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Truth is the first casualty of war

September 14, 2001 | Page 3

THE U.S. government has a long history of manipulating the truth--even outright lying--in order to win public approval for its military adventures.

-- On February 15, 1898, an explosion ripped through the USS Maine anchored off the coast of Spanish-controlled Cuba, killing 268. Though an inquiry was unable to determine the cause of the explosion, the U.S. press conducted a hysterical campaign blaming Spain. The campaign propelled the U.S. into a war in which it seized control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Phillipines, murdering millions of Filipinos in the process.

-- President Lyndon Johnson announced in August 1964 that the U.S. would conduct air strikes against North Vietnam--in response to two "unprovoked" attacks by North Vietnamese PT boats against U.S. destroyers on the high seas.

The truth was that the U.S. destroyer Maddox was engaged in intelligence-gathering maneuvers timed to coincide with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese Navy and the Laotian air force. The second claimed PT boat attack never happened. "For all I know," remarked Johnson later, "our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

-- While Ronald Reagan was railing against the scourge of drugs in the 1980s, he was directing the CIA and the National Security Agency to use drug revenues to secretly fund a dirty war against the Nicaraguan government. The U.S.'s client army in Nicaragua--the contras--killed more than 30,000 people in Nicaragua.

-- After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. media carried reports--later proved false--that 300 premature babies had died after Iraqi soldiers had removed them from their incubators. The reports were part of an orchestrated effort to win public support for a war that killed 200,000 Iraqis.

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