“The first casualty when it comes to war is truth.” — Sen. Hiram Johnson (R-Calif.), 1917

When I was a kid my dad once said: “Deception’s hammer knocks information out of the body politic. Without good information our people can’t ask for accountability and without that the government … even a good one … will behave like a drunken sailor on leave.”

My dad was in the Army. He hated sailors and drunken ones do out-of-character and irresponsible things. For example, our drunken government has resorted to legalized torture centers, illegal detentions, extrajudicial killings, death squads, corporate profiteering, unjustifiable wars, kidnappings and the trampling of civil liberties both here and abroad.

At this very moment it is actively dumping the moral equivalent of mercury into our public discourse by lying to us about what is happening on almost every front you can imagine but especially in Iraq. You can hear the steady tap of Deception’s hammer chipping away at the truth with the quiet intensity of a nation of ants trying to move a mountain.

You probably don’t know this but we are not at war in Iraq with Iraqis. We are engaged in an occupation, they are engaged in a civil war, corporations are engaged in the systematic looting of anything not nailed down and we are at war with ourselves here at home. The primary reason why things have gotten so out of hand is that the Bush administration lies like a pathological Persian rug, and at this point I would kill to be up a creek without a paddle instead of in the creek, fighting off piranha the size of pit bulls, without a paddle. What we have done in Iraq embarrasses Satan on his best day at the office.

Executive Order 13303 allowed us to lay claim to all of the country’s assets, the Law of Administration basically says that an Iraqi has no right which an American is bound to respect and the implementation of the El Salvador Option puts U.S.-trained death squads on the ground to finish the work started by our devil’s bargain with the Badr Brigade. So now whenever anyone dies in Iraq, there is no way of knowing how culpable we might be.

If any of this sounds like an idea hatched by idiots and deployed by morons, just remember that when George Bush ran for president in 2000 we thought he might be too dumb for the damn job and it turns out we were right. It’s as if the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence, whose job it was to lie to us, is actually functioning, and it feels like Deception’s hammer is banging away at our nation’s moral bedrock with the demonic ferocity of a jackhammer.

Right now, by any measure you can use, metric, standard or cubit, the situation in Iraq is like the Keystone Cops meet Apocalypse Now and our media, which is supposed to be out there gathering good information to help us make informed decisions as citizens, is both trapped in the Green Zone rewriting material supplied by people whose job it is to lie to them, and a cross between a two-dollar whore and a deaf-blind watchdog who can’t smell and won’t bark.

For all we know, we still practice rape and torture in our prisons since we won’t allow outside observers into them, we are still using illegal weapons on civilians, our troops still lack adequate body armor and equipment and we can’t find who stole $8 billion dollars from the CPA before it folded up tent.

The worst part of this entire criminal misadventure is that just like their Nazi ancestors, neocons are lousy at keeping secrets; this is why they are so obsessed with secrecy — that and the fact that what they have in mind would give a jaded demon a case of the heebiejeebies.

Find a well-lit holy place, put on some gloves and flip through the Project for a New American Century’s manifesto. Aside from thinking it was written by a pack of drunken megalomaniacs with the moral compass of sociopathic vampires, you will wonder how anyone could be so unabashedly evil. You will also know that on 9/11 while the rest of us recoiled in horror, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Cheney were dancing with something akin to glee — as their souls, being measured in picometers, might not be capable of actual glee.

Deception’s hammer is at work here, fashioning the chains of the big lie around the neck of what remains of our republic.

Don Washington (jorhan@yahoo.com) is associate director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago and the keeper of two large and mischievous cats.