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Even in peacetime, government lies are so commonplace as to hardly be news. During wartime, however, the government fib fabricator goes into overdrive — as does the coverup machinery. Decades may pass before wartime lies are exposed, and even more time may elapse before the government admits to having deceived the public.

Barbary PiratesWhen Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States on March 4, 1801, there was but a fleeting hint of warning in his Inaugural Address about dangers to the young Republic from distant forces abroad. America would pursue “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none,” he proclaimed. But he also asked for “that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.”

Robert WelchIn 1914, when the Old World was at war, the New, unaware of the designs of its political and financial leaders, expected to stay out of the latest European upheaval. American public opinion was firmly opposed to violating in any way our neutral posture, which meant that America’s young men were still graduating from high school, going to college, and finding gainful employment. One such crop of optimistic youth was enduring a philosophy class at the University of North Carolina, an exercise in sophistry taught by the venerable but insufferable Horace Williams. Professor Williams’ class, we may imagine, was typical for the time: a couple dozen well-groomed young men and a few young women sitting at buckling wooden desks made in the previous century, trying to grasp the contradictory axioms imparted by the tweedy, subversive Williams.

Osama bin LadenThe popular narrative surrounding the life of Osama bin Laden is filled with questions, intrigue, and misinformation. Though he ultimately became one of the most loathed figures in the American psyche, it’s important to remember that bin Laden was once a good friend of the U.S. government. In many ways, he can even be considered a creation of American officials and their allies. His Mujahedeen, or Islamic warriors, were even armed, trained, supplied and financed by America and some of its allies.

Questions about President Obama’s ever-changing narrative on Osama bin Laden’s reported assassination and rampant speculation that at least some Pakistani officials may have been involved in hiding the terrorist leader have been swirling around the internet in recent days. But there’s another important angle that has received less attention: Assuming bin Laden really was killed over the weekend — his death has been reported on numerous occasions by credible sources since 2001 — how could it take so long for the most powerful governments in the world to find one man?

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