Subject: [money-ethics] Maybe Bush can lie in America and get away with it, but
the British press is still free.
June 3, 2003
Standard Operating Procedure
By PAUL KRUGMAN
The mystery of Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction has become a lot
less mysterious. Recent reports in major British newspapers and three major
American news magazines, based on leaks from angry intelligence officials, back
up the sources who told my colleague Nicholas Kristof that the Bush
administration "grossly manipulated intelligence" about W.M.D.'s.
And anyone who talks about an "intelligence failure" is missing the
point. The problem lay not with intelligence professionals, but with the Bush and
Blair administrations. They wanted a war, so they demanded reports supporting
their case, while dismissing contrary evidence.
In Britain, the news media have not been shy about drawing the obvious
implications, and the outrage has not been limited to war opponents. The Times
of London was ardently pro-war; nonetheless, it ran an analysis under the
headline "Lie Another Day." The paper drew parallels between the
selling of the war and other misleading claims: "The government is seen as
having `spun' the threat from Saddam's weapons just as it spins everything
Yet few have made the same argument in this country, even though
"spin" is far too mild a word for what the Bush administration does,
all the time. Suggestions that the public was manipulated into supporting an
Iraq war gain credibility from the fact that misrepresentation and deception
are standard operating procedure for this administration, which to an extent
never before seen in U.S. history systematically and brazenly distorts the facts.
Am I exaggerating? Even as George Bush stunned reporters by declaring that we
have "found the weapons of mass destruction," the Republican National
Committee declared that the latest tax cut benefits "everyone who pays
taxes." That is simply a lie. You've heard about those eight million
children denied any tax break by a last-minute switcheroo. In total, 50 million
American households including a majority of those with members over 65 get
nothing; another 20 million receive less than $100 each. And a great majority
of those left behind do pay taxes.
And the bald-faced misrepresentation of an elitist tax cut offering little or
nothing to most Americans is only the latest in a long string of blatant
misstatements. Misleading the public has been a consistent strategy for the
Bush team on issues ranging from tax policy and Social Security reform to
energy and the environment. So why should we give the administration the
benefit of the doubt on foreign policy?
It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the
last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the
administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters a group that
includes a large segment of the news media obediently insist that black is white
and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some
people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians
offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down
the extent of the lies.
If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're
in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the
veteran war correspondent who supported Britain's participation in the war
writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed
British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."
It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out
that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or
worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But
the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public
was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent,
the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political
history worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we
were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they
refuse to admit the possibility.
But here's the thought that should make those commentators really
uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And
suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can
fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that
case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably,
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