The late I. F. Stone, perhaps the greatest investigative journalist in American history, universally known as Izzie, always insisted that “All governments lie….Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed.” He didn’t quite mean that governments always lie, but that they should never get the benefit of the doubt.
That’s why he had such contempt for those media that routinely publish whatever spin governments peddle. He never ever asked officials for information, on or off the record, knowing they were always trying to hustle a self-serving message, often as not a dishonest one. And just about every day he exposed some Washington lie or other that everyone else had simply swallowed.
Stone applauded the work of whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, just as he’d surely hail the exposes of government malfeasance by Assange/Manning/Snowden, indifferent to their motives or personal traits. Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of America’s involvement in Vietnam, demonstrating that for two decades, just about every word on the subject by any American administration, Republican or Democrat, had been an outright lie.
Stone died in 1989, but he would’ve laughed uproariously the very next year at the breathtakingly deceitful propaganda campaign to soften up Americans for George H. W. Bush’s attack on Saddam Hussein after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Stone would’ve feasted on the moment when a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl told a credulous American congressional hearing that she had seen Iraqi soldiers enter a Kuwaiti hospital and wrench 312 babies from their incubators to the cold hospital floor to die. Every syllable was a lie. She was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., she was coached by a handsomely-compensated Hill and Knowlton vice-president, and the entire incident was fabricated.
Look what else Izzie missed in D.C. by dying too soon. Bill Clinton not having sex with that girl. Bill Clinton not knowing what was happening in Rwanda during the genocide when he refused to send reinforcements. George W. Bush and Colin Powell guaranteeing the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Barack Obama asserting that the Syrian government is using poison gas. Obama — remorseless liberal persecutor of whistleblowers — would have broken Izzie’s heart.
And what a field day Izzie Stone would have had right here in Canada. A connoisseur of George Orwell’s Ministries of Peace, Truth and Love, you can be sure he’d have demonstrated with much glee that our federal ministers of labour, justice and the environment were actually ministers against labour, justice and the environment. Just as War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength, he’d love that for our government, secrecy is accountability, justice is punishment and environmentalism is pipelines.
Or imagine him revelling in DuffyWrightGate. The Prime Minister’s single statement to the House about what he did and didn’t know would alone have filled an entire issue of I. F. Stone’s Weekly. He would have demonstrated, based on RCMP statements, that much of what Mr. Harper solemnly told the House was not true, just as numerous other assertions by government and Conservative party spokespeople have obviously not been true.
Chief of staff Nigel Wright did not act alone in giving Sen. Duffy $90,172, as the PM maintained; at least three senior PMO staff were also in the loop, as was the influential Sen. Irving Gerstein, the party’s top money man. How could the PM not have know that? How could he then not know about the deal itself? Stone appreciated nothing more than implausible deniability.
The Conservative party insisted it had nothing to do with paying off Duffy’s Senate debt. Yes, but they were ready to do exactly that.
Harperites piously claimed they didn’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for Duffy’s illicit activities. Yet the party was prepared to fork over 32,000 taxpayer-subsidized dollars, balking only when they learned he owed three times that amount. Did the head of the party, one S. Harper, know?
One day Mr. Harper proclaimed his complete confidence in Mr. Wright; the next, Mr. Wright was chopped liver. One day Mr. Wright gave Mr. Duffy all that moolah because they were close pals; the next day, nodding acquaintances. One day Duffy was hailed for his leadership; the next he was out of the Conservative caucus. How Izzie would have treasured it all.
What Izzie Stone wanted, beyond anything in the world except peace, social justice and equality, was one day to have his aphorism about government lies itself proved a lie. Wherever he is, he’s still waiting.
This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail
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