The Powerful Odor of Mendacity: From Wiretaps to War


Glenn Greenwald catches Bush’s “intelligence czar,” Mike McConnell, in howlingly flagrant lies in a Washington Post op-ed about the need to “update” the secret FISA court’s powers over government surveillance. Greenwald does a masterful job of demolition — but in the end, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. All he does is go back to Bush’s own public statements after the FISA system was, er, updated in October 2001, and show how the Dear Leader himself contradicts every statement McConnell makes in his new piece. Greenwald writes with his usual passion and flair; but it’s a job that any first-year journalism student could have done — and a job that Post editorial honcho Fred Hiatt should have done. For McConnell was not simply voicing opinions, or giving his interpretation of events; he was stating as fact things that were demonstrably false — falsehoods that could have been detected through a quick check of the Post’s own files. It is precisely as if Hiatt gave editorial space to someone claiming that Saddam Hussein had ordered the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Photo by James Bovard.

Well, the strange political proclivities of Mr. Hiatt are well known, and too banal to merit any serious attention. The man treats anything out of the mouths of the powerful as holy — and uneditable — writ, although it’s true that he also publishes the occasional “dissenting” piece. After all, Post readers like to flatter themselves that they are big-picture people, seeing “all sides” of an issue and making their weighty judgments accordingly. They like to spice up the unrelenting flood of servile gruel that Hiatt dishes out with a bit of contrarian horseradish now and then.

What is most important about the McConnell piece — as Greenwald notes — is that it underscores, yet again, that the Bush Faction tells knowing lies in pushing its agenda, and always has. It’s not a question of “spin,” of “putting the best face on things,” or being “clearer than truth,” in Dean Acheson’s sinister Cold War phrase — gilding the lily, exaggerating for effect. Nor, conversely, is it a case of self-deception, of “true believers” unable to take off their blinders, of “idealists” unwilling to bend their dreams to mucky reality, or even of fourth-rate dullards too stupid to see the filth and ruin caused by their own cretinous policies. They are not just spinning, they are not deceiving themselves, they are not too stupid to know what’s going on.

They are lying — lying deliberately — lying brazenly and cynically, as in McConnell’s case. They are lying because their causes are evil and cannot be spoken of openly: aggressive war for loot and domination; the callous rape and despoiling of their own nation for the profit and power of their wealthy cronies; the construction of a global gulag of secret prisons, eternal captives, carefully refined and officially approved torture; the deliberate, systematic destruction of the Constitutional system of government in favor of arbitrary, militarized tyranny; the deliberate, systematic sowing of division and rancor and hatred and fear among the people, to keep them disunited, weak, scattered, unable to resist the depredations of a small, criminal elite. If these be your gods, then of course you must lie to do them service.

[The Post had another story revealing the Bush policy of deliberate mendacity this week, a Walter Pincus piece buried in the grey sludge of the inside pages: yet another confirmation that the Bush Administration knew full well beforehand the kind of unbridled hell that their planned war of aggression against Iraq would unleash. They knew — months before the invasion — that it would result in a guerrilla insurgency, in violent and vicious sectarian conflict, in increased terrorism, in regional instability and a vast exacerbation of radical, extremist, politicized Islam. They knew all this because their own intelligence agencies told them, in at least two major assessments delivered in January 2003. ]

McConnell’s lies are more important for what they represent than for their substance. The latter is simply just one more attempt to throw dust in the public’s eyes about “regulating” surveillance while the Bush Administration continues to do what it has obviously been doing for almost six years: spying on whomever they please, whenever they please, and for their own purposes, unrelated to any attempt to “protect” the American people from the terrorism that the Bushists themselves have so assiduously and deliberately cultivated. We know all this already; there needs no spook come from the Beltway to tell us that. But McConnell’s lies do represent an escalation — a “surge” — in the brazenness of the criminal gang’s deceptions. They are becoming so transparent that it seems obvious that the Bush Faction no longer cares if they are caught out in their lies or not. (See the oathsworn Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto “Intensive Care” Gonzales for another recent example of this.)

