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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Loyalty Oath

Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf"

"… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

Smart guy, no doubt about it. That surely explains why so many Americans believe that Iraq and 9/11 are connected and why many probably believe that WMD have been found or that they were destroyed in the days before the war or any other of the improbable explanations as to why the fundamental rationale on which this war was based simply must be true in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. A good number of people simply do not want to believe that the President of the United States would blatantly lie over and over and over again on a subject of such importance.

(It also explains the seemingly incomprehensible fact that a president was just recently impeached for supposedly lying about a consensual sex act, a crime Republicans considered to be so heinous that it had to be prosecuted or risk undermining the entire concept of the rule of law.)

But what to make of this? I read that editorial (courtesy of the indispensable Mediawhoresonline) and found myself staring off into space trying to understand how we will be able to function as a society when we finally cast off even the pretense of a requirement for honesty in democratic leaders.

''Would it bother you if we were to discover that George Bush lied about the case for going to war?'' I asked.

He knew what I was referring to. His blunt answer left my jaw hanging.

``Everyone knows he lied about weapons of mass destruction being the point of the war.''

Just a few weeks ago, any statement from me that Bush's case for war was riddled with inconsistencies and illogic would have brought swift and fierce condemnation from this fellow.

Now, basking in the glow of military conquest -- and confronted by a thus-far futile search for chemical and biological weapons -- this hawk breezily conceded the point while also waving it away as inconsequential.

The difference between the gullible average guy who refuses to believe his President would lie and the guy quoted above is significant. The first holds that honesty is so important that he must cling to a belief in the honest nature of his leader even in the face of evidence to the contrary. The latter thinks honesty or even logical consistencies are unnecessary.

Instead of insisting that WMD were present and then manufacturing the evidence to back up that claim, which is what I expected in the event that the WMD claim proved bogus, we now find the administration and Jack Straw in the UK beginning to indicate, like the fellow above, that we lied about the WMD and it doesn’t matter, either in practical terms or as a matter of principle or that what they plainly said was not what they plainly said. Josh Marshall points out that Ken Adelman is even claiming that the UN forced us to lie about WMD.

The editorial writer of the piece quoted above calls it hypocrisy, but that’s really not completely correct. It’s hypocritical in the sense that these people all lie yet proclaim themselves virtuous and honest, yes. But, the phenomenon of lying to persuade people of the rightness of an action you wish to undertake with their permission and then saying later that what you said never mattered at all is something else entirely.

My first reaction was to see it as yet another audacious display of arrogance and privilege. They simply believe they can get away with anything. But, after thinking about it, I actually think it is far more insidious than that. It is an insult designed to get a particular reaction.

Like the boss who requires his staff to obsequiously and insincerely flatter him (because he delights in forcing them to say something they don’t believe purely to please him, and knowing they know it) it is less an act of narcissism than a demonstration of power. Regardless of whether they had bad intelligence or just bad intentions, for the administration to straightforwardly say to their supporters that the arguments they had them put forth with such fervor prior to the war were never correct and don’t matter anyway is, in effect, demanding a loyalty oath that says they are willing to give up any claim to personal integrity in support of the party. You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes.

And to those who expressed skepticism about the imminent threat presented by Saddam, these people are saying , “We have demonstrated that we can get away with lying outright, over and over again and no one has the courage or the will to hold us accountable. You are powerless to defeat us through logic or rational argument. Might makes right.”

When you add this to the ongoing and systematic attacks against any criticism of the President or his policies, you have the makings of a new order. From this, Brownshirts are made.

This gentleman has a choice to make.