L. Neil Smith's
Number 266, April 11, 2004

Taxation is the Root of All Evil

It Depends On What Your Definition of "Lies" Is.
by Anthony Gregory

Exclusive to TLE

When asked by a Grand Jury in August of 1998 whether he lied about statements he had made about sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton replied:

"It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' means. If it means 'is,' and 'never has been,' that's one thing. If it means, 'there is none,' that was a completely true statement."

Clinton haters had a field day. Here was our lying president, defending his honor on the basis of the definition of the simple word, "is."

I joined in on the laughter. I was in high school at the time, and wrote an article for my school newspaper calling for Clinton to resign.

Of course, the real reason I wanted him out of office had nothing to do with that statement, which I actually consider one of his most honest ever. If someone asked me if there "is" a sexual relationship between me and an ex-girlfiend, I would probably say no. There "is" such a relationship historically, just as there "is" an alliance between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. But the same type of relationship no longer exists between modern Russia and Germany, any more than the same type of relationship "is" present between me and my ex-girlfriend. And perhaps Clinton — however evasive he was of the spirit of the question — was at least literally honest when he denied a current sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

Before I'm accused of being a Clinton apologist, let me mention the major reason I did want him booted out of office: he waged mass murder on a peaceful group of civilians in Waco, Texas. He violated his oath of office every day, by trashing the Constitution in thousands of ways. But in 1998, before Kosovo, I thought Waco was his single most horrific, most unconstitutional, and most impeachable crime. For the best single source I've seen on the actual crimes and Bill of Rights violations committed by Clinton, check out James Bovard's "Feeling Your Pain": The Explosion of Government Power and Abuse in the Clinton-Gore Years. (Incidentally, Bovard has also done a bang-up job [exposing Bush].)

The fact that Clinton committed so many real crimes made libertarians agree with conservatives that the man should be thrown out, even if most people in the latter group probably supported the worst of the president's atrocities and were only jealous of his knack for getting away with anything he wanted.

So of course Clinton should have been impeached and removed from office, just like every president in American history, except for maybe four or five, should have.

Nowadays, defenders of Bush don't quibble about something like the definition of "is" — the third personal singular present indicative tense of "be" — a word whose meaning is, in fact, contextual and debatable. No, they argue that Bush's claims he used to sell the Iraq War were not actually "lies."

American Heritage Dictionary says a "lie" is:

1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression."

Congressman Henry Waxman has created an [online searchable database] of 237 misleading statements made by the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the illegal and aggressive War on Iraq. I have often thought that the only good a politician can do is point out the sins of another, and maybe be an obstacle to his or her more statist colleagues. This was true in the Watergate hearings, it was true during the Waco hearings, and it is true now. Ron Paul, whom I admire dearly, is an asset because he loudly exposes and attempts to disrupt the follies and crimes of his peers.

I encourage every American who cares about government lies to look through the database. There are multiple statements about how Saddam "has had contacts with Al Qaeda" and how he's "seeking nuclear weapons." There's the classic claim about "a growing fleet of manned an unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

There's the statement that Saddam was pursuing "high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons," and the complimentary claim that Saddam had "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." All Saddam would need is an "amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball," and Saddam could "have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." In addition, Saddam had a "massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions."

"The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion," Bush assured us all: "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take."

These statements were false. They were misleading. And Bush knew it. They were, by any reasonable definition, as much lies as anything Clinton said to the American people, and certainly at least as destructive.

Bush supporters aren't reasonable, and have a different definition of the word, "lies." From their defense of the president, I imagine it's something along the lines of:

"A falsehood, or something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression, said by a Democrat."

If Kerry wins this November, and next year we libertarians find ourselves circumstantially alongside conservatives again in our criticisms of the state, remember how strangely these partisan Bush apologists define the word "lies."

And then ponder — seriously ponder — how much you would agree with them on what their definition of "freedom" is.

Bush said at his State of the Union this year that "the people of Iraq are free." If his fellow Republicans do not consider this a lie, I sincerely hope America never becomes free, as they would define it.

Anthony Gregory is a libertarian writer and musician living in Berkeley, California. Check out his website, AnthonyGregory.com, for more articles and personal information.


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