By DOUG THOMPSON
Truth, it is said, is the first casualty of war.Civilizations on earth have waged war since the beginning of time and those who wage it were the first to recognize that truth and war could not co-exist.
“In war, truth is the first casualty,” said Greek dramatist Aeschylus somewhere around 500 BC.
“All warfare is based on deception,” proclaimed fifth century Chinese General Sun Tzu in his military manual, The Art of War.
Perhaps it is fitting that Sun Tzu is one of the credited authors of the belief that wars must be based on lies. The Art of War is required reading in many political science courses and is widely cited as the perfect manual for political campaigns by practitioners ranging from James Carville to Karl Rove.
With that background in mind should we be surprised by America finds itself once again mired in a war founded on deception, driven by deceit and fueled by the illusion of victory?
War, by its very nature, can only exist through a desire to portray things as they are not in order to achieve goals that are misstated through expectations that cannot be met. Go back through the history of wars and you will find one side or the other, or both sides, breaking promises or making claims that were untrue.
In the end, war only fuels hatred and spawns new enemies. Desert Storm, the war waged by President George W. Bush’s daddy to protect our oil interests in Kuwait, sparked Osama bin Laden’s crusade that led to a first failed attack on the World Trade Center in New York and then the successful attacks of September 11, 2001.
It is now documented fact that the reasons used to launch an invasion of Iraq in 2003 were lies perpetuated by an administration determined to wage war at all cost. For four years now we have watched the same administration pile lie upon lie, claiming outright victory once and when that didn’t’ pan out, perpetuating the lie that victory was at hand.
We were told Americans would be welcomed as liberators. They weren’t and they never will be. We were told conditions in Iraq were improving when, in fact, they were getting worse. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or wounded by American military actions – or the violence that those actions spawned – and some two million Iraqis – eight percent of the country’s population – have fled their homelands.
Yet the administration continues to lie by claiming the war can be salvaged if we just send more Americans into the country to die. We’ve lost more than 3,000 American lives so far and private Pentagon estimates say that could double this year and possibly hit 10,000 by the end of 2008. Add to that the 30,000 or so wounded, many of them maimed for life.
Bush says we must honor our American men and women and support them in his illegal and immoral war. But what has he done to honor them? He sent them into harm’s way without proper equipment to protect them. His budgets cut benefits for veterans and his military commanders won’t even pay for welcome home celebrations for those who return.
The Pentagon refuses to even be honest about American casualties, recently reducing the numbers of those wounded by counting only those airlifted out of Iraq. The count of those who killed in action does not include those who died in hospitals in Germany and the United States.
Some day, some historian may be able to catalog all the lies told by the Bush administration in what history will recognize as the failed military action in Iraq.
Perhaps, when this bloody abomination is finally over, we can sort out the truth from the fiction and finally learn that if war cannot be fought without lies, then perhaps wars should not be fought at all.
Perhaps — if such a dream is not, itself, a lie.