in the congressional
record. DeLay may even have had a point.

So after all this incredible hoopla, after putting our country through the ringer and even impeaching the president, why has Washington remained so silent when news broke quite unequivocably that Bush had lied to us about the reasons to go to war on Iraq? The inequity in response is astonishing. Instead of Bush having to stand before the minute scrutiny of Congress and the press, he jauntily traveled up to NH last week to campaign (telling more lies, by the way, about the economy). Congress said "ho hum!" and the media said "superbowl! Dean is crazy!" Not exactly horror befitting the situation.

Vitello goes on to show that while the administration and the media are having a fun time throwing the blame at the intelligence services, there have been many reports over the last year about how the intelligence was manipulated and how the agencies were pressured by Cheney, et al to come to the "right" conclusions. Blame for the lies and for the leaks lies squarely in the Oval Office. Yet, does anybody care?

Maybe you remember the almost bizarre bill
of particulars brought against Clinton in the
House articles of impeachment. One article
charged him with perjury because he had
said he had "occasional" conversations with
Lewinsky when, according to phone records,
he'd had exactly 17 such conversations.

If that was perjury - and maybe it was - what
do you call it when the president stands
before his nation, holding ambiguous and
unproven information, and warns the people
that "final proof" of the existence of these
disputed weapons possessed by Hussein
"could come in the form of a mushroom cloud?"

Is that perjury, too? Or is that just someone
used to getting his way, regardless of the facts?

In either case, DeLay was right. Let there be
one lying president, and before you know it like
cancer, there is another, worser.

The double standard is astounding. Bush sounding like he's shocked, just shocked, that this could happen and ordering up an independent commission is bull-hookey. The commission, if ever formed, won't even come to a conclusion until 2005, waaaay after the November election. Whether Americans are still gullible enough to believe that Bush and Cheney didn't knowingly mislead this country going into war is still to be determined. I would hope most of them have opened their eyes finally.

thanks to Blah3 for the link.

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