The following column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on January 28, 2008. Thanks to my Mom, Karen Moreland for giving me the idea for this piece.
Last Tuesday my local paper, The San Jose Mercury News, published on page 15 a story with the following headline: “Study: False statements preceded war.” The short article told about a study by the Center for Public Integrity that chronicled 935 false statements made by President Bush and seven top administration officials during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. 532 of the false statements exaggerated the threat posed by the Saddam Hussein regime by claiming the existence of weapons of mass destruction or by affirming a link between Iraq and Al Qaida, even after such ideas had been discredited.
The report provides numerical support for what long has been known: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan would all have long noses if they were magic marionettes.
It is a funny time to be an adult in America. Everyone who can vote can remember a time when a fib denying oral sex with a Whitehouse intern got a president impeached. A lot seems to have changed in the ten years since Monica Lewinski became a household name. Now it seems that a President and his advisors have, through false and misleading statements, lead a nation to war without having to face much in the way of personal accountability. Politicians lack the political will to confront the Bush administration’s pattern of deceit, and the American street is equally apathetic. Even in Northern California where the current administration is far from popular, the story of Bushite deceit was buried in the back of the morning paper.
I suspect the general American disinterest in confronting the pattern of falsehood propagated by the Bush Administration may stem from a lack of desire on the part of Americans—both politicians and private citizens—to own up to the ways in which We the People participated in the deceptions.
The uncomfortable truth is that, for as long as the Bush Administration has twisted and spun the truth in support of the war, savvy analysts, journalists, and talking heads have been vigilant about setting the record straight. But too few Americans listened to the voices of dissent. Instead, we wrapped ourselves in American flags and questioned the patriotism of those who questioned the wisdom of war.
And remember when the French government was unconvinced by the Bush team’s justifications for going to war and didn’t join the “Coalition of the Willing?” We smashed bottles of Chateauneuf de Pape and we started eating “Freedom Fries.” Turns out the French were right after all and we were wrong.
Sacré bleu, that bites.
The American people have been complicit in the Bush Administration’s infidelity to what is real, true, and good. We have not demanded honesty from our president. We have not listened to the voices of dissent among us, people whose wisdom could have kept America honest.
But we can change and we should.
Eight years of dishonesty have crippled our nation and have cost us dearly. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of US service persons have lost their lives. The American economy is at a breaking point as untold billions of dollars flow into Mesopotamia. It is long past time for us to come to a reckoning, to acknowledge the deception that has claimed the American soul and to restore that soul to a state of greater grace.