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Guest Opinion: Who Are The Real, Useful Idiots?

Who Are The Real, Useful Idiots?

By Brent Flynn

So the Lenins of the world think the anti-war protestors are nothing more than unpatriotic, ill-informed stooges of brutal dictators everywhere.

Useful idiot is the term commonly used by right wing ideologues to describe the naïve peaceniks that are supposedly giving aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein by opposing the impending invasion of Iraq. Instead of characterizing the marchers as ordinary, loyal Americans who decided to get off their duffs for once and speak out against what they see as an unprovoked invasion of a weak country, the marchers are made out to be blame-America-first communists under the organizational leadership of Iraqi spies.

Well, I have a different take on the subject.

I would say that people who hold up the First Amendment as an example of America’s greatness but then disparage those who exercise that right to peaceably assemble are the real, useful idiots.

Those cynics cherish freedom and democracy as abstract principles but loathe those same ideals when they are put into practice in support of a cause with which they disagree. They see the mass demonstrations of democracy as a threat to the country, not as a show of its strength.

They are the useful idiots of John Ashcroft. The right to an attorney, habeas corpus (probable cause) and the presumption of innocence—all cornerstones of our American democracy—are under attack by an Attorney General who believes constitutionally guaranteed rights can be denied, depending on the crime.

Now, the mouthpieces of the far right are concocting hypothetical “ticking bomb” scenarios to scare Americans into believing that we need to take another look at torture as an interrogation method.

Ben Franklin’s words of wisdom should be required reading for these fascists in red, white and blue clothing. He got it right when he said that, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The neo-conservatives in charge of our government talk about sparking a democratic revolution in the Middle East, but by their arm-twisting and pay-offs to foreign governments they are circumventing the will of the people in those countries-- who are overwhelmingly against the war.

Democracy abroad is a grand concept to this group of useful idiots, except when it expresses itself in the form of a Turkish parliamentary vote prohibiting US troops from deploying there. They are even more infuriated when democratic principles manifest in the form of the German electorate voting an anti-war Chancellor into office or the French Prime Minister actually listening to his people.

These useful idiots wouldn’t recognize true democracy if it marched past their front door on the way to the voting booth, but, oh, how they love the symbols of democracy. They even want to put you in jail for disrespecting the flag. What they don’t understand is that by abridging your freedom of speech—even the unpatriotic and offensive act of burning the flag in protest—they are setting fire to the Bill of Rights. They apparently forgot that the flag is just a piece of cloth if it has no democratic ideals to represent.

If it sounds like I take these attacks personally, that’s because I do. I went to my first anti-war protest last month (actually it was my first time at any kind of protest). When I was walking through the streets of downtown Dallas with thousands (and there were thousands) of fellow Dallasites, Texans, Americans, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. And no amount of brow-beating and comparisons to Lenin’s unwitting dupes will change that.

No, the protesters aren’t unpatriotic, un-American or useful idiots, but people who criticize them for practicing democracy in its purest form have a few things to learn about citizenship in a democratic republic. It is not merely your right to dissent when you disagree with your government’s policies, IT IS YOUR CIVIC OBLIGATION.

Before the Bush hawks start exporting democracy to the Middle East through the use of military force, maybe we should make sure we’ve got it right in America.


Contact Brent Flynn at


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