Follows a bit of debate on the state of America. It was set off by an email Fwd I received, one of a small handful of Clinton-bashing forwards I started getting in July, 2003. George W. Bush had just started to come under fire for his misleading pre-war statements of Iraq's capabilities. And here, suddenly, were all these emails bashing the former president Clinton. . . .
OUR PRESIDENT CLINTON
Bill Clinton registers for the draft on September 08, 1964, accepting all contractual conditions of registering for the draft. Given Selective Service Number 3 26 46 228.
Bill Clinton classified 2-S on November 17, 1964.
Bill Clinton reclassified 1-A on March 20, 1968.
Bill Clinton ordered to report for induction on July 28, 1969.
Bill Clinton dishonors order to report and is not inducted into the military.
Bill Clinton reclassified 1-D after enlisting in the United States Army Reserves on August 07, 1969 under authority of Col. E. Holmes.
Clinton signs enlistment papers and takes oath of enlistment.
Bill Clinton fails to report to his duty station at the University of Arkansas ROTC, September 1969.
Bill Clinton reclassified 1-A on October 30, 1969, as enlistment with Army Reserves is revoked by Colonel E. Holmes and Clinton now AWOL and subject to arrest under Public Law 90-40 (2)(a) "registrant who has failed to report...remain liable for induction".
Bill Clinton's birth date lottery number is 311, drawn December 1, 1969, but anyone who has already been ordered to report for induction is INELIGIBLE!
Bill Clinton runs for Congress (1974), while a fugitive from justice under Public Law 90-40.
Bill Clinton runs for Arkansas Attorney General (1976), while a fugitive from justice.
Bill Clinton receives pardon on January 21, 1977, from Carter.
Bill Clinton (FIRST PARDONED FEDERAL FELON) ever to serve as President.
All these facts come from Freedom of Information requests, public laws, and various books that have been published, and have not been refuted
After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six and injured 1,000; President Clinton promised that those responsible would be hunted
down and punished.
After the 1995 bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed five U.S. military personnel; Clinton promised that those responsible would be hunted down and punished.
After the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 and injured 200 U.S. military personnel; Clinton promised that those responsible would be hunted down and punished.
After the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa, which killed 224 and injured 5,000; Clinton promised that those responsible would be hunted down and punished.
After the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 and injured 39 U.S. sailors; Clinton promised that those responsible would be hunted down and punished.
Maybe if Clinton had kept those promises, an estimated 3,000 people in New York and Washington, D.C. that are now dead would be alive today.
AN INTERESTING QUESTION:
This question was raised on a Philly radio call-in show. Without casting stones, it is a legitimate question.
There are two men, both extremely wealthy. One develops relatively cheap software and gives billions of dollars to charity. The other sponsors terrorism. That being the case, why was it that the Clinton Administration spent more money chasing down Bill Gates over the eight years in office, than Osama bin Laden?
THINK ABOUT IT!
It is a strange turn of events. Hillary gets $8 Million for her forthcoming memoir. Bill gets about $12 Million for his memoir yet to be written. This from two people who spent 8 years being unable to recall anything about past events while under oath!
Cdr. Hamilton McWhorter USN (Ret)
P.S. Please forward this to as many people as you can! We don't want this woman to even THINK of running for President.
REPLY FROM E.M.-L.:
THE USE OF SLICK WILLY
The above forward about Clinton's moral failings is charmingly predictable. After Baghdad fell to U.S. troops I'd noticed that all the pro-Bush, pro-Republican and Clinton-bashing emails ebbed away. But then, just as Americans were starting to face up to the fact that the Bush Administration was being fingered for lying to Americans and the world about intelligence on Iraq, all of a sudden I'm getting these Clinton-bashing emails again.
It seems that when the Bush government comes under criticism, the best thing to do is remind people of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, or Clinton and his shameful military record.
If Bush cannot find WMD in Iraq, the best thing to do is use your email account to bash Hillary.
The entire educated world knows damn well by now that the Iraq war was not about any perceived threat from Iraq but was rather about Iraqi oil and control of it. Most of the world knew this long before the war even began, but now it has become so clear that even starry-eyed Bush supporters have to face the fact that in the lead-up to war they were being brainwashed by misinformation and rhetoric.
Debating the question of whether or not the war was about an Iraqi threat to American security is like debating whether the sun rises in the east or west. If you want the answer all you have to do is turn off your TV and look out your window.
The American public has been deceived into going to war. That's a fact, and I'll repeat it with a slight addition: The American public has been deceived into going to war in order to pour billions into the pockets of a handful of oil conglomerates. The American soldiers now in Iraq are there to oversee the new Iraqi government, which will in its turn oversee that everything goes the way American CEOs want it to go.
Clinton was a womanizer and a liar: a man who lied about his womanizing. Bush is a man who lies about war and peace. But many of the people who support Bush seem to think lies leading a nation to war are not as serious as lies about blowjobs. I find this amazingly immoral.
Three times as many people around the world today hate America (the selfish, imperialist, air-polluting America of Bush) as did under Clinton, who had far more respect in the international arena than Bush has.
Blaming 9/11 on the Clinton Administration could only be done by someone who willfully ignores all the warnings of 9/11 that the Bush Administration got in the months before the attack. And if the entire educated world knows that the Iraq war was about oil, much of the educated world suspects that 9/11 was in itself not exactly what it seemed to be on CNN. More than anything now America needs a thorough investigation of the "failure" that allowed 9/11 to happen.
All of this becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on. Bemoaning the Clinton years (which are now part of the past) will do little to make the unpleasant truths of the present go away. And the truths of the present are getting more unpleasant all the time.
More unpleasant all the time? Yes. For example, this email has probably been scanned for certain words or phrases that could be seen to be "anti-American." The government project that has begun such scanning of emails is entirely un-Constitutional and thus illegal and thus--the irony--the most un-American thing now happening in America.
The Constitution is being undermined by Bush appointee John Ashcroft. The Bush Administration is introducing policies likely to have a very un-American future. We are now seeing the sorts of things the Founding Fathers did their best to make impossible in our country.
But most Bush supporters don't seem to know much about the Constitution. And in any case, it's obvious that in their minds the Constitution isn't nearly as interesting as Bill Clinton's sex life.
REPLY FROM JIM WOOD:
Here Here Eric!!
And to put a finer point on your points, let me make an additional suggestion:
When we consider politics in general, we must take into account the mindsets that permeate the administrations that are in charge.
Many Americans do not know of the teachings of Leo Strauss, a University of Chicago mind. Most Americans have some idea of who Machiavelli is, but only because he was one of the guiding principles behind Nixon. Of course, many also know Thomas Jefferson, who was the political ideologue behind Clinton's administration, but most would not agree with Jeffersonian ideals. They would think of Alexander Hamilton, who was the basis for the Reagan political philosophy.
Every politician that becomes president in the US has been faced with some type of challenge that his predecessors did not have to meet. As such, it is more a job that required a POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY to guide their actions than a "can do" sort of person that would be the guide. The upshot: you don't become President by not being "can do", but "can do" has resolved very little in the last 100 years. On the other hand, politics guided by a "philosophy" has actually made huge impacts, because it is deeper than the latest deal that can be cut.
Following are some of the fundamentals of these three guiding political philosophies:
1. Nixon and Machiavelli.
"The End Justifies the Means." Machiavelli's "The Prince". But was that all? There is more, yes. "It is easier to control the dark emotions (hate and fear) then the light emotions (love and respect), so even though being loved as a leader is more desirable, a great leader only works to strengthen his skills of fear (to gain respect) and hate (to unify purpose), as it is these emotions that are more easily determined by the ruler, than the folly of other peoples opinions."
Results? Watergate, where one party used governmental power to "derail" the so-called natural two-party system, so democracy was a victim to political expedience.
2. Reagan and Hamilton/Clinton and Jefferson
I was a big fan of Reagan. Yep. Hamilton was raised poor. Worked his whole life to make ends meet, and then become highly influential in determining the "type of capitalist" system we would have. It is essential that you know that his "opponent" was Jefferson. The basis of the debate was what was "more valuable", capital or labor?
