HIGHLANDS, N.C., March 6 (UPI) -- This here's the 340th Report ta the Folks Back Home from the (More er Less) Honorable Billybob, cyberCongressman from Western Carolina.
This begins with a single quote from a late Congressman what is far better known than alla the rest ov his career. Lack all maxims, howemsoever, it hazza equal n opposite one what will apply instead, inna comin war against Iraq.
Since ma able assistant, J. Armor, Esq., izza philosopher inna Congresscritter's office, I'll turn this over ta him.
Truth, the First Casualty?
The late Sen. Hiram Johnson from California made this comment in 1917: "The first casualty when war comes is truth." The reason is that both sides in any war immediately begin lying about how the war is going, both minimizing their losses and emphasizing their gains. It is assumed that both sides will, more or less, control their newspapers and the flow of information. But there is a second maxim which applies to the impending war against Iraq. This is from the French author Alexander Dumas, le fils, who wrote, "Every generality is false, including this one."
In this war, within six days of its beginning, the casualty will be lies, not the truth. Under all scenarios, even the worst, Allied forces will quickly take most of Iraq except for Baghdad. Because these armed and uniformed "weapons inspectors" will not rely on paperwork but on what they find, building by building, they will find whatever is there. They will find hidden weapons, hidden chemicals, hidden prisons, hidden torture chambers, and witnesses to and participants in all of that.
I suggest that the decision of the United States to embed 500 to 1,000 journalists in the American units as they advance, has two essential purposes. The first is to make certain that the American people have accurate and apparently impartial sources to know what our troops are doing on land, on sea, and in the air. But there is another purpose for the journalists who will go in with the ground troops.
Remember the stories about the liberation of Nazi death camps at the end of World War II, and the horrors that emerged in 1945 but only were fully grasped years later?
In the case of the truth about what Hussein has done in Iraq, the facts with multiple confirmation will come out immediately. Coupled with the written accounts will be still photographs and videotapes, providing more detail and more confirmation. Occasional reports based on intelligence whose sources must be concealed (Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony at the UN), will be replaced with factual statements whose sources are known. All arguments that "the case has not been proven" will disappear like water poured on desert sand. They will disappear equally from the speakers platforms of "anti-war" demonstrations and from the floor of the U.S. Senate.
What if the United States, and the world, had known the full extent of German weapons and atrocities, not years after the war began in 1939 but in only a matter of days? That could not be accomplished in Germany, but is exactly what will happen with Iraq.
Weapons, facilities, military commanders and scientists who know about those, and about prisons, executions, torture chambers, etc., will all be captured in the first six days of this war. Likewise, participants in Saddam Hussein's murderous regime will also be captured, and some of them will choose to turn "state's evidence" in an effort to save their necks.
The whole truth about Saddam Hussein's regime -- its weapons, personnel, policies and tactics -- will all be known in short order, and from a variety of sources. The parts of the Arab press and others in the world media who have parroted the Iraqi line up to now, may continue to deny these facts. But such denials will then become as thin and useless as the claims of those who deny the Holocaust today.
It would seem appropriate that President Jacques Chirac of France should, at that point, be hauled to Iraq by the scruff of his stiff neck, have his face pushed down into the first vat of chemicals that the 101st Airborne discovers, and be urged to "take a sniff." If he can still breathe after that, he would be welcomed to make a statement, beginning with, "Vraiment, je suis un idiot." (That means just what you think it does: "Truly, I am an idiot.")
Many politicians, reporters and editors would deserve similar treatment -- a quick trip to the first vat of chemicals. But if that could only be done with President Chirac, he could serve as an object lesson to all the others.
Those who have read thoroughly, thought the issues through with care, and used good sources of information, will not be surprised by what comes out about the Hussein regime. I certainly won't. Last Saturday I stood on a stage on the Mall in Washington with Aziz Altaee, chairman of the Iraqi American Council. Not only did we speak back-to-back at a Rally for freedom for Iraq, I took time to talk personally with him and his associates.
Altaee is one of many American citizens of Iraqi descent who intend to go to Baghdad as soon as they safely can, and participate in the physical and political reconstruction of their former nation. And when that task is completed, they will return to their nation, America, with a well-earned sense of pride and achievement. A similar migration of Americans to Cuba, and then back to America, will certainly occur when Castro dies and the free elections that were promised in 1960 finally take place. But I digress.
With Altaee were colleagues who bore the marks of torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein on their bodies. Both he and his colleagues lost family members who were tortured, killed, or simply disappeared without a trace. I believe these people, but most Americans have never heard the stories they tell. Most Americans will not hear, and therefore know, these facts until the details come home to the United States in the form of multiple press reports from the freed portions of Iraq.
These, then, are the lies which will die in the first six days of the war:
--That Saddam Hussein has no weapons of mass destruction.
--That he is disarming, or ever intended to disarm.
--That it isn't proven he used such weapons against his own people, or other nations.
--That he is merely "a leader of his nation, not much different from any other national leader."
--That he has no hostile intentions against surrounding nations and against the United States.
--That in the world today such a person can be trusted with the leadership of any nation and its military forces.
The CBS interview last week of Saddam Hussein by Dan Rather was intended by Saddam to present himself as a simple, "fatherly" leader of his nation. This was no accident. It is well known to those who do their homework that Saddam Hussein is a student of Josef Stalin. He knows about the staged pictures of Stalin with school children with flowers. He knows that, among his supporters and apologists, Stalin was known as "Papa Joe." That was the kind of image that Saddam had in mind to present in that interview. And with Rather's obsequious assistance, Hussein largely succeeded. (Note in the interview the number of comments by Rather to Hussein beginning with "Forgive me..." and "I apologize....". The smell of deference was certainly in the air.)
It was not until decades after his death that the truth about Josef Stalin was laid out for all to see. He was brutal, he was ruthless, and he deliberately sent tens of millions of people to their deaths, most within his own empire.
Except that his death toll is not yet that high, and never will rise to that level, Hussein offers an exact parallel to Stalin. Almost all the particulars about Hussein WILL be known within six days after this war begins. Only a small circle of shameless supporters will still be able to claim that Hussein "though his methods might have been harsh, did more good than harm for his nation." And those few supporters still standing will be revealed by the flood of information to be at best fools, at worst supporters of barbarism.
So Hiram Johnson's warning about the consequences of war will be exactly wrong this time. In this war, the first casualty will be lies, not truth. The ways that the United States and the world will deal with future threats of this type, including Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, will be forever changed as a consequence.
The U.S. and world press will be embarrassed into doing a more thorough job of reporting the facts of future confrontations. The UN and other international bodies will be compelled to be more honest (though hardly completely honest) in dealing with challenges beyond Hussein. The apologists for other brutal dictators will be afforded less room to operate. A few more of the head-in-the-sand crowd will be forced to face the consequences of their studied ignorance. And the world will become a slightly safer place as a home for the human race.
This is not a war about the grip of one dictator on one nation. It is about the future of the international community. Its positive effects will only begin, not end, with the demise of Saddam's dictatorship in Iraq. The death of truth would be a serious harm to a nation like the United States, which has the assumption of a free press at its heart. However, the death of lies is an outcome devoutly to be wished. And that will be one of the results of this particular war.
(About the author: Congressman Billybob is fictitious, but prolific, on the Internet -- the invention of John Armor, who writes books and practices law in the U.S. Supreme Court. Comments and criticisms are welcome at CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net).