Reflecting on World War I, California Senator Hiram Johnson famously said: “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”

Actually, in America’s recent wars, officials have slaughtered the truth even before the fighting. The Bush-Cheney regime hustled America into its Iraq escapade, for example, by snuffing out the truth about that country’s weapons of mass destruction.

Just as immoral are the dishonest post-war claims of success. Officials always insist that their military adventure was worth all the lost lives and treasure, thus validating themselves and legitimizing the idea of going to war again and again.

Officialdom’s routine mugging of the truth makes a recent bit of honesty from a three-star general seem all the more astonishing — and gutsy.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger with troops, via NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Flickr

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger with troops, via NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Flickr

General Daniel Bolger, a former senior commander of our forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, dropped a bombshell in a recent New York Times op-ed. We sacrificed thousands of U.S. soldiers, he said bluntly, and “all we have to show for it are two failed wars.”

Recently retired, Bolger certainly isn’t criticizing the troops. Instead, he’s taking aim at the political leaders and the brass — including himself — who deploy them.

“I got it wrong,” he writes. “Like my peers, I argued to stay the course.” As a result, “we backed ourselves into a long-term counterinsurgency.”

Bolger is especially furious about the spurious claim that Bush’s 2007 troop surge “won the war” in Iraq.

“The surge in Iraq didn’t ‘win’ anything,” he says, pointing out that the terrorists who were supposedly defeated are the very ones we’re now at war with again — only they’re savvier, better armed, and more vicious.

Yet, insanely, some officials are pushing for another surge of ground troops. Do they really believe that repeating the same mistake will produce a different result?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

(Note: Images credited to Getty or Shutterstock are not covered by our Creative Commons license. Please license these separately if you wish to use them.)