Hamilton, poor, and having to work to get everything, believed Capital was king. Jefferson, rich, having been given most things, large estates, and massive numbers working for him, believed Labor was king.
In Jefferson's perspective, Capital was necessary to "hire" the minds and "hands" that make any great undertaking possible. Further, capital was necessary to create the gathering of people or places or things, but it was the gathering of people, places and things that MADE the greatness possible. With no people, capital had no purpose. It was simply an idea, or a construct. This type of thought permeated the Clinton Administration. That is why he hired Ivy League people.
In Hamilton's perspective, Labor was required to do the work that capital needed. But without Capital, there were no "gatherings". There were no "great undertakings" there were just poor, uneducated people that didn't give a whit for things beyond filling their belly. And it was capital that gave the poor a reason to get up, a reason to build, to create, to make better lives for themselves, and most importantly, gave the poor something larger than themselves to strive for. Hamilton believed that labor could be gotten cheaply, and could be thrown back into a pool, and new labor could be found, but only if capital was there. And Reagan believed this at a fundamental level. The importance of capital as generative principle explains the Reagan Administration's "trickle-down economics".
For Jefferson, a concept of Labor was the basis on which the political theories were built. Hamilton's political theories were organized around a concept of Capital.
3. George W. Bush and Leo Strauss
This match is one that few understand. And most, when confronted with who and what Leo Strauss taught, are somewhat taken aback. Leo Strauss was not an economist. His political philosophy was formed in the "Nazi Germany" world. And he is a philosopher, not a politician.
His tenets? Fairly basic, but undemocratic. And Strauss was vehement about his "anti-democratic" stance. Strauss taught the greatest weakness of democracy was its "consistent battle with itself." Where "great nations" were able to focus on a single theme and move forward, democracies had endless and needless debates, and second guessing, which prevented the more efficient use of a nation's most important tool: Focus on Purpose.
Additionally, Strauss believed that the "people" were a helpless, sad, stupid mob that was not to be treated with any respect, nor to be informed or knowledgeable about any subject. Nor had it actually ever been "educated". It was to be controlled, told what was and what wasn't, and to be dealt with as a "child". And that nations ought to select powerful and strong leaders from the elite, who should govern with power and "lead/rule" the world. Making it a better place for the elite. And, if it was necessary or appropriate, the leader could, at times, give back to the people, just to keep them appeased. But, the people were a problem that leadership needed to deal with as efficiently as possible.
Eric, your note on the "Clinton Bashing" is accurate. But we must keep in mind that as long as Americans don't believe that "it matters" to vote, the Right Wing will be served. And that is the main purpose of these Clinton-bashing emails. It is to remind us that during Clinton's time, the greatest prosperity in the History of the United States, and the greatest run of peace in the 20th century, was uhhhh....bad. And now, the worst economics in history, and the most warlike administration in 100 years, is uhhhh better. And the main reason is: Clinton dodged the draft. And uhhh....yeah. Clinton dodged the draft.
That is why things are better now.
An angry response to my remarks about the political use of recent Clinton-bashing came from someone unknown to me: Jerry Cox. His initial letter didn't reveal much other than the usual furious contempt for the Democrats, but he followed with a more detailed explanation of his thinking. I sent him a copy of the now-famous article by Gore Vidal on 9/11. ("The Enemy Within," published in the Observer, London, October 27, 2002; available online at the following URL:)
Some time back I'd sent this article to others in my mailing list with a brief preface. The preface outlines why I consider the article important. As follows:
The following article, written last year, poses the kinds of questions about 9/11 that the American mainstream media haven't dared pose. These problems are not raised on Fox News or CNN, nor will Time magazine be taking them up any time soon. But given that we still live in a country that protects free speech, a country whose strength is founded in its freedom, the questions remain valuable and citizens have the right to consider and debate them. I would go further: citizens have an obligation to carefully consider these questions, as they involve the future of America, where it is headed.
I do not believe the article is without its flaws. For one, the final argument made as to which organization was behind 9/11 is not supported with enough evidence.
Of particular interest to me are two aspects of the article. First, the sections that deal with the many unanswered questions about the initial U.S. response to the hijackings on 9/11. I mean the response to warnings about coming attacks, but even more pointedly the almost total lack of appropriate response on the morning of the attacks. Response was nearly zero until the attacks had been successfully completed.
Second, the sections that lay out the background of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Eurasia in general. The portrait is one of a government that had already decided to begin a military campaign or series of military campaigns in these regions. What was lacking, of course, was a justification for beginning the campaign: a suitable provocation that would give the U.S. government adequate grounds for undertaking what it had long been planning.
Gore Vidal, who wrote the article, does not spell out in simple terms what he is getting at. The reader is meant to connect the dots. I am not sure his conclusions are valid. I do believe, however, that careful consideration of the kinds of issues he raises is necessary for Americans. The Bush Administration has brought about radical changes in our government's comportment toward the world community: the unilateralism, the doctrine of pre-emptive strike, etc. All these changes were possible because of the seriousness of the attacks on 9/11. But difficult questions remain about those attacks themselves. How many Americans are willing to ask such questions?
One thing is certain, though I'm afraid most Americans don't realize it: Trying to understand the modern world merely through watching Fox News or CNN is like trying to understand marine biology through watching Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. Watching The Little Mermaid over and over again.
As the article is lengthy, I will send it in sections. It was sent to me by a friend and I believe even this version has been abridged in places. Apologies to those who have already read the article elsewhere.
This was the forward I initially sent out with Vidal's article itself. For a critique of Vidal's article, see below, under the name Ron Rosenbaum, or go directly to:
Jerry himself thought Vidal's article was unconvincing, and our correspondence followed from there:
Reading through your comments I find that I agree with you on around half of what you're saying. For example, I also detest the culture of political correctness in the universities. I consider multiculturalism a good thing, but one that has been pushed too far in Western academies. I was a supporter of Allan Bloom when his book The Closing of the American Mind came out. (I'm aware that supporting Allan Bloom and criticizing the Bush team may be seen by many to be self-contradictory, but it is a question here mainly of supporting Bloom's thinking on the function of the university.)
By the way, I think the word liberal is incorrectly used to describe Democrats. Liberal is a term that refers to Enlightenment political positions in general, and in scholarly literature Republicans in the U.S. are considered to be more right-wing liberals, the Democrats more left-wing liberals. I'm a liberal, yes, and I suspect you are too. For example, if you believe in (more or less) free market economics, free speech, and elections, you are a liberal.
The problem with the Bush team is that they are almost not really liberals, not even right-wing liberals. They are leaning toward what I would call fascism. I'm not saying they are fascists, but they are pushing in that direction. Nationalism, aggressive militarism, decreased government protection of individual liberties, massive state subsidies for certain industries (i.e., in this case, the ever-more-massive U.S. military), contempt for international agreements. All these things characterize the Bush team, and they've only just started (assuming, which I hope doesn't happen, they get a second term).
One thing that particularly dismays me: many Americans who support the Bush team, based on what I read of their writing, seem the types who'd willingly allow America to drift into fascism without, along the way, waking up and smelling the coffee. In other words, though they believe themselves to be great Americans, their writing shows at every turn that they don't know all that much about what it is that makes the United States different from, say, Nazi Germany.
I am thus concerned about where the Bush style of leadership is taking America. I'm concerned that Americans don't realize what can happen once certain liberties are given away. Do you know of TIA (Total Information Awareness)?
I'm also convinced it is very possible there was some level of conspiracy behind what happened on 9/11. The American system has been seeking a viable enemy ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union. If a viable enemy doesn't arise on its own, the "responsible" leader, according to this kind of Realpolitik, will have to cultivate one.
How do you discount the array of evidence laid out by Vidal? Are you supposing these are all just coincidences? Why do you suppose he is a "left-wing nut"? I think you'd be surprised to learn what Vidal's politics really are. He's a man very concerned with what the Founders intended America to be. He's not in any sense a "left-wing nut," but rather a no-nonsense advocate of liberty.
I'm very interested to watch what unfolds in the Philippines. It might offer a kind of distant mirror of what might ultimately unfold in the U.S.
