Obligatory Liberal Disclaimer: Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Osama Bin Laden is a bad man. Al Qaeda is a bad organization. Terrorism is bad.
President Bush gave a speech yesterday to the National Endowment for Democracy. This is an apparently well hung organization that is dedicated to “Supporting freedom around the world.” They were chartered by President Reagan, and they receive money from Congress. They say they want to “strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.” Which seems covert to me. Wesley Clarke is on the board, and he has a brain in his head, so I’ll leave it to him to manage the crazies, should they ever appear.
Mr. Bush is apparently back on the horse after the devastating blow that Hurricane Katrina dealt to his approval ratings. I hate it when I lose points like that, so I understand. Granted, I am not in charge of a nation of 295,734,134 people (pre-Katrina), so I don’t know how heavily the deaths of over 1300 citizens would weigh on me. But I would probably have to get into the ring and throw punches like a prize fighter, staunchly declaring my purposes. I’d have to remind the American people that they are afraid, not angry. I’d have to get out that great glowing noun, Democracy, and its consort, Freedom, and have them puff up the chests of the faithful. I would have to redirect the nations’ eyes from the Louisiana morgue full of the nameless dead and the Mississippi families trying to rebuild.
Because we are under threat every day, every moment from extremist groups intent on burying our way of life. I would remind Americans to live in fear. Remind them that we have brought freedom to repressed parts of the world. Like Iraq and Afghanistan. (Don’t mention The Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. Repression is relative to economics and political necessity.) Focus instead on the fact that we have “gained the peace that freedom brings.” This is peace. Remember that. Because “We're responding to a global campaign of fear with a global campaign of freedom. And once again, we will see freedom's victory.” Whatever I do, I would not liken their global campaign of fear to my national one.
September 11. Smoking ruins. Evil. Fire. Twisted metal. New York City. “Let’s roll.” September 11. Do you remember September 11? Let me remind you: September 11, “a proud city covered in smoke and ashes, a fire across the Potomac, and passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy.” Side note: when I mention those “men who rejoice in every death,” please don’t think about the following people:
Repent America director Michael Marcavage said that it’s too bad that many had to die, but God “destroyed a wicked city.”
Hal Lindsey thinks that Katrina shows that “the prophetic times [he has] been expecting for decades have finally arrived. And even worse, it appears that the judgment of America has begun.”
Former Nixon special counsel Charles Colson speculated that God allowed Hurricane Katrina as to remind us how important it is that we win the War on Terror: "Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, he allowed it and perhaps he allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.”
Steve Lefemine of Columbia Christians for Life saw an image of an 8-week old fetus imbedded in the satellite image of Katrina: "In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion."
Also, Please don’t think about the people of Mississippi, the City of Biloxi, the countless rural dwellers who lost their lives, their livelihoods. Don’t tell them that “Oops, sorry, you were just too close to that sin pot, New Orleans. God does not have smart bombs. No. Think about “Americans in uniform rising to duty.” But don’t think about them coming home in flag-draped caskets. Don’t think about 1945 American soldiers dead. Done. Over. Lives ruined. Don’t ever take any responsibility for anything this country has ever done to bring on acts of hatred. Only women can be blamed for their own victimization. America could never wear its skirts too short and sashay down a dark alley, inviting attack. Make sure to condemn others for rejoicing in death because it makes Americans forget that I don’t even seem to understand it. Don’t remind people that you cannot have a war on a noun. (See: War on Drugs.) Certainly and absolutely never mention Oklahoma City or Atlanta or the numerous abortion clinics bombed and Americans killed. Certainly, a statement like the following, taken out of context, could ONLY denote Islamic Fundamentalists.
“All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness. Innocent men and women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train or worked in the wrong building or checked into the wrong hotel. And while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil but not insane.”
Remember: these people hate you and they hate your god. They hate your freedom. None of this has anything to do with American foreign policy or American history or a general trend toward radicalism, all over the world, fueled by poverty, lack of resources, poor education, and disenfranchisement of all kinds. Religious freedom equals freedom to practice Christianity. My kind of Christianity. Extremism is usually bad, would you say? Fundamentalism usually warps the religion, perhaps? Only their kind. My kind: good. Their kind: Bad.
