International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 2, Fall 2008

Thomas Carson
Pages 189-210

Liar Liar

Bush and Cheney lied and attempted to deceive the public in a number of their public statements before and during the Iraq War of 2003. I defend definitions of deception and lying. Roughly, deception is intentionally causing others to have false beliefs. My definition of lying has two noteworthy features. First, I reject the standard view that lying requires the intention to deceive others. Second, I claim that telling a lie involves warranting the truth of what one says. Then, after summarizing some of the most well known cases in which it is alleged that Bush and Cheney lied or attempted to deceive the public, I argue that both Bush and Cheney are guilty of lying and deception, despite giving them every benefit of the doubt. In some of the cases it is clear that they tried to deceive the public, but unclear whether or not they lied. My view that lying involves giving a warranty or guarantee that what one says is true is salient in several of these cases and helps to show that Bush and Cheney lied and attempted to deceive the public—they strongly warranted the truth of claims that they knew were open to serious doubts. Their claims to the effect that it was certain that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” were particularly egregious.