In a message dated 7/27/2003 5:50:34 AM Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
>>>Reading through your comments I find that I agree with you on around half of what you're saying. For example, I also detest the culture of political correctness in the universities.
I detest it everywhere.
>>>I consider multiculturalism a good thing, but one that has been pushed too far in Western academies.
Multiculturalism is destroying the cohesiveness of this nation and there will be serious consequences somewhere down the road.
>>>I was a supporter of Allan Bloom when his book The Closing of the American Mind came out. . (I'm aware that supporting Allan Bloom and criticizing the Bush team may be seen by many to be self-contradictory, but it is a question here of supporting aspects of Bloom's thinking on the function of the university.)
I'm not familiar with that book but I don't have the time to read every book I'd like to read.
But I can well imagine what the book might be getting at. There's no doubt the American mind is closed or that common sense is mostly a thing of the past. I consider common sense to be the consequence of hard times, when one lacks sufficient resources for every need or desire, and therefore, must make choices. Life has become so easy for many and we have become such an affluent society, that hard choices are no longer necessary for many; consequently, the death of common sense.
>>>I think the word liberal is incorrectly used to describe Democrats.
I don't. I think the two words are virtually synonymous, although there are a few exceptions. Following this, I'll send you a newspaper column about Daniel Patrick Moynahan that makes references to the radical leftward movement of the Democratic Party.
>>>Liberal is a term that refers to Enlightenment political positions in general, and in scholarly literature Republicans in the U.S. are considered to be somewhat right-wing liberals, the Democrats more left-wing liberals.
That may be so in the classical sense but that is no longer the meaning in current usage, just as gay used to mean light-hearted, but no longer means that.
>>>I'm a liberal, yes, and I suspect you are too: for example, if you believe in (more or less) free market economics, free speech, and elections, you are a liberal.
I agree with a comment Dennis Praeger made in one of his books--that the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left since Harry Truman's time that a liberal of that age who hasn't moved leftward with the Democrats is today considered a hard right conservative.
As I mentioned previously, both Ron Reagan and George H. W. Bush were once Democrats but I'm sure that's what happened to them. They failed to move left with the Democrats and thereby became Republicans.
Yes, by 1950 standards, I'm a liberal but by today's liberal standards, I'm way to the right of Rush Limbaugh. I frequently think that I'd like to tease Rush that the biggest problem I have with him is that he's too damned liberal.
>>>The problem with the Bush team is that they are almost not really liberals, not even right-wing liberals. They are leaning toward what I would call fascism. I'm not saying they are fascists, but they are pushing in that direction.
I don't agree with this. I believe Bush just understands that some things are worth fighting for. Liberals never think anything is worth fighting for. During the Cold War, they wanted to unilaterally disarm to show the Soviets what good guys we are. If we'd been stupid enough to do that, we'd be speaking Russian today.
Ron Reagan's hard-nosed attitude is what defeated Soviet Communism, thank God.
I'm basically a red neck (and proud of it) from the Ozarks and I'll fight in a New York minute for the right cause. Liberals never seem to recognize evil but I damned well know there is evil in abundance in the world, and it must be fought.
>>>Nationalism, aggressive militarism, decreased government protection of individual liberties,
Nationalism is simply love of one's own country. I'm definitely in love with the United States of America, the greatest country God ever put on the face of the earth. No other country even comes close, except possibly England, from whom our culture is descended but I think we even have them beat.
As for aggressive militarism, I don't know what that means. A military force must be aggressive. Their function is to win wars. As General Patton said, "There is no substitute for victory." Imagine the consequences if we had lost the Second World War.
As for the infringement of individual liberties, that's a consequence of big government, which is what liberals believe in. True conservatives believe in small government, which is what our Constitution intended. Unfortunately, no one has been paying much attention to our Constitution for many decades.
I'll send you a something on that, too, in a separate e-mail.
It does seem to me, though, that as the population of our country increases, some infringement of individual liberties is necessary. I just haven't quite decided yet how much.
For instance, an old saying is that my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins. That may be so in an uncrowded room but once the room becomes crowded, my right to swing my fist must be more limited. It becomes too intimidating for others in a crowded room.
I'm almost 68 years old and have complained bitterly for 3 decades about all the freedoms we've lost since I was a kid. As a kid, I used to enjoy shooting fireworks on the 4th of July. Now almost all personal fireworks are banned. Where I grew up, in Missouri, the only speed limits were in town. Now, of course, there are speed limits on every highway.
I used to have a customer, until he died a few years ago, who was well into his 80s and he and I used to talk about our loss of freedoms. Jake told me when he first started driving, he didn't need a driver's license. It must have felt to him like a serious infringement on his freedom when the states began requiring driver's licenses.
As I said, as the nation becomes more crowded, some infringements on our freedoms probably are necessary. The difficulty is in deciding how much. But I suppose that's really a moot issue. The politicians have already made that decision for us and now, ours is not to reason how much, ours is simply to live with their decisions.
But I think some of the most serious infringements of our freedoms come from state and local laws. I consider zoning laws and building codes an absolute infringement on my Constitutional rights. A town near where I live has made it illegal to park a vehicle in your driveway. Your own vehicle must be in your garage and if you have guests, they can't even park in your driveway.
Many communities now are banning the parking of vans and pickup trucks with commercial lettering on the sides in residential neighborhoods. Some even ban pickups without commercial lettering.
Hurricane Andrew blew a few shingles off the roof of my sister's house and she had to have her roof reshingled. But first, she had to get a permit from the county. A permit means permission.
Who owns these houses, anyway? The people making the payments or the government? My attitude is that if I'm making the payments, it's my house and I can do anything I damned well please on my own property but of course, that attitude leads straight to jail today, if you don't toe the line.
The bans on pickups and vans parked at residences smacks of discrimination against tradesmen who make their living with tools and need a vehicle to carry them in. At the end of the day, why shouldn't they be able to park in their own driveways? We can't all work in offices and drive sedans to and from the office.
A friend of mine from years ago used to say that cops are the have-nots who are employed by the haves to keep the other have-nots in line. When I look at where we seem to be headed, I find that outlook hard to refute.
We definitely are becoming a fascist society but local governments are the worst perpetrators by far. I'm hardly a modern day Al Capone, I've worked all my life, I don't drink excessively, I don't use illegal drugs and before I moved to this county, a cop had never been to my house. But since I moved here, it seems that they're here all the time. I can't raise my voice without a cop showing up, wanting to know what the problem is.
Yes, this is definitely not the home of the brave and the land of the free that I grew up in, and what it's become is really hard to take for an old timer like me, but it seems that I have no choice but to live with it.
I'm even expected to wear a seat belt that I don't believe in. In 1979, while driving a semi, I had an accident that would have killed me if I'd been belted in. Wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice. A proper function of government is to protect you from me and me from you but when they start protecting me from myself, it's really hard to consider this the land of the free any longer.
>>>massive state subsidies for certain industries (i.e., in this case, the ever-more-massive U.S. military),
See, that's an indication of your liberalism, which you deny. I wholeheartedly support a strong military. A strong military keeps the peace. A weak one is an invitation for a foreign power to push us around.
In the early grades of school, I was an average sized kid and had to fight frequently to avoid being pushed around. Then when I was about 12, the growth hormones kicked in and almost overnight, I grew to 6 feet and almost 200 pounds, and I had to fight only once after that. My size just looked too intimidating to would be aggressors. The same principle applies between nations.
>>>contempt for international agreements.
Again, here's your liberalism showing. We don't so much show contempt for international agreements as international agreements show contempt for us. As a sovereign nation, we must look after our own best interests. No one else is going to.
I suspect you're referring to such things as the Kyoto Accords. We would have been damned fools to agree to that. That thing stacked the deck against the U.S. We are about the only nation whose economy would have been hamstrung by that agreement, which was the whole idea from the standpoint of the other nations.
The U.S. is an economic powerhouse and the rest of the world resents that. They'd love to bring us down to their level. Rush Limbaugh frequently says the aim of liberals is to make everyone equally miserable. I find that viewpoint hard to refute.
