Sometimes I think that the word “liar” is the linguistic third rail of American politics. Even in the dirtiest political campaigns, adversaries are often reluctant to call each other liars, as if avoiding that word means they have held the line and remained civil.
Thanks goodness I’m not running for office. I can say “lie” or “liar” when I want.
But – truth be told — I rarely do so. And when I do, I do it carefully. Because lying, at least as I have always understood it, is not simply making a mistake: It is intentionally telling someone something that you know not to be true. It is using a position of superior power and influence to say something untrue to hurt or deceive another person.
And, in the worst case, it is intentional deception that makes it more likely that another human being might be hurt, injured, or killed.
That is why I really have no problem saying that David Barstow’s remarkable piece in today’s New York Times, telling the story of how the Pentagon groomed some of the military analysts who have appeared on television to offer opinions about the war in Iraq, is a story about liars.
After reading Barstow’s piece, I feel on absolutely solid ground using the word. This is the story of a small group of senior military officers who, knowing one truth about the disastrous progress on the ground of the war in Iraq, intentionally went before mass audiences and – under the direction of the Pentagon — made contradictory and untrue statements, statements that they hoped would have the effect of marginalizing and silencing opponents of the war.
Even worse, these were lies that several now admit were made to protect ongoing profitable relationships with the Pentagon and defense contractors.
Angry disagreement about foreign policy is one thing.
But this was lying. And it was lying that cost lives. It is despicable.
Read it and see if you agree.