Did it work? Were you duped?
Were you calmly and methodically and rather nefariously led to believe that maybe, just maybe, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the rest, right along with tales of soldier suicides and torture and staggering civilian body counts and the utterly disastrous Bush military policy weren't really all that bad after all?
Did you watch any CNN or Fox News or MSNBC, lo, these past five or six years, listen to the pundits and ponder the wise, informed comments of all the military experts the networks brought on to discuss Iraq policy, then conclude that maybe this war, this appalling invasion might actually be positive, that maybe the surge is working and torture ain't all that bad and the democracy is taking root and America is proud and perky and victorious once again?
Did you believe any of it? Because oh my God, they sure as hell worked us over like a rabid dog works a hunk of gristle.
Who are "they," exactly? Why, they're the newly discovered and rather unexpected fraternity of expert BS artists, a highly specialized group known to gullible Americans as stoic, stern-faced retired generals, colonels, majors, military advisers, former Pentagon officials, the ones you've heard and seen on TV news for years, but who are known to the Bush administration as a delightfully dishonest gaggle of preferred liars, lackeys, shills, puppets and mouthpieces for Dick Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld and Dubya himself.
The truth is as sad as it is revolting: You have been lied to, again and again, perhaps even more than you imagined, in a rather unexpected way, perhaps like no other time in American history, in a more carefully orchestrated and widespread effort than any presidential administration has managed to attempt in the past.
Here is the New York Times, still managing to do what it does best despite the era of dying newspapers and disrespected journalism, running a simply astonishing piece on all the dishonest "military consultants" who've appeared for the past half decade on every major network -- and yes, Fox adores these liars best of all -- to discuss Iraq, surges, U.S. military strategy, the works.
Here is the Times revealing, after two years of battling the Defense Department to release the 8,000 pages of incriminating documents by way of instigating lawsuits and leveraging the Freedom of Information Act -- and barely even then -- that this entire dour fraternity of deceitful military cretins has been in service of BushCo since Sept. 11 -- and still is, to this very day.
To clarify: Whenever you've seen one of those dour-faced retired generals discussing details of U.S. war strategy on MSNBC, chances are staggeringly good he was/is in the pocket of Rummy or Cheney. Whenever a wise old colonel has appeared on Fox or CNN or CBS News to say the surge is working or troop morale is strong or that all those suicide bombings aren't really so bad, chances are overwhelmingly good that he is lying outright and you're hearing exactly what Donald Rumsfeld wanted him to say. Isn't that refreshing?
The Times story is simply astounding. Up and down the line, from major to general to colonel to every sort of expert they have, it's the same story. Over and over again, presented "tens of thousands of times" and totaling countless hundreds of TV and radio hours, it's been a near constant stream of calculated deception and misrepresentation and bogus pro-Iraq spin. Neutrality? Fair analysis of the war? Criticism of Bush? Not a chance.
You may ask: Why would they do such a thing? What's in it for the generals and the colonels to lie outright to the American populace and the embarrassingly blind news networks, to whore their credentials and trash their distinguished reputations in favor of defending a lost war and useless president?
That's easy: Access. Access to the White House, to the corridors of power and influence; access to the perks and the pals and snifters of brandy, the backroom handshakes, the business deals, the hugely lucrative military contracts, the sweet, sweet piles of cash and privilege and power awaiting them if they just toe the line and keep their real opinions to themselves. Also worth mentioning: Many are military men down to the bone. Failed war and inept commander in chief or no, they will defend any U.S. military operation, simply because it's a U.S. military operation. It's just automatic.
Reminds me, in a depressing sort of way, of that gaggle of Big Tobacco CEOs who banded together not long ago in a hilarious attempt to convince the nation -- and the courts --- that cigarettes aren't all that bad and there's little evidence smoking causes cancer or impotence or death, and in fact small children really love secondhand smoke and so do puppies and flowers and Jesus, and if you want to have fun sometime, walk into a hospital nursery and fire up a fresh Marlboro and blow that yummy smoke straight into the faces of the newborns. Watch them squirm with delight!
Except wait, no, it's not like that at all. One major difference: Big Tobacco execs are professional liars, de facto and a priori and understood. It's what they do. Not even the most ardent smoking advocate would trust one those jackals as far as he could throw him into a vat of chemotherapy drugs.
Different, at least in theory, with these high-grade military men. They have a potent aura of trustworthiness, fairness, decency. They are f-ing generals, for chrissakes, and hence we like to think of them as straight-talking, no-BS working men whose word is solid and whose authority unquestionable and therefore no wimp-assed monkey-faced president or scabrous Defense secretary could make them say something they didn't actually believe.
Wrong. Oh, how horribly wrong.
So I ask again, did it work? Was America duped? Well, yes and no. There's little doubt that this insidious, sustained PR attack -- and make no mistake, it was/is an attack on the American people; such calculated "psychological operations" aimed at U.S. citizens are actually very illegal, though it's enormously difficult to prove so in court -- swayed millions of Americans, gave fuel to the preemptive attack argument, inflamed (and still inflames) the warmongering right, scammed the media, fanned the pro-war fires for years before the public recoil finally kicked in.
But oh, kick in it did. This is the fascinating thing. Even all those high-ranking military experts lying like well-decorated dogs in one of the most impressive, appalling PR campaigns in American history could not keep Bush from collapsing, could not prevent Americans from learning the real facts of the failed war and toxic presidency -- eventually.
And maybe this is a good thing. Because now, given the scope of the Bush administration's lies -- the true scale of which we may never fully know -- the recoil is even more forceful than it ever might've been, the anti-neocon, anti-Bush revolt is potent and heartening and enormously helpful to the Democratic cause, perhaps far more than if Bush and his cronies had told the truth in the first place.
Then again, if they had been the slightest bit honest, if Bush had even a hint of integrity, we'd never have launched this staggeringly botched, futile war in the first place, and maybe we wouldn't be where we are now, with the American experiment under Bush far less of an experiment and far more of a cyanide tablet.
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
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