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Hubris Isn't the Half of It

Hubris Isn't the Half of It

By David Swanson
February 18, 2013

As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air. The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.

From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.

But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris. This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC's role.

Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust. It is now cool to acknowledge war lies. Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen.

MSNBC host and Obama promoter Rachel Maddow even introduced Hubris by pointing to another war lie -- the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn't -- and a war lie by a Democrat in that case. Similar lies can be found surrounding every war that has ever been, which is why I wrote War Is A Lie. We have to stop imagining that "bad wars" are a subset of wars.

But, of course, using Maddow as the presenter and narrator of a film about Republican war lies during a period of unacknowledged Democratic war lies unavoidably gives the thing a partisan slant. Watching Hubris, I was reminded of something that Michael Moore tweeted last Friday: "Senate Repubs: U started 2 illegal wars that broke the treasury & sacrificed the lives of thousands of our troops & countless civilians."

Of course, the Senate that gave us the two wars in question was in reality controlled by Democrats, and the war lies were pushed hard by Senators Kerry, Clinton, and their comrades. Hubris touches on this reality but not with sufficient clarity for most viewers -- I suspect -- to pick up on it.

The film presents a great deal of good evidence that the war on Iraq was based on lies. Unavoidably, endless terrific bits of such evidence were not included. Less excusably, also left out was an analysis of the evidence that only dishonesty -- not incompetence -- explains the propaganda that was produced.

Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq. The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance. The word "hubris" suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party. But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq. It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq.

Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties.

It was not pride but a disregard for human life that generated mass murder. Congressman Walter Jones, who voted for the war, is shown in Hubris saying that he would have voted No if he had bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate that very few of his colleagues bothered to read.

Another talking head in the film is Lawrence Wilkerson. He is, of course, the former chief of staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is shown explaining that the reason not to attack Iraq was that doing so would take a focus away from attacking Afghanistan. Clearly this was not a reason that led to Wilkerson or Powell taking any kind of stand.

Wilkerson says in this film that he and Powell knew the war was based on lies, that the claims were junk, that no WMDs were likely to be found, etc. Yet, when confronted last week by Norman Solomon on Democracy Now! with the question of why he hadn't resigned in protest, Wilkerson claimed that at the time he'd had no idea whatsoever that there were good arguments against the war. In fact, he blamed opponents of the war for not having contacted him to educate him on the matter.

The Hubris version of Colin Powell's lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold. Powell was not a victim. He "knowingly lied."

The same goes for Bush, Cheney, and gang. According to Hubris it may have just been incompetence or hubris. It wasn't. Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

What's the difference? In a society based on the rule of law, the difference would be a criminal prosecution. MSNBC and Hubris steer us away from any ideas of accountability. And no connection is drawn to current war lies about Iran or other nations.

But the production of programs like this one that prolong Americans' awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq are the best hope Iran has right now. MSNBC should be contacted and applauded for airing this and urged to follow up on it.


David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and Facebook.

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