Thursday, January 20, 2005

Freedom: Another word for someone else to fool

Jan. 20, 2005

George Bush spoke of freedom today -- 27 times in one speech by National Public Radio's count. As police pepper-sprayed demonstrators, his rhetoric soared. Who noticed the contradiction? This administration has turned the practice of saying one thing and doing another into an unparalleled art form.

Life is increasingly surreal in America. While corporate executives, who bought their way into the inauguration, danced the Texas two-step, Boston police and FBI were scrambling two steps behind a reputed gang of Chinese chemists heading to our fine city to allegedly explode a dirty bomb. Let's hope it is just one more color-coded frenzy. (Where are you Tom Ridge when we need you?) While the President's rhetoric boomed over the historic buildings of Washington, the author of his policy on how to ignore the Geneva Conventions when committing torture awaited the end game of his confirmation as Attorney General.

America is on a roll, embracing increasingly repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Russia,
Uzbekistan to Egypt. There are no bad guys in these countries; they are our guys. And it looks like we'll need plenty of them. Seymour Hersh writes in The New Yorker that the Bush Administration is cooking up the next war in Iran. By that time our troops may need to take up metallurgy because all of the "hillbilly armor" dug out of landfills to bolster their fighting vehicles will be spent, along with our troops. Which leaves me worried. Will our covert operations be spread so thin that we won't have enough Deep Black bullies to torture the next haul of possible/maybe terrorists?

Buried deep inside The New York Times this week was a picture of a Iraqi child, perhaps 3 or 4, blood and tears streaming down her face. Her parents had just been gunned down at a U.S. military checkpoint because they did not stop their car fast enough. It was a stunning photo, if you were lucky enough to find it. The news business, it seems, doesn't want to make too much of the down side of war: The fact that innocents account for many of its victims.

"It is hard, maybe impossible, to fight a war if the cause is viewed as bankrupt," writes former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges in his edgy and powerful book, "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." "The sanctity of the cause is crucial to the war effort. The state spends tremendous time protecting, explaining and promoting the cause. And some of the most important cheerleaders of the cause are the reporters."

Beyond the fanfare of today's pageantry, freedom does have real meaning. But only when those who actually have it, reporters for example, use it.


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