White Lie Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1604 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Military

White Lies in Government

Google search performed on the phrase "truth in government" returns approximately 84 million hits, none even remotely associated with action by the United States government to withhold information from citizens. Most accusations are listed under the heading of homeland security. Conspiracy theorists abound, but there is some truth to the idea that the government often times withholds information for the good of national security. But is this necessarily good for the citizenry?

A recent report filed by the Inspector General's office verifies dirty dealings within the current administration regarding political appointments in the Justice Department. Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan testified before Congress that the Bush Administration purposefully hid mistakes in intelligence and refused to provide data to Congress during hearings regarding the leak of a CIA operative's name. Even more significant, it appears that the administration manipulated information on the Iraqi threat to the United States prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. Bush apologists continue to state information has been withheld from the general populace in the name of homeland security and to the benefit of the U.S. As a whole. Is this justifiable?

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As Americans we believe participation of the people is the primary element of democracy, especially so when decisions affect the lives of many. Transparency of government not only allows citizens to participate in democracy, but also to hold officials accountable for their actions. Was the secrecy which surrounding current administration actions an attempt to protect us, or was it an attempt to avoid responsibility?

Term Paper on White Lie Assignment

Obviously, transparency of government would need to differ in degrees. As in the recent case of Valarie Plame, maintaining secrecy surrounding her role in the CIA was tantamount not only to her safety but the safety of her contacts and operatives. The naming of Ms. Plame was a breach of national security and was also found to be a violation of Law, under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Under this act, it is criminal for anyone with access to classified information to intentionally disclose the information in an attempt to identify a covert agent. When questioned, CIA officials would have had to deny knowledge of Ms. Plame's employment, a "lie" told for her own safety.

These types of lies would appear to be understandable and allowable, in that they are protecting intelligence operations and essentially lack elements of manipulation and deception.

Conversely, one must then consider the information released in 2003 regarding the potential threat of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein. Five years after our invasion of Iraq we now understand that the statements made by the administration regarding the threat posed to us by Iraq were inflammatory and, perhaps, part of an organized campaign to galvanize public opinion in support of the invasion. Was it a lie, or were the Bush people mislead? The administration continues to stand by the data used to justify the invasion.

If the invasion of Iraq was based on deliberately misleading evidence, one must also consider what the motivation would be for such an undertaking. Motivation aside, the effect of statements surrounding the nuclear threat from Iraq, when taken in the context of the recent World Trade Center bombings, resulted in a media frenzy of sort which allowed reporting of the "facts" supplied by the Bush administration without a significant degree of independent validation. In this case, if we are to believe the administration deliberately lied as a means to an end (the end being the invasion of Iraq), this would appear to be no different than lying about Ms. Plame, except when one considers the motivation. If the Bush administration deliberately fabricated information surrounding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the degree to which Iraq represented a threat to the security and safety of American citizens, then one must assume this was a paternalistic device. This type of lying is not made in an attempt to safeguard but rather to persuade and coerce. Lying like this coerces the American public subtly into support for an action that, had the entire truth been known would have probably been rejected wholesale. The entire democratic process is then subverted and transparency of government is destroyed. Would we be willing to accept an excuse, if only to understand the processes? Excuses are meant to extenuate and even remove blame. When one makes an excuse, one is saying though there may have been a fault there is a lack of responsibility (there was a good reason for the lie). To date, the administration has used this type of excuse, modifying the lie in that there was never intent for the administration to mislead but rather the information given to the public was wrong, and it is not the fault of the government that they, too, were deceived.

Does repentance or admission of culpability in such a lie decrease its significance? Is it possible for the government to say, "This (action) was done in an effort to secure the country?" Can the means be accepted without the method? What if the Bush administration had only suspected the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction, invaded and then found the suspicions to be true? If this lie had come out later on, would that have made the lies more palatable to the American people? Would the liars then be redeemed, since the action was eventually justified? Since 2003, even the Bush administration has been forced to backpedal on some of the statements. The president has acknowledged there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq and that intelligence had been incorrect. Bush continues to assert, however, that he stands by his decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. The apparent dichotomy is attributed to a faulty intelligence service

What of those who have been lied to? What is the effect on the population? Primarily, we are less likely to believe again and may experience emotions as varied as resentment, sorrow and suspicion. Hindsight allows us to examine our own reactions in light of new information and often times these "white lies" leave us feeling manipulated and powerless. When those in power lie, even when the intention is "good," the element of choice is taken away from us as a people. While public officials are elected to represent us in Congress or in Washington D.C., we do not elect them to take control and make decisions for us, deciding what we can or cannot handle and taking away from citizens the ability to make an informed choice.

So there are lies, and there are lies. In my opinion, the use of a white lie "for the good of the people" is democratically unacceptable as it is morally reprehensible. It is not in the country's best interests to allow delegation of control in the name of homeland security. None of the lies we have been told have been trivial, and many lives have been lost - at least 4000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqi citizens, leaving us to wonder what it is all for. But when considering even triviality, it is not appropriate for the government to assume a paternalistic role and attempt coercion. It would not even be enough at this point for the administration to address the obvious manipulation of facts and events. The president is not our father, and we are not children. Of course, as in any government there is a requirement for regulation. But abuse of regulation borders on what may euphemistically be called "protection" and negatively termed deception. In my opinion, the government has not acted in a "paternalistic" manner towards us in that one would assume a "father" to lie to protect children, while in this case there appears to have been manipulation and deception. The… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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White Lie.  (2008, June 26).  Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/white-lie/14828

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"White Lie."  Essaytown.com.  June 26, 2008.  Accessed April 14, 2021.