some reason during this last weekend I got interested in the
Perhaps it had something to do with the first anniversary
of the start of George W.’s Iraq War, but I can’t say for
sure. All I know is that I’ve had the word in my vocabulary
for some time and I seem to be invoking it a lot lately. So,
concerned that I might not be using it appropriately, I decided
to check this word out a bit further.
It appears that the word has been in the English language
for some time. Its history goes back through the Middle English
“liere” to the Old English “leogan.” So, in the evolution
of English, “liar” may have etymological roots that stretch
back to the fifth-century twilight of our language. During
all that time the noun has consistently meant “one who lies.”
Since a liar is one who tells lies, one must immediately proceed
to the word “lie” to further refine our understanding of how
our language refers to the behavior. Lies and liars form a
symbiotic relationship wherein each is dependent on the other
for linguistic perpetuity. Lies continue to exist because
there are liars, and liars continue to exist because lies
So, what is a lie?
My little dictionary defines “lie” as “an untrue statement
intended to deceive; falsehood.” It goes on with a second
definition: “Anything that deceives or creates a false impression.”
So, a lie is the opposite of the truth and involves the intent
to deceive. Deceiving is defined by my worn dictionary as
“to mislead by or as by falsehood; delude.” To delude is “to
mislead the mind or judgment of; deceive.” This gets us back
to deception, which is central to what constitutes a lie and
how one might qualify to be rightfully called a “liar” in
the correct linguistic sense of the term.
It’s certainly possible to make an untrue statement without
having deception involved. This would be the case when someone
has been misled to accept something as truth when it is not.
So, not all untrue statements are lies if the speaker of such
statements is misinformed or makes them without the intent
to deceive and mislead.
During the Reagan administration, the tactic of “plausible
deniability” flowered as an important means to provide cover
for lies. As long as the president was insulated enough (through
his own ignorance or the control of information by underlings)
that he relied on the “truth” of others, he could claim absolution
from fostering untruths: How can someone be a liar if he or
she doesn’t know what the truth is?
On March 17, 2003, George W. addressed the nation just days
before bombing Baghdad. He claimed, “Intelligence gathered
by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq
regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal
weapons ever devised.” He went on to argue that these weapons
of mass destruction posed a direct and immediate threat to
this country. He also claimed that Iraq was in league with
Al Qaeda and likely to share WMD with the terrorist organization.
These were the main reasons that George W. claimed that a
preemptive attack on Iraq was necessary.
Over the last year, much research has been done on the formulation
of George W.’s decision to attack Iraq. Along the way, U.S.
forces in the country have (like their U.N. inspector predecessors)
failed to find the WMD George W. claimed existed. Of course,
the initial response of George W. was that the WMD were out
there, they just hadn’t been found yet. This story has recently
morphed into the claim that he led this country into war to
liberate the people of Iraq.
As U.S. military and civilian deaths mount, along with the
costs to U.S. taxpayers, there is a growing sense that George
W. has been less than truthful in presenting the facts behind
his war with Iraq. He has increasingly been labeled with the
L-word. But is this justified?
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently produced
a report that looked at these claims. Weapons of Mass Destruction
in Iraq: Evidence and Implications raises serious questions
about George W.’s main arguments for going to war. The report
found that George W. and his administration had, “systematically
misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile
programs . . .” It also found that George W. and gang were
“routinely dropping caveats, probabilities and expressions
of uncertainty present in intelligence assessments from public
statements.” According to the report, “There was no evidence
to support the claim that Iraq would have transferred WMD
to Al Qaeda and much evidence to counter it.”
The Carnegie report is but one example of a growing volume
of evidence indicating George W. was not truthful with the
American people regarding the immediacy of the need for war
with Iraq. But does that make him a liar?
Well, let’s get back to our simple definitions. First, did
George W. lie, did he intentionally deceive the public with
untruths? The answer to this question appears to be yes. From
his own statements, it is clear that George W. deceptively
manipulated information to make his case for war. He has not
claimed that he was misled by underlings or that lack of personal
intelligence led him to faulty reasoning in this decision
to go to war. He lied and apparently lied big time.
So, is George W. a liar? As one who has used untruths to deceive,
delude and mislead it appears that he fits the definition.
George W. Bush is a liar.
As a candidate, George W. claimed that his mission was to
restore honor and integrity to the office of president. Ironically,
his willingness to lie in order to go to war with Iraq shows
that another mission George W. deemed critical to his administration
has dramatically failed.