It Worked For Hitler

published September 14, 2009 in Brainfood

"Power don't come from a badge or a gun. Power comes from lying. Lying big, and gettin' the whole damn world to play along with you. Once you got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain't true, you've got ‘em by the balls." - Sin City

That quote from Frank Miller's Sin City is hardly a new concept. Hitler's Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, once said, "The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed." All one need do is watch FOX “News” or one of the American Petroleum Institute television commercials to see brilliant spindoctoring in practice. It’s awe-inspiring, infuriating and frightening all at the same time, because it appears to be working. The corporate superpowers and the “conservative” politicians they’ve paid for have manipulated a disturbing number of people to speak, act and vote against self- interest. If they can get enough people doing that, nothing will significantly change and they will have won. Let’s go down a short list of lies, some still widely believed.

“There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”
By now the only people who can argue this lie with the straight face are those who also believe we faked all the Apollo moon landings and that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of President Kennedy. The Bush Administration’s claim about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq was not merely untrue; it was a deliberate lie to justify our 2003 invasion, the lucrative no-bid contracts given to Vice President Cheney’s company, Halliburton, and American access to the Iraqi oil fields [0].

In 2004 Paul O’Neill, former Treasury Secretary, a member of the Bush’s National Security team, said Bush wanted to invade before 9/11 and knew there were no WMDs, and that as a member of the security team he never saw any evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction [1]. One week after 9/11 CIA Director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, a report that never made it into the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) ultimately used to justify the invasion, both to the American people and to the Congress members who voted to invade [2]. The push for the Iraq war came months before this NIE was even available [3].

In the entire six and a half years we’ve been in Iraq, most of which was under Bush’s control of the military and Congress, credible evidence has never turned up that Saddam Hussein ever possessed WMDs beyond the outdated chemical and biological weapons he’d used on the Kurds fifteen years earlier. Even when in May of 2003 Bush created a specialized group of about 1,500 individuals to search the country for WMDs, none were ever found [4].

Finally, the common sense says the claim was not true. If there were any credible evidence of WMDs to be found, evidence that would have at least partly justified the criminal invasion of Iraq, wouldn’t have Bush and the neocons shouted it from every rooftop? Yet all this time they haven’t even been able to manufacture any credible-seeming evidence. Nonetheless, some people to this day will insist that Saddam either had those weapons or the ability to produce them. PT Barnum would have loved those people as born-suckers.

“Clean Coal”
This phrase is such an oxymoron it’s a wonder that anybody actually believes it. Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels, emitting around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned as does natural gas and 1.25 times as much as oil [5]. Yet because of the concerted PR effort by the coal industry and because of basic human resistance to change, even people who should know better at the very least give lip service to the lie of “clean coal.” This is especially true of politicians, because they know that elected officials who tell the public unpopular truths get voted out of office sooner than later.

The laws of physical science cannot change as to what happens when coal burns. Pollutants, including CO2, are given off and these pollutants have to go somewhere. The three expensive and unproven technologies for trying to make clean coal power are gasification, steam scrubbing, and carbon capture and sequestration. In the USA most research is on gasification, but only two plants have been built and neither have done more than reduce sulfur and other acid rain pollutants, not CO2. They’re also offline 30-40% of the time versus the 90-95% required by the power industry. The steam scrubbing of CO2, which is what they’re trying in Europe, kills the efficiency of the power plant, and there’s still the problem of where to put the dirty water [6].

Carbon capture and sequestration — storing the captured CO2 permanently in deep saline aquifers — has yet to be proven as a workable solution Sequestration it puts the utilities in the position of responsibility for monitoring storage in perpetuity and liability if CO2 leaks back into the atmosphere [6]. Given the past history of private industry shifting its environmental responsibility to the Federal government, for instance the former Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site, it’s a safe bet the U.S. taxpayer will be stuck with the bill for carbon sequestration storage. And there’s no guarantee of how safe or reliable long-term storage will be.

With no way to make coal burn clean and no proven (or efficient) way to mitigate the pollution from its combustion, “clean coal” is at best wishful thinking and at its most cynical, a deliberate lie to justify building new coal plants and raping the environment to mine coal. The final weak argument in favor of coal, that it creates jobs, ignores that due to increased mechanization coal jobs have declined for decades. The reality is coal makes people sick and has a significant environmental impact. See for links to verifiable data supporting these claims [7].

