Suzanne Fields

Lies are deadly stuff. Like all poisons, they have to be handled carefully. "Oh, what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive," writes the poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott. Mark Twain was practical about it, too: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

 Lies are particularly lethal in politics. They create a cauldron of double toil and trouble, nearly always in unpredictable ways. When a president lies, he's asking for it. "I am not a crook," said Richard Nixon, and he was driven from office. "I did not have relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," said Bill Clinton, and he was impeached. Now we're told, and told and told, that George W. Bush lied to get us into a war in Iraq. That could be impeachable stuff, too. A poll taken for The Wall Street Journal/NBC News suggests that 57 percent of Americans believe that George W. "deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq." In Europe, the percentage is even greater, and in the Middle East, nobody ever believes anybody about anything (and with good reason).

 Somebody is clearly lying to somebody, proving that "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on." But even a casual examination of the public record demonstrates that the president is not the liar.

 The lied-about president finally pulled his boots on with a speech on Veterans Day, reproaching not just the liars but those who listen to lies: "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." He reminded those with short memories that a bipartisan Senate investigation found that no pressure had been applied to alter the intelligence findings about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Look again, he said, at more than a dozen United Nations resolutions citing Saddam Hussein's possession and development of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction.

 John Bolton, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, cites the record of the Iraqis' own admission that they had developed chemical weapons, and their later assertion that they had destroyed them.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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