Monday, October 23, 2006

Lies and Damn Lies

To anyone and everyone who reads this entry: WARNING!!! To continue reading risks exposing your integrity, at the very least, to the blandishments of polished practitioners of those deceitful arts of diplomacy that ordinary mortals call lies.

This warning may call to mind the witticism famously attributed to Mark Twain by some and to Benjamin Disraeli by others – including Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” So that you do not inadvertently prevaricate, neither Twain nor Disraeli seem to have been the first to combine these three elements. Some claim to have found two other sources, but whatever the truth, the phrase was in use in the 1890s and subsequently popularized by Twain.

Now if you want a damn lie, simply tune in to the October 23 edition of MSNBC’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. It seems that the day before, on ABC’s “This Week,” President Bush asserted that his administration’s Iraq policy had never been “stay the course.” In 30 seconds, Olbermann made mincemeat of this claim. One can hear White House spokesman Tony Snow on October 24 starting his press briefing with the equally famous line: “What the President meant to convey was….”

And the statistics? Unfortunately, these do not lie – 87 U.S. dead in October so far, 3.1 million Iraqis internally displaced or refugees in Jordan and “unfriendly countries" like Iran and Syria; hundreds of thousand of Iraqi men, women, and children killed – the list goes on.

Today seems like the opportune moment to shut off the official statements and to turn to the statements of those on the ground in Iraq, the ordinary U.S. soldier and civilian and the ordinary Iraqis who see the real world that is Iraq – or at least their part of the real world.

“Sometimes we have a feeling of complete hopelessness.” SGT 1st Class Jeff Nelson.

“We just want them to settle down long enough to get out of here.” CPT Alan Renazco.

“The civil war that everyone was afraid of is getting started.” Colonel (ret.) Thomas Hammes, USMC.

“Baghdad has become the capital of death.” Hussein Kari, Iraqi civilian.

And this from a U.S. general: “Part of our problem is that we want this more than they do.”

No wonder it's so grim.

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