“Drill, Baby, Drill”
In 1969 an offshore drilling disaster led to a moratorium on new drilling in California and Florida. As Richard Nixon noted “the Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.” However, by Summer 2008 the drastic run up of oil prices during oilman President Bush’s years caused many Americans to forget their conscience and demand new offshore oil drilling. They support new drilling because have been manipulated by politicians bought off (“greased” one might say) by Big Oil and also by slick TV advertisements from the API (American Petroleum Institute) [8]. Contrary to the PR, there is not enough oil to make us meaningfully more independent and there is no guarantee Americans will benefit from new drilling.

Forgetting for the moment that oil is nearly as bad a fossil fuel for the environment as coal, let’s concentrate on pure supply and demand. The USA consumes seven billion (7B) barrels of oil per year or nineteen million per day [9]. At the same time we have the following amounts of “technically” recoverable oil in the following locations [10]: USA West Coast – 10B barrels, Gulf of Mexico – 40B barrels, Alaska fields (excluding ANWR) – 6 to 13B barrels, and [11] Artic National Wildlife Refuge – 3 to 12B barrels.

Thus we’d risk another huge oil spill off the California coast for an amount of oil that would barely last us a full year and we’d trash a pristine wildlife refuge for another nine to fifteen months of oil. I’m sure your Hummer is important to your lifestyle, but what about that national conscience Nixon alluded to forty years ago? In addition to the foolishness of raiding the environment for wasteful energy, it also eventually puts us at risk for shortages of petroleum derivatives for which we currently have no alternatives: plastics, synthetic fabrics, paints, lubricants, drugs and chemical fertilizers on which large-scale farming is dependent [12].

The biggest lie is that increased drilling will benefit Americans. However, a look at the stock market profiles of some of the largest oil companies — such as Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and BP — show that they sell two to three times as much of their products overseas as they do domestically. Furthermore the ratio of their income per employee borders on obscene. BP make $3.29M per employee, Chevron $3.95 and Exxon makes $5.32 million dollars per employee [13] [14] [15]. So of course they have plenty of spare dollars to grease politicians and pay for slick TV spots with WASPish blondes to tell you how good drilling is for the USA. And if you still believe the Big Oil lies after all this, I have a lovely bridge to sell you.

“Bush Made Us Safer”
Along predictable partisan lines, 49% of Americans actually believe this lie. People generally don’t like to face unpleasant truths, especially if it requires admitting to a mistake. They cling to and vigorously defend their misapprehensions rather than learn from them. Whether you believe the 9/11 attacks were a tremendous intelligence blunder, an act of war known about in advance and allowed to succeed for an excuse to go to war, or a full-on conspiracy, they opened the door to drastic changes in foreign policy, the United States Constitution and the US economy, all for the worst.

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, even old adversaries at least temporarily put aside their dislike. Leaders in Europe, Russia, China and Iran expressed their sorrow and dismay. Cuba offered its airspace and airports to American planes. In Iran and other Muslim countries there were candlelight vigils in sympathy for America. Even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the 9/11 attacks [16] [17]. Nearly the whole world was on our side. Then Bush made his unjustified, premeditated attack on Iraq (See “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” above), innocent men, women and children began to die, and we squandered all of that goodwill and turned it into enmity and hatred.

It’s a matter of common sense that, in a dangerous and hostile world, friends and allies are important to staying safe, and our March 2003 invasion of Iraq changed all of that. Even in countries where governments officially supported us, the majority of the citizens did not [18]. Of far greater concern is the number of Muslims who became radicalized after Iraqi blood began spilling. According to a 2006 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) from the CIA, the Iraq war has turned more people of Islamic faith against us and caused the terrorist threat to grow [19]. The U.S. occupation of Iraqi quickly became a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups both in the Middle East and even in European countries like Great Britain [20] [21].

