ambivalent imbroglio home

« Blank Check | Main | Quick Campaign Update »

October 13, 2003

Lying About War: A Strict Liability Offense

So far in Torts we've covered intentional torts (i.e.: assault and battery), and whether liability for unintentional torts should be decided on the basis of negligence or strict liability. The question is: Should we make people pay for damages they cause to others only if those damages were the result of their negligence, or should we make them pay no matter what (strict liability)?

I thought of this distinction yesterday morning when I caught an interview w/John Kerry on ABC's "This Week" (the one hosted by former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos). George Will was grilling Kerry on wether he'd agree w/Ted Kennedy that the most recent war against Iraq was a "fraud" "made up in Texas." Will wanted to pin Kerry down on this; he was trying to argue that calling the war a "fraud" goes beyond the question of whether Bush and Co. mislead the world about the need to go to war. I believe the way Will put it was "fraud goes to intention." So Will was essentially asking Kerry to say whether Kerry thought Bush and Co.'s intentions in going to war were fraudulent. Kerry would neither say yes or no, only that he's said clearly that he believes the President mislead the world.

And that's the bottom line: Lying to start a war is (or should be) a strict liability offense. Bush did it, now he should have to pay—by being voted out in Nov. 2004, and by having his legislative and social agenda shut down for lack of support until then.

Our legal system decided long ago that when you do something that's inherently dangerous to others, no amount of care or good intentions on your part will place you beyond accountability for your actions. When you keep an animal known to be "accustomed to biting mankind," it doesn't matter how careful you are in keeping the animal locked up; if it bites someone, you're liable and must pay for damages. When you set off explosions—as when blasting a highway tunnel, for example—it doesn't matter how careful you are in blowing the charges; if someone is injured or someone else's property is damaged by your blasting, you must pay.

Lying to get us into war is an inherently dangerous activity. By definition, it threatens the lives of every American service person, and it inevitably threatens the health of the nation (via loss of standing with the rest of the world, for example, not to mention the budget and other problems it causes). Therefore, Bush and his entire administration must pay for what they've done. We, the American people, should make them pay by withdrawing any faith we formerly had in them, by distrusting every single thing they say, and by demanding that our legislators stop supporting their failed policies.

Sure, it would be nice to understand what Bush and Co. were thinking in starting the war. Did they really think Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat? Had they drunk their own kool-aid? Maybe, the fact that Woflowitz and Pearle had been planning this war for a decade makes that seem pretty far-fetched. Did Bush and Co. really think they could waltz into Iraq, take over the oil production, and start reaping the windfall w/out any trouble? Maybe, but again, that seems pretty unlikely. Did Bush and Co. see a war against Iraq as a brilliant way to funnel what was once the largest budget surplus in history away from the public and into the hands of private corporations like Halliburton? Again, it's hard to say, but this seems the most likely explanation, since this is, in fact, what happened. (And why would Bush and Co. want to push the U.S. government closer to bankruptcy? Well, gee, Bush and Co. have always hated the "social safety net" of so-called government entitlements like social security, medicare, etc. And what better way to get rid of them than to simply say, "oops, sorry, we don't have any money to pay for them"?)

Frontline has a big special report on the possible reasons we went to war and what went wrong. However, Bush and Co's intentions in going to war will be something for history to determine. What matters now is that they lied, and for that they're strictly liable.

Posted October 13, 2003 05:05 AM | election 2004 general politics

about   ∞     ∞   archives   ∞   links   ∞   rss
This template highly modified from The Style Monkey.