Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

A July 4th NY Times editorial

Their George and Ours
By BARBARA EHRENREICH

Published: July 4, 2004

When they first heard the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, New Yorkers were so electrified that they toppled a statue of King George III and had it melted down to make 42,000 bullets for the war. Two hundred twenty-eight years later, you can still get a rush from those opening paragraphs. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” The audacity!

Read a little further to those parts of the declaration we seldom venture into after ninth-grade civics class, and you may feel something other than admiration: an icy chill of recognition. The bulk of the declaration is devoted to a list of charges against George III, several of which bear an eerie relevance to our own time.

George III is accused, for example, of “depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury.” Our own George II has imprisoned two U.S. citizens — Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi — since 2002, without benefit of trials, legal counsel or any opportunity to challenge the evidence against them. Even die-hard Tories Scalia and Rehnquist recently judged such executive hauteur intolerable.

It would be silly, of course, to overstate the parallels between 1776 and 2004. The signers of the declaration were colonial subjects of a man they had come to see as a foreign king. One of their major grievances had to do with the tax burden imposed on them to support the king’s wars. In contrast, our taxes have been reduced — especially for those who need the money least — and the huge costs of war sloughed off to our children and grandchildren. Nor would it be tactful to press the analogy between our George II and their George III, of whom the British historian John Richard Green wrote: “He had a smaller mind than any English king before him save James II.”

But the parallels are there, and undeniable. “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power,” the declaration said of George III, and today the military is indulgently allowed to investigate its own crimes in Iraq. George III “obstructed the Administration of Justice.” Our George II has sought to evade judicial review by hiding detainees away in Guantánamo, and has steadfastly resisted the use of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-U.S. citizens to bring charges of human rights violations to U.S. courts.

The signers further indicted their erstwhile monarch for “taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.” The administration has been trying its best to establish a modern equivalent to the divine right of kings, with legal memorandums asserting that George II’s “inherent” powers allow him to ignore federal laws prohibiting torture and war crimes.

Then there is the declaration’s boldest and most sweeping indictment of all, condemning George III for “transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.” Translate “mercenaries” into contract workers and proxy armies (remember the bloodthirsty, misogynist Northern Alliance?), and translate that last long phrase into Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.

But it is the final sentence of the declaration that deserves the closest study: “And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Today, those who believe that the war on terror requires the sacrifice of our liberties like to argue that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” In a sense, however, the Declaration of Independence was precisely that.

By signing Jefferson’s text, the signers of the declaration were putting their lives on the line. England was then the world’s greatest military power, against which a bunch of provincial farmers had little chance of prevailing. Benjamin Franklin wasn’t kidding around with his quip about hanging together or hanging separately. If the rebel American militias were beaten on the battlefield, their ringleaders could expect to be hanged as traitors.

They signed anyway, thereby stating to the world that there is something worth more than life, and that is liberty. Thanks to their courage, we do not have to risk death to preserve the liberties they bequeathed us. All we have to do is vote.

Amen

Talk about Custer’s last photo-op

Just in case you haven’t noticed, more than 5 times as many American soldiers have now been killed since Bush stood on the deck of the carrier and announced “Mission Accomplished” as before that date. Talk about Custer’s Last Photo-Op.

If you are keeping score –
American soldiers killed: 851.
American soldiers wounded: 4950.
Cost of the war to date: $120 Billion
Weapons of Mass Destruction uncovered: 0.
Connections between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda proved: 0.

Well oiled machine

Beside the possibility that the White House’s favored Iraqi exile was an Iranian agent, that the spy chief just got canned, that the OSD is wired to polygraphs, and that the president has had to retain outside counsel in the investigation into which members of his staff burned one of the country’s own spies, I’d say the place is being run like a pretty well-oiled machine.

– Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, June 3, 2004

mission accomplished


Custer says 'mission accomplished'

Memorial Day Thoughts

From the Memorial Day New York Times Op-Ed. Never heard it said better:

By the Light of Other Wars
Published: May 31, 2004

In most of America’s cemeteries today, you will find fresh flowers on the graves of men and women who have died defending this country. Memorial Day is the official commemoration of their sacrifice. For most of the people who have taken the trouble to decorate those graves, the year contains other, private days of memorial as well — birthdays, anniversaries and all the unexpected remembrances of someone who is no longer here. There is no one way to miss a dead soldier or to honor him. Some families keep only those private holidays, and some welcome the chance for public acknowledgment.

The freshest graves, the most recent casualties, often have the most flowers, and they usually sustain the most forcible grief. The oldest graves of the war dead in this nation’s history are now very old, and many of them lie forgotten, as forgotten as some of the wars they fought in. What those deaths accomplished is written into the fabric of this country, no matter how purposeful or purposeless they may have seemed at the time.

Military training teaches a small, powerful coherence — the devotion of soldiers to their unit. One of the shocks many grieving families must deal with is the sudden knowledge that this military coherence was stronger than anything the family itself could offer. Soldiers fighting in the large causes tend to die for the small causes — for a sense of duty to one another, the building block upon which armies are built.

Every family that has lost a son or daughter in battle has had to decide whether the large justifications of war actually justify that final, particular sacrifice. Many Americans are tempted to let the valuation of those deaths rest solely with the families themselves. We ease the thought of those deaths with the words that have always seemed most persuasive over the grave. We ease the memory of them by folding them into the fabric of history, as if the task of saying what those deaths really meant lay beyond us.

