The Air Is Thick With Lies
By Jimmy Breslin
NEW YORK, August 24, 2003: I was a few hundred yards up on Liberty Street when the Two Tower of the World Trade Center blew. I put my nose inside my shirt and ran through smoke that turned day into night. In the smoke were computers, asbestos, pulverized glass, human bodies, lead. I got on another street and One Tower blew up. Again, the air was black with a pulverized 110-story building.
I did not feel well for two months. I never said anything because I was too embarrassed. A couple of thousand had died. So many others were scorched and broken and maimed. I had no right to open my mouth, I thought. Besides, from the first day, the government's Environmental Protection Agency had announced that air was remarkably clean. Work on. Breathe on. You're fine.
They lied. They lied because the administration did not want people not going to work. They lied the first week and they lied the week after that and they have lied every day of the past two years to the people of this city.
Christine Whitman was the EPA head until recently. I wasn't disturbed that her education was a jump-horse school, but I thought she was better than standing up and doing what she was told by George Bush's White House, telling lies to a public who had to breathe this air. Turns out she isn't much of a human being.
The EPA has just admitted that they lied for all this time.
Now what are we supposed to do? By now I feel better physically because I have adjusted to feeling lousy. I'm not going near a doctor. Once I read what was in that air, and in it for all those days I spent around there, I didn't want to know anything more. Don't scare me. My friend Dan Collins, whose office is on Broadway, only yards up from the site, said he has not taken a good breath for two years. "They tell me it's good and I know it's bad," he said.
This lying with the lives of the people of the nation is not solely the habit of Bush and his crew, although it is more widespread and being done in so many cases by so many of their people that it looks like a generation of liars.
This war with Iraq started with the full government standing right up and looking you in the eye and openly lying about why we had to invade Iraq immediately. Bush said the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. Why, they were starting to make nuclear bombs. He had a statement about this in his State of the Union speech. When it was shown to be a lie, Bush had people like Condoleezza Rice say, Why are you so worried about 26 words in a speech? That the 26 words were about nuclear weapons seemed beyond her. Out in the streets, you can scare people with only three words: "Stick 'em up."
I sit here in New York and I don't believe one single solitary word of what the government says. Can you believe anything Bush says? Only if you're a rank sucker. Then you put that Rumsfeld on and he grimaces and tells you the first thing he thinks of, and here is Powell, who I thought would be our first black national candidate and he's as bad as the rest of them.
What I would like to do is sit here and type in anger only about Bush and his vile people. The trouble is in my memory there is a corrupted past of people I favored.
There was the day in 1962 when John F. Kennedy was in Cleveland on some sort of appearance and a courier from Washington brought him photos taken of Russian missile sites in Cuba. Kennedy canceled the stop and flew back to Washington. His press people announced that he had a severe cold. This was reported to the country.
Kennedy was rushing back to begin secret meetings about the chances of whether the country was going to go into a nuclear war with Russia over the missiles.
Talk worked. We're here. But only one person complained about the false report of Kennedy's cold. That was David Wise and he worked on a newspaper I was on. He said that it was a dangerous precedent to lie to the nation for any reason.
At the time, I thought it a minor complaint about an enormous occurrence. I didn't have the wisdom to understand that once government gets away with lying, it becomes virtually impossible to dislodge the habit from any of them. I don't know what other lies Kennedy told, but it couldn't have been his last and he had our lives in his hands.
It was only in August of 1964 when Robert McNamara, the defense secretary who presented himself as being a person of unparalleled brilliance, told Lyndon Johnson that a North Vietnamese PT boat had attacked the American destroyers Turner Joy and the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, off Haiphong, east of Hanoi. On a night of confusion, McNamara persuaded Johnson that it was an actual attack. Johnson acted. He put the country into a war right there.
The attack on the destroyers never happened. McNamara lied. And the lie grew, and anybody who took the time to build evidence of this was attacked. "This is a just war," Johnson said.
The war blew up 58,000 of our young.
And now we have this administration welding their lies together on two matters: the air you breathe and the war they insist is good for us. We've just dealt with 40 years of lying and death. It is getting worse. "We're winning in Iraq," your poor president says.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.
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