Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Lie Can Beat Up Your Lie

We use nice words like “misspoke,” “I was quoted out of context,” “that’s your opinion,” “I never said that,” “exaggeration,” “I have my sources,” “distorted,” “denials,” “based upon what we knew at the time,” “where did you get your facts,” “national security sometimes requires that you mislead your enemies,” etc., etc. Candidates routinely make up “facts,” spoken with statistical passion, pick up on tiny discrepancies and represent them as the whole or the vast majority of the questioned practices. We often resort to lies when that we believed was secret suddenly becomes public and demands an explanation. We spied on ourselves and our allies, but got caught. Lies ensued.
We have absurd tendencies to over-simplify, frame statements in attractive but inaccurate slogans suggesting solutions where none exist, and tackle exceptionally complex problems with short, cute summaries that literally dismiss the gravity of what the issues really are. Many in our world download copyrighted material without paying for it, a surprising number have (unless the recent hack) hide in the shadows of the infidelity Website, Ashley Madison, etc., etc.
White lies, black lies, national security lies, lies considered a necessary step toward securing a desired solution, lies to hide past or failed practices, lying patterns that everyone expects, etc., etc. We actually know candidates lie, and yet so many of us pass on such obviously inaccurate statements as facts when asked why they support one politician over another. But sometimes those lies cost this nation dearly. Costs measured not just in billions or trillions of dollars, assuming insurmountable national debt, but masses of casualties – dead, dying, maimed, seriously injured, homes and businesses completely destroyed and lives forever ruined.
Our invasion of Iraq, for example, a failed war with a crumbling and corrupt government struggling to survive, resulted in approximately $2 trillion ($1.1 trillion in direct appropriations for the war) in charges to the U.S. government, we lost approximately 4,500 U.S. soldiers out of over six figures of violent deaths in the country and incalculable local costs to the people living there. Our horribly-constructed government, effectively giving the majority Shiite population the political power to oppress the Sunni minority, was one of the major contributors to the rise of ISIS, an ultra-extremist cruel militancy that arose in significant part to protect this Iraq Sunni minority and the Sunni majority in Syria writhing under the harsh boot of a Shiite dictatorship.
That war was based on one huge lie: that if we did not invade and force a regime change, weapons of mass destruction would be used to decimate the United States and her allies. There were no such weapons of mass destruction. We then lied, retroactively, to explain how we were really deposing an unacceptable brutal dictator, the same dictator deploying the same practices he used when we shoveled tons of money and military equipment in earlier times. Lies. Lies. Lies.
In addition, as we denied that we employed what international law (and even the United States when it tried Japanese officers after WWII) clearly labels as torture (waterboarding, sleep deprivation, chaining prisoners – we called them “detainees” – handcuffed to walls, use of extreme cold, and even physical beatings), calling them “legally acceptable enhanced interrogation techniques.” We humiliated prisoners, trashed their religious holy books, urinated on their corpses, and generally engaged in reprehensible, un-American behavior. Our reward? Extremists have used the stories and images of American torture and misconduct to recruit thousands and thousands of militants sworn to destroy us or die trying.
Now we are fighting ISIS, a despicable malignancy on the heart and soul of the entire planet. Our government is telling us we are making progress against this murderous cancer, even as a simple examination of any valid map will tell you that ISIS’ is continuing to expand its geographical holdings in Iraq and Syria. A little “take-back,” but most of the big urban conquests (e.g., Mosul, Ramadi, etc.) are solidly under the ISIS boot. Is Lebanon next? More lies? Apparently, yes. ISIS is not “losing” this new war.
“The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.
“The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said…
“In late July, retired Gen. John Allen — who is Mr. Obama’s top envoy working with other nations to fight the Islamic State — told the Aspen Security Forum that the terror group’s momentum had been ‘checked strategically, operationally, and by and large, tactically.’
“‘ISIS is losing,’ he said, even as he acknowledged that the campaign faced numerous challenges — from blunting the Islamic State’s message to improving the quality of Iraqi forces.
“During a news briefing [in mid-August], Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was more measured. He called the war ‘difficult’ and said ‘it’s going to take some time.’ But, he added, ‘I’m confident that we will succeed in defeating ISIL and that we have the right strategy.’
“But recent intelligence assessments, including some by Defense Intelligence Agency, paint a sober picture about how little the Islamic State has been weakened over the past year, according to officials with access to the classified assessments. They said the documents conclude that the yearlong campaign has done little to diminish the ranks of the Islamic State’s committed fighters, and that the group over the last year has expanded its reach into North Africa and Central Asia.” New York Times, August 25th. Ashton Carter tells you he is confident that our strategy will work. Is he really that confident? What do you think?
“According to the Daily Beast report, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency described ‘what he sees as a concerted push in government over the past several months to find information that tells a preferred story about efforts to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups, including al Qaeda.’
“In response to questions about the reports, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said ‘The President places a premium on getting an unvarnished assessment from the intelligence community ... One of the things that they place a priority on doing is making sure that they're getting differing points of view on what's happening on the ground.’… Still, The Daily Beast says ‘analysts have been frustrated for months that as their reports make their way up the chain, senior officers change them to adhere more closely to the administration's line.’”, August 27th. Sound like the VA hospitals scandal as senior managers played with appointment records to justify their bonuses and promotions… even as vets died from lack of care? And now, with a real global threat, it’s s“games r us”… again?!
The level of military commitment necessary to defeat ISIS seems to have been woefully underestimated. The effectiveness of our strategy of air support and training locals (remember how we recruited a mere 54 Syrian moderate rebels out of a target recruitment of 5,400?!) has not worked. Even a few thousand “American boots on the ground” – which is still not in the cards – is unlikely to make much of a difference. But our government still seems to prefer lying to us about the effort. Republican. Democrat. Lies.
I’m Peter Dekom, and facts really do not care if they are distorted… because they just continue to be just the way they really are.

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