The economic freedom of the U.S. allows every person to rise to the highest level hard work and his talents will allow but liberalism seems intent on bringing the high achievers down to everyone else's level.
>>>All of these things characterize the Bush team, and they've only just started (assuming, which I hope doesn't happen, they get a second term).
Who would you rather see become president? As I've said, I have some serious doubts about some of Bush's domestic agenda but I don't see anyone on the horizon who will do better, by my definition of better, and I'd damned sure rather have another 4 years of Bush than any of the Democrats who've announced their candidacy.
>>>One thing I really don't like: many Americans who support the Bush team, based on what I read of their writing, seem the types who'd willingly allow America to drift into a kind of authoritarian fascism without, along the way, waking up and smelling the coffee.
I don't see it that way at all and don't really know where you're coming from on that issue. I agree absolutely that our government is becoming an 800-pound gorilla that does as it damned well pleases but I don't see that Bush is particularly furthering this along.
I consider what happened at Ruby Ridge and at Waco absolutely outrageous but these occurred under two different administrations, one Republican and the other Democratic. So the general drift of our national government seems to be in that direction. The problem really comes from a huge bureaucracy which even the President can't control and this is part of the problem when government becomes too large. It needs to be whittled down to size but I don't see that happening. And liberals would be broken hearted if it did.
>>>I am concerned about where the Bush style of leadership is taking America.
I don't understand your concerns. I'm not nearly as concerned about where we're going as I was when Bill and Hillary Clinton were co-presidents. They wanted to socialize our health care system, one seventh of our economy. Bill Clinton told his driver when he was governor of Arkansas that he never saw a tax he didn't like. Burdensome taxes are a drag on the economy, yet liberals always want to raise taxes.
Look what happened when George Bush, Sr. raised taxes. The liberals always want to "sock it to the rich," so part of that tax increase was a tax on luxury boats, which destroyed our domestic boat building industry and threw everyone employed in that industry out of work. The Democrats (liberals) claim to be the friend of the working man (I can refute that from now until hell freezes over) but with friends like these, the working man sure doesn't need any enemies.
I have ambivalent feelings about labor unions but I believe Jimmy Hoffa did far more for the workingman that Bobby Kennedy ever did, yet Bobby Kennedy hounded Hoffa until he finally sent him to jail. Kennedy was a Democrat, supposedly the workingman's friend. So what did he ever do for the workingman, compared to what Jimmy Hoffa did?
>>>I'm concerned that too many Americans don't realize what can happen once certain liberties are given away. Do you know of TIA (Total Information Awareness)?
Yes, I know about TIA. I don't think very highly of it but I can understand its appeal to those who do. But I'm sure most Americans are not aware of what's going on or what's at stake.
I make a distinction between talking politics and talking issues. To me talking politics involves such things as comparing the various candidates and discussing who you think is the best one. I don't talk much about politics in that sense but I talk incessantly about the issues, because I consider them very important. But I'm constantly appalled at the number of people who refuse to talk about the issues, saying they don't talk about such things.
I have a brother who does that and he infuriates me. He and I don't socialize much. The government has a finger in every pie now and I find it very hard to talk about anything that doesn't eventually lead to a discussion of government, yet my stupid brother gets upset when the conversation reaches that point.
About two years ago he bought an older house and for much of the last year, has been doing extensive remodeling. And of course, he has run into constant problems with local zoning ordinances and building codes, yet he can't understand that those are the things I'm talking about. Talk about burying your head in the sand and not getting the picture!
>>>I'm also convinced it is very possible there was a conspiracy behind what happened on 9/11. The American system has been seeking a viable enemy ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union. If a viable enemy doesn't arise on its own, the "responsible" leader, according to this kind of Realpolitik, will have to cultivate one.
I think you've been reading too much Gore Vidal. I consider such a conspiracy extremely far fetched. The only conspiracy theory I believe in is that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't kill John Kennedy by himself with an old bolt-action rifle. The Warren Commission was nothing but a cover up and the government has no business covering up such as that from the American people.
>>>How do you discount the array of evidence laid out by Vidal? Are you supposing these are all just coincidences?
I think he takes a number of unrelated facts and ties them together through the use of a vivid imagination.
>>>Why do you suppose he's a "left-wing nut"?
Because I've read that he is. I can't remember the details now of what I read but at the time he sounded like a left wing nut.
>>>I think you'd be surprised to learn what Vidal's politics really are. He's a man very concerned with what the Founders intended America to be. He's not in any sense a "left-wing nut," but rather a no-nonsense advocate of liberty.
So am I but as I mentioned earlier, I must concede that some limits have to be placed on our liberties as the population of this country increases. I just haven't decided yet where the line should be drawn but then, it really isn't up to me to draw the line, anyway.
I once thought I agreed more with the libertarians than with either the Democrats or the Republicans and I even sent them a contribution, then I learned they favor the massive immigration we've been experiencing for several decades now, and I think it's ruining this country.
>>>I'm very interested to watch what unfolds in the Philippines. It might offer a kind of distant mirror of what might ultimately unfold in the U.S.
I must admit I haven't been paying a lot of attention to what's going on in the Philippines, other than with the Muslim terrorists. It's all I can do to keep up with what's going on in this country. As hard as I try, some things still get by me.
For instance, what happened to the issue of the navy pilot who's been a captive in Iraq since the first Gulf War? Before we gained control of the country, I heard frequent news reports that we had hopes of finding and liberating him but since that war ended, I've heard hardly anything about him. What happened? Did they find him and I missed the report? Or did they just give up and no one bothered to tell us?
Eric, there are at least three things I want to send you to read but I'm running out of time for tonight. I'll have to put them off until next time. I can give many reasons for my position on the issues confronting this nation but it's very frustrating, trying to discuss them on the Internet. I'm not a fast enough typist.
But hang in there. I'll make a believer out of you yet!
REPLY FROM E.M.-L.:
You needn't worry about being able to type fast enough: you can type up almost a Niagara of editorial comment.
Again I agree with you on around half of what you are saying. But of your letters I find this one more trenchant and convincing, and I appreciate your remarks on the changes in America and your discussion of local codes as an example of government out of control. I'm 37 myself, so I don't have the long view of changes in America that you have.
Regarding one point: I think the breaking of the Kyoto Accords was a mistake, but one that G.W. Bush would be certain to make. ("G.W." also stands for "global warming" in most people's minds.) Being by far the biggest consumer of fossil fuels and the biggest consumer of much else, the U.S. could have handled the economic burden of the Kyoto deal. I think humanity is headed for serious difficulties because of our degradation of the environment, and it would be nice to see the world's leading nation take a leading role in reducing fossil fuel consumption. Instead we are being ruled by a group that of themselves constitute a virtual oil cartel. This is a particularly sad irony of our times, perhaps something that will ultimately prove the saddest irony in history.
Something is needed in the wake of the Kyoto Accords but nothing will probably be forthcoming, at least not in the next handful of years.
Another point: you say that Vidal "takes a number of unrelated facts and ties them together through the use of a vivid imagination." I really think that here you have a pretty generous definition of what constitutes "unrelated facts." Did we really read the same article?
Also you say: "Nationalism is simply love of one's country." I think this is incorrect, because I don't take nationalism to be a simple thing. For example, in 1939 a Nazi might have stood up and insisted that "Nationalism is simply love of one's country," thus implying his right to be a nationalist. We, on the other hand, may want to point out to him that his "simple" love of country would come to have serious consequences not only for the people in his country (eventually all the people in his country) but for the rest of the world too. Thus in the first instance one can say that loving one's country does not necessarily bring the best for one's country: that a nationalistic love of country often does more harm than an apolitical indifference.
But there is another, more complicated aspect to consider. Back in the 1930s many a German was standing up and talking about how there had never been a greater country on earth than Germany. And they believed this based on the evidence of their great cultural achievements, their superior military culture, etc. But why this greatness of German culture should have led people to support Hitler is another question, and a more complicated one. What is obvious is that people somehow came to believe that Hitler represented Germany. This belief isn't so surprising. It fits the nationalist profile no matter where one finds it. Hard-core nationalists will usually seek an embodiment of the nation in some individual or party platform. So in 1930s Germany Hitler's party became that embodiment: those who claimed to truly love Germany found themselves loving Hitler and his party as the symbolic embodiment of Germany. Those who didn't love Hitler were criticized as being un-German, unpatriotic. But how did this situation come about? Did Hitler really accurately embody Germany? I don't think so.
