9.01.2006

certainty

I don't follow US news very closely anymore, and when I'm working on writing assignments, barely at all. I often catch up with an event after reading the response to it.

That's how I learned of Donald Rumsfeld's recent Orwellian speech at the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City this week. Straight out of Bizarro World, without a trace of irony, the Evil warned against "a new type of fascism". Indeed.

I only read about this speech by seeing Keith Olbermann's excellent response to it. An excerpt:
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld's speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld's, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the "secret information." It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld's -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England's, in the 1930's.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it "knew" that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic's name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.
Here's another brilliant response, this one from Rocky Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake City. Anderson delivered this address at a rally in opposition to Rumsfeld's visit, and sent it to Common Dreams for publication. It's very long, so I will only post an excerpt (still lengthy) here. Do read it. I found it inspiring.
A patriot is a person who loves his or her country. Who among you loves your country so much that you have come here today to raise your voice out of deep concern for our nation--and for our world?

And who among you loves your country so much that you insist that our nation's leaders tell us the truth?

Let's hear it: "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"

Let no one deny we are patriots. We love our country, we hold dear the values upon which our nation was founded, and we are distressed at what our President, his Administration, and our Congress are doing to, and in the name of, our great nation.

Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.

A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating President.

That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant.

. . .

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

We are here today as truth-tellers.

And we are here to demand: "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"

We are here today to insist that those who were elected to be our leaders must tell us the truth.

We are here today to insist that our news media live up to its sacred responsibility to ascertain and report the truth--rather than acting like nothing more than a bulletin board for the lies and propaganda of a manipulative, dishonest federal government.

We have been getting just about everything but the truth on matters of life and death...on matters upon which our nation's reputation hinges...on matters that directly relate to our nation's fundamental values...and on matters relating to the survival of our planet.

In the process, our nation has engaged in an unnecessary war, based upon false justifications. More than a hundred thousand people have been killed--and many more have been seriously maimed, brain-damaged, or rendered mentally ill.

Our nation's reputation throughout much of the world has been destroyed. We have many more enemies bent on our destruction than before our invasion of Iraq.

And the hatred toward us has grown to the point that it will take many years, perhaps generations, to overcome the loathing created by our invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.

What incredible ineptitude and callousness for our President to talk about a Crusade while lying to us to make a case for the invasion and occupation of a Muslim country!

Our children and later generations will pay the price of the lies, the violence, the cruelty, the incompetence, and the inhumanity of the Bush Administration and the lackey Congress that has so cowardly abrogated its responsibility and authority under our checks-and-balances system of government.

We are here to say, "We will not stand for it any more. No more lies. No more pre-emptive, illegal war, based on false information. No more God-is-on-our- side religious nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war. No more inhumanity."

Let's raise our voices, and demand, "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"

Let's consider some of the most monstrous lies--lies that have led us, like a nation of sheep, to this tragic war.

[He then recounts a summary. It takes quite some time to sum up even a partial list of the lies.]

As we demand the truth from others, let us also face the truth. Our government all too often has not cared about the human rights of people in other nations--and it doesn't really care about democracy, unless it leads to the election of those who will do our bidding. Consider the irony regarding the claims that Saddam had chemical weapons and, because of that, we needed to rush to war in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons--first against Iranians, then against his own people, the Kurds - our country provided him with biological and chemical agents and equipment to make the weapons. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush refused even to support economic sanctions against Hussein for his use of weapons of mass destruction. What did our nation do in response to Hussein's use of chemical weapons, killing tens of thousand of people, when he actually had them?

We befriended, coddled, and rewarded him--with government-guaranteed loans totaling $5 billion since 1983, freeing up currency for Hussein to modernize his military assets.

Perhaps those in the US government who aided and abetted Saddam Hussein to further US business interests, while he was gassing the Kurds, should be sharing his courtroom dock as he is being tried now for crimes against humanity. No more lies, no more hiding of the truth, no more wars that more than triple the value of stock in Dick Cheney's prior employer, Halliburton--and which, as of last September, has increased the value of the Halliburton CEO's stock by $78 million.

We are patriots. We're deeply concerned. And we demand change, now. No more lies from Condoleezza Rice about whether she and President Bush were advised before 9/11 of the possibility of planes being flown into buildings by terrorists.

No more gross incompetence in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

No more torture of human beings.

No more disregard of the basic human rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention.

No more kidnapping of people and sending them off to secret prisons in nations where we can expect they will be tortured.

