This War Too Is A Lie
September 8, 2013
Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies. When I’d researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn’t based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.
That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it’s contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government’s current claims about Syria. The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history. Every other case for war has always been dishonest.
The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse. There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine. The Philippines didn’t benefit from U.S. occupation. The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms. The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. Iraq didn’t take any babies out of incubators. The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court. Libya wasn’t about to kill everyone in Benghazi. Et cetera. Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR’s tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.
The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda. But the evidence offered in the case of Syria is no stronger than that for Iraq. It’s harder to disprove merely because there’s nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, no science. Congress members who have seen the classified version say it’s no better than the declassified. Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don’t believe the White House’s claims. The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors, and are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination. The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war. It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons two weeks ago, and already certain that even if it did, President Obama and Secretary Kerry don’t know it — they’ve only guessed it at best.