Sunday, May 30, 2004

How Dare They...

Al Gore's speech of last Wednesday was excellent; the best I've seen for a long time. Here's just a few excerpts;

...More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens - sooner or later - to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.
This brings to mind Walter Wink's work on the Domination System and the myth of redemptive violence.

...President Bush set the tone for our attitude for suspects in his State of the Union address. He noted that more than 3,000 "suspected terrorists" had been arrested in many countries and then he added, "and many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our allies."

George Bush promised to change the tone in Washington. And indeed he did. As many as 37 prisoners may have been murdered while in captivity, though the numbers are difficult to rely upon because in many cases involving violent death, there were no autopsies.

How dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit in upstate New York. President Bush owes more than one apology. On the list of those he let down are the young soldiers who are themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as well as the victims were both placed in their relationship to one another by the policies of George W. Bush.

How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney Administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people. How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison.
Gore was shouting at the end of this litany. About time someone did some shouting. How dare they indeed.

One of the Generals in charge of this war policy went on a speaking tour in his spare time to declare before evangelical groups that the US is in a holy war as "Christian Nation battling Satan." This same General Boykin was the person who ordered the officer who was in charge of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay to extend his methods to Iraq detainees, prisoners. ... The testimony from the prisoners is that they were forced to curse their religion Bush used the word "crusade" early on in the war against Iraq, and then commentators pointed out that it was singularly inappropriate because of the history and sensitivity of the Muslim world and then a few weeks later he used it again.

"We are now being viewed as the modern Crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world," Zinni said.

What a terrible irony that our country, which was founded by refugees seeking religious freedom - coming to America to escape domineering leaders who tried to get them to renounce their religion - would now be responsible for this kind of abuse..

Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh told the Washington Post that he was tortured and ordered to denounce Islam and after his leg was broken one of his torturers started hitting it while ordering him to curse Islam and then, " they ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive." Others reported that they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.

In my religious tradition, I have been taught that "ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

The President convinced a majority of the country that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11th. But in truth he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The President convinced the country with a mixture of forged documents and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda, and that he was "indistinguishable" from Osama bin Laden.

He asked the nation , in his State of the Union address, to "imagine" how terrified we should be that Saddam was about to give nuclear weapons to terrorists and stated repeatedly that Iraq posed a grave and gathering threat to our nation. He planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind. And now, the "corrupt tree" of a war waged on false premises has brought us the "evil fruit" of Americans torturing and humiliating prisoners.
I think the nation needs to be asked to "imagine" how terrified we should be to have a president that intentionally ignores the Geneva Convention, sanctions secret "holding facilities" for "suspects," and wages a preemptive war that has cost the lives of over 11,000 innocent civilians.

...It is now clear that their obscene abuses of the truth and their unforgivable abuse of the trust placed in them after 9/11 by the American people led directly to the abuses of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and, we are now learning, in many other similar facilities constructed as part of Bush's Gulag, in which, according to the Red Cross, 70 to 90 percent of the victims are totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

The same dark spirit of domination has led them to - for the first time in American history - imprison American citizens with no charges, no right to see a lawyer, no right to notify their family, no right to know of what they are accused, and no right to gain access to any court to present an appeal of any sort. The Bush administration has even acquired the power to compel librarians to tell them what any American is reading, and to compel them to keep silent about the request - or else the librarians themselves can also be imprisoned.

They have launched an unprecedented assault on civil liberties, on the right of the courts to review their actions, on the right of the Congress to have information to how they are spending the public's money and the right of the news media to have information about the policies they are pursuing.

The same pattern characterizes virtually all of their policies. They resent any constraint as an insult to their will to dominate and exercise power. Their appetite for power is astonishing. It has led them to introduce a new level of viciousness in partisan politics. It is that viciousness that led them to attack as unpatriotic, Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in combat during the Vietnam War.
This dark spirit of domination must be transformed. How can we do that?

The answer is, we go where we always go when a dramatic change is needed. We go to the ballot box, and we make it clear to the rest of the world that what's been happening in America for the last four years, and what America has been doing in Iraq for the last two years, really is not who we are. We, as a people, at least the overwhelming majority of us, do not endorse the decision to dishonor the Geneva Convention and the Bill of Rights...

...So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
Preach it, Brother Al! Powerful stuff. My only regret is that he didn't show this kind of passion four years ago. We might have avoided this whole ugly chapter of our history. Read the whole thing.

And register to vote. Let's transform this spirit of domination that is making the entire world our enemy.


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