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Why the Iraqis Lie Like Crazy

Because They're Believed, of Course.

by Barnabas
March 5, 2003

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Why the Iraqis Lie Like Crazy_Barnabas-Because They're Believed, of Course.
Iraq has warned it might halt the destruction of its al-Samoud II missiles if the United States continues to threaten military action without backing from the United Nations. "If it turns out that in the early stages during this month America is not going the legal way... why should we continue [destroying missiles]?" Iraqi presidential adviser General Amir al-Saadi said at a news conference.
—BBC, March 2
In the same news conference, the General also called the destruction of the missiles “pro-active cooperation,” and said that pictures of the destruction were not being released because seeing them would be “too harsh” and “unacceptable” for the Iraqi people to see. Both are obvious lies. The Iraqis destroyed the missiles after their last delaying tactic was exhausted; it would be harsh and unacceptable for Saddam if the Iraqi people were to see how hopelessly weak he is.

If lying is so obvious, why lie? Because it works often enough to try. The old proverb “The wicked flee when no man pursueth” has a corollary: When the wicked are pursued, they lie like crazy to avoid capture and punishment. Though lying is unethical behavior, it is certainly rational. History has proved over and over that half-hearted pursuers (even parents) would rather believe lies than resort to unpleasant consequences. Since war is the most unpleasant consequence of all, the avoidance of it--even at the expense of truth--appears to be a supreme virtue. Liars take advantage of this tendency for as long as anyone is willing to listen to their lies.

Before hawks on Iraq feel too brave and righteous, however, I must point out their willingness at the present time to downgrade North Korean threats and ignore Turkish deceit. (According to CBS News, the Turks have been enriching Saddam by buying his smuggled oil in open defiance of UN strictures.) I suspect we all believe lies that suit our convenience.

What’s really sad is the likelihood that General al-Saadi believes his own lies. Dictators and their cohorts are so used to their version of the facts being accepted at face value that they lose the discipline of truth. How long has it been since anyone has challenged Saddam on the facts, and survived? We don’t know, of course, which demonstrates the point even if it doesn’t prove it.

Judgment is the revelation of truth, as the little boy, in the fairy tale demonstrated when he cried out that the emperor was naked! Until the emperor was willing to see it for himself, his people went along with him. Judgment came in the form of his public humiliation.

Because judgment is the revelation of truth, it will come, sooner or later: later, and more harshly, the longer that half-hearted pursuers are willing to believe lies.

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