It is very common when people are being urged to go to war and to surrender additional power to the government that frightening threats are invented, that the enemy’s awfulness is exaggerated, and that comical lies about pure and altruistic motives are spoken over patriotic background music.
It is very rare that the people who perpetrate this sort of fraud are called to account for it, unless it should result in an unmistakable military defeat (and even then, there are ways to turn military defeat into political victory).
The mountains of lies about the war in and around Vietnam eventually buried the executive branch in an avalanche. But that took years. It has been less than a year since the Dubya Squad lied us into Iraq and they may yet suffer for it.
I’d like to be able to say that this is because people have become more skeptical and less trusting of authority, but I don’t think this is the case. Sadly, people remain willing and eager to jump on command when the President goes over the plot with us, looking across the oval office desk from over his power tie.
The difference this time is that the Dubya Squad has run into a string of bad luck. They confidently piled up false assertions to support one big lie that they never expected would fall over quite so loudly and completely. The famously short attention span of the public wasn’t quite short enough. The media hasn’t been distracted by a big enough competing spectacle and so has continued to slowly worry the story. The internet made it harder to sink down the memory hole the many unequivocal assertions that now sound like baldfaced lies.
The more-or-less unified face of the Dubya Squad lies well enough to suit the frighteningly large percentage of Americans who’d rather believe a good lie than be troubled with the truth. “Tell us again, Dubya, how we, a proud and noble people, stood head and shoulders above the hesitant and cowardly nations of the world to selflessly take on the task of making innocent people safe from a maniacal, clever and deceptive evildoer — we love that story!”
But it’s looking more and more like this constituency of morons, as large as it is, won’t be quite enough to win the next election, and this is forcing the Dubya Squad to change strategy at an uncomfortable time, to reach out to other voters with more subtle and more fragile lies.
The short-term question is whether the Dubya Squad will be able to finesse this well enough to stay in power. The long-term question is how to encourage the moron constituency to remove their blinders and come back to earth, as this won’t be the last time they’re asked to give a standing ovation to a well-decorated atrocity.