Friday, November 11, 2005

A Bad Stump Speech Is Poor Tribute on Veterans Day

Today, President Bush gave a Veteran's Day address to Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania which was supposed to be a tribute to our veterans but was actually more of the same pathetic attempts to drum up support for his war by obscuring the issue as much as possible. He also took this opportunity to run one of the Republican party's favorite "vote-getter" platform issues out for some exercise.

First up: the flag burning amendment.

Via the White House:

In June, the House of Representatives voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. I urge the United States Senate to pass this important amendment.

The Flag Burning Amendment is such an old favorite of the GOP that I can remember discussions about it during the Reagan Administration when I was but a stripling samurai. It's also one of the most pointless and wrong-headed bits of legislation to ever be repeatedly defeated on the Hill. The right to desecrate the flag is a foundational cornerstone of the First Amendment right to free speech, and its abrogation by the GOP demonstrates an uplifting of the symbol over the ideals it symbolizes. Further, by making flag desecration illegal, it actually makes the act more powerful as a means of political protest and civil disobedience. As I've said in person, so will I say now: if the Flag Burning Amendment ever passes, I will burn a flag in the middle of my street in broad daylight in protest.

Of course, Bush, after loudly proclaiming his support for the GOP amendment to cheapen free speech, went on to honor the soldiers present by completely distorting and misstating the current role of our military in the world and the threats that our nation faces.

[T]hese extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace[.]

Once again, it's "they hate us for our freedom", re-packaged to sound more politically affluent but really no better informed. Bush is correct that organizations like Al-Qaida want to end our influence the Middle East, though his reasons are wrong and his broadening of the description of influence as "Western" is pointless. It's not Canada's or Mexico's influence they want to be rid of, after all.

They want an end to U.S. influence because they believe, and rightly so, that the U.S. government is only paying lip service to the plight of the peoples in the Middle East while truly looking for stability of the world's oil supply. They want an end to our support of tyrannical regimes like the Ba'athists during the Reagan Administration and the Saudi royal family today. They want an end to Christian missionaries trying to convert their children away from Islam. They want an end to the influence of U.S. consumerism and what they see as the loose morality of American culture. They want an end to what they perceive as our unquestioning support of Israel, given that nation's draconian treatment of the Palestinians. And they certainly want an end to the Iraqi occupation.

These are just a few of the root causes of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East. Perhaps our Commander in Chief could find some time in his busy schedule of photo ops and campaign speeches to actually deal with some of these issues. He might then begin to realize that all the bombs, bullets and dead American soldiers in Iraq are not fixing any of these issues.

In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaida. This is what he said: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." [...] They believe that America can be made to run again[.]

Essentially what President Bush is saying here is that our foreign policy is now driven by his ego; pricked by the ghost of failed wars past. This is the very attitude that those of us wearing black today are protesting: this treatment of war as though it were some kind of sporting contest. What a terrible insult to our men and women leaving their lives and limbs in Iraq. America did not "run" from Vietnam. It limped, and it left over 50,000 of its sons behind for a war that served no purpose. No person who views war this way should ever be allowed the responsibility of Commander in Chief.

The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists.

Here we have the "we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here" bit of stale political fluff, with the added bonus of another reframing of the issue into some sort of romantic "good vs. evil" morality tale. Perhaps someone should remind President Bush that Al-Qaida had no foothold in Iraq prior to our invasion. But toppling Saddam Hussein was such a high priority for President Bush that creating a nation-wide warzone for Al-Qaida to launch attacks from was an acceptable trade-off to get this one man. Bush foreign policy has effectively traded one impotent dictator that was no threat to the United States for a network of enraged militant extremists who are a threat to the entire region. Bush's illegal invasion gave Al-Qaida the foothold in Iraq it couldn't gain any other way.

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme -- but they should not be dismissed. [...] And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

No one with any knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs has ever dismissed Muslim extremists as not being dangerous or a threat to the United States. Quite the contrary. This smacks of Fox News's favorite tactic of using the "some people" qualifier, as in "Some people think we should just surrender to the terrorists. But Republican lawmakers think...". Further, Al-Qaida and it's leadership bear no resemblance to those past dictators, either in ideology or in scope. Such a connection is another lame attempt by Bush to give his illegal invasion legitimacy by conflating it with other past conflicts. It was common during the Gulf War, when Republicans played the "Hussein is the next Hitler" card.

President Bush had an opportunity on this Veterans Day to stand up in front of our military and the American people and talk openly and honestly about the war in Iraq. Instead he chose, as always, to hide behind grandiose rhetoric and misstatements, in an attempt to drum up public support for his failing Presidency. It was an insult to the American people and our soldiers currently risking their lives in Iraq.

I propose a new way to honor our troops on Veterans Day: bring them home. Reunite them with their families. Beg for their forgiveness for sending them off into another politically motivated war. Remember our honored dead and support their family. Begin to take real, concrete, effective steps to end terrorism so that Americans and others around the world will truly be safer.

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