It is precisely here--in this process of the people choosing who or what will represent the nation--that nationalism is far from simple. To love one's country is one thing, to miss it when far away is one thing; but to label some specific individual or party doctrine as being somehow able to incarnate it--that is something else altogether. And so: when that German stood up and said "Nationalism is simply love of one's country," we may reply: "But can't you see that this party you support is changing your country into something else? Can't you see the Nazis are not your country?"
The desire to see the nation embodied in a man or a party is almost always misguided. It is especially misguided when that party is advocating a break with long-standing traditions: traditions of policy, law, etc. And this should make us at least a little suspicious about people who use the sentence "America is the greatest nation in the history of the world" as a motto to explain their support for Bush and his policies. The Bush Administration is not America.
To take a different example: many a Soviet citizen certainly evoked "love of his country" (the country of the Great Revolution) when defending the invasion of this or that neighboring territory or when explaining why it was good that his suspicious colleague at the office had been arrested and was being sent to the gulag. And his logic in calling forth "love of country" wasn't all that forced either. After all, wasn't the Soviet Union the embodiment of the Revolution, and wasn't the Revolution, according to the great philosopher Karl Marx, the fated future of humanity? In this case love of Russia was linked with a notion of historical progress. To love Russia was to embrace the future of humanity: to be against Russia was to be against the future of humanity. The parallels between this kind of nationalism and the current nationalism of many Americans is obvious. Many Americans seem to think their country has a natural right to occupy any foreign country because--isn't it obvious?--all foreign countries are fated eventually to become just like America. To be an American imperialist, according to this notion, is to stand for the future of humanity.
I don't think nationalism is a simple thing, and the variety of atrocities linked to nationalism suggests that perhaps the only common denominator--the only simple thing--about nationalism is its horrendous potential for abuse.
Another point: How is multiculturalism tearing America apart? I think America has always been in a process of "being torn apart" by the conflicts between ethnic groups and different immigrant groups. Multiculturalism is natural to America, and to many another nation besides.
This said, I do believe that all public schools in America should use English as the language of instruction. And that for recent immigrants and Americans alike to understand our political system it is necessary to have some education in Western European/American history and political thought. A certain core of Western European history and thought should be started in high school and should be required study of all who would graduate from American universities. Of course this kind of education couldn't be expected from all new immigrants (many of them are no longer students), but it can be expected from all who are educated in the U.S.
These are just a few notes on where I stand regarding some of the things you raised. You can see that I'm skeptical of the current so-called political conservatives, but that in terms of educational policy I'm very conservative.
Next time I post something on the political side of my web page I would like to include this recent letter of yours along with various others. You can consider some of the texts I've already posted on my page and then let me know if you'd agree to allow your letter to be included in a new file. In the file your letter would be the last of three or four. I think you will see that my desire to do this is based on my strong belief in debate: I respect your opinions, differ as they might from my own, and think contrary opinions put side by side have particular value.
A text that might give you some idea of the kind of writing I've put up there might be the following:
If you look at some of the other things on the page you will realize that I live in Taipei, Taiwan, and that I work as a teacher here.
FROM JIM WOOD:
I admire your ability to "hang in there" with those who are more in need of therapy than knowledgeable about political realities.
Your friend Mr. Cox has views that are diametrically opposed to himself, in several ways. They are worse than self-fulfilling prophecies: they are a creation of what should be called: The American Psyche.
These points of view require a touch of insanity, and a large dose of weak intellect. His arguments are full of self-contradictory statements that could make sense ONLY in AMERICA.
The most powerful nation on Earth, hamstrung by the Kyoto Agreement, and powerful because it has a military, yet thinking government is too big, yet knowing that the "militaristic" aspects of the government were the parts that were "out of control" (Waco), but believing that without it someone may invade us and tell us what to do, but then complaining that it happens every day (government intrusions) but thinking that--in a country where the government is so apt at intrusion--what happened on 9/11 couldn't be a conspiracy, except the killing of one head of state (Kennedy) really was a conspiracy?
Come on, man. Please consider some of the basic rules of logical discourse when you write. Please keep to the facts. Or better yet, listen to your own words, or even, for goodness sake, reread your email before you send it! And finally, please realize that being older isn't an excuse for making anything you say into the truth without a care in the world that it may all be self-contradictory.
Hating government intrusion, but thinking it is required, but maybe not, depending on what the issue is? Calling a respected political writer (Gore Vidal) who backs his statements up with facts and research a "wacko," and then going on to claim Rush Limbaugh is too liberal?
Basically, much of the right wing, the "Party of Freedom" or the Republican Party, became Republicans for two reasons:
Less Government Intrusion in their affairs.
Bush is fewer taxes, but in truth, higher user costs. For example, what would happen if the oil companies had to have private militaries? And they'd have to use their private militaries to go get control over the oil they sold. Of course they'd need to spend on "defense" (but here they couldn't really call it "defense," could they?--it'd be more honest) and that additional cost would need to be passed on to the consumer. And that would raise the price of gasoline. But government taxation could be lowered, because we would have far less USE of the military: it would only be called into action for national defense, not to invade third-world countries for imperialistic purposes. If the oil companies had their own militaries, then when they ran the ads for "being all you can be" they could then follow with a CHEVRON logo. And everyone would get the picture. And then people would say, "Gosh, this oil is so EXPENSIVE, and my government taxes are so low, why don't we raise taxes a bit and chop out these polluting war-mongering oil companies by developing some other fuel?" But of course this couldn't happen, could it? So currently the oil companies undertake their wars with a state subsidy. Which just requires a wee bit of spin. But not all that much, it seems.
Does such conservatism as currently practiced in America really amount to Fewer Taxes?
Is this what Less Government Intrusion is all about?
This conservative version of Less Government Intrusion really sounds great, doesn't it? Why don't we tell the Paper Companies that they can finally cut down those freaking annoying old growth trees, that way that stupid freaking owl can stop intruding on our freedom, and those 27 workers that know how to cut down trees can keep their jobs. Lets additionally tell those totally "hamstrung" Chemical companies and Biotech companies that they will no longer be intruded upon when they pour their sulfur into the water, or they will no longer have to track their "viruses" used to implant genetic changes in crops.... These companies are so economically challenged by government intrusion, aren't they? Toss out all the environmental protection laws and we will finally have the freedom to be "the best we can be".
I suspect this Mr. Cox, despite staying abreast of the news, still can't see the forest for the trees. There is no accepted "point of view" in the U.S. that doesn't support the mythology of the "greatest nation in history." Regarding this, John F. Kennedy said it best: "We are most endangered not by the truths of our past, but by the mythologies of our past"... Or something like that.
It always seems to be older people that are so focused on the "asset" side of the balance sheet that they simply forget there is a "liability" side. We must take care not to glorify our achievements to the extent that we forget any of the errors. Why is every pro-military person I have encountered a relative amnesiac when it comes to Vietnam? Has everyone forgotten that we went to WAR, that we lost, that it was wrong, that the protestors were right (even then secretary of defense McNamara acknowledges it, for chrissakes!) and that the government lied every step of the way? Hello? Is anyone home? Or do we just want to remember our valiant invasion of Kuwait, where the Democratic Nations REINSTALLED A KING? How is it people who lived through Vietnam as adults can forget the way America can get talked into wars that are simply wrong? Wars which, finally, will not be good for us?
And speaking of government non-intrusion: Is anyone aware right now that the corporate bankruptcy laws are being used to "transfer" all the wealth from the middle class to the banking class? See WorldCom and watch and learn. They are but the first to use the legal system (legally) to wipe out the debts they have to the shareholders, while keeping the Oligarch's flush.
Anyway, enough of my rant, though at least I can say that I did reread this. And I must say that it's unlikely we can convince any more people. This country is too split.
