by David Corn
governments lie." So said I.F. Stone, the crusading, progressive
journalist. "All men, all men are liars." So sang Nick Lowe, the British
pub-rocker. Within the administration of Bill Clinton, these two sentiments
fuse. But enough about the lies about sex. Those lies, in their essence,
affect but a few. The larger national landscape is covered by a snowfall of
Clinton prevarications, falsehoods related to matters much less frivolous
than a one-sided sexual romp in the executive mansion. And this whiteout is
in plain sight.
Last week, a citizen could pick up The Washington Post and by perusing only the front-page offerings reach the conclusion that this is a deeply dishonest administration (which, of course, hardly distinguishes it from its predecessors). In one article, U.S. government documents and employees revealed that U.S. intelligence had, for three years, infiltrated agents into the UN arms control teams in Iraq.
When the allegation that American spies had penetrated the UN Special Commission first arose, Clinton officials claimed that the only spying done had been conducted in cooperation with UNSCOM in order to help the weapons inspectors win the hide-and-seek game they were playing with Saddam Hussein. On Feb. 23, Deputy State Dept. spokesman James Foley declared that charges of U.S. espionage within UNSCOM were "unfathomable except as elements which can only serve Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine."
This was the diplomatic equivalent of "I did not have sex with that woman" finger-wagging, particularly noxious since this government official claimed the charge was propaganda and suggested anyone who dared pass along such information was aiding and abetting the dictator-enemy. As it turns out, U.S. spies indeed had exploited UNSCOM -- without UNSCOM permission -- to capture Iraqi military communications unrelated to weapons inspections.
Why care if U.S. covert operators got the better of Hussein? Well, it was done at a tremendous cost: the discrediting of the premise of international weapons inspections. Why should any government, let alone Hussein's, ever again allow a supposedly multilateral UN inspection team to poke about? For the sake of military intelligence, which the United States could use in its one-sided undeclared war against Iraq, it compromised a system that was not the United States' to jeopardize. In future cases, how can a to-be-inspected nation believe that a UN team is what it claims to be? Certainly it won't be able to take Foley or any other U.S. official at their word on such a subject.
The Post noted that U.S. officials did consider that exposure of the spying operation might undermine the international arms control system. But they thought the chances of getting caught were slim. Whoops. The rest of the world ought to protest and note that it was not Washington's prerogative to weaken an arms control program that served the interests of nations other than the U.S.
Abutting the Post story on the administration's UNSCOM lie was an article reporting that the U.S. had intensified its air strikes against Iraq. The official Pentagon line is that U.S. pilots are merely replying to Iraqi efforts to shoot down U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zone. "We responded to attacks upon our aircraft by targeting those facilities that allowed the Iraqi forces to place our pilots in jeopardy," Defense Secretary and poet William Cohen said.
But the truth was less elegant. A U.S. official told the Post that allied aircraft were flying into certain areas to provoke the Iraqis to turn on their radar, which then could be bombed by the U.S. and British jets. But will Cohen admit that? No, this wordsmith will stick to the half-truth.
Another recent news report illuminated one more type of Clinton lie: the non-truth. In his State of the Union speech in January, Clinton, referring to his $8 billion plan to rescue the deteriorating Florida Everglades, boasted, "We're restoring the Florida Everglades." You can guess the rest. On Feb. 22, a front-page story in The New York Times revealed that credible experts -- far more credible than the President -- say Clinton's project will do little to revive the Everglades. The experts weren't jabbing at the plan once they got to see it; these objections were made before the speech. In a report last year, the scientific and technical staff of the Everglades National Park concluded the Clinton proposal "does not represent a restoration scenario" for the glorious marshlands. Who are you going to believe: the ones waist-deep in the muck or the President?
The lies pour forth, almost every day, on the important stuff: national security, environmental policy. And where are the howls from those who obsess over Monicagate and the Juanita Broaddrick allegations and, with those personal matters in mind, decry the moral decrepitude of Clinton and the comrades who stand by him? There was no call for a congressional inquiry from Trent Lott or Tom DeLay when we learned the administration had lied to defend its bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan (an act of war ordered by Clinton in extra-constitutional fashion). Bill Bennett and his amen chorus on the right bitch about declining standards of truth and morality. The problem with the political culture is not the absence of outrage; it is the widespread presence of selective outrage.
March 15, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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