Most unforgivably, by devoting all of his premeditated attention on Iraq, Bush not only allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape in Afghanistan, by concentrating so much attention on Iraq, he allowed the Taliban to regroup and begin to take power once again. A 2008 NIE reports Afghanistan is in a “downward spiral” [22], which today forces President Obama to commit troops he wouldn’t need to had Bush not ignored Afghanistan for his Iraq vendetta. And Osama Bin Laden is still free to cheerlead Islamic terrorists. That’s not what I call “safer.”

Then there is the domestic and economic fallout of Bush’s reign, all of it directly or indirectly negatively impacting our national security: the banking and real estate meltdown, the insane rise of oil prices ($30/barrel in 2003 to $147/barrel in 2008) [23], ports and borders that were never secured back before we could afford it (before the deep recession) and a Patriot Act that severely weaken our Constitutionally guaranteed protections. To quote a 2009 analysis of the Bush presidency by the Council on Foreign Relations, “George W. Bush inherited a robust economy, a budgetary surplus, a rested military, and, even after 9/11, a world largely at peace and well-disposed toward the United States. He handed off to his successor a recession, a massive deficit and debt, a stretched and exhausted military, two wars, and a world marked by pronounced anti-Americanism.” [24]

In the face of all that evidence and reasoning, anyone who could still argue with a straight face that Bush “kept us safe” or “made us safer” has either drunk so much neocon Kool-Aid they are impervious to facts and logic or they are completely unwilling to admit they may have made a mistake. Then there is the Stupid Factor. While I hesitate to think a significant number of my fellow citizens are actually full-blown stupid — which is terrifying, considering that these people help elect our leaders and bring children into the world who may become similarly infected with stupidity — I’d like to be charitable for a moment and suggest that fear and gullibility allow them to be swayed by modern day corporate con men and the politicians they own, who make Soviet and Fascist propagandists look like rank amateurs.

Another one of Josef Goebbles’ quotes offers a ray of hope inside the cynicism it carries: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” The hope is that the political, economic and military consequences of eight years of neocon spindoctoring are crashing down all around us. And therein lies the opportunity to turn things around.
Those who seek to offer hope and a new sense of direction can only do so by opening the eyes of those who’ve bought into these lies for so long. By calming presenting unimpeachable facts and solid reasoning (as I’ve done here) and holding the baiting and name-calling to a minimum (which I’ve tried to do in spite of my incredible frustration with the “teabaggers” who oppose positive change in this country) perhaps we can slowly peels the scales away from the eyes of those who cling to these lies. Perhaps then they may learn to think on their own and to question what corporate PR, politicians and FOX (or CNN, for that matter) tells them. Sometimes, questioning even the leaders you’ve trusted for years is the most patriotic thing you can do.

0.   "Iraq Opens Oilfields as Exxon, Shell Seek Foothold" 06/25/2005
1.   "Bush 'plotted Iraq war from start'" BBC News 01/12/2004
2.   "Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction" 09/06/2007
3.   "PR Push for Iraq War Preceded Intelligence Findings" National Security Archive, George Washington University 08/22/2008
4.   "Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction" National Security Archive, George Washington University 02/11/2004
5.   "World Energy Use and CO2 Emissions" US Dept of Energy May 2004
6.   "The Myth of Clean Coal" Environment 360, Yale University 03/06/2008
8.   Energy Tomorrow Commercial
9.   Oil Facts - US. Dept. Energy
10. Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf - US. Dept. Energy
11. "U.S. May Open Oil Reserve In Alaska to Development" New York Times 01/18/2003
12. Wikipedia - petrochemicals
13. Advanced Financial Network - Exxon-Mobil data
14. Advanced Financial Network - Chevron Oil data
15. Advanced Financial Network - BP PLC data
17. Scholars of Islam & the Tragedy of Sept. 11th
18. Gallup poll Eurpoean opposition to potential Iraq War USA Today 02/14/2003
19. "Release the NIE on Iraq and Terrorism!" The Nation 09/25/2006
20. "War Helps Recruit Terrorists, Hill Told" The Washington Post 02/17/2005
21. "Iraq war 'helped terrorists recruit in Britain'" The Daily Mail 02/22/2007
22. "U.S. Study Is Said to Warn of Crisis in Afghanistan" New York Times 10/08/2008
23. "2000s energy crisis" Wikipedia
24. "The Iraq War in Perspective " Council on Foreign Relations op-ed 05/04/2009

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