Published on Friday, February 3, 2006 by the Denver Post (Colorado)
George Bush’s Ministry of Truth
by Reggie Rivers
When I first read George Orwell’s novel "1984" in high school, I was struck by the ability of the Ministry’s of Truth to cause the public to forget a truth simply by stating its opposite.
The Ministry’s three slogans – "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery" and "Ignorance is Strength" – revealed its talent for reversing the meaning of words.
In high school, I assumed that this type of manipulation would never work in the real world, but now and again I wonder – especially when I hear President Bush attempt to reshape our perception of actual events by telling us that the truth is the opposite of what we’re seeing.
During the State of the Union address this week, he said, "We seek the end of tyranny in our world." Yet, his administration has engaged in extremely tyrannical behavior: invading a sovereign nation, incarcerating people without trials, committing torture, spying on its own citizens and shrouding itself in secrecy.
Regarding the war in Iraq, he said, "If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores." Though it has long been proved that the Sept. 11 terrorists weren’t from Iraq, had no connection to Iraq, and are not now in Iraq, President Bush continues to insist that the war is related to Sept. 11.
He said, "There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat." Of course, there can be peace and honor in retreat, but since he practices a doctrine of never considering alternatives and never admitting mistakes, denigrating the merits of retreat is like a scorched-Earth policy that forces combatants forward even if it’s suicidal to continue.
He said, "We are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory." Because of the challenges related to fighting a shadow army of insurgents, the coalition has been on the defensive for most of the war. The only thing that has been clear from the start is that the Bush administration never has had a well-developed plan.
About the war, President Bush said, "We are winning." More than 2,200 U.S. troops have been killed, more than 16,500 have been injured, and combat operations have cost hundreds of billions of dollars with no end in sight. The statement "We are winning" is pure puffery.
"Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq," he said. President Bush loves to suggest that he has learned things, but he never reveals what he has learned and, when pressed, he always insists that he wouldn’t change any of his previous choices.
True to form, he followed up his comment about learning with, "Hindsight alone is not wisdom. Second-guessing is not a strategy." This is clever speechwriting, but it’s simply not true. If a drunk driver received a DWI citation or, worse, caused an accident, the courts would use hindsight and second-guessing to punish him and to instill greater wisdom in his future choices.
President Bush said, "However we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option." Again, he suggests that he has learned something, but then insists that the only possible choice is to continue doing what he’s been doing from the start.
Whether it’s deliberate or accidental, President Bush is channeling the Ministry of Truth in making these statements that are intended to manipulate the American people into believing the words coming out of his mouth more than the evidence they can see with their own eyes.
His poll numbers continue to drop, so it seems that Americans, unlike the citizens in Orwell’s book, are able to see through his lies.