Monday, January 29, 2007

Little Boy Who Cried 'Truth'

Yesterday's Sunday Times carried a story by David E. Sanger describing how Bush administration war hawks are "discovering that both their words and their strategy are haunted by the echoes of four years ago — when their warnings of terrorist activity and nuclear ambitions were clearly a prelude to war. This time, they insist, it is different."

The article echoes much of Nicholas Lehman's observations in the current issue of the New Yorker, where he examines the underlying meaning of the ongoing Scooter Libby trial.

Both pieces come down to a modern-day repetition of the fairy tale about the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf -- with a twist. Says Sanger:
[A]s they present their evidence, some Bush administration officials concede they are confronting the bitter legacy of their prewar distortions of the intelligence in Iraq. When speaking under the condition of anonymity, they say the administration’s credibility has been deeply damaged, which would cast doubt on any attempt by Mr. Bush, for example, to back up his claim that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is intended for bomb production.
In the context of the Libby trial, Lehman writes:
What’s ultimately behind Libby’s trial is the Administration’s obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes.
* * *
The Administration has exhausted what was once an enormous stock of political capital by repeatedly insisting that it has uncovered the truth, and then being proved wrong. Right now, Iran, because of its size, wealth, military power, location, religious and civilian leadership, and ambitions, really is a serious threat — much more so than Iraq was four years ago. The United States’ ability to do anything about that threat has been severely degraded by the Iraq war. The damage is not so much military as epistemic: if nobody believes our accounts of threats, then we can’t assemble alliances to counteract them.

The Libby trial reveals a White House that thought its problems were with people who could not be counted on to confirm its suspicions, like Ambassador Wilson. It should have worried less about those who would speak truth to power, and worried more that power is no longer trusted to speak truth.
As Aesop said long ago, "There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth." Not to mention that whether Bush is 'speaking the truth' this time remains highly doubtful.

It may well not be a bomb Iran wants to build. It looks like it's a bank.

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