Saturday, February 2, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Bloggers lie. Teachers lie. Bankers lie (especially investment bankers). Barbers lie. Builders lie. Preachers lie. Engineers lie. Carpenters lie. Priests lie. Rabbis lie. Imams lie. Nuns lie. Deacons lie. Judges lie. Run-of-the-mill politicians lie. Presidents lie. Everybody lies.

One of the Ten or so Commandments says explicity "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

Nobody obeys that commandment.

Even the people who want to nail copies of the Ten Commandments to courthouse walls and school bulletin boards fail to observe that prohibition. I think they think it's a suggestion and thus open to modification if the ends justify the means.

Other people do this, too.

After a long hiatus, we're back blogging again. We'll try, to the best of our ability, not to lie. We seek the truth even though the truth can be hard to find. The truth is often hidden beneath a bed of lies. Furthermore, truth is open to interpretation. One person's truth is another person's lie. You will have to figure out if my "truth" is your "truth," or a lie.

Even though intellectually, we know that everybody lies, it still saddens us when we catch people in the act of lying; especially certain people. We hope our business, educational, religious and political leaders, in particular, would refrain from lying as a matter of course. Some do.

Others don't, and that bring us to the point of this essay: George W. Bush is a liar. I don't claim prescience here as many people knew he was a liar from the first day he stepped onto the political stage. Others claimed that he was a man of God who would not lie. We soon learned that one of Mr. Bush's favorite poses was his pose as a man of God which makes his lying even more nefarious.

The truth will out - sometimes. Fortunately, two non-partisan groups, The Center for Public Integrity, along with the Fund for Independence in Journalism, published a study recently on statements made by President Bush and Bush administration officials during the two-year period following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

During that time, 935 lies were made by Bush and people representing the Bush administration. In various briefings and speeches and other public venues, Bush and his people stated specifically 532 times that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was trying to make them. They further claimed that Iraq was working in concert with al-Qaida.

Those statements were lies. Bush and his people knew they were lies. Or, as summarized by Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith, staff members for the Fund for Independence in Journalism, "the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Bush lied about this more than anyone: 259 times during that two-year period. Other liars included Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and the White House press secretaries. (The latter, of course, are paid to lie -- that's their job description).

I think it is possible to prove that Bush has lied about many things during his time in office. I think he's lied about the economy, Social Security, health care, spying on American men and women, education (his moribund "No Child Left Behind" program), among others.

But even if those lies could not be proven, something is awry in this great land of ours. According to many noted Republicans, Bill Clinton's big crime was not that he had sex with a woman other than his wife, but that he lied about it? That was the unforgivable sin, the reason for his impeachment, why he had to be brought down and crucified on the altar of hypocrisy? (I mention the "altar of hypocrisy" because some of those intent on impeaching Mr. Clinton for his "immorality" were, at that very time, carrying on affairs with women to whom they were not married.)

I, for one, think presidents should tell the truth. Mr. Clinton should have told the truth about his sexual encounter with an intern. Those congressmen who were in the midst of extra-marital affairs during the impeachment process should have come forward and admitted their indiscretions and recused themselves from the Clinton impeachment proceedings. By not doing so, they, too, were liars, and according to their own standards, subject to punishment by impeachment.

I think it's important to realize that Mr. Clinton's daillance with an intern did not have a significant impact on the well-being of our nation or its people. I think it was something like a "victimless crime." His actions, which some thought repulsive, did not affect very many people. Even when Mr. Clinton lied about it, the stock market did not crash, and, mostly importantly, nobody died!

This is why I'm confused. Mr. Clinton was impeached for lying about a private sexual encounter. He was called names. He was villified. Among our "conservative" and "religious" citizens, he became anathema. Some of these conservative, religious citizens made a video which accused Mr. Clinton of horrible crimes. But those accusations were lies. In my mind, those lies were much worse than Mr. Clinton's lie.

The commandment prohibiting false witness appears to be absolute. It never really was, so far as I can tell. The Bible is full of liars. They either didn't know about the commandment or they didn't care or they thought they could get away with disobeying it.

Actually, we learned at an early age that some lies are more significant than others. As children we learned that we can lie about minor things like what we had to eat for lunch, and if caught, our punishment would be mild. But if we lied about something more serious, like sassing the teacher, our punishment would be much more severe.

While I don't want to belabor the point, it appears that Mr. Clinton's lie was, in the context of our country's problems, relatively mild. It was not worth the time, effort and dollars that went into the impeachment process.

Mr. Bush's lies, however, should be considered much more serious because the consequences for our nation, other countries, as well as for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been devastating.

Mr. Bush led us into a pre-emptive war with a country that posed absolutely no threat to the United States. Mr. Bush knew that Iraq posed no threat. But for a period of two years, Mr. Bush and his administration officials innundated the country with lies about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's supposed links to al-Qaida.

This war has been an unmitigated disaster for our nation as well as the citizens of Iraq. We have lost nearly 4,000 of our fighting men and women. Thousands of Iraqis have died. As a country, Iraq is much worse off now in almost every respect than it was prior to Bush's invasion. The war has destroyed our credibility around the world. It has destroyed our economy. From a substantial surplus when Bush took office, we're now facing a $9 trillion deficit. That amount is so large it can hardly be described. We have borrowed so much money from China and other countries, we'll be in hock for years.

If you follow the news you know the rest of the litany. The US of A is in shambles, and much of the reason for that is because Mr. Bush lied.

What I cannot understand is why this liar has not been impeached, along with the other members of his administration who stood toe to toe and lied over and over again to their fellow citizens. As others have said: "Where's the outrage?"