Lemmings? Or honest debate? Our choice.

This column was written in an attempt to pull together several basic ideas, some of which I had drafted complete columns for, such as the "Four Freedoms." It was published on the op ed page of the New Bedford Standard-Times November 9 under the headline "Patriotism doesn't mean we have to be suckers.".

by Greg Stone

Let me get this straight. As of September 11, all politicians, editorial writers, and TV pundits are supposed to put their brains in park and approve of whatever our country is doing or has done? That seems to be what I'm reading from some writers objecting to a few S-T editorials, as well as all those who seem to have made a collective mantra of the word "unity."

Snap out of it folks! As Bill Moyers warned recently, there are plenty of politicians and lobbyists who are " . . . counting on you to be standing at attention with your hand over your heart, pledging allegiance to the flag, while they pick your pocket!"

Anyone for the Taliban?

Or as Bob Harris, a freelance commentator, recently put it:

". . . there’s the brain-fevered allegation that advocating a reasoned, ethical approach to the most dangerous crisis in our lifetimes is somehow unpatriotic . . .

"Our ability to discuss and dissent and grow from the exchange is precisely what makes America a free country worth protecting.

"If you don’t understand that, go join the Taliban. No free speech, no civil rights, and absolute religious unity. You’ll love it."

Questions

Assuming you've chosen to stay here instead, here are a few questions you might want to ponder:

Do you think the folks who just awarded a contract worth in excess of $200 billion to Lockheed to develop a Joint Strike Fighter ever heard Dwight Eisenhower speak? Remember him? The president, general, and Republican who in 1953 told us:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . this is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

And while we're on the subject of soldiers and politicians, how about Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret? He's got a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering; he flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam; and he led the "Star Wars" project. He was the presidential candidate of various small parties in 2000.

Clinton and truth

He also was the guy who lashed out at Mr. Clinton in 1998 when the president tossed a few missiles at bin Laden:

"Tell people the truth, Mr. President . . . about terrorism, not about poor Monica. If your lies about terrorism go unchallenged, then the terror war you have unleashed will likely continue until it destroys us . . .

"Mr. President, you did not tell the American people the truth about why we are the target of terrorism. You said that we are the target because we stand for democracy, freedom, and human rights in the world. Baloney! We are the target of terrorists because we stand for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation in the world. We are the target of terrorists because we are hated. And we are hated because our government has done hateful things."

Ouch! . . . wonder what he's saying today? (Hint - only the name of the president has changed.)

War-profiteering

Why did the House vote to give gigantic tax rebates to our country's largest corporations? Why don't we put more money in the hands of the people who need it most - by extending health and unemployment benefits, for example?

Could it be related to why we still let people buy elections? (We can't seem to listen to John McCain, the only well-known hero on the political front who has enough guts to say what he actually thinks. I don't agree with him on many issues, but honest disagreement is a refreshing change.)

and our own terrorists - uh, freedom fighters

Why do we continue to support the once-and-future School of the Americas? (Yes, I know it changed its name.) Here are a few comments from an English columnist, George Monbiot of the Manchester Guardian. (Remember, England's on our side.)

"' If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents,' George Bush announced on the day he began bombing Afghanistan, 'they have become outlaws and murderers themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril.' I'm glad he said 'any government', as there's one which, though it has yet to be identified as a sponsor of terrorism, requires his urgent attention."

The column goes into lengthy detail about who has been trained at the School of the Americas over the past several decades and what atrocities they committed. It concludes:

"We can't expect this terrorist training camp to reform itself: after all, it refuses even to acknowledge that it has a past, let alone to learn from it. So, given that the evidence linking the school to continuing atrocities in Latin America is rather stronger than the evidence linking the al-Qaida training camps to the attack on New York, what should we do about the "evil-doers" in Fort Benning, Georgia?

"Well, we could urge our governments to apply full diplomatic pressure, and to seek the extradition of the school's commanders for trial on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity. Alternatively, we could demand that our governments attack the United States, bombing its military installations, cities, and airports in the hope of overthrowing its unelected government and replacing it with a new administration overseen by the UN. In case this proposal proves unpopular with the American people, we could win their hearts and minds by dropping bread and dried curry in plastic bags stamped with the Afghan flag.

"You object that this prescription is ridiculous, and I agree. But try as I might, I cannot see the moral difference between this course of action and the war now being waged in Afghanistan."

Shaking the foundations

So is there a way out of this morass? I think so. But we need to shake the foundations of this country to dislodge some of the tripe that has been passing for democracy within and foreign policy without and replace it with something that better reflects the true goodness and greatness of the American people.

On the inside we need campaign finance reform on a major scale. We cannot continue to sell our liberties and security to the highest bidder. As for the rest of the world, why don't we build a foreign policy based on real American values instead of propping up oil sheiks who don't serve their people, or us, well? Franklin Roosevelt's words captured the soul of our country, and Massachusetts artist Norman Rockwell transformed the words into unforgettable images. In 1941 FDR said:

" We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

"The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way --
everywhere in the world.

"The third is freedom from want -- everywhere in the world.

"The fourth is freedom from fear -- anywhere in the world."

And we can start right now by encouraging the Standard-Times editorial writers and anyone else to speak out. We don't need a country of lemmings. We need people who will engage honestly in vigorous debate, not for personal or political gain, but to build a world in which our grandchildren can look back and say "thank you for securing freedom . . . everywhere in the world."

Comments - email to: gstone@giveyoujoy.net

Last updated November 7, 2001

 

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Referenced resources

Bill Moyers speech October 16

also see Molly Ivins on war-profiteering

Bob Harris - "go join the Taliban" and much, much more

Ike's "Cross of Iron" speech

Bob Bowman, truth and terrorism

The School of the Americas

Monbiot's "backyard Terrorism"

Just the facts on SOA

The "Four Freedoms" speech of FDR

and the Rockwell paintings