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Bush Lying?


Did Bush lie on the reasons for 9-11 (“they hate our freedoms,” etc.)? I think one has to be a bit cautious.

Lying requires a certain competence: at least, it requires an understanding of the difference between truth and falsehood. When a 3-year old tells you an obvious falsehood, it isn’t really fair to call it a lie. The same was true of the huge whoppers that Reagan came out with when he got out of the control of his handlers. The poor soul probably had no idea. With Bush, I suspect it is more or less the same. There is a literature of “exposures” (Woodward, etc.), which is taken seriously, but I don’t frankly understand why. Among the people he is interviewing, some have the competence to lie, and it only makes sense to suppose that they are doing so; why should they tell him the truth? As for the others, it doesn’t really matter what they tell him. The same is true of people who are deeply immersed in some religious cult, like the Washington neocon intellectuals. It is hard to know whether they have the competence to lie, just as it’s hard to know for someone who has a direct line to some divinity.

For people who tried to be serious and honest commentators, the answers to “why they hate us” have been easy to find all along, and it is rather striking to see the systematic avoidance (what anthropologists sometimes call “ritual avoidance”) of the clearest evidence. I’ve often reviewed it in print — in World Orders, for example, when the documents were declassified. In brief, Eisenhower and his staff were concerned in the 1950s about the “campaign of hatred” against us in the Arab world, and understood the reasons: the perception that the US supports harsh and oppressive regimes and blocks democracy and development, and does so to gain control of the energy resources of the region. In later years, that remained true, though new reasons arose. Thus when the Wall St. Journal and others studied attitudes of “moneyed Muslims” (bankers, managers of multinationals, corporate lawyers, etc.) after 9-11, they found the same reasons, along with others: the decisive US support for vicious Israeli repression of Palestinians and robbery of their resources, and the murderous US-UK sanctions that were devastating the civilian society of Iraq. In the streets and villages, the attitudes would be far more extreme. Since Western intellectuals don’t like to hear unpleasant truths about themselves, not surprisingly, we are treated instead to a stream of fantasies about “why they hate us”.

It remains true.

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