Please, people, understand: Al Qaeda is a propagandistic organization, recruiting based on poverty, displacement and anger. They accept only their cause as the one true cause. I know this because the real one true cause, the cause that I represent, works in much the same way. Our weapon, however, is money. Money and fear. But I know. I can’t talk about that. I must remember to keep that to myself, only as a reference.
Remember: “We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and Web sites.” This should be easy to remember because we use these tactics as well. Please ignore the sulfuric smell of my smirking. These people are “fanatical and extreme and they should not be dismissed.”
Never forget, “these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace and stand in the way of their ambitions. It’s not us. It’s them. They “regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity, and we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.” Please do not think about how Iraq became that front. Don’t think about what would happen in the Middle East if the USA actually Let Freedom Ring and allowed these people to choose their own governments.
At this point I might bring up other despots in order to confuse the issue more. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. Examples of “Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience” who must be “taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.” I would not point out to anyone on the left that this sentence could be turned against me.
I would have a lot of poignant things to say, that would come from my own experience over the last five and a half years of governing: “Defeating a militant network is difficult because it thrives like a parasite on the suffering and frustration of others.” and “The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.” and “The radicals depend on front operations such as corrupted charities which direct money to terrorist activity.” and “They are strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam in unstable parts of the world.” But I would not point out that, with a substitution of a few nouns, you would not know who I was talking about—my government or the enemy. This is fun. It’s easy to give speeches. I like talking to people.
It would be important to again link Iraq with Al Qaeda and September 11, perhaps with a statement like this, “Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, and Al Qaeda attacked us anyway.” Iraq is just an excuse now for the liberals and the terrorists, and I need to remind the American people of that. I need to put these concepts into a sentence together again: Iraq, Al Qaeda, September 11. And it’s always good to have an esoteric link between liberals and terrorists floating around out there in the ether.
If it weren’t ludicrous and could actually spawn laughter, I might link Islamic radicalism with communism. I might say that “this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century.” Because “Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses.” “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life.”
Don’t point out that Kristian philosophy neglects this world of the flesh in favor of an afterlife in paradise. Don’t refer back to the Wrath of God/Hurricane Katrina people. Don’t think about Valerie Plame. Don’t look into the service records of my administration or our average net worth. Don’t think about the elections of 2000. Don’t define the term “corporate oligarchic theocracy.”
Don’t point out that Karl Rove basically transposed his philosophy for taking over America into this very speech. “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be in an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books and desecrated historical monuments and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form and to control every aspect of life and to rule the soul itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing for a future of oppression and misery. Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent.”
Don’t trace the co-opting of populist rhetoric by the conservative right.
At this point, I am confused, but I was told to keep reading. I won’t stumble over this because it sounds so familiar, so home grown: I will charge on. I will finish this speech with a few more points. Some of these are actually funny, but I won’t chuckle. “The essence of democracy [is] making your case, debating with those who disagree, building consensus by persuasion and answering to the will of the people.”
This is tough. But it’s on the teleprompter: “In fact, democratic federalism is the best hope for unifying a diverse population, because a federal constitutional system respects the rights and religious traditions of all citizens while giving all minorities…a stake and a voice in the future of their country.
Gosh, I hope no one analyzes this speech.
“As Americans, we believe that people everywhere—everywhere prefer freedom to slavery and that liberty, once chosen, improves the lives of all.”
Who writes this stuff? Karl? Can I have a word with you? No? OK.
“There's always a temptation in the middle of a long struggle to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder.”
Great! This is where I get to take a vacation. Excellent. I have brush to clear. I hope no one ever passes a law that says if you start a war, you aren’t allowed to go on vacation until you finish the war. That would suck.
Last but not least:
“Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure until those societies collapse in corruption and decay.”
Ah, truer words were never spoken.
Is this thing on?