But we who are alive — kin or no kin — also have a right to ask why these soldiers died, not just now, in this present war, but throughout the course of our history. The language of those larger causes — words like America, freedom, liberty, patriotism — are used in our names as well.

Today, each generation looks back to its own war — World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the gulf war and Iraq. In each of those wars, a soldier’s death was final, the sense of duty and service as acute as in any other war. In that sense, the meaning of those deaths has not changed over time. What is different, for each of those wars, is the sense of national necessity that lay behind them. Some of America’s wars have truly been fought for the very principles that underpin this nation’s existence. Others have not. But nothing can dishonor the dead, not even the failures of the living.

Why the president has so much support

The pot calling the kettle black

The state department has released its report on human rights abuses around the world.

From CNN:

The second annual report was to have been released earlier this month, but it was delayed in part because State Department officials believed it would not be taken seriously amid stories of abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The report, which covers U.S. efforts in 101 countries to promote press and religious freedoms, advance democratic institutions, and stop torture and other abuses, is a companion to a country-by-country study of conditions issued in February. Both reports are made to Congress as required by law.

Charges in the report against countries who abuse prisoners bear striking similarities to those being leveled against the United States around the world.

For example, the report summarized Saudi Arabia’s “poor” human rights record with these words: “Security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees and prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons and detain them incommunicado.”

Many countries and human rights groups likewise have criticized the United States for holding detainees at the naval station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without access to counsel.

Don’t those Saudi’s know it’s not right to torture and humiliate Arabs? But then, it can’t be a governmental issue. They’re not responsible. It must be just a few ill-behaved guards and such.

Bush not happy

dubyaPresident Bush has told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld he was “not happy” that he learned about photos of Iraqi prison abuse by watching television, a senior administration official told CNN.

Does this surprise anyone? It has been obvious for quite some time that Bush is not in control of his administration. Perhaps he is simply not intelligent enough to be. What other president would have required his vice-president to be with him when speaking to a congressional committee? Cheney and Rumsfeld have been the powers, and Bush probably does not even realize how much he is being tooled. Whatever else he is, I don’t believe Bush is deliberately lying, or intentionally sabotaging our country’s interests. I believe he is just incapable of discerning truth, or effective leading, or making decisions based on fact rather than emotion and belief. In some ways it would be more comforting if he were a conniving, malfeasant leader, rather than just incompetent.

Perhaps the republicans should have nominated Cheney 4 years ago.

April Casualties

I take only sadness in this:

When I checked casualty figures in Iraq on the last day of March, they were listed as 599. Whe I checked on the last day of April, they were listed as 742. This gives me a casualty count of 143 for April. I’m sure these figures are off by several, one way or another, but we are very close this april alone to the entire casualty count before last May 1st, when the president declared an end to major combat operations.

It is tempting to resort to the usual sarcastic comments about the faulty decision to go to war, the faulty planning, and the grotesquely inadequate plans for the nation of Iraq after the invasion, but somehow the actual fact of 143 dead american soldiers, giving themselves to their country, trivializes all that.

I cannot help but wonder who dishonors these brave people more. Is it those who opposed the war, and the continued occupation of Iraq? Or, is it those who think nothing of sacrficing 742 Americans for an idea that has been proven, over and over again, to be wrong? Is it those who will treat these people as pawns to pursue their political agenda, reminding americans about being “at war” to win an election? Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Bush will tell you these deaths were casualties in the war on terror. There has been shown, though, no connection whatsoever between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No connection whatsoever between Iraq and 9/11. No evidence whatsoever has been found that Iraq possessed any weapons that could in the least threaten this country, nor the ability to deliver them if they did have them.

What has been proven, over and over again, is that the Bush Administration planned for an attack of Iraq from the very first days, and looked for an excuse, and used the 9/11 tragedy as that excuse, to carry out that attack, despite the combined oppostion of the majority of the world. What has been proven is the sweet-heart deals awarded to Haliburton, Bechtel, and the others to “rebuild” Iraq.

I understand the alleged philosophical differences between the republican and democratic parties. I have a deep and unwavering admiration for Barry Goldwater and the principled republicans he represented. I did not always agree with them, but I could respect their beliefs.

What I cannot understand is how any principled person, republican or democrat, could support the atrocities being carried out against american interests by the current administration. 742 brave and honorable american soldiers have died, so far, because Bush and his people have ignored intelligence, and chosen to pursue policies that are unwarranted at best, and criminal at worst. By wrapping themselves in the flag, pretending that their policies are based in patriotism rather than self interest, they hope to win an election without having to defend their record overall. Those 742 deserve better for their trust and support of this country. We all deserve better than record deficits, and 111 billion dollars spent on the Iraq war, and ongoing funerals, from our leaders.

Please, politics aside, realize what damage the Bush administration has managed to do to our country in 4 short years. The memory of 742 brave dead americans demands that we do not allow these people to harm us, our children, or our future, further.

Terrorists around every door…

From CNN:

I think after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life,” Hughes said.

“And I think those are the kind of policies that the American people can support, particularly at a time when we’re facing an enemy, and really the fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life,” Hughes said.

If you question the administration, you support terrorists, if you object to ill conceived and broken foreign policies, you support terrorists, Education Secretary Rod Paige says the national teacher’s union is a terrorist organization. Now, apparently, if after deliberation and soul searching you decide to support the right to abortion, you are a terrorist.

Don’t you get it? There is no room for debate or discussion. Either you are with the Bush-Leaguers on every issue, or you are a TERRORIST!!!!