Are our governments economical with the truth, if not maliciously misleading? Do governments the world over lie? Of course yes, because there are always occasions when realpolitik appears to demand it.
Most recently, many are arguing, we have seen an attempt to obfuscate the truth when President Donald Trump ordered missiles to be fired at an airbase in Syria in, he said, retaliation for an attack using sarin gas by the Syrian government on unarmed civilians. Critics blame the rebels.
I’m no chemical weapons expert but an hour chasing links on Wikipedia has taught me that making sarin gas without enormous scientific expertise and without a sophisticated manufacturing set up is not easy. Indeed too difficult for any of the rebel groups now operating in Syria. Moreover, if they wanted to mount a chemical weapons’ attack they would have chosen mustard gas which can be made in the “kitchen sink”. This suggests since it was not mustard gas but sarin that was used, it is probably true, as Trump claims, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is behind it. Even though the government is supposed to have given up all its chemical weapons in a deal brokered jointly by the US and Russia it wouldn’t have been hard to hide away the small amount necessary for this attack.
Why do people on the left rush to assume that in this case Trump has lied? Partly because he has been shown to lie many times before. And partly because predecessors have blatantly lied on crucial foreign policy issues.
Trump’s has lied to justify the building of a fence along the US border with Mexico. He has presented it as a necessity to stop mass immigration into the US.
But the number of arrests at the border tell it as it is. They’ve dropped to levels last seen in the 1970s. Since Trump was elected arrests have dropped even more dramatically. The ending of large-scale labour inflows has already been largely achieved.
Take the events in Ukraine in 2014 when the US under President Barack Obama and the European Union allowed themselves to become de facto associated with neo-fascists who were manipulating a rebellion against the government. The rebellion was over the question of a trade deal with the EU which would help firm up its ties with Ukraine. The government of President Viktor Yanukovych preferred to be linked up with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.
The rebellion escalated from a non-violent protest to a stand-off with the police in Kiev’s main square. Guns were fired and people killed. The US and the EU, despite other information being in their hands, maintained that it was pro-Russian agitators who were the main users of weapons. But detailed evidence proves beyond much doubt that the principal killers were neo-Nazi groups. Most of the Western media accepted the contrary argument, as pumped out by the EU and the US. But there were a handful of notable exceptions, including the BBC.
In their earnestness to keep Ukraine’s government firmly in the Western camp, including joining Nato one day, the West manoeuvred itself into a breakdown in the previous cooperative relationship with Russia. We still hear the lies.
On the issue of the Second Iraq War only a small minority in the West now believe it was necessary. It is widely accepted that President George W. Bush and the British prime minister, Tony Blair, presented tainted and misleading evidence to the public at large “proving” that President Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The price of these lies and the invasion that followed was the total ruin of Iraq. One of the early centres of civilization has been reduced to rubble, lawlessness and the creation of terrorist movements which are instrumental in the upheavals inside Syria.
The Vietnam War had already been going on for a number of years when President Lyndon Johnson (taking over from the slain John F. Kennedy) decided he wanted to ratchet up the fighting. In August 1964 a fictitious event was manufactured. The destroyer USS Maddox was supposedly attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson promptly drafted a resolution which Congress passed. This became his legal justification for further American military involvement in Vietnam, allowing him to escalate the war at rapid speed. However, in 2005, a declassified National Security Agency report revealed that there were no North Vietnamese naval vessels present during the supposed incident.
The list of such distortions and lies is long. Digging out the truth is not easy but it is a job that every citizen has a duty to do.