Reminders of how we got here
A couple of days ago, I began using odd moments – times too short to do any serious writing – to begin cleaning out outdated odds and ends from my computer. I was surprised to see how many of the things I wrote three and four years ago still apply.
They show that Bush & Co. has indeed “stayed the course,” to the great detriment of the world and American democracy.
They also show that at least until the primary election loss of Joe Lieberman, the Democrats learned not one important thing following the 2000 presidential election, and they demonstrate that Israel and it's American backers have been moving toward the present Mideast mess for a long time.
I now post a few of those old pieces, mostly unpublished letters to editors, not to show what a smart guy I am, but to demonstrate how desperately we need new leaders and honest, competent journalists, and to remind us all that we must not lose sight of any part of what has happened over the years of the Bush reign. We must remind people how badly they were conned, and by whom and how, in order to prevent the con game from continuing.
Many other people were saying the same things I said in 2002 and 2003. The brilliant Paul Krugman of the New York Times has been speaking the plain truth through all the miserable, dangerous years of the Bush administration. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold stepped up to take on the pro-war camp while other Democrats were still hiding in the tall grass, as did Michigan Rep. John Conyers, though their actions served largely to point up the cowardice and stupidity of most Democrats in Congress.
In my part of the country, a fellow named Dick Bernard has been speaking the truth in daily online news and commentary pieces for years, as has freelance writer and radio host Lydia Howell. My old friend Will Shapira has been at least figuratively yelling into people's faces for years, irritating the hell out of them, trying to get them off their behinds and into the fight to save our country and the lives that mean so little to the neocons. So have a host of others.
And, to give honor where it's due, in contrast to the lies and slanders of the far right, Michael Moore and Al Franken have been on target all along. So have MoveOn, Truthout and many more progressive blog and news operations.
The pieces below are, as a collection, long. The individual pieces are short. Read what interests you, if anything.
Following is a letter I wrote in a pique to minor officials of the Democratic Party on April 15, 2002.
I hope, but do not expect, that someone in your office will pass this letter up the line to someone with a title and some influence within the Democratic Party. I do not expect it because that would take a miniscule measure of guts, and cowardice has become one of the defining characteristics of the modern Democrat.
Your leaders should know that whether they will acknowledge it or not, they are presiding over the greatest and saddest mass defection the Democrats have ever suffered.. I am a 65-year-old retired middle executive, upper half of middle class, a life-long Democrat until about a year ago. I was a financial contributor to candidates at all levels and an active participant in local and state-level party activities and campaigns. Now I am one of 15 or 20 people within my social and professional circles who are in similar life circumstances and who no longer consider themselves Democrats. And why no more, you ask? Or should ask.
Not because, as you might guess, the Democrats are “too liberal.” On the contrary. The Democratic Party has shifted much too far to the right to allow us to continue to support it or its candidates and office holders.
For 35 years, you have allowed the Republicans to set the agendas for campaigns and action in elected office. They have for almost 50 years run a carefully orchestrated and well-financed campaign to change public perceptions, while the Democrats spouted increasingly irrelevant slogans and reacted, feebly and ineptly, rather than countering with a well-planned public relations and information campaign of their own. Conspiracy theory you say? The beginnings and early operations of the conservative (rather, right wing) campaign are all in the publicly available archives of the National Association of Manufacturers, and anyone with a working knowledge of PR should be able to see it in any case.
What have the Democrats done in recent years? Well, you’ve done a great deal of shouting “Me, too” as the Republicans and the corporate elite pulled public opinion farther and farther to the right. You’ve cowered rather than publicly confronting the lies and the liars. At this moment, you are letting terrible things happen to our government, our society, our Constitution because the polls tell you the unelected president and the people who actually run the current administration are popular – popular because of a fictional war that has all the characteristics of the false war in George Orwell’s “1984;" there is no clearly defined enemy, no clearly defined goal (other than reelection), and the identity and location of the enemy shift constantly. You have no plan to expose this situation or to educate the public to the truth.
It is apparent that George W. Bush is president in name only. He hasn’t the intellectual capacity to do the job, and in any case no one who spends as much time as he does running around the country and flapping his jaw – an activity that takes most of almost every day – could possibly be running the presidency. We all know that, but you, the Democrats, won’t face the fact and point it out. Why? Cowardice, obviously. It’s the polls again.
So we defect. A few at first, now a rapidly growing number refuse further support to your gutless and aimless organization, and to all but a handful of the candidates who wear your colors. Some of us just give up, others are trying the little parties, although they tend to be led and peopled by the hopelessly naive. Still, better that than gutless.
