We just don’t know.
On what date did a meeting occur at which the decision was made to wage war against Iraq? Who organized the meeting? Who attended the meeting? Where was it held? Read every book that you can find about the presidency of George W. Bush. You will not find the answers to these questions in any of them. Then think about the implications of the fact that you cannot find information about the meeting at which it was determined that the United States would wage war against Iraq, not even information about when and where the meeting took place.
The presidential administration from 2001-2009 is often referred to as “the Bush-Cheney administration.” Why is it so important to understand whether it was Bush or Cheney who was the de facto president of the United States from 2001-2009?
Why has there been virtually no attention paid to the cost of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why has there been virtually no attention paid to the connection between the national debt and the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
To whom did John Poindexter report while he was leading “the Iran-Contra affair” in the 1980s?
As the Iran-Contra affair was playing out, the team in charge of the affair kept it secret from President Ronald Reagan. Keeping such a secret was an act of egregious insubordination. Why did Reagan not fire anyone for egregious insubordination when he learned that the Iran-Contra affair had occurred? Why has no observer of the Iran-Contra affair described the purposeful concealment of knowledge of the affair from Reagan as an act of egregious insubordination?
Frank Luntz is the person most responsible for the linguistic gems “big government,” “war on terror,” “family values,” and many others that have penetrated and dulled the minds of many Americans. To whom did he submit his gems? To whom did he report?
How has it happened that the term “Southern Strategy” (the Jim Crow preservation strategy sponsored by the Modern Republican Party) has virtually disappeared from the words and phrases that flow through the major American media outlets? Why do we hear “big government,” “cut taxes,” and “war on terror” repeated again and again, but almost never “Southern Strategy”?
Who has transformed Sarah Palin, a physically attractive and intellectually formless woman, into a person who many believe should be president of the United States?
Who organized the campaign to keep the storming of the American embassy in Libya in the headlines for so long?
How has it happened that laws to restrict the right to vote of many American citizens were passed almost simultaneously in several states? Was the campaign to restrict the number of citizens who could vote a consciously organized campaign? If so, who organized it?
What is the correct meaning of the word “newsmakers”? Is the correct meaning “people who do something that causes them to be featured in the ‘news’ ”? Or is the correct meaning “people who decide what the ‘news’ will be?” What guidelines do “news” creators follow when they are creating the news?
Asking these and similar questions is the first step in penetrating the fog that has engulfed, and continues to obscure, so much information that Americans should know, but don’t know.
The famous modern philosopher Donald Rumsfeld got something right when he talked about “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” What are the “unknown unknowns” hidden in the dense fog of ignorance that most Americans live in, and of whose existence, amazingly enough, most Americans are unaware?
We just don’t know.
Matthew Jacobson is a lifelong student of the history of American politics.