Monday, September 8, 2014

935 Lies, by Charles Lewis

This is a must-read book.   Mr. Lewis is an impartial, non-partisan journalist, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, his idea of investigative reporting is to show people the truth even if it embarrasses government officials - or the corporations whose ad dollars pay for newspaper or TV station payrolls.   His book gives detailed examples of both government lies and corporate coverups.

After you read this book, you'll bookmark the public integrity website for at least weekly updates, and you'll probably want to make a (tax deductible) contribution to them as well.

A couple of examples from the book might intrigue you.   Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  It "...unequivocally revealed government deception and incompetence." leading to the Vietnam War.   The short story, for those of you who've forgotten that war, is this.  President Johnson told Americans in August of 1964 that US ships in the Golf of Tonkin had been attacked by North Vietnam.  A sequence of attacks on US vessels led to Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the President to go to war without actually going through Congress to "declare war" on North Vietnam.
The Pentagon Papers showed that it was all lies.  Prior to enemy hostilities, the US had been in violation of North Vietnam's ", air space, and territorial waters, including consciously planned, aggressive military provocations."  The claimed attack on the US destroyer Maddox did not actually happen at all.   58,300 US military were killed in action during Vietnam.  Over 150,000 were wounded in action.  All because of President Johnson's (and his associates') lies.

The US Attorney General put pressure on newspapers to not publish the Pentagon Papers.  Eventually the NY Times gave up in fear of government lawsuits and persecution, and stopped publishing excerpts -- which allowed the Washington Post to step up and keep the story going.  This won the Post the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

At this point, President Nixon was working to discredit Mr. Ellsberg, using the same team that would eventually be disclosed as the "plumbers" behind Watergate, and ultimately lead him to resign from office (prior to being removed by impeachment).

Now lest we all think this is just a history lesson, please consider the Edward Snowden leaks of NSA materials.   The leaks reveal all sorts of illegal actions on the part of US government agencies.   (Just like the Pentagon Papers.)  Yet the focus is on Mr. Snowden (who might enjoy being compared to Mr. Ellsberg).  You know what they say about history repeating itself?

Just one more historical parallel.  Recall how the Pentagon Papers showed that it was the then President's lies that got us into a war that needlessly took service-men's lives?  Mr. Lewis also writes about how then President George Bush got the US into a war through at least 935 false statements about the national security threat posed by Iraq.

Among the big lies: there were no WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq.  There were no links to al Qaeda in Iraq.  (Much better links to al Qaeda were in Saudi Arabia, but close relationships with the Kingdom apparently led to no mention of this from the government.)
"The carefully orchestrated campaign of untruths about Iraq's alleged threat to US national security from its WMDs or links to al Qaeda (also specious) galvanized public opinion and led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The bad news about Mr. Lewis' book is that it might make you feel depressed.  The good news is, at least you'll understand the reasons why you simply can not trust newspaper, radio or television news, as Mr. Lewis goes into detail to explain the pressures put on publishers and station owners by both government and private industry.

935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity

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