Zacarias Moussaoui confessed to being part of the 9/11 plot, and was sentenced to life in prison on May 4th. Yesterday, Osama bin Laden released a videotape on the web stating that Moussaoui had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
Which of those two guys is telling the truth? If one or the other of them were members of the Bush administration, it would be easy to tell.
In 1998, the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century urged President Bill Clinton to remove Saddam Hussein from power by military force in order to protect "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil[.]"
In 2002, as the Bush administration pushed for an invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's deputy Tariq Aziz told the New York Times that "The reason for this warmongering policy toward Iraq is oil and Israel."
In early 2006, Mister Bush admonished his critics not to accuse him of invading Iraq for "oil" or "because of Israel."
In August 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."
In September 2002, Senator Joe Lieberman said, "Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States."
Later that month, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
In November 2002, Ms. Rice said, "He already has other weapons of mass destruction. But a nuclear weapon, two or three our four years from now -- I don't care where it is, when it is -- to have that happen in a volatile region like the Middle East is most certainly a future that we cannot tolerate."
In May 2003, she said, "U.S. officials never expected that we were going to open garages and find weapons of mass destruction."
On last Sunday's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Rice why, given the administration's assertions about Iraq's WMD, anyone should believe them now regarding Iran's nuclear intentions.
Rice's reply: "Well, let’s remember, first of all, that the United States didn’t go and say Iraq is a, is a problem on the WMD side."
In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Mister Bush said that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country has no desire to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.
Who are we to believe? Ahmadinejad says a lot of incendiary, crazy sounding things. But then so does Mister Bush. And as far as I know, Iran's president hasn't lied to me yet, which is a lot more than I can say for America's president.
We know that the Bush administration has manipulated the U.S. information media--both overtly and covertly--to spread propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation. As Daniel Schulman of Columbia Journalism Review so aptly puts it, our government uses "'truth based' information…as a substitute for the truth."
Comedian Stephen Colbert's reinvention of the word "truthiness" as an adjective to describe the Bush administration's rhetoric was selected by the American Dialectic Society as its 2005 Word of the Year.
A noted political scientist once identified the key tools of national power as diplomacy, information, military and economy. While the policies and actions of the Bush regime have done significant damage to all of America's tools of power, the most seriously affected victim may be our information environment. In the post-Dubya world, we'll be able to rebuild our military and bring our deficit under control. We've done both of those things before. We will heal our diplomatic prowess overnight simply by replacing all the diplomats (just getting rid of John Bolton will be a 100 percent improvement).
But will anyone ever really trust us again? Will Americans ever be able to trust their own government? Will we ever feel confident about the authenticity of anything we read or hear or see in the news media? Will there ever be a "spontaneous" public moment that we won't suspect of being staged? Is there any aspect of daily intercourse that hasn't been infected by "truthiness?"
When acquaintances recommend a service or product to you, will you ever stop wondering if they're getting paid to spread "word of mouth" advertising?
Will there ever again be meaningful political discussion that isn't a rehash of carefully crafted and echoed talking points? Will you ever again not question whether the people you're talking to actually believe what they're saying, or even understand what they're saying actually means?
I really wish I knew of a sure fire way to heal the horrific wound our national trust has suffered, but I don't.
It may be a good sign, however, that thanks to the likes of Stephen Colbert, we can at least laugh about the fact that we all know our nation's leaders are lying to us.
Hopefully, the next step will be that Americans will go to the polls in unprecedented numbers come November and do something about it.