You may take me off your fund-raising lists – or I will continue to send your postage-paid envelopes back empty -- a tiny, petty, but mildly satisfying way of raising my middle finger in your direction.
Next is a letter to the Star Tribune, sent Dec. 6, 2002. It went deeply against the grain at that time. It wasn't published.
To the editor:
Barring a huge and unlikely public outcry, the United States or, rather, the Bush administration, will attack Iraq. Anyone who believes there is any chance that U.N. inspections will change the administration’s drive to war is naive beyond comprehension. The Bushies began flogging their post-inspection arguments for attack even before the inspectors were in Iraq. The rationalizations are based on fictional “intelligence,” a kind of lie the administration has used from the first days of its control of the White House.
Is this a war to protect the United States and its citizens? Again, if you believe it is, your naivety is monumental. It is return on the investment of the oil industry and other billionaires who bought the White House and a controlling interest in Congress for their own purposes.
It will, of course, have the effect of creating far greater anger and hatred toward this country throughout the world. It will put us at a degree of danger we’ve not experienced since World War II, if then. And the administration and its owners are quite prepared to live with that, thank you. Endless war and endless “homeland defense” help the investors consolidate their power. Much of the public believes the government must have unquestioning support in a time of “crisis,”and the voice of the average citizen is largely stilled. And, most of all, it is all highly profitable.
We installed a phony “shah” in Iran, and some U.S. corporations made big bucks for years. So we’re now stuck with a nasty and hostile government in Iran? So what? It was profitable while it lasted, and enemies often are more useful than friends to those who want to rule without effective opposition within their own country. Now here we go again in Iraq.
The facts are obvious, and you can find them, even in our rapidly deteriorating newspapers, in articles buried back by the acne-cure ads.
This next letter, written in 2003, also to the Star Tribune, also unpublished, deals with how the weak-kneed news folks have helped change the language of politics, and, therefore, public perceptions of what is left, right and center. It also touches on the ongoing brutality of the Israeli government toward its Palestinian and other neighbors:
May 22, 2003
To the Editor:
Right wingers are forever complaining about the “liberal” or “leftist” news media, and what an amazingly successful ploy that has been.
Television and print media – the Star Tribune not least among them – obviously are intimidated by the mouthy, demanding rightists. Apparently out of fear, but perhaps also to accommodate the ideology of corporate owners, the once-independent media have changed the language. And by changing the language they have altered the public’s perception of what is extreme, acceptable, right or left in politics.
An ordinary liberal, someone concerned about the welfare of others as well as self, now is characterized in the press and on TV as a leftist or “a member of the far left wing of the Democratic Party.” A conservative, who believes in trying to remake the world into what he (wrongly) thinks it was in 1955, is now a “centrist.” A right winger striving to cast government as exclusive servant to big business and the very wealthy is now a “conservative.” And right wing extremists of the type now controlling both the White House and the Minnesota State House -- those who hope to break down the American system and deliver the country entirely into the hands of the super rich -- now are called, at worst, “neoconservatives.”
In the same vein, Palestinian terrorists are plainly labeled terrorists, and their acts of hatred are displayed on the front pages of this and other newspapers and at the top of “news” broadcasts. But Israeli acts of terrorism – more frequent and in total more deadly – are covered, if at all, in short news items on the lower half of inside pages; the terrorists are called “the army” or “government officials,” and their acts of terrorism are characterized in forgiving terms such as “preemptive strikes.”
Yes, language does make a difference, and your weak-kneed manipulation of definitions is distorting the public perception of what is going on in this state, country and world.
Here is another unpublished letter to the editor, written in September 2003.
Was I exceptionally perceptive? No. The evidence was everywhere long before Jack Abramoff got nailed and finally, and briefly, caught the attention of corporate news operations. Those news operations still are ignoring massive evidence of the continuing corruption of the Bush crowd and their owners/backers and the theft of billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers.
To the editor:
What we now know, or should know, is that the Bush/Cheney/Rove administration is the most corrupt in the history of this country. Together, they are accomplishing the greatest theft from a country and its people that the world has ever seen.
Excessive? Wild claim? The thing is, the evidence is everywhere. The only problem is that even the most knowledgeable observers can’t get their heads around the facts. The average person can understand a theft of $100,000, perhaps even the theft of a few million dollars. People know what that means, but they simply can grasp a theft of billions and billions of dollars with no concern for who or how many are hurt or destroyed in the process.
