I think we all recall the propaganda history of the American invasion of Iraq. (Oh yes, that's Daniel Webster looking dour at left—you don't see a lot of portraits of him where he's put on a happy face. Old Dan doesn't have anything to do with Iraq, directly, but he has something to tell us nevertheless. We'll come back to that.)
Long before the actual invasion, there were wise people warning us:
• that the Bush administration's foreign-policy apparatus was in the clutches of people who had been waiting for 10 years for an opportunity to invade Iraq,
• that it was clear within days of 9/11 that those people were going to use that day's events as a launching platform for such an invasion, despite the absence of any connection to Iraq, and—
• that the arguments mustered in favor of military intervention were at best highly selective, more often highly suspicious (almost from the start, every piece of "evidence" that appeared had an informed chorus of doubters and debunkers, to whom tragically little attention was paid under the pressure of the administration's heavy-gunning propaganda machine) and quite likely in some instances just plain phony.
It would be awhile before we knew that Vice President Cheney and his henchmen had pressed a furious campaign of coercion of the CIA to cook the "intelligence" to support the war they were determined to have. But from everything that was already known, it was hardly surprising. Nor would it be exactly a shock when Ambassador Joe Wilson went public with his first-hand knowledge that the administration knew irrefutably, not just from his own fact-finding mission but from two previous ones as well
, of the fraudulence of the story about Saddam Hussein trying to buy uranium from Niger.
All of this, as I say, we all know and recall.
What I've been thinking about lately is Phase II of the Iraq-war propaganda campaign, the phase that followed
the invasion, and the rapid unraveling of the U.S. occupation, which had never been properly prepared for. (Oh, as we found out eventually, plenty of people even within the Bush administration
had actually devoted a lot of carefully researched work to planning for a post-invasion reality, but that was mostly in the soft-on-Saddam State Dept., and on strict orders from Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld it was all hermetically sealed and treated as toxic waste.)
You recall, don't you, that with the failure to find the famous Iraqi WMDs (even though Cheney and Rumsfled had told us they knew exactly what and where they were) and the descent into chaos in Iraq (and the accompanying bonanza for war-profiteering Bush administration cronies), and the beginning of some wider public awareness in the country that the entire Iraq adventure was based on lies, a new argument arose:There's no point picking over the minutiae of how we wound up in Iraq
, the new argument went. All that matters now is that we're
there, and what we do from here.
This argument, in fact, came most frequently and most alarmingly (and most shamefully) from so-called liberals. It didn't matter how we got there?
It didn't matter that every single aspect of our involvement in Iraq was based on lies? And that the liars were still running the show?
Without a hint of acknowledgment of how wrong they had been about every important aspect of the Iraq adventure, or any recognition of the Pandora's box worth of problems they had created?
I know this seems like ancient history now. What's got me thinking about it again is that damned Harris poll showing that the percentage of Americans who believe that we found WMDs in Iraq has grown
from 36 percent to 50 percent in the last year. (It's also scary that 64 percent believe the total fiction that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, but that's only up from 62 percent the year before.)
This didn't happen in a vacuum. As Paul Krugman points out in his column today
:At one level, this shouldn't be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don't like have been established, whether it's the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of WMD in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.
Do you see the disconnect?
Even while we malcontents in the reality-based community are being ordered to let go of the past—"just drop it, suckers, and raise your hands real slow, keepin' 'em where we can see 'em"—the right-wing propaganda machine is doing no such thing. Of course they're not trying to find out what actually happened. They're furiously scrubbing, laundering, eradicating and rewriting the historical record to match their lies—or the new lies they've invented to replace the pathetically unsustainable ones that have already been discredited truly
beyond hope, beyond even their resuscitative abilities.
So, yes, in figuring out what we do next in Iraq, we have to take account of the realities on the ground. But those realities emphatically include those of how we got there. The very fact that the right-wing propaganda machine is so desperate to make sure they're expunged from the record should tell us that they're still important.
Of course the long-running right-wing campaign against education—dating back, say, to the Reagan years?—comes into play here. I think of the recent DWT Quote of the Day from Georgetown (Kentucky) College President William H. Crouch Jr.
, talking about his school's decision to dissolve its ties to the Kentucky Baptist Convention: “I sat for 25 years and watched my denomination become much more narrow and, in terms of education, much more interested in indoctrination."Indoctrination, not education
—isn't that what it comes down to? At least if you're interested, not in reality, but in the manufactured version that serves the interest(s) of the particular interest group(s) you're fronting for.
Or as Mags wrote here recently
, arguing that "we can handle the truth":Truth is an honest appraisal. Truth is the laying bare of the real issues and difficulties. Truth is a commercial for working together to honestly solve problems and create real peace and safety. Truth calls on us all to be more than we think we can be. It assures us that our efforts will not be wasted.
Creating a false reality is the ultimate betrayal. It consumes our efforts and our resources for naught. It robs us of our faith in ourselves and our faith in others.
If you want to know just how powerful the truth can be, just look at the scope of the right wingers' efforts to falsify it. It looks to me like they're sure afraid of something
Hmm, "just how powerful truth can be"? Well, here we are! You haven't forgotten about Dour Old Dan Webster, have you? What was he famous for saying? "There is nothing so powerful as truth"—and of course the addendum, "and often nothing so strange."
As far as I know, Old Dan never even met Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. I have a feeling he knew their type, though. Maybe it's one reason he always looked so dour.
[Note: There are some really interesting comments added to that earlier post of mine
including the Krugman "Reign of Error" column. In particular, on this immediate subject jerryb
has some highly pertinent observations on the stake that people who are conned have in believing in
the con—he points out that con men count