When journalists are caught lying outright, they can be fired, and can even find their careers terminated. Take Janet Cooke, the Washington Post reporter who made up a story about a young drug user. A decade after her firing, she was earning $6/hour as a Liz Claiborne clerk in a department store. Or consider Stephen Glass, who famously made up stories at the New Republic. He landed on his feet as a fiction writer, but his journalism days are over.
So what to do about George Bush and his gang of fabulists, who now, thanks to a study by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, stand shown to have lied to Congress and the American people 935 times in what the two organizations say was “part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
Clearly we’ve come a long way from that first President named George who, at least in popular mythology, “couldn’t tell a lie.”
And while it is a given in American political life that “politicians lie,” we’re talking here about some whoppers that weren’t just about self-promotion, like Hillary Clinton’s claims that she was involved in all of the major decisions in Bill Clinton’s White House, or Obama’s claim that he has always opposed the war in Iraq, or John McCain’s claim that he is a “straight talker.” We’re talking about lies that led to the US violating international law by invading a country that posed no imminent threat, lies that have led to the needless and pointless deaths of some 4000 American military personnel and to the maiming of nearly 80,000 others, lies that have left a nation of 34 million in ruins, with 4 million refugees, 1 million dead, and political chaos that is perhaps irremediable. We’re talking about lies that have cost the US upwards of $2 trillion in actual military outlays and future debt payments. Lies that have cast the US in the role of pariah nation and terrorist state in the eyes of the rest of the world.
The idea that Americans would be willing to impeach a president for lying about a sexual act, or that they would reject a candidate for plagiarizing part of a speech, but that they would then simply shrug at hard evidence that a president, along with his vice president, secretary of state, defense secretary and national security adviser had all lied in a conscious, coordinated conspiracy to trick them into a disastrous war is hard to believe.
At this point, we should have hordes of people pressing on the iron fences of the White House, armed with pitchforks, baseball bats and cattle prods, ready to storm the place and wreak vengeance. Where are the angry relatives of dead and maimed soldiers? Where are the idealistic students? Where are the taxpayers who’ve been robbed blind? Where’s the outraged Congress? Where are the incensed editorialists in the media?
Hey! Wake up! This is a goddamned outrage?
We all knew it, of course, but until now, thanks to a news media that has long since stopped reporting on serious issues, particularly where it involves criticism of the powerful, we could hide behind the belief that it was all “business as usual” in Washington, a truth-challenged city to be sure.
But now we know. Now there is no hiding from the truth. Now we have it documented and quantified in a way that makes the enormity of the offense clear and undeniable.
Now we are required to take action.
No editorial writer worthy of the name can ignore this scandal. No member of Congress can ignore this affront to the Constitution. No citizen can ignore this abuse.
There is only one appropriate response to the crime that has been documented here by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, and that is impeachment. We have the crime laid out before us. We have the evidence in hand. It is now the obligation of the House to hold an impeachment hearing in which that evidence will be put before the members. After that, there must be a vote on an article of impeachment, against Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld, for lying to the American people.
No president, no vice president, no senior cabinet officer, can be permitted to commit a treasonous act as serious as lying the nation into a needless war, and be permitted to remain in office. To allow such treachery to go unchallenged is to tell all future administrations that truth and openness have no place in American government. To allow this crime to pass is to declare that democracy in America is moribund, for the people can only be sovereign as long as they are given the truth about what their government and their leaders are doing.
No member of Congress who sits idly by and refuses to call these lying leaders to account deserves reelection.
A government based upon lies is by definition a dictatorship.