It comes down to this: There are those who want Freedom. And there are those who want Security. You cannot have both.
I love Freedom. I don't believe there is such a thing as Security. Others disagree. But, in the end, this American experiment, created by the Founding Fathers, although I love it, will probably end too. I only hope it doesn't happen in this lifetime.
Benjamin Franklin said it best (I paraphrase): "Those who are willing to trade their essential freedoms for more security deserve neither freedom nor security."
FROM JERRY COX:
In the words of Stephen Decatur: "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but she is still our country, right or wrong."
This is a quote in which liberals obviously do not believe.
Instead of offering constant criticism like so many liberals do, I give tribute to our armed forces because it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all our enemies, whether they be within or without the borders of our republic.
Your old buddy, Bill Clinton, stated that he detests our armed forces. Does he not believe this country is worth defending from it's enemies? And who would be the enemy within?
Tonight on TV I watched a program about General Douglas MacArthur. He, of course, was the commander of our forces occupying Japan immediately following World War II. The occupation he lead, due to his leadership, showed such benevolence and consideration for the Japanese people as he introduced them to a form of independence and freedom such as they'd never known before, that by the end of the occupation he was revered by the Japanese.
I can vouch for that because I was there soon after the occupation ended. Can you name another example throughout the history of mankind when a conquering general was so revered by those he conquered? Today Japan is a major trading partner of the United States and I take great pride in that, because we helped them get there.
Most conquered nations are enslaved and bled dry of their national wealth by the conquering nation. Look at how the Nazis looted the nations they conquered of valuable paintings, other art treasures and gold, but the U.S., after knocking our enemies flat on their backs, held out a hand and helped them to their feet. Yet many liberals can find nothing to admire about this country.
Please tell me what is wrong with these people, if you can. I've always considered this to be the greatest country in the world and used to talk with my two daughters about it as they were growing up. But every time I came to the subject of liberals versus Communists, I was always stumped on how to distinguish between the two. Their goals seem to be the same.
A few years ago, I read what I consider the best distinction I've ever heard. A Communist is just a liberal in a hurry.
The history of the Democratic Party, the home of liberalism in America, is filled with Communists and Communist sympathizers. Could those liberals who hate America resent our long fight against Communism and our ultimate victory?
Don't bother to tell me that most liberals are not Communists. Read Ann Coulter's book, Treason, and Mona Charen's book, Useful Idiots. They both make the point that there are liberals who actually hate America, then there are useful idiots who sympathize with their cause and aid them in achieving their goal. What's wrong with these people?
Without the participation of the United States, totalitarianism would not have been defeated in World War II. We saved the people of Berlin from starvation with the Berlin airlift, which Harry Truman's advisors advised against, but Harry, the only Democrat I ever liked, said, "Do it!" We were instrumental in the establishment of the United Nations, which has failed miserably to live up to its intended purpose and has turned against us. Its member nations more often than not aligned themselves with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
We were the first to recognize Israel as a nation. Our stated intent to defend Formosa (now Taiwan) prevented the Communist Chinese from taking over that island and our influence led to the freedom and the free enterprise system they enjoy today.
We carried the major burden of defending South Korea from being overrun by the North Koreans and again, our influence led to the democracy and free economy enjoyed by South Korea today.
We again carried the burden of defending South Vietnam from North Vietnam and probably would have succeeded if not for our liberal politicians. They and the liberal antiwar protesters lost that war, not our troops. A serious black mark on the record of liberalism.
And we saved the world from being taken over by World-Wide Communism by defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
I consider these great achievements of a great nation. No other nation in history has such an enviable record. So why do the liberals hate America? Is it because of our defeat of Communism?
If you have read Gore Vidal's article on 9/11, it is worth reading Ron Rosenbaum's critique at:
Jerry pointed me to it. My response follows:
I think Ron Rosenbaum's article points up some of the weak spots in Vidal's presentation of his theory, but I don't think it can be said to dispatch with the theory.
First, Rosenbaum makes much hay out of the rhetorical construction of Vidal's argument, for example that he "rides two horses" at the same time, and that he does it more than once. Writes Rosenbaum at one point:
Now the fun begins, as Mr. Vidal again seeks to ride two different horses: prove both the former (Bush let it happen) and the latter (Bush, or the Bush "junta," ordered it to happen).
The problem with this as a critique is obvious. Vidal nowhere says that anyone in the U.S. government "ordered" the 9/11 attack to happen. So Rosenbaum is putting words in Vidal's mouth. He is making Vidal ride one of the horses he claims he is riding. He is exaggerating Vidal's claims so as to then knock them down.
Vidal certainly does imply that someone in our government made the decision to "let it happen," and then ensured that the normal procedures of defense weren't followed on the day of the attack. This is something quite different. And against Rosenbaum's exaggerations, I do suspect it would have been possible to pull off this latter without informing scores of military and security personnel.
In many other places Rosenbaum takes the story that Vidal tells (or insinuates) and exaggerates it to the point that it becomes ridiculous. This is Rosenbaum's own obvious rhetorical strategy. I think it's true that Vidal suggests Bin Laden was probably not the mastermind behind 9/11. But that doesn't mean Vidal says the 9/11 attack was somehow entirely an inside job. Rather he seems to be suggesting a scenario in which 1) a plot was hatched by Muslim Fundamentalists (perhaps in Pakistan's ISI); 2) the plot was more or less carried out by that group; but 3) the plot was infiltrated and then expedited along the way by some American element, probably some cadre in the CIA. According to this scenario, the attackers themselves--i.e. the men in the planes--wouldn't have known their plot was being helped along by "the enemy," just as, in a parallel case, the Japanese kamikaze bombers who died in Pearl Harbor didn't know they were doing precisely what some elements in the U.S. government wanted them to do
Another of Rosenbaum's rhetorical strategies is borrowed from Vidal himself: where Vidal compares the workings of the Bush administration to those of the Third Reich, Rosenbaum compares Vidal to the writers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Oh, well. In this regard we've got a kind of rhetorical tit-for-tat between the two writers.
Because of its strategy of insinuation and vagueness, Vidal's article certainly opens itself up to many of these arguments against it. I think Rosenbaum finds another handle of this sort in Vidal's stress on the politics of oil. Rosenbaum can make fun of Vidal by laying out this oil argument in reductive terms. He refers at the beginning to "Mr. Vidal's attempt to prove that a secret cabal (the Bush/oil 'junta') instigated the 9/11 mass murders in order to increase their profit margins." That is a pretty flat way of referring to something as profitable as oil--the stuff, right after money, that makes the world go round. But again we have a weakness in Vidal's article that makes this attack possible. Vidal goes on and on about the reasons an aggressive U.S. government would be seeking imperialist control of Eurasian oil. What Vidal doesn't mention but what should be obvious is just how useful 9/11 has been in regards to various other Bush/Republican interests. The political climate generated by the attacks has been useful for
1) consolidating the political power of the neoconservatives around Bush (and thus undermining the "liberal" drift of American political culture);
2) reinvigorating defense and intelligence spending;
3) making the country think about something other than the recently uncovered corruption in American big business (ENRON et al.: in other words, that crowd of big-time scam artists so well connected to the Republicans--who themselves were set to suffer sorely if nothing came up to divert the public mind).
To sum up: If indeed 9/11 was in part an "inside job," then it's obvious that those who benefited were not just the oil companies. No: the inside jobbers themselves were to come out of it with a new lease on life. A new lease on life? Indeed. The CIA, as everyone knows, has been losing clout since the fall of the Soviet Union. With the communist threat went its raison d'etre. Thus it is possible that morally corrupt elements in the CIA would wholeheartedly support a plan that would ultimately convince Americans (those hopelessly humanist and liberal wimps) that the world was a truly dangerous place and that only more funding for the likes of--yes--the CIA could protect Americans from the enemy. This same argument applies for the military and the industries that benefit from more military spending. The CIA, the military, the military-industrial complex: for these organizations to continue to profit anything like they did during the glory days of the Cold War there needs to be a viable enemy out there. And that enemy cannot be made to seem viable until it manages to pull off a major attack.