Even those who see and know – columnists, politicians, editorial writers and others – cannot believe what they are seeing. The truth is so enormous it seems absurd, impossible, even as it happens before our eyes. The tendency is to dismiss the few cries in the wilderness, such as this, because “it just can’t be true.”
The wealth of this country, millions of lives, the very survival of the planet, are being traded away for the personal gain of a select, small group of grasping individuals who already are powerful and wealthy beyond the comprehension of most of us. Tear down all meaningful environmental protections to further enrich the rich; allow millions to die and others to spend themselves into poverty for medications in order to fatten the already swollen purses of those who control the pharmaceutical giants; simply hand the corporation of the crooked vice president billions of dollars of public money, ignoring all rules and potential competition.
It is almost incomprehensible, but it is happening.
This next one, again not published, is here simply to remind us all of the true story of “George and the Chickenhawks.” We need to bring it up when the Rovian Right starts screaming about cowards who won't stand up for “democracy,” by which they mean corporate control of government and society.
To the editor:
As a former National Guard personnel sergeant, I can state with certainty that records showing George W. Bush was paid for six days of service in the Air National Guard in 1972 proves absolutely nothing about whether he actually served those days. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.
It always has been the practice of the military in this country to give free rides to some types of celebrities and, especially, the sons of politicians and the rich and powerful. Fixing their records to show they were on duty, and were paid, when they were nowhere in sight is SOP (standard operating procedure).
As a low-ranking personnel specialist at Fort Ord, California, in 1959 I saw several examples of just such treatment of young men who supposedly were on active duty for six months as part of their National Guard training.
One such case involved a rock singer, scion of one of America’s most famous show business families, who was scheduled to actually be on base one day to collect the papers showing he had served his active duty time and had received certain training. I was working in the personnel office in post headquarters at the time, and it was easy to find out: The guy had been at Fort Ord exactly once before, for part of the day he supposedly began his active duty.
He didn’t show up that “final” day either, by the way, which greatly disappointed the various generals and colonels with whom he was to have lunch.
Incidentally, six days of service in eight months would not fulfill the requirements of any enlistment I ever heard of.
Now, back to April 3, 2002 and Israel. The letter below, never published, was sent to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I probably would make a couple of changes were I sending it today, but the central message would not change. I would, however, make it clear that I still believe Israel should continue to exist and to prosper without fear of rockets or suicide bombers. But I do not believe it should be allowed to expand or to continue to abuse and steal from the Palestinians and other neighbors.
I probably also would point out that Hezbollah and Hamas are stronger and better armed than they were when I wrote the letter, largely because of what we and the Israelis have done to foster the hatred that builds terrorist organizations.
Obviously, simply having Sharon gone hasn't changed a thing, but at least I qualified the type of government that would be needed to replace him in order to achieve peace.
To the Editor:
I was for many years an unswerving supporter of Israel’s aspirations. I was one of those kids who thought the movie “Exodus” was an accurate portrayal of events. It wasn’t until many years later that I understood that the organizations exalted in that book and film were no more nor less than terrorist groups. Even then I supported the country’s right to exist and its stated purpose.
However, over the past decade or so it has become clear that Israel is a terrorist state. It has grossly abused its Arab residents, and the use of terror and torture have become official policy in the name of “self defense.” Israel provokes, the Palestinians fight back and then are crushed. Because the Israeli destroyers of villages and murderers of children and other innocents are in uniform and using missiles, helicopters and other high-tech weapons they somehow escape the name, but they, like the suicide bombers, are simply terrorists. In fact, the Palestinian terrorists are doing what the near-helpless victims of repressive states have always done: fighting back with the pitiful small weapons they manufacture. During and after World War II we praised such people and honored them with names such as Partisans and Resistance.
In recent years, and now in particular, the far right has controlled the Israeli government with the clear aim of destroying Palestinian society and taking more Arab land. Ariel Sharon is a man who shows with each new action that he believes the only good Arab is a dead Arab. He now has achieved exactly what he intended when he deliberately provoked the Palestinians at the Temple Mount in September of 2000. (Get the news video of him walking away as the Palestinians shout at him. His smug smile tells the whole story.) Our continued support of Israel in this condition has created hatred toward the United States throughout much of the world. Our politicians know this, yet allow U.S. support to continue only because of the votes and money of the Israeli bloc in this country.
I suggest that the only route to peace is to halt all United States financial aid to Israel until Sharon and others of his party are out of office and a reasonable government prepared to sue honestly for peace is in place. Lacking that, the organization of a tax protest appears to be the next logical, and patriotic, step.