We should know by now to be careful to guard our judgments about events in which our leaders may well have reason to mislead us. Recent history has shown us a number of official lies, for example, President Lyndon Johnson’s acceptance of Israel’s explanation that it made a “mistake” in bombing the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967, President Reagan’s insistence that “we did not -- repeat did not -- trade weapons or anything else for hostages nor will we” and President George W. Bush’s persistent claim of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.
We should learn the value in deciding for ourselves how to respond to false statements made by our leaders and to reason to what extent it matters. The key is to understand why the lie is told.
President Johnson did not want to alienate the strong pro-Israeli support he had by publicly accusing Israel of acting with knowledge that it struck a United States ship. President Reagan likely could not believe that people in his Administration would resort to a wild ploy of selling weapons to the Ayatollah in Iran. President Bush wanted a war with Iraq and was willing to sell the idea with lies.
So why did our leaders lie about the events of 9/11?
One need only to look at the consequences of each lie told.
The naming of Osama bin Laden as the leader of the attacks gave our leaders a scapegoat that the public could focus on instead of upon our government.
The allegations of hijackers taking over airplanes and crashing them allowed our leaders to portray the attacks in an emotional, even numbing way.
The identification of passengers with their pictures convinced the public that people really died in airplane crashes. It was again the use of emotion over facts, facts that could not support commercial airplane crashes.
The story itself serves as a psychological operation to instill fear in the public about something almost all of us have done: take an airplane flight.
The greatest lesson of all is the awareness that anything could happen in the future and that we will not likely receive any warning that our leaders are lying to us. Our greatest gift to ourselves and to others is our ability to think for ourselves.