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In 1918, reflecting on World War I, Sen. Hiram Johnson said: “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”
Actually, in America’s recent wars, officials have slaughtered truth even before any fighting started, for they’ve used lies as their excuse to go to war – for example, the Bush-Cheney regime hustled America into their Iraq escapade by snuffing out the truth about that country’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Just as immoral are the dishonest post-war claims of success. Officials always insist that their military adventure was worth all the lost lives and treasure, thus validating themselves, while also legitimizing the idea of going to war again and again.
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Officialdom’s routine mugging of truth makes a recent bit of honesty from a three-star general astonishing, as well as refreshing – and gutsy. General Daniel Bolger, a senior commander of our forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote a New York Times op-ed, bluntly saying that after sacrificing thousands of US soldiers, “all we have to show for it are two failed wars.”
Recently retired, Bolger is certainly not criticizing the troops, but the political leaders and the brass, including himself. “I got it wrong,” he writes. “Like my peers, I argued to stay the course.” As a result, “we backed ourselves into a long-term counterinsurgency.” General Bolger is especially furious about the current spurious claim that Bush’s 2007 surge in Iraq “won the war.” The surge did not “win” anything, he says, pointing out that the terrorists who were supposedly defeated are the very ones we’re now at war with again – only they’re savvier, better armed, and more vicious.
Yet, insanely, some political and Pentagon officials are pushing for another surge of ground troops, as if repeating the same mistake will produce a different result.
“The Truth About the Wars,” The New York Times, November 11, 2014.