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The Big Lie is Bush's Most Powerful Weapon

6 January 2002

The most powerful weapon in the so-called "war on terrorism" is not any gun or bomb or spy technology. It is The Big Lie. Mr. Bush and his government wield The Big Lie constantly and shamelessly. If we want peace, we must first begin to speak The Big Truth.

Consider just one of the many lies at the heart of this war: "The terrorists are evil because they intentionally target civilians. We only kill civilians as 'collateral damage.'"

Oh, yeah? Then why did we destroy entire cities in World War II? Why did we bomb dikes in North Vietnam that held back the flood waters? Why did we train and equip terrorist armies to attack civilians in Vietnam, Laos, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and a host of other countries?

The answer comes from the most famous of all military theorists, Clausewitz. He said that the purpose of modern warfare is to break the enemy's will to fight. If attacking their soldiers won't do it, attack their civilians -- by any means necessary.

Even by nuclear means?

When Dwight Eisenhower was president, with thousands of hydrogen bombs in his arsenal, he told the National Security Council that Clausewitz was his guide: "The President said that war was still waged for the purpose of destroying the enemy's will to make war. Now we destroy his will by destroying his cities." "Once we become involved in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, we could not stop until we had finished off the enemy." "This idea of elaborate targeting is rather foolish. We would simply hit his cities." "The President said he would want the enemy to realize that enemy cities can be destroyed by our retaliatory forces. He believed we should think more in terms of cities."

Eisenhower understood why cities were the crucial targets. When his troops had invaded Germany in World War II, they had faced relatively little resistance because the German economy was already in shambles. He planned to use the same strategy to win World War III: "The President believed that we must get back to the formulation of the series of targets in the Soviet Union destruction of which would most economically paralyze the Russian nation."

Eisenhower planned to attack not only the Soviet Union, but China and all other communist nations as well. He had no illusions about the results: "Here would be a great area from the Elbe to Vladivostok and down through Southeast Asia torn up and destroyed without government, without its communications, just an area of starvation and disaster." He also knew that "the fallout from our own weapons could destroy our own country, and indeed the entire Northern Hemisphere." Yet he never wavered in his plan to kill tens of millions of civilians, including Americans, should he deem it necessary to "defend freedom."

Some presidents after Eisenhower thought they were taking a less lethal course by targeting military sites rather than cities. The blast and fallout from those strikes would still have killed millions of civilians. Moreover, there is evidence that military planners ignored the changes in strategic doctrine and stuck to Eisenhower's folksy motto: "We may have to hit 'em -- and, if necessary, with everything in the bucket."

All of this is in the public record, available in any major library. It can not be refuted. The propagandists who wield The Big Lie never try to refute the truth. They simply repeat their lies, over and over again, until everyone forgets the truth. The first step to peace is to bring back the t ruth, to repeat it as often and as loudly as we can.

Truth: This is not a war between good and evil. It is a political struggle between two forces with competing goals. There is no evidence that Al Qaeda wants to impose its way of life on us. They just want us to stop imposing our way of life on them. However, current U.S. political and economic goals require domination of the Muslim world. Bush administration offic ials have admitted that they have no hope of ending terrorism. But now they have an excuse to put the U.S. military, and U.S. picked leaders, wherever they want them.

Each side is willing to kill civilians when that seems like the best way to achieve their goals. The U.S., with incomparably the stronger military, can afford to target fewer civiliansat least for now. Yet U.S. leaders admit that, sooner or later, another terrorist attack will kill more Americans. They are willing to sacrifice our lives for their goals.

This does not excuse in any way the terrible things Al Qaeda has done and will do. Nor does it excuse the Big Lies Al Qaeda leaders rely on. It simply means that there are no good guys on either side. That is The Big Truth.

Ira Chernus.
Published by Common Dreams.
(c) Ira Chernus.

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