Perhaps this is because they have taken the measure of the Democratic “opposition” and now realize that no one is going to seriously hinder them in the pursuit of their sinister agenda. Oh, they may have to toss a few bodies overboard — Gonzales himself is probably being fitted for a winding sheet even as we speak — but it is now obvious that the leaders of the criminal organization are not going to be held legally accountable for their high crimes. They are not going to be impeached — although the many causes for impeachment cry out to the heavens. They are not going to be tried; they are not going to be jailed. They are not going to suffer the slightest inconvenience. They can see already that they will retire to lives of staggering wealth and privilege.


The cowardice of the Democrats is one possible reason why the Bushists’ lies are growing more open, more cynical. (And let us not lay the flattering unction to ourselves that this is because the Bush Faction is getting more desperate. It would be very nice to think so, but as noted above, they already know nothing bad is going to happen to them personally; so what would they be desperate about?) But there is one other possible reason for their brazenness: because they know that something is brewing, something is coming that will wipe away the memory of their present lies — or else make it more dangerous to point them out. Juan Cole detects some tantalizing hints in the notable absence of many of Iraq’s main political players from the scene: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the most powerful Shiite party, has left Iraq, going first to the United States and now to Iran for cancer treatment. Mahdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr is still in hiding. And now Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, is going to a fat farm in the United States for three weeks to try to lose some weight. That’s right; Iraq’s head of state has left his nation in the midst of a life-and-death struggle in order to drop a few pounds in a pricey Stateside resort.

That’s the story, anyway — but as we noted above, the lies are getting more threadbare all the time. Says the cautious Cole: “I’m tempted to speculate that something is in the works such that someone thinks it desirable that Talabani be out of country, since the idea that Mam Jalal suddenly decided he needed to go to a fat farm in Minnesota strikes me as far-fetched.” Meanwhile, the ever-incandescent Arthur Silber points us to this piece by Alain Gresh in Le Monde Diplomatique, on the surging military and terrorist operations by the United States and its proxies in Iran:

Silently, furtively, sheltered from cameras, the war on Iran has begun. Numerous sources confirm that the United States has intensified its aid to several armed movements with an ethnic base — Azeris, Baluchis, Arabs, Kurds: minorities that together represent about 40 percent of the Iranian population — with the objective of destabilizing the Islamic Republic. In this context, ABC television revealed in the beginning of April that the Baluchi group, Jound Al-Islam (“The soldiers of Islam”) which had just led an attack against the Guardians of the Revolution (about twenty dead) had enjoyed secret American assistance. A report by the Century Foundation reveals that American commandos have been operating in the interior of Iran itself since the summer of 2004.

As Gresh notes, this covert effort was begun after the Bush Faction rejected out of hand an offer by the moderate-led Iranian government of Mohammad Khatami in 2003. I wrote about this a year ago, following up on yet another buried Washington Post story, which

revealed that documentary proof has now emerged confirming the fact that in the spring of 2003, the Bush Regime — flush with its illusory “victory” in Iraq — spurned a wide-ranging peace feeler from Iran which offered “full cooperation” on every issue that the Bushists claim to be concerned about in regard to Tehran: “nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.”

The offer was made through the Swiss Embassy, which has served as the conduit for communication between Washington and Tehran since America’s Peacock patsy, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown in 1979. The 2003 proposal included “full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, ‘decisive action,’ against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending ‘material support’ for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [which called for all Muslim states to recognize Israel],” the Post reports. The unprecedented initiative was approved by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then-President Mohammad Khatami — the moderate whose attempts at dialogue were mocked and undercut at every turn by the Bush Regime, helping to discredit the entire reformist movement in Iran and leading to Khatami’s replacement by the militant hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In other words, everything that George W. Bush says he wants from the Iranians now, he could have had for the asking — three years ago. What then can we conclude from the rejection of this extraordinary initiative? The answer is obvious: that the Bush Faction is not really interested in curbing nuclear proliferation or defusing the powder keg of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the regional and global terror that it spawns.