The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy

By Lionel Cliffe; Maureen Ramsay et al. | Go to book overview

Conclusions

Maureen Ramsay and Lionel Cliffe

Examination of the political contexts in which lying takes place in these case studies has revealed that political explanations for deception are not the claims of realpolitik, nor are they requirements of successful policy, still less the desire to serve the national or the public interests. The cases discussed in this book reveal that these political deceptions were not driven or justified by needs of this sort.

The Watergate lies were defended by federal officials under the guise of national security. National security justifications in this case functioned to cover up illegal acts by Republican party officials seeking to ensure the re-election of Nixon. Lies told to the American public about Vietnam were not motivated by the need to promote the national interest, but by the need to avoid democratic accountability for actions and policies which were incompatible with the beliefs and values of many American citizens. Debate about the escalation of the war under President Johnson was suppressed because he could not rely on popular support for such policies. Nixon's clandestine bombing of Laos and Cambodia and his attempt to mislead the public over the 1970 invasion of Cambodia were motivated by concern about public and congressional resistance to widening the war in Indochina. The 'war on drugs' had a different logic. A particular strategy of exporting a war on drugs was adopted with a great fanfare to give the illusion this widespread problem was being tackled and to avoid confronting the powerful interests behind the drug trade. The Reagan administration's attempt to conceal trading arms for hostages with Iran and its illegal supply of arms to Nicaragua cannot be explained by the need to protect national interests. Secrecy was necessary to avoid the effects of popular disapproval about dealing with a regime linked to terrorism and US military support for the Contras in Nicaragua.

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