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Collapsing credibility

Bush’s disinformation policy threatens the nation

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George W. Bush broke new low ground for a president of the United States by intentionally lying to the national press about spending Thanksgiving at his Texas ranch. Instead, hoping to bolster his sagging approval ratings, Bush flew into Baghdad in an unmarked plane, staged a photo-op while carrying a platter of turkey “for the troops,” and high-tailed it outta there. Perhaps the stunt will help in the polls, but for an administration suffering from collapsing credibility as the mis-statements, partial truths and outright lies stack up, and up, and up, this latest broad-spectrum disinformation campaign can only drag the Bush presidency further down.

It is totally understandable that there are times when a president would not want to openly state his schedule, and American presidents have employed a variety of techniques to hide their exact locations. Holding clandestine meetings at sea is a favorite, and one president even used a “body double” to wave at crowds from a passing train.

It is also totally understandable that President Bush would not want to allow those who wish him lethal harm—and there are millions around the world these days—to know when he was flying into a combat zone.

But an outright lie by the President of the United States to the American public and press is quite another thing. Such a tactic, in which the press is used to convey an administration’s disinformation to the citizenry, is a threat to the very foundations upon which this so-called “free” country rests.

Under the Bush Disinformation Doctrine, it is now impossible for American citizens or the press to discern when and if President Bush and his White House are telling the truth. The grim reality is that the Bush administration, for any secret reasons it may devise, has determined that outright lies are valid tools of communication with the press, citizens at home, and nations abroad.

Some will say this is hardly news, and in a sense, they would be right. With every passing day it becomes more evident that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the full flock of warmongering neo-conservatives now in control of U.S. foreign policy have continuously lied to the American people, the United Nations, and the rest of the world about the reasons to go to war in Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no enriched uranium shipment from Niger, the infamous “aluminum tubes” were not for a nuclear weapons program, there were no biological or chemical weapons and there was no missile system to deliver them. Nor was there any connection between the September 11 terrorists and Saddam Hussein. All lies, as we now know.

But look at what these lies spawned. A terrified and traumatized Congress allowed itself to hand over war-making powers solely to the president, severely disrupting the normal checks and balances under which the country has operated for more than 200 years.

Given free rein, President Bush has launched America on a radical, uncivilized, “preemptive strike” policy and we are now widely viewed as the most dangerous rogue nation on Earth. It is criminal that our actions were based on a foundation of lies, but it is even more tragic that our young men and women are dying every day in foreign lands for absolutely nothing.

This is not just about George W. Bush’s presidency, however, which will end sooner or later. For the sake of our country’s future, we can only hope it’s sooner, but the damage done to our democracy and international image will long outlast the political lifespan of the greatest scoundrel ever to blemish the White House.

Just ask yourself what happens to participatory democracy when no one can trust what they see on TV news, read in the papers, or hear on the radio. How can citizens ever be informed about the issues if they are presented with “facts” that may be nothing more than government disinformation campaigns? The more people distrust the veracity of any politician or political system, the easier it is for them to become disenchanted with making any effort to take part in it. When those at the very top of the system, such as President Bush, are proven to be inveterate liars, people lose faith in their institutions, in their ability to control or influence their own government, and ultimately they reject the political system entirely as being an artifice of control for one powermonger or another. Ironically, Bush’s secret flight into Baghdad unintentionally illuminated the host of other lies being passed off as truth on a daily basis. Obviously, the Iraqis are not floating on the “tidal wave of democracy” that was supposed to sweep the nation once we “liberated” it. If we were being welcomed with open arms, as President Bush promised prior to the war, there would be little reason for him to be so deathly afraid of flying into a city that houses our military and civilian headquarters.

But this so-called “commander in chief,” who used his father’s political and financial connections to evade his own military obligations during the Vietnam War, was afraid—very afraid. So afraid that Air Force One was abandoned for an unmarked plane so the Chief Chickenhawk could sneak in and out of the death zone of a war into which he so brazenly, and at such great and continuing cost, threw our country.

The corrosive power of corruption at the highest levels of our government cannot be overestimated or ignored. If it’s acceptable for the president and his cabinet to lie on a regular basis, why should CEOs, government officials, or citizens feel any compunction against doing likewise? In the end, as the bright light of truth is abandoned and our country’s credibility collapses around us, we will be left like rats, skittering through the twilight of our once-great nation.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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