No more unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans.

No more proposed amendments to the United States Constitution that would, for the first time, limit fundamental rights and liberties for entire classes of people simply on the basis of sexual orientation.

No more federal land giveaways to developers.

No more increases in mercury emissions from old, dirty, dangerous coalburning power plants.

No more backroom deals that deprive protection for millions of acres of wild lands.

No more attacks on immigrants who work so hard to build better lives.

No more inaction by Congress on fixing our hypocritical and inconsistent immigration laws and policies.

No more reliance on fiction rather than the science of global warming.

No more manipulation of our media with false propaganda.

No more disastrous cuts in funding for those most in need.

No more federal cuts in community policing and local law enforcement grant programs for our cities.

No more inaction on stopping the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

No more of the Patriot Act.

No more killing.

No more pre-emptive wars.

No more contempt for our long-time allies around the world.

No more dependence on foreign oil.

No more failure to impose increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

No more energy policies developed in secret meetings between Dick Cheney and his energy company cronies.

No more excuses for failing to aggressively cut global warming pollutant emissions.

No more tragically incompetent federal responses to natural disasters.

No more tax cuts for the wealthiest, while the middle class and those who are economically-disadvantaged continue to struggle more and more each year.

No more reckless spending and massive tax cuts, resulting in historic deficits and historic accumulated national debt.

No more purchasing of elections by the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country.

No more phony, ineffective, inhumane so-called war on drugs. No more failure to pass an increase in the minimum wage.

No more silence by the American people.

This is a new day. We will not be silent. We will continue to raise our voices. We will bring others with us. We will grow and grow, regardless of political party--unified in our insistence upon the truth, upon peace-making, upon more humane treatment of our brothers and sisters around the world.

We will be ever cognizant of our moral responsibility to speak up in the face of wrongdoing, and to work as we can for a better, safer, more just community, nation, and world.

So we won't let down. We won't be quiet. We will continue to resist the lies, the deception, the outrages of the Bush Administration. We will insist that peace be pursued, and that, as a nation, we help those in need. We must break the cycle of hatred, of intolerance, of exploitation. We must pursue peace as vigorously as the Bush Administration has pursued war. It's up to all of us to do our part.

Thank you everyone for lending your voices to this call for compassion, for peace, for greater humanity. Let us keep in mind the injunction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
I am very moved that the mayor of a Western town, especially one with such deep religious roots, gave this speech. You can thank Mayor Anderson by emailing his office at mayor[at]slcgov.com. Be sure to put something like "thanks for your recent speech" in the subject line.

5 comments:

redsock said...

Video for both Olbermann and Anderson.

More KO:

This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such, all voices count - not just his. Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about Osama Bin Laden's plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein's weapons four years ago -- about Hurricane Katrina's impact one year ago -- we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelope this nation -- he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have -- inadvertently or intentionally -- profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer's New Clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?

As a child, of whose heroism did he read?

On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight?

With what country has he confused the United States of America?


And he closes with some great words from Murrow.

Also: John Dean was on tonight: "This is text book authoritarianism."

Woti-woti said...

I guess the only good thing about Anderson's speech is that he was able to give it without being dragged away by jack-booted thugs. Er, he has been seen since, right?

The laundry list evidencing Bush's abuse of unfettered power makes Nixon look like the father of democracy. But if Nixon had declared that God was speaking through him, he would have been summarily declared insane and immediately booted out of office. How on earth have the religious right gained such credibility and power in 30 years?

L-girl said...

I guess the only good thing about Anderson's speech is that he was able to give it without being dragged away by jack-booted thugs.

Huh? The only good thing, IMO, was everything he said, and that he said it.

How on earth have the religious right gained such credibility and power in 30 years?

It's amazing, isn't it? When I was doing activism during the Reagan years, we were trying to tell everyone that the RR was a bona fide threat, that they were gaining influence in the courts and in Congress. We were looked at as crazies and alarmists.

That's one reason I'll never say "That wouldn't happen here" - about anything. (One reason of many.)

Woti-woti said...

No, no. I guess I wasn't clear enough. Of course everything Anderson said was spot-on, it's just that it's ALL really evil shit. That's what I meant about the only good thing. In fact, his laundry list left out the 2 most recent horrors--private armies indirectly funded by US taxpayers and tax-farming. I suspect both these are something Harper can grasp.

L-girl said...

Ah, that sounds more like our Woti. :) Thanks for clarifying.