View Full Version : Presidents, Soldiers and Lies

11-01-03, 06:35 AM

Guest Column: Presidents, Soldiers and Lies

By George S. Kulas

When then-President Bill Clinton told the nation, “I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” many of us listened and believed him. Unfortunately, the president of the United States was looking right into our eyes and lying through his teeth.

Many presidents have lied. While some lies have been found out, many more have sailed right over the heads of the American people.

President Harry Truman on Aug. 6, 1945 said, “The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible the killing of civilians.” The fact was that Hiroshima was primarily a civilian city where 140,000 people, most of them civilians, died as a result of the bombing.

President Lyndon Johnson on Aug. 5, 1964 said, “As president and commander-in- chief, it is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply.” As we later learned, there was no unprovoked attack and Johnson’s lie opened the door under the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution for the United States to expand the Vietnam War.

More than 58,000 Americans would eventually die and 304,000 young Americans would be wounded in over a decade of fighting. What adds insult to injury is the fact that during the early years of the war and just before he sent in additional troops President Johnson stated to then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, “I don't see any way of winning” in Vietnam. But our president still sent American boys off to die!

The lies go on and on: John F. Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs in 1961; Nixon with Watergate during 1972-74; Ronald Reagan with the Iran-Contra affair in 1986-87; Clinton with Bosnia (no more than a year) during 1995-2000.

So in regards to Iraq today, is our president lying to us?

It may take years before we really know whether in fact President Bush was really told by the CIA that Iraq was not trying to buy fissionable material ( the Niger connection) even though he stated in his State of the Union address that it was a fact and a reason to invade. It may take years before we are told whether or not Saddam Hussein did in fact possess Weapons of Mass Destruction that were so detrimental to the security of the United States that we had to immediately conduct a preemptive strike.

It is interesting that some truths are already emerging from the tight-lipped Bush administration. The continual public rhetoric by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that all was and is fine in Iraq appears to be quite the opposite of what he has been saying privately. In a leaked internal Defense Department memorandum of Oct 16, Rumsfeld asked, “Is our current situation such that the harder we work, the behinder we get?” He went on to say, “It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.” That’s certainly not the “get in, win and get out” philosophy he was preaching about before during and just after the war.

President Kennedy argued, as do a large number of political scientists, that senior government officials have the right to lie; that deception is vital if national interests are to be best served in the face of powerful obstacles; that a politically ignorant electorate simply cannot comprehend complex matters; that lies are necessary to protect lives or national security.

Yes, we have been lied to often by senior government officials, including many of our Presidents. The anti-war movement of the 1960s would likely have been much more widespread and emotional if the American people and the soldiers fighting and dying in Vietnam would have known their president and their secretary of defense escalated the conflict even though they already did not believe the war was winnable.

Now in Iraq, we are being led to believe by our president and his secretary of defense that the war was just, and our young men and women in uniform will continue to die for reasons that are absolutely necessary.

Hopefully we won't find out in 25 years or so that we were deceived, and our soldiers were once again sacrificed unnecessarily for political purposes. Even though it has happened before, I sincerely hope that it hasn’t come to that again. I hope that any lies they are telling us – the “ignorant electorate” – today are only little white ones.

George S. Kulas served in Vietnam during 1967-68 with the 3rd Marine Division, and later enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he retired as a sergeant major in 1990 following 20 years of total service. He can be reached at geokulas@charter.net.