Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often? When we change, the government also will change.

Summary: Our leaders lie to us because they can, because we don’t hold them to a higher standard. This breaks from American’s wild west traditions, where a man’s background was unknown but his reputation was everything. This post lists five of the most outrageous US government lies since WWII. A complete list would require you to spend all day reading it. When we no longer accept lies, then the government will change. The choice begins with you and me.  Third post in this series; see links to the others at the end.

“A honest man’s word is as good as his bond.”
— Said by Sancho Panza (Don Quixote’s squire) in Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote (1605)

“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”
— George Washington in his Farewell Address (1796)

Truth, not Pravda, Will Make You Free
Truth, not Pravda, Makes US Free.


  1. Eisenhower lies about the U-2 (1960)
  2. President Clinton lied, a lot (e.g, 1998)
  3. Libyan hit teams roaming across America (1981)
  4. Iran’s nukes (1984-now)
  5. The shooting of Iran Air Flight 655 (1988)
  6. The Tonkin Gulf Incident (1964)
  7. Saddam’s link to Al Qaeda (2002)
  8. Saddam’s WMD’s (2002)
  9. Our wars in Afghanistan (1979+, 2001)
  10. Iraq’s atrocities in Kuwait (1990)
  11. For More Information

(1)  Eisenhower lies about the U-2

“Never believe anything about the government until it has been officially denied.”
— Attributed to Bismarck.

This is perhaps an inflection point in post-WWII American politics

Once the plane was shot down by the Soviet Union on May 1 {1960}, however, Eisenhower was instantly plunged into a domain of losses. … Eisenhower appeared to throw caution to the wind, cover one lie with another, and proceed to engage in a badly planned and poorly orchestrated cover-up. This cover-up was quickly revealed for the transparent web of lies it was and Eisenhower was forced to admit publicly to both spying and lying, thus creating the very outcome he had taken such risks to prevent.

Risk-Taking in International Politics, Rose McDermott (1998) — Full list of source documents here.

Eisenhower was an honorable man, and felt regret for lying to the American people.

Sometime after the Paris summit  I had a conversation with the President … the President began to talk with much feeling about how he had concentrated his efforts on ending the Cold War, how he felt that he was making big progress, and how the stupid U-2 mess had ruined all his efforts. He ended very sadly that he saw nothing worthwhile left for him to do now until the end of his presidency.

A Scientist at the White House: The Private Diary of President Eisenhower’s Special Assistant for Science and Technology by George Kistiakowsky (1976)

Those who followed him instead learned from the result — that they could lie to the American people with impunity.

Difficult to rebuild once blown away

(2)  President Clinton lied, a lot

“Since becoming a journalist I had often heard the advice to “believe nothing until it has been officially denied”.
— Claud Cockburn (Irish journalist), A Discord of Trumpets (1956)

He lies easily, frequently, without remorse, successfully. He was the model of modern American President. The Monica Lewinsky story shows Clinton in peak form. Caught in a sexual indiscretion, he lies boldly while his staff smears the girl. Feminists applaud.

“I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.”
— President Clinton’s sworn deposition in the civil suit by Paula Jones, 17 January 1998

“I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false.”
— President Clinton, press conference on 26 January 1998. On 13 April 1999 a judge found him guilty of contempt. He paid a fine of $50,000 and lost his license to practice law in Arkansas for 5 years.

“… the Clinton spin machine went into high gear. The word went out that Monica was a mentally unstable, stalking, Valley Girl sexual predator. … Proven a liar by the presence of his own DNA on Monica’s dress, Bill Clinton finally went on national television on August 17 to lance the boil and cut his losses.
— Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodam Clinton by Barbara Olson (1999)

On 17 August 1998 Clinton submitted taped testimony to the grand jury admitting he had had an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky. That evening he gave a nationally televised speech with a similar admission.

Smearing a young woman’s reputation was not the worst of his lies. On 20 August 1998 Monica Lewinsky testified for a second time before the grand jury — and Clinton launched cruise missiles to destroy the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (details here). This drove Lewinsky’s words off the front pages. The cost: that factory produced vital medicines for Sudan; their lack caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. The story was considered dubious at the time. Sudan’s government offered to have the US conduct tests on the site for the presence of the alleged chemical weapons. We, of course, refused (criminals don’t constent to CSI investigations).

As so often the case, years later the story unwound. In 2005 the New York Times reported that …

American officials have acknowledged over the years that the evidence that prompted President Clinton to order the missile strike on the Shifa plant was not as solid as first portrayed. Indeed, officials later said that there was no proof that the plant had been manufacturing or storing nerve gas, as initially suspected by the Americans, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980’s.

