'Few of us would claim we never told a lie, but neither that we did so enthusiastically. Just the innocent deception of our own children with the Santa Claus fairy tale is a lie, even if told for the most altruistic of reasons. Perhaps that illustrates the conundrum, and need for some distinction between “innocent lies” and egregious ones, and those in between.
These last – the “justifiable lies” – must include those told “for Queen and Country”, or as we like to say in Australia “in the interests of National Security”, to make it less obvious that neither the Queen nor the Country are truly ours.
Going on their recent performance, members of the Australian Government seem to have a rather broad definition of justifiable lies, told ostensibly in the National Interest but clearly also in the interests of some other Nations, and favoured corporations. Even justifiable, and toothless in deceiving no-one, they are still lies.
As most of us who have also – reluctantly – told a less innocent lie at some time would know, one little lie often begets another – and so ad infinitum! And it can be seen that what applies to the personal also applies to the national; the language may be different but the deception is the same.
Perhaps it’s because we have some personal empathy with our habitually mendacious leaders that we may cut them more slack than they deserve. Recent proposals from some Independent MPs to have an “Integrity Commission” charged with setting higher standards of behaviour for Parliamentary representatives are an admirable attempt to rectify this problem. We might well suspect that the Government’s own copycat proposal is a less admirable attempt to dodge the moral spotlight.
What is becoming increasingly apparent however, is that one sector of the “public service” is immune to such criticism, despite displaying the same casual attitude to the truth. In fact it could be said that the core business of our “Intelligence Agencies” is “plausible lying”, whether publicly or privately, to other states or to each other. Even though we know this to be the case, the advice of Intelligence agencies is presented as sacrosanct, and we believe that these agencies and their Directors must be acting in our interests.
Those who question such advice – such as the renowned “Intelligence” on Iraq’s non-existent WMDs – are in an extreme minority. Even in that case, where there was widespread exposure of the intricacies of deception, and the covert agenda of those who made the case for the unprovoked pre-emptive strike on Baghdad, there remain many who still believe the ends justified the means and would “do it again”.
As it happens, some new information has recently emerged that demonstrates the Howard government’s extreme mendacity over the supposed intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs; Howard himself clearly misled Parliament in March 2003, when “the intelligence had been fixed around the policy”. As explained here by James O’Neill, that advice to create the pretext for war came from the head of MI6 at the time – Sir Richard Dearlove. One might imagine that since Australia was part of the advance planning to attack Iraq, it also played a part in “fixing” the intelligence.
At the very least, Howard appears to have been part of this joint US/UK conspiracy that set out to deceive the Western public into supporting the illegal “war for Oil”, and in a way that also misled Australia’s own military. Fixing the intelligence in this case merely meant concealing the planning and the motivation from the public until everything was in place for “Shock and Awe”.
While the devastating effects of that war on Iraq are barely addressed or recompensed today, the current state of affairs does not allow us the luxury of some “truth and reconciliation” commission. Not only do the orchestrators and perpetrators of that crime remain unbowed and unpunished, their political offspring are already mired in the same morass of lies and deceptions, and on multiple fronts.'
Read more: Lies and Damned Lies: Australia, the US and the 'Syria Withdrawal'
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