Rosenbaum, I think, doesn't really consider Vidal's arguments carefully enough. He considers rather Vidal's manner of argumentation, his style. By focusing on the rhetorical elements in the writing, he basically ignores the substance.
Also: whereas there is quite of a lot of documentation behind Vidal's article, there is very little in Rosenbaum's. This should indicate which of the two writers is working harder to make sense of the historical moment. And that is what needs to be done in this case.
Perhaps you will go on insisting that the notion of such a conspiracy behind 9/11 is far-fetched. But do you really believe that the people in the Bush Administration are somehow morally above conspiratorial planning? (Go do an Internet search on the names "Wolfowitz" and "Leo Strauss.") Do you, Jerry, or does much of anyone else really believe that the war against Iraq was waged because of a real threat to American lives from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Do you believe that George W. Bush and his team were so concerned about the Iraqi threat that they launched this whole war effort? That there weren't other motives behind it--motives that had nothing to do with Iraq's weapons?
In closing this letter I should point out that I myself am not a firm believer in Gore Vidal's article. I wouldn't stand up and wave it in the air and cry: "This is the truth!" Rather I merely suspect the article may be onto something. The attacks of 9/11 were so unbelievable in so many respects, and moreover the ultimate beneficiaries of the attacks seem so unsettlingly obvious, that all of it led me to wonder early on if the vaunted "failure to connect the dots" before 9/11 was not perhaps something quite different. Something, say, more like a careful erasure of some of the dots. I am not certain if this is the case; I am likewise not certain it is not the case.
Vidal's article offers one alternative way of making sense of the facts. That his conclusions are repellent--if true they would indicate an icy cynicism at the heart of this administration--shouldn't lead us reject them out of hand. It's far too early to write the definitive history of the Bush, Jr. years.
Jerry sends a letter that begins as follows:
You've said you believe in multiculturalism. I don't. Multiculturalism considers all cultures equal. I don't. I believe ours is superior to all others. Please read the following article.
MARCHING WITH WESTERN VALUES
April 4, 2003
Reasonable people can disagree about whether the war in Iraq will reduce or increase terrorism, whether building a democracy there is practical or not, whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forged a brilliant military plan or skimped on ground troops. What the Iraqi battlefield during the past two weeks has demonstrated beyond any possible argument is the moral superiority of Western culture.
. . . .
Complete text of this article is at:
You send me the above article because you suppose it will make me realize multiculturalism is wrong. I agree with some of the things you write to me, but here you are mistaken.
You noted in your letter that "multiculturalism considers all cultures equal." I think this is a misunderstanding. Multiculturalists generally consider that cultures are different (which is obvious) and that any judgments about the goodness or badness of a particular culture are bound to be culturally biased and thus cannot be objective (this too is obvious). It's only the people we might call "radical multiculturalists" who turn this into the basis of an ethics--"Never judge the practices of another culture"--and it's this ethics that irks both you and me as well. I think the radicals push things too far.
I don't think an attack on multiculturalism can be found anywhere in the above article. The above article doesn't in the least defeat my respect for a moderate multiculturalism.
Of course I consider American culture, political and military, far superior to what one can expect in a country like Saddam's Iraq. But so what? Who is arguing this anyway? In other words: this is a pretty shallow way to consider the question of multiculturalism. First choose America, then compare it to Saddam's Iraq, then say: "See? Multiculturalism is wrong."
The above article points to the superiority of modern Western military culture over that of contemporary Arab authoritarian states. In particular it stresses that Western military culture is more humanitarian. It also makes the point that our military culture arose out of a long development starting with the Greeks. So far, so good. But the article forgets various things.
1) The Arabs themselves kept Greek philosophy alive during the Middle Ages. In other words--surprise!--Muslim civilization also developed in many respects out of Greek concepts. How then explain the Western difference? Simple: What the Muslims lacked was the European Enlightenment.
2) Germany is also an example of the most intellectually developed of Western nations. In the 19th century the Germans knew the classics better than anyone. Very many of the great breakthroughs in classical scholarship came from the Germans. And yet: on this foundation of high learning and very sophisticated Western superiority, the Germans quickly developed into what? Into Nazism. Totalitarianism, genocide, total war. This is a very troubling issue, and anyone with a sense of Western culture cannot ignore it.
And so: our foundations in Greek civilization are not unique to us. But also: our own Western cultures, even in modern times, often go haywire and become vicious and inhumane. What does this mean for our "cultural superiority"?
I am convinced that any nation, the U.S. included, given the right development, the right prods, the right traumas, whatnot--any nation can begin stepping down the path of totalitarianism or fascism. Our cultural superiority is there in some respects, but it is a fickle and delicate thing. What is good about us, with a few twists, can become a nightmare.
Western culture is greatly to be admired, and I agree that it is in the West that we find the most forward-looking cultures in the world. But I note that the developments praised in the above article--for example the Western sense of humanity toward the enemy--show an aspect of Western culture that you seem not to like all that much: i.e., respect for the integrity of other peoples, peoples different from us, in short for their cultural difference. You send me things about how "Arabs are madmen"; about how "they are just not logical." This is simply racist, and of course it is nonsense. There is nothing logical about it.
When Muslims commit some atrocity it leads you to say that Muslims are madmen, that "they are just not logical." In short, you notice the race and religion of the perpetrators. But when white Westerners commit some atrocity (such as in the case of Timothy McVeigh, or the case of Nazism) you might say that the perpetrators are madmen or "not logical" but you wouldn't take the next step of saying "Christians are madmen" or "Westerners are just not logical."
If in the modern Arab world there are tendencies toward fanaticism, these tendencies come from a dismal political situation, a situation that has made people hopeless. It is just the kind of fanaticism that Westerners could fall into in similar circumstances. Consider: If America were unlucky enough to be saddled with the political systems of some of these nations, with the economies, you would see quickly how the less educated (and also many of the more educated) people in America would become overnight the most fanatical and illogical bunch of street-mobbing and flag-burning maniacs. In other words: Muslims and Arabs are not particularly illogical and violent: the truth is that their circumstances have pushed them toward it. And their circumstances did not grow out of their own innate inferiority, but rather out of the aggressive development of European culture since the Enlightenment: science, capitalism, liberal governments. The Arab world fell behind, as did China (which had its own Maoist madness), as did Japan (which turned to fascism), as did Africa. The Arab difference is that faced with their troubles many of them turned toward their holy book, which, being a scripture, could not help them to catch up with a Western world that had taken its own Holy Book out of politics back in the Enlightenment.
Perhaps the Bush team really intends to bring Enlightenment politics to the Muslim world, starting with Iraq. But I rather doubt it. One of the things that has kept the Muslim world from developing in a more enlightened direction over the past century and a half has been precisely the fact that Western governments repeatedly propped up puppet regimes of their choosing. If a state has an imperial interest in another territory (and it's hard to argue that Iraq's oil has nothing to do with our presence there) it is not necessarily to the imperialists' advantage to democratize the subject people. We will see if and when Iraq turns out to be different. We helped democratize Japan, but then Japan only had rice. It's true we helped develop Europe after the fall of fascism. But each situation is different. Look at our history of supporting democratic development in Latin America, for example. It is a dismal one.
It is so easy in our current situation as the world's most powerful nation to continue to arrogantly blow our own horn. But why do it? Are we suffering from an inferiority complex? That would be absurd, wouldn't it? The problem with our current horn-blowing is that we remain a nation of human beings, like other nations, and are thus fallible. But also: the problem is that the first steps of a turn for the worse, in this realm of international politics, are usually just this kind of triumphant horn-blowing.
When arguments about our inherent superiority start replacing considered debate of policies, when things become right just because they come from our mouths, then we are on our way down. I'm hearing too much of these kind of arguments lately. The above article, which you suppose refutes my tempered multiculturalism, is an example.
ON JOURNALISTIC ETHICS
Jerry also sent a March, 2003 editorial by Michelle Malkin regarding one journalist's questioning of Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary. Malkin's article, entitled "Where Helen Thomas's Heart Lies," begins:
Shame, shame, shame on Helen Thomas.
