Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Campaigning for War; Stumping for Election Coffers

Pres. Bush says (via Tony Snow) that he was not politicizing 9/11 by giving a speech on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks praising and defending his Middle East policies; his arbitrary detention and torture of Arab and Muslim detainees; his struggle to win the battle for kangaroo courts sans habeus corpus rights; his de facto abolition of the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution; his self-annointment as an absolute ruler who is above the law; his fundamentalist, absolutist, Manichaean view of the world; and his war-worshipping, budget-devouring militarism.

To wit:

For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy, it changed the way we look at the world. On September the 11th, we resolved that we would go on the offense against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them. So we helped drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. We put al Qaeda on the run, and killed or captured most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks - including the man believed to be the mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He and other suspected terrorists have been questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency, and they've provided valuable information that has helped stop attacks in America and across the world. Now these men have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, so they can be held to account for their actions. Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice.

On September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores, whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states. I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress and the United Nations saw the threat. And after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out. Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed, but so are Iraqi and coalition forces. We are adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds.

We are training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation. We're helping Iraq's unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done. Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. Osama Bin Laden calls this fight "the Third World War," and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's "defeat and disgrace forever." If we yield Iraq to men like Bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; and they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement. We will not allow this to happen. America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation, and a strong ally in the war on terror.

These are a few paragraphs of a speech that was almost entirely about Bush, Bush, Bush and his war, war, war; and self-congratulatory back-patting for what he, Bush, had done, and what he wanted to do, and what he would do. He spoke of his perpetual war and martial law wish list, on a day that should have been entirely about reaching out with compassion and love to help heal the indescribable pain and sorrow of the people who lost loved ones on this day five years ago. He could not keep himself out of the day for the space of even one sentence.

Monday, September 11, 2006, should have been entirely and solely a remembrance of those who died. It should have been only praise for the courage and selflessness of the firefighters and Port Authority police who went into the inferno to save lives with no thought for their own; and words of gratitude and respect for the thousands of volunteers who brought sustenance for the rescue workers, and who helped with the rescue work themselves. It should have been gentle words of comfort, solace, compassion, and hope for the surviving family members -- many of whom still, to this day, suffer emotional torment unimaginable to most of us.

But instead of empathy and generosity of spirit, what Bush gave us on 9/11 was a campaign speech.

Instead of prayers for healing, what we got was the War Prayer.


ScurvyOaks said...

Do you realize how much you lessen the impact of your arguments by extreme exaggeration? It's a natural reaction to dismiss whatever follows a phrase like this: "de facto abolition of the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution."

Let's focus on the First Amendment, for starters:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

How can you claim that Bush has de facto abolished the First Amendment? To take the most immediate example, you've got some pretty robust, untrammeled, Bush-critical free speech going on here at Liberty Street, right?

Kathy said...

A "natural" reaction? It's one reaction, for sure; but I am far from the only American who thinks that the First Amendment is in critical condition after suffering multiple stab wounds.

For one thing, the First Amendment is not just writing your opinion on a blog. You quoted it, so you know that. Freedom of religion is part of the first amendment, freedom of peaceable assembly, the freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances, freedom of the press.

ALL of those freedoms have been "abridged," to use the word the authors of the Bill of Rights used.

How have they been abridged? Let me count the ways:

1. Peaceful protesters being arrested for holding up posters or wearing t-shirts with anti-war or anti-Bush messages at public political events.

2. Peace activists rallying against war or Bush policies in general being corralled into so-called "free speech zones," which are basically small pens outside of which people are arrested for expressing anti-government sentiments (peacefully).

3. The White House and Department of Justice and Republicans in Congress calling for journalists to be tried as criminals for publishing articles about secret programs the government does not want revealed. Also, calls from the government for prior restraint to prevent publication of articles the government does not want published.

4. The NSA warrantless surveillance program, under which the Bush administration can eavesdrop on any electronic communication, even within the U.S. There has been no meaningful congressional oversight of this program, and the fact that Pres. Bush says only suspected Al Qaeda connections are monitored means nothing, given that Bush and Cheney have both said and implied over and over and over again that opponents of Bush's war policies and his policies on detention and treatment of suspected terrorists are anti-American, helping the enemy, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, making Osama bin Laden ecstatic, etc, etc, etc.

5. The Patriot Act, under which the government can require libraries to hand over the records of their patrons and put them under a gag order forbidding them to inform the patron.

6. The increasingly hostile environment toward separation of church and state, exemplified by such things as growing calls for prayer in public schools, for religious symbols and objects on public property, and the notion, expressed more openly more frequently now, that the U.S. is a "Christian nation" and that social policies should favor Christian religious belief (and only a very very narrow segment of Christian religious belief at that).

7. The collusion between the Bush administration and several large telecommunications companies to create a vast database with the call records of every American. This plan was foiled only by the flat refusal of one such company, Qwest, to agree to participate.

The Founding Fathers set the bar very high for these rights. They did not say, in the First Amendment, that these rights should not be "abolished." They said they should not be "abridged." To consistently, as a matter of policy and law, abridge the First Amendment, or any other amendment, is to effectively (i.e., de facto) abolish them.

"For starters" has been addressed; on to the Fourth Amendment.