Featuring essays by Elizabeth George on the future of our country
Toddlers 4 President!
Democratic Convention 2016: How It Might Have Been
On Matters of the Lie, the War, and Judgment
On Getting What We Deserve
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On Matters of the Lie, the War, and Judgment

Americans sometimes seem to have short memories. This can be both good and bad. The good of it means that our citizenry can be a forgiving people, setting aside past grievances and getting on with life. The bad of it is that lack of memory can lead our people to an acceptance of statements, situations, and conditions that might not reflect the historical truth. For example, years ago the war in Vietnam sliced the US into opponents and proponents. Anti-war demonstrations in the street were counterbalanced by flag waving and by bumper stickers proclaiming “My Country Right or Wrong” and “America: Love it or Leave It.” Yet twenty years after the war ended, people seemed to forget how divisive it had been, and as a result how Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton had behaved during the time of the war became an enormous issue in his run for the Presidency. For it was revealed that he had done whatever he could to avoid going to Vietnam, and what everyone decided to forget or could not remember was that millions upon millions of young men had done the very same thing. Then, twelve years after Clinton’s difficulty concerning Vietnam, what Senator John Kerry did or did not do on a gun boat there became critical to his campaign. What no one wanted to mention was that Vietnam consisted of a hugely unpopular war that cost tens of thousands of lives and gained no one a single thing. And yet….there it was: How one did or did not behave during the nation’s most divisive war—excluding the Civil War, of course—was crucial in a bid for the Presidency.

Today, in the Presidential Election, the wars in the Middle East seem to be assuming a similar importance in one respect: how Hillary Clinton voted in the lead-up to one of the wars has become, in the estimation of Bernie Sanders and others, equivalent to her ability to make a judgment based upon information given to her. What has been swept under the carpet in this current election is what led up to Hillary Clinton’s vote in support of that war. This is what I call the Lie.

As you probably remember, prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the IAEC (International Atomic Energy Commission) had sent inspectors into Iraq to investigate what weaponry was and was not there, and the IAEC had come up with nothing. As you probably also remember, the United Nations met to discuss the situation because the US was declaring that, despite the IAEC’s investigation, Saddam Hussein was producing and stockpiling “weapons of mass destruction.” In response to the US allegations, Saddam was declaring that he had no weapons of mass destruction, although he was admittedly not to be trusted. And because Saddam was a person not to be trusted, the US had for a time been photographing Iraq from spy planes and from satellites.

After acquiring a suitable number of photos, the Bush administration sent the Secretary of State—the greatly admired Colin Powell—to the UN. He took with him a collection of these aforementioned photographs. No one knew for certain what the photographs actually depicted but Colin Powell—who had, of course, been one of the leaders of George H.W. Bush’s successful 100 Day War to liberate Kuwait years earlier —said that what was shown in the shadowy elongated buildings were the storage facilities and the factories in which one might find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Of course, to find them was going to require an invasion, which was going to require a vote in Congress to keep everything on the up and up.

The reason I remember all this fairly well is that I never once believed there were weapons of mass destruction because from the first I believed that Vice President Dick Cheney was not only behind this but also that Vice President Dick Cheney was and is an evil man. In the cause of amassing a fortune for himself and his cronies, I believed Dick Cheney would do just about anything. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive the public, send hundreds of thousands of individuals to their deaths? No problem. It could all be explained away by declaring it a search to eliminate those Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Having Colin Powell declare in front of the UN that he had in his possession the “proof” of those weapons’ existence was a master stroke along the lines of “But Brutus says that Caesar was ambitious….” Colin Powell was a man of honor. As a soldier first and Secretary of State second, it was inconceivable that he would lie. It didn’t appear to occur to anyone at the time that Colin Powell might be lying in the first place without knowing he was lying at all. No one seemed to consider that he’d been lied to, thus making him as much a dupe as were the delegates to the UN, most of the members of Congress, and the vast majority of the American public.

Hillary Clinton cast her vote in support of going to war based upon this lie. She saw the same photographs that everyone else saw and, doubtless, she was also given more information than the public had. There was, according to the Bush administration, a clear and present danger depicted in those photos. Ignoring the pictures and the “evidence” they contained would be placing the entire world at risk.

Sitting in my home in Huntington Beach at the time, I found it extremely easy to say that the entire Bush gang constituted a pack of liars, knaves, and thieves. No skin off my nose if I was wrong, after all. But no member of the Senate had that luxury. They voted based on the “facts” they’d been given. The disastrous war began, Dick Cheney and Halliburton made a fortune, and the rest is and continues to be history.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, took the easy route. Knowing from discussions in Congress which way the vote was going to go, he voted against the war. From that moment onward, he would be a winner. If the war turned out to be a disaster, he would be able to say that he never voted for it in the first place. If the war turned out to be a rip-roaring success, the fact that he had voted against it would actually be no big deal since no one would recall that later and it would be insignificant in his future. For what reasonable person would ever excoriate someone for refusing to authorize an entire war, no matter its conclusion? This would only be a problem if Bernie had led a vigorous opposition to the war, achieving success in the form of gathering a majority vote against the war….only to discover by means of a horrific event orchestrated by Iraq that he’d been entirely wrong.

For months now, Bernie Sanders has been banging on about Hillary Clinton’s vote on the war. Most recently, he has used this to declare her “unqualified to be President of the United States.” He has done this in reaction to what he has openly referred to as her calling him unqualified. The fact that she did not do this (merely stating that he “had not done his homework” prior to his disastrous and revealing interview with the editors of the New York Daily News) is something that Bernie has neither mentioned nor clarified. He has also not mentioned Hillary Clinton’s admission that her vote for the war was a mistake. He has also not mentioned her apology for having believed the lie she was told—the lie that the entire American public was told—in advance of voting for the war.

What Democrats are now left with is a decision that we must make regarding these two candidates and their qualifications to assume the role of President of the United States. For the Democratic party it comes down to choosing between the visionary socialist who has so far not revealed a single plan to bring to fruition any one of his ideas and the pragmatic democrat who has learned from experience how difficult it is to change the course of the ship of state. From the Oval Office, the President cannot wave a magic wand and make things different. Wishing they were and declaring they ought to be will not make them so. Having a list of dreams and repeating that list ad nauseum for months on end does not equate to political acumen. What is required in a President is knowledge of the law and its limitations, expertise in team-building, and willingness to compromise when all signs indicate that compromise is the only route to getting something done.

I don’t know Senator Bernie Sanders. Despite his speechifying without specifics and in spite of his extremely disturbing stands vis vis gun control, he’s probably a decent and well-meaning man. But nothing he has said since declaring his candidacy has been enough to convince me that he could manage to get a single thing accomplished were he elected President. The Presidency is not an office for dreamers. It is an office for doers who can build the coalitions necessary to pass legislation that will, over time, bring about change.

- Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island
Washington State



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