The crusty ex-journalist-turned-White House heckler had only one thing on her mind when her favorite news stations, al Jazeera and Iraqi state TV, repeatedly broadcast those chilling pictures of scared American POWs and gleeful Iraqi soldiers hovering over dead American soldiers last weekend.
Thomas did not ask if the five Americans in captivity had been tortured or raped.
Thomas did not wonder whether the dead American soldiers had been wantonly executed in public by Saddam's thugs, who ambushed our men and women (yes, Helen, I said "our") in the city of Nasiriyah.
Thomas did not show the least bit of curiosity about the whereabouts of eight missing American soldiers caught in the attack.
And Thomas did not inquire about the well-being of any of the anguished families of these captured, missing and murdered American soldiers.
No, the question on Hellfire Helen Thomas's mind was:
What about the poor detainees at Guantanamo Bay?
At a March 24 White House briefing, Thomas smugly broached the topic of the America POWs with White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in order to harp on her favorite subject (i.e., blaming America):
Thomas: In terms of the pictures, the administration is upset because it is a violation of the Geneva Accords, you say, and I guess it is.
Fleischer: That's correct.
Thomas: Are we following the Geneva Accords in Iraq and Guantanamo?
Fleischer: . . . (W)e have always treated people humanely, consistent with international agreements. In the case of the battle, the fight in Iraq, there's no question that is being done in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Thomas: But how about the detainees in Guantanamo? They have no rights under the Geneva Accords?
Fleischer: As I just indicated, we always treat them humanely . . .
I admire Fleischer's super-human restraint in the face of this disgusting display of moral equivalence masquerading as journalism. Thomas sees pictures of dead American soldiers being molested by cackling Iraqi assassins, she sees video of dazed and wounded young American soldiers in captivity, and all she can do is harangue the Bush administration for not giving Guantanamo Bay terror detainees enough "rights"?
Let there be no doubt about where Helen Thomas's heart lies.
. . .
[The above material is from an article copyrighted by Creators Syndicate, Inc. If there is any problem reproducing these paragraphs here, please let me know. -E.M.-L.]
Ms. Malkin's article goes on to report on U.S. detainees recently released from Cuba and how they in fact praised both their treatment and living conditions in the U.S. camp. Two former detainees are named and quoted.
Jerry adds a characteristic commentary to Malkin's article:
Where in the hell are America-haters such as Helen Thomas coming from? What is their problem?
The tone of your first letter led me to believe you're one of these. Possibly you're a bit more moderate but, still, any degree of liberalism is too much for me to stomach. Possibly I can show you the way.
As I've said before, I consider Democrat and liberal to be interchangeable terms and I truly would be ashamed to be a Democrat. A delegation of Democrats from Congress visited Cuba not long ago and had nothing but praise for Fidel Castro. How can they possibly praise that Communist son-of-a-bitch? Are they stupid enough to believe that they were shown the "real Cuba" while they were there? If they really think Castro is such a great guy and that Cuba is a better place to live than the U.S., why don't they just emigrate there? We won't stop them. Hell, that's one of their freedoms, too, besides running their mouths about nonsense all the time.
I blame John Kennedy for Castro's reign of terror in Cuba for more than 40 years. I have a book about the Bay of Pigs invasion written by one of the CIA agents who trained the invading force. They had a good plan, developed over several months and approved all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 3 days before the invasion was to begin, they were ordered to change the landing site. Then at the last minute, Kennedy chickened out and ordered our air force to stand down. They were supposed to strike at dawn and wipe out the few planes Castro had.
What a double cross! Without air cover, the invasion force was a sitting duck for Castro's few planes. Democrats just do not know how to wage war and don't have the stomach for it. Thank God for Ronald Reagan! There was a president with balls.
Both the mob, who lost a very profitable investment in casinos in Cuba, and the CIA were sorely disappointed in Kennedy over that and I believe that's what led to Kennedy's assassination. Such an eventuality makes a helluva lot more sense than Lee Harvey Oswald firing three accurate shots in 6 seconds with an old bolt-action rifle. I think Oswald was a dupe who was set up to take the fall, then he was assassinated to head off any investigation that might lead to the real assassins, a classic mob tactic. After a hit, kill the hit man, then there's no trail that can be followed back to the source of the plot. And Jack Ruby had mob connections.
If Democrats love Communist countries so much, let them go live in one. But it should be a one-way trip. We should never let them back into this country.
A recurrent theme I've noticed in your letters is that "liberals" (as you continue to call them) are anti-American. Your great recent example in this regard is the editorial on Helen Thomas. I know nothing about Helen Thomas, but I want to say for the record that I don't consider her question to Ari Fleischer about whether we were following the Geneva Conventions in Guantanamo to be "anti-American." I can see how people could be upset that Thomas was suggesting a moral equivalence between the U.S. government and the Baathists in Iraq. But I don't think that was the point, and I don't think many "liberals" would consider that the point either.
Many people who love America would like it to show itself a model world citizen. Many of the liberals you hate so much would like to see America truly taking the leading role in the community of nations. They believe that in order to do so the U.S. government needs to show that it respects international agreements more than other nations--certainly more than nations like Iraq. They would like America to take the leading role in the world, but they are currently disgusted because they see the Bush Administration everywhere doing things with a double standard: one rule for the rest of the world, one for us. Or even better: Whatever we dictate is the rule for the rest of the world from here on out. Many "liberals" do not see this as the path either to continued American prosperity or a stable world order. Why is this anti-American?
If America is criticized internationally for breaking the Geneva Conventions, that is a serious issue, because our standing in the world is at stake. By insisting that we can act outside the Geneva Conventions, we, as the world's most powerful nation, undermine the Geneva Conventions. We undermine them more than a country like Iraq ever could. This should be evident.
I myself am not much concerned about the wellbeing of Al Qaeda operatives. I am very concerned however about the wellbeing of legal rights as such. In other words I consider it a very serious issue that people, whoever they are, are being held more or less outside the purview of international law, that people are being detained indefinitely with no recourse. And especially: that this is being done by the world's leading nation.
As a good American--and I think you might agree with me on this one--I do not trust the government to do things right, and I don't believe that just because we were attacked on 9/11 that the government is likely to do things any better than it usually would. In fact: the contrary is more likely, because too much of the public is giving this administration carte blanche to do whatever it wants.
The person who wrote the editorial on Helen Thomas is assuming a lot: namely, that she doesn't care about what is happening to American soldiers in Iraq, but that she cares rather about the enemies of America being held in Cuba. I suspect Thomas' questions were driven more than anything by a concern for legal rights as such.
I'm thinking of joining the ACLU because I see in this organization the kind of fanatical respect for the Constitution that we need in the era of computer technology. The potential to fall into authoritarianism in our age is enormous. Say what you like, but I believe many of the people around Bush and many of the people they've put in positions of power are actively seeking just such a development. Certainly that lunatic Poindexter is.
Am I a "liberal" by your definition? I don't really care one way or another. I support the right to bear arms, by the way, so by that standard I am not a "liberal".
You mentioned in one letter how Bill Clinton should be tried for treason because of the controversy around illegal campaign contributions from the Chinese. Perhaps you are right. But I also think anyone in government who helps develop something like the TIA program should be tried for treason. And that their treason is a much graver issue.
Why are so many of you who are so adamant about the right to bear arms so indifferent about fourth amendment rights? Why aren't you heckling John Ashcroft and this dick Poindexter? Is it because a real man like G.W. put them into office? That's pretty na•ve in my view.
I think journalists should do their best to present difficult questions to our officials, the White House press secretary included. When journalists only ask supposedly patriotic questions--"Can you tell us anything about the three soldiers unaccounted for in Nasiriyah?" "How long will it be before we have sufficiently 'softened' the enemy positions around Baghdad to allow us to enter the city?" "Can you dictate to us anything else you'd like us to present to the people?"--they are shaming their calling by becoming themselves spokesmen for what the administration wants people to hear. In such a case, the journalists needn't even be there at all: the Ari Fleischers can dictate what they want directly into the camera.
In short: America-haters my ass.
This page is at http://www.necessaryprose.com/