Most Dangerous Lie
By Pamela Troy
most dangerous lies are told in what the liars imagine to
be the service of a Greater Truth. These "Greater Truths"
must be striven for covertly because they go so far beyond
what is publicly acceptable that they can't be defended openly.
The liars for a "Greater Truth" may envision a future when
they no longer have to hide their agenda, but in the present,
they see no shame in deceit and will utter blatant falsehoods
with a conviction that the careless listener can mistake for
Only the most careless listeners, however, because what's
truly nasty about such liars is the extent to which they invite
their victims to collude in the lies. If the "Greater Truth"
is one that appeals to the worst instincts of a people, intolerance,
avarice, vindictiveness, arrogance, it's depressing to observe
how many will either believe, or pretend to believe the most
Recently we invaded a weak country that had not attacked
us, offering as a rationale its possession of Weapons of Mass
Destruction. Many of us expressed our skepticism for this
rationale in large demonstrations against the war. Now it
has become apparent that the claim that Iraq possessed WMD
was a lie. And recently, some liberals and progressives have
been rubbing their hands in anticipation of the Bush Administration
crashing and burning.
I hope they are right. I think lying to America and the rest
of the world about our reasons for going to war is a good
reason for impeachment. But one thing that is being overlooked,
I fear, is the nature of the lie we were told, and the extent
to which many Americans were and apparently are still willing
to participate in it.
The rationales for the war I heard over and over again from
my fellow Americans were not so much about Hussein's possession
of WMDs, but about the fact that Iraq is an Islamic country
that we dislike, and therefore Hussein was a reasonable stand-in
for Osama bin Laden. Running through the arguments was often
the assumption that the United States possesses a unique moral
right to invade any country it wants to invade, topple any
government it dislikes. The "Greater Truth" behind the lie
of Saddam's possession of WMD is the barely concealed doctrine
of American exceptionalism, an idea that appeals so strongly
to the unthinking arrogance of many American citizens that
it seems well on its way to graduating from "Greater Truth"
to an openly held conviction.
And there's the increasing possibility of another "Greater
Truth," another lie-spawning covert agenda that may be even
more dangerous to us than the notion that the United States
is above international law. Evidence of its existence has
grown and been studiously ignored since the 2000 presidential
Every time a Democrat confidently informs me, after the latest
Bush Administration whopper, that "the American people won't
put up with it," every time I hear Democrats pointing at our
crumbling economy as something that will drive determined
citizens to oust Bush in the next election, every time someone
writes about how he heard his barber, or a lady in the checkout
counter, or a guy in the next booth at a diner denouncing
Bush and boy, that means Bush is in trouble
now, the hope I begin to feel is dampened by the following
simple statement of fact.
Our president was not elected.
Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not even as a Vice-President
who ran with a presidential candidate and then inherited the
office in the wake of the standing president dying or resigning.
Roughly three years ago, a major political party showed it
was willing to push its candidate into the White House by
disenfranchising Americans. The Supreme Court showed that
it was willing to give its assent to this gross subversion
of the political process. With only a few exceptions, the
rest of us showed that we were willing to let them get away
with it. It's possible that a political movement that succeeds
in installing a president using these methods will retain
the rock-solid conviction that voters are an important part
of the process, but it's unlikely.
The lie we are being told in many forms is that the "will
of the people" is as meaningful and unassailable as it was
before the 2000 election. The "Greater Truth" this lie seeks
to conceal, the "Greater Truth" behind the 2000 election voter
purge in Florida, Bush's dismissive response to the massive
anti-war demonstrations, the increasing use of "Free Speech
Zones," and the expansion of the Executive Branch at the expense
of the Legislative branch, is the conviction that certain
Americans can't be trusted and do not deserve to have a voice
in the political arena.
Certain Americans are not conservative enough. Certain Americans
are not well off enough. Certain Americans are not Christian
enough. Certain Americans are not white enough.
One can't, of course, come out and say such things. In the
current political climate, those citizens who believe that
Americans of a certain color or a certain economic strata
or a certain political or religious persuasion are less American
and less entitled to participate as Americans are not yet
confident enough about their numbers to embrace the idea openly.
But make no mistake about it, the idea is out there and its
expression is becoming more and more overt.
While we've been slapping fruitlessly away at the obvious
and petty lies that everyone knows are obvious and petty lies:
"Gore is a compulsive liar," "no legal voters were turned
away in the last presidential election," "Bush won the popular
vote," "Most of those foreign residents we rounded up and
detained were terrorists," "anti-Bush demonstrators pose a
physical danger to our president," "there's no need for a
paper trail with electronic voting," the largely unexamined
agenda that has inspired them has become more powerful and
more widely accepted.
There comes a moment when the only option is to look the
liar directly in the eyes and confront him, not with his lies,
but with his reasons for telling them. There comes a moment
when we must realize that time is running out, that if we
wait much longer, the shame that currently prevents the widespread
and open advocacy of an unconscionable agenda will be gone.
Worse, if we wait much longer, the tools provided the American
people by our constitution, the power of the legislative branch,
the ability to vote and have one's vote counted, the right
to voice your opposition and make yourself heard, may no longer
be available. They will have been rendered meaningless, or
thrown away entirely.
The most dangerous lie being told to the American people
by the Bush administration is that they believe in the Bill
of Rights as a meaningful legal blueprint for the rights of
every American. And because many Americans imagine that it's
only "unaverage" Americans whose rights don't actually "count"
when it comes to things like voting, or demonstrating, or
even having access to a lawyer or a hearing, they are willing
to overlook the broad wink with which the lie is told.
Lately, as I've observed the number of Americans, liberal,
moderate and conservative, Republican and Democrat, who have
been willing to give the Bush administration a pass on its
lies about Saddam Hussein because they dislike Saddam Hussein,
who've been willing to give the Bush administration a pass
on its brutal treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo because
they dislike the Taliban, who have been willing to give the
Bush administration a pass on its treatment of dissenters
because, well, those demonstrators are so shrill, so embarrassing
and they block traffic, I've been reminded of an illustration
by the great artist Francisco Goya. It shows a young woman
fleeing from monsters. But as she flees, she peeks over her
shoulder at her pursuers and she smiles. The caption reads,
"She who allows herself to be caught will never escape."
Will the American people eventually reject Bush because of
the WMD issue? Perhaps. Eventually.
The more important question is, will it matter when we finally