Friday, July 23, 2010

Lies! Lies! Breaking my heart!

Lying is of course frequently a bad, bad, naughty thing to do, and it's probably at its naughtiest when it's used as part of a PR campaign in the buildup to a war. But between the lie and the war, I'm pretty sure the lie is the less-bad thing. Now, I'm not so simple as to think that the lie and the war are discrete, separable items, unrelated in the sequence of events. They're not, any more than, oh, I don't know, the soap suds and the clean dishes are (I just did the dishes).

Actually, that terrible metaphor sidetracked my thinking onto this path: it's possible to clean dishes without the soap suds, but it's easier to do it with them, just as it's possible to go to war with or without lies, but easier to do so with them. But once the dishes are clean, once they're demonstrably, unarguably clean, there is very little point in arguing over whether or not soap suds were used in cleaning them.

Of course, the metaphor, being terrible, begins to break down here, because the discussion of whether or not "the Bush Administration" (more correctly the imperial capitalist powers) used lies as part of the buildup to the definitive 2003 escalation of war in Iraq (and if you actually attempt to argue that they didn't, then like Karl Rove you clearly have a vested interest in doing so) can at least potentially have the effect of illuminating the reality of just exactly what it is that's going on with that whole war thing.

But the unspoken, and sometimes even explicitly spoken, assumption of not only Rove's article but also the liberal/Democrat rhetoric that preceded and will follow it, is that the presence or absence of these lies actually plays a part in determining the morality of the war itself. And this is complete nonsense.

Scenario One: George W. Bush says Iraq has nuclear weapons, Colin Powell says that Iraq went to The Mall of the Africas shopping for uranium, and then American troops go into Iraq and kill several millions of people for money.

Scenario Two: George W. Bush says he and his friends will make lots of money if American troops go into Iraq and kill several millions of people, Colin Powell says that he and his friends will make lots of money if American troops go into Iraq and kill several millions of people, and then American troops go into Iraq and kill several millions of people for money.

In which scenario do more people die?

Again: I am not saying that a discussion of the nature of the lies is a bad thing. But in all that discussion, the fact that millions of people have died seems to get lost. War is an evil thing regardless of the excuses people give for it, regardless of why people say they do it, regardless of whether or not people lie about it. The lie, in and of itself, is not the Big Bad here.

On a different note, this paragraph in Rove's article interested me:
The battering would continue, and it was a monument to hypocrisy and cynicism. All these Democrats had said, like Mr. Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. Of the 110 House and Senate Democrats who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against his regime, 67 said in congressional debate that Saddam had these weapons. This didn't keep Democrats from later alleging something they knew was false—that the president had lied America into war.
Mostly because it's a very odd sensation to read the first three sentences of a paragraph, and the first nine or ten words of the last sentence, and think "This guy's right on the money," and then read the rest of the last sentence and think "What the fuck is this insanity?"


Anonymous said...

It's easy to agree with the portions of Rove's comment where he's telling the truth about the Democrats.

It's the part where he's covering up for Bush's lying that sticks in the craw.

Rove's genius --if you will-- was that of distraction, to get people focused on the wrong things, and that was often done by blaming a scapegoat for that which Rove's Bosses were about to do. The genius there is the focus initiates on the scapegoat, and by the time more skeptical folks see that the scapegoat really isn't quite what Rove's themes suggest, the real dirty deeds are underway at the hands of Rove's Bosses. By the time the more skeptical people see that Rove's Bosses are actually doing what the scapegoat was accused of doing, the vitriol and anger toward the scapegoat has caused a desensitization toward the wrongdoing in question, and thereby the vitriol toward Rove's Bosses is watered down and sometimes even neutered.

Of course this didn't originate with Rove. I'd wager Rove closely studied the tactics of Joseph Goebbels, whom Rove resembles more than anyone I can remember from history. Luckily for Rove, the only people who remember Goebbels with lingering accuracy are the same people who love Israel and hate Muslims, eh?

Richard said...

It's worth noting the distinction between "the Bush Administration" and "the imperial capitalist powers". The latter is not always equivalent to the United States, though the US has been the major ideological proponent and military enforcer for capitalism since WWII. But the Americans are only the latest center of that system. Other elements of capital are losing faith, it seems to me, in the US's ability to what needs to be done for capital to get paid. Hence there was among the other powers major opposition to the 2003 re-attack of Iraq. But the US is still a scary military power, so it's unclear what will happen next. China looms as the successor to the US. etc.

(That said, well said otherwise. Rove is a prick.)

Ethan said...

CFO, I think the scapegoating you're talking about applies just as much to the lying I was talking, oh, if only Bush etc had told the truth about the war, it would have been a good war! Or maybe it's more like, if we can prove they were lying, that means we can prove that the war is bad--as if the war itself doesn't prove that all on its own.

Richard, my understanding of Iraq in 2003 (and this may be way off base) is that it was a struggle between a French oil company (Total, maybe?) on the one side and British and American ones on the other, hence the opposition of much of Europe to the invasion. I can't find links for any of that, though, so I could be way, way wrong, especially because I don't really understand how the EU works and that functioning seems pretty central to all that.

But you're right, regardless, that my "more correctly" was nothing of the sort. I'm not sure, though, how exactly to phrase the distinction I was trying to make, which is that it was the factions of capital that run the US that decided to invade Iraq, not "the Bush administration" per se. In other words, trying to stave off the nonsensical argument that Bush was some sort of exceptional evil in the history of US leadership.

Richard said...

Yes, that's an important point to make, particularly to liberals. And it's not as if it's easy to see who controls what or whom.

almostinfamous said...

In other words, trying to stave off the nonsensical argument that Bush was some sort of exceptional evil in the history of US leadership

dont be silly, Ethan - that was Ralph Nader.