If a new "catastrsophic and catalyzing event" happened tomorrow... would the public blindly support the government in a headlong rush to war or would they question what they were being told?
Now that mustachioed super villain John Bolton is in the driver's seat of America's foreign policy, an old video of the arch-neocon admitting he would lie to the public to achieve his goals is making the rounds once again. Go ahead and watch it for yourself.
Here's the money quote for those who missed it: "If I had to say something I knew was false to protect American national security, I would do it."
The example he gives to flesh out his point is relatively uncontroversial. "I don’t think we’re often faced with that difficulty, but would I lie about where the D-Day invasion was going to take place to deceive the Germans, you’d better believe it."
But is that where the principle of knowingly lying to the public in the name of "national security" begins and ends? Not revealing the dates and locations of planned military operations? Or do you think that someone like John Bolton and his neocon friends just might use this idea of lying to achieve his goals a bit more liberally?
In fact, we don't even have to wonder about this point, and nor should we be shocked in the least that a neocon like Bolton—who is now openly lusting after regime change in Iran and Venezuela—would profess his allegiance to the "noble lie." All it takes is a little examination of the historical roots of the neocons to see that this has always been there openly admitted policy.
To understand who the neocons are and what they really believe, we have to look at the godfather of the neocon movement, Leo Strauss. Born into an orthodox Jewish family in Prussia in 1899, Strauss received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Hamburg in 1921, also taking classes at the Universities of Freiburg and Marburg where he joined a Jewish fraternity and worked for the German Zionist movement. He headed to Paris on a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1932, and then headed to England before finally settling down in the United States. After becoming an American citizen, Strauss became a professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 1949, where he remained until 1969.
Strauss' iconoclastic teachings on philosophy, politics and religion earned him a reputation as "somebody who wanted to go back to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure fascism." Among his many students who went on to be influential in their own fields were Allan Bloom, Susan Sontag, Abram Shulsky and Paul Wolfowitz. You might recognize the latter two names as two key members of the neocon movement that went on to infest the administration of George W. Bush and ultimately lie America into the Iraq war. This is not a trivial connection.
There was something of a journalistic industry in the early 2000s noting Leo Strauss' connection to the Bush administration's neocon cabal. Seymour Hersh got the ball rolling with a landmark New Yorker article which made the connection between the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (OSP) and the Straussian Neocons.
The Office of Special Plans was a Pentagon unit created by arch-neocons Paul Wolfowitz and David Feith in 2002 for the express purpose of cherry-picking data to create a case against Iraq in the run-up to the Second Gulf War. The director of the OSP was none other than aforementioned Strauss acolyte Abram Shulsky.
As Hersh pointed out in his article, Shulsky's adherence to Strauss was not a trivial matter. As Shulsky himself wrote in a scholarly article he co-wrote on Strauss and intelligence gathering, Strauss' philosophy "suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception." Strauss modeled his defense of political deception on the "noble lie," or the idea propounded by Plato in The Republic that, in order to advance their agenda, a ruling elite must sometimes knowingly propagate myths. It was clearly a lesson that Shulsky and the other neocons took to heart.
After the publication of Hersh's New Yorker article, the floodgates were open and numerous articles appeared connecting Strauss' idea of the "noble lie"—expounded on in an informative interview with political philosopher Shadia Drury—to the run up to the war in Iraq, including pieces in Alternet, Counterpunch, the International Herald Tribune, and even The Straight Dope. The article also inspired a defense of Strauss and the neocons from the neocons' own mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard.
Most of these articles echoed Hersh in connecting the neocons' propensity to lie about intelligence with Strauss' idea that the elite must obscure reality behind noble lies and pious frauds in order to inflict their will on the unwashed masses. Some even connected Strauss to the rhetoric employed by the Bush administration in their execution of the war on terror—"regime" being Strauss' preferred term for the Aristotelian category corresponding to the essence of a state. From this we get the now ubiquitous term "regime change."
The examples of (ig)noble lies propagated by the neocons in the Bush administration to advance their agenda of regime change in the Middle East are too numerous to mention. Such a list would have to encompass Bush's (s)election, Iraq's non-existent WMDs, the likely result of overthrowing Saddam, the real nature of Abu Ghraib, and, of course, the foundational lie of our political era: 9/11.
It is not difficult to see how the 9/11 lie would have benefited this group of power-hungry schemers. The events of that day served as an enabler for the group, the perfect opportunity to implement their agenda. This point is not even controversial. It was openly admitted by Vincent Cannistraro—a former CIA counter-terrorism chief who once worked with Abram Shultz—in Hersh's article:
"Abe is very gentle and slow to anger, with a sense of irony. But his politics were typical for his group—the Straussian view." The group's members, Cannistraro said, "reinforce each other because they're the only friends they have, and they all work together. This has been going on since the nineteen-eighties, but they've never been able to coalesce as they have now. September 11th gave them the opportunity, and now they're in heaven."
We all know by now about the neocon cabal and their motivation for creating a 9/11-style event. It was put in black and white in the neocons' own document from September 2000, Rebuilding America's Defenses, which became a blueprint for their work in the Bush administration. The paper—put out by the neocon cabal's Project for a New American Century, which included Shultz, William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and "Scooter" Libby—lays out the neocons' plans for "shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests." Infamously, page 51 of the document contains the following passage: "Further, the process of transformation [of the American military], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor."
And, conveniently, that "new Pearl Harbor" arrived on September 11, 2001, just nine months into "W"'s tenure as Dissembler-in-Chief. Also conveniently, the man in charge of the 9/11 Commission that ultimately wrote the official government history of that day, Philip Zelikow, just happened to be a neocon whose own self-described expertise is in the creation and management of “public myth.”
But if 9/11 was a Straussian "noble lie" used by the neocons to win public support for their plan to redraw the map of the Middle East and implement a turnkey tyranny at home, the obvious question is what sort of "catastrophic and catalyzing event" would they be willing to engineer in order to realize their dream of regime change in Iran or Venezuela?
Sadly, given that John Bolton—a neocon who has never heard of a foreign intervention he didn't like—is currently serving as National Security Advisor to Trump and is openly lusting after regime change in both Iran and Venezuela (and even ordering reviews of plans to send 120,000 American troops to the Middle East), this is a question that may be answered before the next presidential (s)election in 2020.
But perhaps there is a silver lining to this tragic tale of terror and tyranny. The elite are only required to propagate "noble lies" like 9/11 because the public's perceptions and opinions matter. The corollary of this observation is that if people do not fall for the noble lie, then the would-be elite won't be able to implement their agenda.
So now we have another question to ask ourselves: If a new "catastrsophic and catalyzing event" happened tomorrow, and if it was immediately blamed on Iran or Venezuela or Russia or China or any of the neocons' other bogeymen, would the public blindly support the government in a headlong rush to war or would they question what they were being told?