A year ago ago, I wrote a series of three posts (part 1, part 2, and part 3) about a fascinating BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares that charted the parallel rise of two groups: the neoconservatives in the US (whose ideology was formulated by University of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss) and the radical Islamists (led by an Arab intellectual Sayyed Qutb).
Both groups saw liberal ideas as leading to moral decay. Both saw themselves and their followers as an enlightened elite that was superior to the ignorant masses. They both felt that it was up to them to reverse this decay by any means necessary. They adopted the strategy of advancing myths such as religion and nationalism in order to keep the people ‘virtuous’.
Both groups also believed in scaring the daylights out of ordinary people, in order to keep them fearful and thus easily manipulated. The radical Islamists used terror, including assassinations of political leaders and other forms of violence against their own people to intimidate their opponents. The neoconservatives and the US and British governments overplayed the strength of al Qaeda and the danger of terror posed to the West by the Islamists because that fantasy enabled them to frighten the public and carry out domestic policies at home and military actions abroad that otherwise might have been opposed.
The three-hour documentary shows how the neoconservative fantasy about threats was used to drive disastrous policies such as the attack on Iraq. It is quite amazing to see political leaders and opinion makers in the US and Britain flatly assert that they have convincing evidence for things that we now know to be absolutely false.
The documentary is now available online. It is well worth the time to watch it.
It is by now firmly established that the US public was deceived into supporting the invasion of Iraq. Part of the propaganda was led by the neoconservatives, who have long sought American dominance in that region. What might be stunning to those less cynical about the lack of integrity of political leaders than I am is the extent to which the American and British governments lied to their own people about things they knew to be false, using the flimsiest of cover stories.
Perhaps the most disgraceful element of the fraudulent case was the role of the alleged Iraqi defector known by the codename ‘Curveball‘. His ‘testimony’ was used to build up lurid tales of the danger posed by Iraq.
Curveball was a liar who knew what the US wanted to hear and told his interrogators exactly that, knowing that they would run with it. He was the source for nearly all the lies in Colin Powell’s speech at the UN, backed by the head of the CIA George Tenet. But even he must have been bemused by the lack of any attempt to verify his stories even though there were numerous warning signs that his story was not credible. Even more amazingly, Powell and Tenet based their public statements on this information even though American intelligence interrogators were not allowed access to Curveball by the Germans who were holding him. They simply passed on the information received from the Germans up to their superiors.
US weapons inspector David Kay, sent to Iraq by the Bush Administration after the invasion to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction, reveals in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel the extent of the deceit that was perpetrated by the government and its intelligence agencies.
In the interview Kay delivers a warning: “I feel disillusioned. I think that ‘Curveball’ was the biggest and most consequential intelligence fiasco of my lifetime. It shows how important effective civilian control of the intelligence services is, because non-transparency is extraordinarily dangerous for democracy. In an intelligence service, people who don’t make waves are rewarded. I am worried that the same mistakes could be repeated all over again.”
One error Kay makes is in labeling what happened as ‘mistakes’. Those were not mistakes. They were deliberate acts of policy and will be repeated whenever it again becomes convenient to do so.
POST SCRIPT: Health care
Dr. Vincent Navarro has an excellent and informative article dealing with the politics and history of attempts at health care reform in the US.
Navarro is Professor of Health Policy, Public Policy, and Policy Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has written extensively on economics, health, and social policy, and has been advisor to many governments and international agencies. His books have been translated into many languages. He was the founder and president of the International Association of Health Policy, and for almost forty years has been Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Health Services. He is also a founding member of Physicians for a National Health Program.