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A history of lies to justify their wars

By Paul D'Amato | October 25, 2002 | Page 7

LAST YEAR, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quoted this Orwellian statement by Winston Churchill: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Rumsfeld and the Bush administration have certainly taken this advice to heart. But the U.S. government has a long history of lying in order to win public approval for its wars:

--On February 15, 1898, an explosion ripped through the USS Maine anchored off 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 to blame Spain. The campaign helped win public support for the Spanish-American War--in which the U.S. seized control of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines, launching itself as a world power.

--According to Secretary of War Henry Stimson's diary entry for November 25, 1941--less than a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor--the Roosevelt administration's policy was to "maneuver them [the Japanese] into a position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger for ourselves."

--President Lyndon Johnson announced in August 1964 that the U.S. would carry out air strikes in Vietnam in response to two "unprovoked" attacks by North Vietnamese PT boats against U.S. destroyers. The truth was that the U.S. destroyer Maddox was engaged in intelligence gathering maneuvers--inside Vietnam's territorial limits. The second claimed PT boat attack never happened. "For all I know," Johnson later said, "our Navy was shooting at whales out there." But the incident gave Johnson the excuse he needed to ram the Gulf of Tonkin resolution through Congress--and escalate U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

--After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. media carried reports--later proven false--that hundreds of premature babies had died in a Kuwaiti hospital after Iraqi soldiers removed them from incubators. The reports--manufactured by the U.S. public relations firm Hill and Knowlton--were part of an orchestrated effort to win public support for a war that killed 200,000 Iraqis.

We would do well to pay attention to a recent statement from an anonymous U.S. intelligence official, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor: "The administration is capable of any lie…in order to advance its war goal in Iraq."

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