Friday, July 4, 2014

Chuck Lewis's must-read book - 935 Lies


Recently in an interview to Chinese news agency, US Secretary of State, John Kerry said he had termed the decision of former President George W. Bush going for war on Iraq a grave mistake. As I have pointed out in some of my writings, the invasion of Iraq was not just a mistake it was a crime of the highest magnitude perpetrated by the Bush Administration. If there is any fairness in our world, these white-collar criminals should be tried in an international criminal court for their crimes against humanity.

Even today, the region's many problems are caused by the Iraq war, which the U.S. is trying to address, citing example of President Obama’s pulling out the troops from Iraq, Kerry said. The statement of the US Secretary of State has come at a time when Iraq has already suffered an irreparable loss and the country is bleeding in a civil war with the possibility of split of the country into three states – one for the Kurds, one for the Sunnis and the remainder for the Shi’a.

Bill Myers is one of the most trusted names in journalism in the USA. His shows in the PBS TV have been very popular with viewers, and I am one of his fans.

Recently he has written an article - 10 Big Fat Lies and the Liars Who Told Them - in his BillMoyers.com. This is based on his interview of Charles (Chuck) Lewis, who has written a book - 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity. The title of the book refers to the number of times President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials made false statements in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to Bill Moyers, among the 10 notable whoppers that affected hundreds, thousands, and in some cases, millions of lives, President George W. Bush’s statement - "We found the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We found biological laboratories” [May 29, 2003] is a major one. It is worth nothing that in April 2005, the CIA closed its investigation into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, finding nothing.

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney was heard saying on August 26, 2002, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” Dick Cheney made much of the weapons of mass destruction claim as well as other false statements while he was vice president. He remains convinced even to this day that invading Iraq was justified.

Charles Lewis is a veteran of the battle for public integrity. His book has a far greater scope than the War against Iraq. It looks at how lies have shaped American policy over several decades. He explores the many ways truth is manipulated by governments and corporations. Through examples ranging from the countless lies administrations of both parties have used to justify needless wars to the successful decades-long corporate suppression of the truth about tobacco and other dangerous products, Lewis shows how the value of truth is diminished by delay. He explains the political, social, and business changes that have increasingly weakened the ability of journalists to play their traditional truth-telling role.

To quote from the introduction to the book: "Facts are—and must be—the coin of the realm in a democracy, for a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” demands an informed citizenry. Unfortunately, for citizens in the United States and throughout the world, distinguishing between fact and fiction has always been a formidable challenge, often with life-and-death consequences. Those in power habitually seek to control the flow of information, corrupting its content and using lies, distortions, or simple suppression to cover their crimes.

Today that quest for truth is more difficult and confusing than ever. The cacophony of the internet, the flood of axe-grinding commentary on cable TV, and the growing legions of paid lobbyists and advocates eager to twist the truth all help to erode the sense of authority once granted to responsible journalists. History is sculpted by its absence."

Not everything is lost however. Lewis describes the new trends, from the rise of nonprofit reporters to the growing numbers of “citizen journalists,” that give reason to be hopeful about the future of truth.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in looking at the history of government officials and media pundits speaking and repeating (and repeating and repeating) untruths to shape public opinion and policy which have wide-ranging consequences, sometimes going beyond the immediate one for which such were construed. Only by arming ourselves can we become better guardians for our posterity than those drumbeaters and beneficiaries of perennial wars.

I highly recommend this book.

 

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