In 2006 the New York Times ran an article explaining that “Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer assigned to the White House, warned the president that the plan relied on inconclusive intelligence.” Timothy Noah at Slate published some typically fact-rich articles (part one; part two) showing that new evidence continues to undercut the government’s case.

Government lies - democracy dies

(3)  Libyan hit teams roaming the American homeland

“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
— Joseph de Maistre (lawyer, diplomat, philosopher), Letter 76 dated 13 August 1811) published in Lettres et Opuscules

Many Right-wing pants were wet reading about the Libyan hit teams roaming America, as described by TIME on 21 December 1981 (ungated copy). Note how this foreshadows much of the crazy post-9/11 hysteria.

According to reports received by the U.S. Government, hit teams had been dispatched by Libya to assassinate President Ronald Reagan and other top American leaders. As increasing fragments of evidence about the plot became public last week — some chilling, some bizarre, some literally beyond belief — Washington found itself embroiled in an international confrontation without precedent. If Administration reactions were confusing and contradictory, so were the facts from which decisions had to be made.

If intelligence agencies and the Secret Service seemed to be reacting with undue alarm, they could offer a justification that was hard to refute: the true calamity would be to take the threat too lightly — and be wrong. Despite skepticism in many quarters about the very existence of a hit-team plot, the White House was taking no chances. {more madness follows}

Charlie Brown falls for the Football scam, again

(4) Iran’s nukes

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, no known source (perhaps apocryphal)

Perhaps the most frequent and long-standing Right-wing hysteria since the fall of the invincible Soviet Union has been fear of Iran’s nukes, since 1984 always certainly coming to us in a few years. The failure of each prediction doesn’t protect conservatives from the next fear barrage. They always believe.

  1. Follow-up on America’s latest wetting our pants episode: Iran’s secret atomic facility, 13 November 2009
  2. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 21 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984
  3. What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear:  not as much as the news media implies
  4. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media
  5. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  6. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012
  7. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 20 January 2010
  8. Threats to attack Iran are smoke. Sanctions on Iran are our tool. Weakening Iran is our goal., 14 June 2012

Today' s special: lies

(5)  The shooting of Iran Air Flight 655

The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988. The US initially denied it (see this AP story, and the transcript of the DoD Press Briefing. The next day we took responsibility, but made a wide range of claims in defense about the location of the ship and the behavior of the aircraft — all of which justified the shooting.

On 28 July DoD published its Formal Investigation, which won the Doublespeak award for 1988 for “omission, distortion, contradiction, and misdirection”, presented by the National Council of Teachers of English (“Doublespeak and Iran Air Flight 655″). On 8 September 1988 DoD presented these lies to the House Armed Services Committee, as ritualistic a performance as Noh but without the art and music (see the transcript).

On 21 July 1992 the House Armed Services Committee again held a hearing on this incident, at which they learned they had been lied to (see the transcript). Using this information, Newsweek and ABC News did a joint “investigation”. Here’s the transcript of “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War” on Ted Koppel’s Nightline, 1 July 1992. Newsweek ran a more detailed story: “Sea of Lies“, 13 July 1992 — “The inside story of how an America naval vessel blundered into an attack on Iran Air 655 at the height of tensions during the Iran-Iraq War, and how the Pentagon tried to cover its tracks after 290 innocent civilians died.”

For detailed analysis of our lies in this matter see “Vincennes: A Case Study“,  David Evans (Lt Colonel, USMC, retired), Proceedings (US Naval Institute), August 1993. Justice was served, eventually, when Iran sued in the International Court of Justice. The US paid compensation in 1996 to avoid a trial. The US has never apologized.

(6) The Tonkin Gulf Incident

“For all I know, our navy was shooting at whales out there.”
— President Johnson to his press secretary, Bill Moyers

This episode should be required reading in high school civics classes. From The History Channel, 1 August 2014 — Opening:

On August 2, 1964, the U.S. destroyer Maddox exchanged shots with North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later, the Maddox and another destroyer reported once again coming under fire. Although most historians, including those employed by the U.S. military, have since concluded that the second of those attacks never actually occurred, it served as the pretext for an immediate ramp-up of the Vietnam War. By the end of the day, President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered retaliatory air strikes, and by late 1965 some 180,000 American troops were on the ground, with more on the way.

The Truth about Tonkin“, Pat Patterson (Lt Commander, USN), Navy History Magazine, February 2008 — Summary:

Questions about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents have persisted for more than 40 years. But once-classified documents and tapes released in the past several years, combined with previously uncovered facts, make clear that high government officials distorted facts and deceived the American public about events that led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Also read about the NSA’s role, based on declassified documents.

(7)  Saddam’s link to Al Qaeda

As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.

— Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 24 August 1815

Much evidence suggests that proving this was the primary goal of the CIA torture program (the very opposite of the ticking time bomb scenario). They were unable to find much evidence. As experts said from the beginning.

(8) Saddam’s WMD’s

The Bush Administration put great pressure on US intelligence agencies to manufacture evidence that Saddam’s Iraq had WMD’s. This proved, as outside experts said, totally false.

(9)  Our wars in Afghanistan

Our first involvement — under Carter and Reagan — was cloaked in lies: Hidden history of our first step into the Afghanistan War. It’s still important for us to understand., 6 August 2012.

So was our second, after 9-11: The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan, 23 June 2009.

Nayirah testifying

(10)  Iraq’s atrocities in Kuwait

We were yet again led to war by lies in . Kuwait, their PR agency Hill & Knowlton — with the connivance of the US government (who knew these were lies) and the assistance of our gullible journalists — horrified America with tales about the atrocities of Iraq’s soldiers in Kuwait. The highlight was the tearful testimony of “Nayirah” before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on 10 October 1990. Heart-reanding, except to those behind the scenes that did high-fives at our stupidity. She was in fact Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ he daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador; the stories were bogus.

For more about this sad example of our gullibility see the links at Wikipedia or the Center for Media & Democracy’s “How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf“.

(11)  For More Information

(a)  Other posts in this series:

  1. Another day, another campaign of fearmongering in America: North Korea’s cyberattack on Sony., 18 December 2014
  2. The FBI told their story about North Korea attacking Sony. Before we retaliate, read what they didn’t tell you., 20 December 2014
  3. Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often? When we change, the government also will change., 22 December 2014
  4. See how the news shapes our beliefs about the North Korea hack, 23 December 2014
  5. Marcus Ranum explains a major challenge of cyberwar: About Attribution (identifying your attacker).
Katy Perry wearing a ballot dress at 'America Forward' grassroots event with President Barack Obama in Las Vegas
The solution: vote.

(b)  Information operations by military and intel agencies:

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!,
    2 September 2009
  2. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  3. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us),
    26 November 2008
  4. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we’re sheep, 2 December 2008
  5. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
  6. The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!,
    17 October 2011
  7. Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons, generating waves of fear in America for 20 years, 9 November 2011
  8. Using covert operations to discredit your enemies, 27 November 2011

(c)  Our civilian leaders often lie:

  1. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  2. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  3. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 15 September 2010
  4. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  5. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  6. We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us, 14 May 2013
  7. A nation lit only by propaganda, 3 June 2013
  8. The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions., 24 July 2013
  9. We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today, 15 April 2014

Truth in society

7 thoughts on “Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often? When we change, the government also will change.”

  1. Russ Baker’s “Family of Secrets” touched on the U2 crash, and explained that it scuttled Eisenhower’s Peace Summit. Kruschev gave Eisenshower an out, but it seems Eisenhower knew the CIA was behind the U2 “crash” and for his health he’d have to fall on his sword. Which explains his warning on the military industrial complex in his farewell address.



  3. Pingback: The Most Useful News Story of 2015 | Bill Totten's Weblog

  4. Pingback: The Most Useful News Story of 2015. | TRUTH TIME

  5. Actually your wrong. The WMD’s were talked about by Hillary and the rest of the Clintons and they considered going in then which might have been better since we were not deep in debt then and could easily pay off any war debts.

    The real problem was we actually waited two years I believe it was before we actually went into Iraq. Bush and the rest of the GOP spent a year and a half just arguing rather then just going in which gives time to hide the nukes by shipping pieces of them out of the country.

    For those who pay attention they are now in Syria which Obama was warned if he went to war and blew up Syria there was a risk of the weapons exploding and they already had a mini explosion from an accident where weapons went off prematurely inside a factory.

    These things were in the news very briefly then pulled so only talk radio mentioned it mostly at night and even they stopped.

    If you listen to the same station you get different news in the night where less people are alert compared to the day which I think more monitoring is goingon.

  6. Instead of going in like we should’ve the Clintions decided to throw a few missiles here and a few there mostly missing rather then hitting wasting our supply of weapons and his sex scandal wasn’t with just one women.

    His employees came up later and reported being threatened unless they joined in as they didn’t want to lose their jobs if they didn’t comply so were sexually raped in a way. The news briefly talked about it but again it was pulled.

    I was little at the time but remember it happening and the scandal it caused with the workers. The news as soon as the cruise missiles were launched totally fabricated the rest of the sex scandal.

  7. If we had entered Iraq right away instead of wasting 10 years BSing about it we would’ve had the money to rebuilt their nation as that’s always been a past history when we invade enemy nations we always rebuilt the infrastructure afterwards and foot the bill for it.

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