William Rivers Pitt: Fascist Appeasers
Going Too Far
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 01 September 2006
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
- W.H. Auden, "September 1, 1939"
I had jury duty yesterday, and spent the better part of the day sitting on a hard wooden bench in a holding room waiting for the call. I was thrilled and honored to be there, because I am still a sucker for the basics of our system. The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, all our bombs and guns and missiles, our entire military arsenal, is certainly part of what makes us strong as a nation.
But the better part of our strength comes from simple days like the one I spent in that jury room, days where ordinary citizens come together to participate in the fair administration of justice. In that room with me were men and women, old people and young people, representatives of every race and religion and class to be found in America. This is our strength, and it was a privilege to be a part of it.
So it is with rising bile and a bottomless rage that I consider the recent invective from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his boss, George W. Bush. According to these nabobs, I am a morally untethered appeaser of fascism. I am the witless executor of a bleak fate, a willing associate and ally of terrorists and terrorism. I am no better than those who allowed the Nazi boot heel to crush the innocent and the defenseless.
Why? Because I opposed the Iraq occupation before it began, because I have opposed it since it was undertaken, and because I believe it is past time for a plan to be established that removes our troops from the killing fields of Baghdad.
Astonishing, no? For the first time, a significant majority of Americans now believes the invasion was a terrible mistake. For the first time, a significant majority believe it was comprehensively lied to by the Bush administration as the rationales for this bloodbath were rolled out. For the first time, a significant majority has divorced Iraq from the larger struggle against terrorism, divorced itself from the idea that "Iraq is the central front of the War on Terror." If I am an appeaser, a supporter of terror, an enabler of murderous extremism, at least I am not alone.
Taken objectively, the incendiary accusations leveled by Rumsfeld and Bush against a majority of the American people are fairly easy to understand. With a little more than two months to go before the midterm congressional elections, the Bush administration and its GOP allies cannot help but realize that they have lost the trust of the American people. If the midterms become a referendum on Iraq, on Katrina, on the stewardship of this administration, Rumsfeld and Bush will be staring down the barrel of something they have managed thus far to avoid: accountability.
Bush, in a recent interview with NBC's Brian Williams, denied that his administration ever conflated Iraq with al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. This was a desperate lie. On March 9, 2003, less than two weeks before "Shock and Awe" was unleashed on Baghdad, Condolleezza Rice appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation." "We know from a detainee - the head of training for al Qaeda - that they sought help in developing chemical and biological weapons because they weren't doing very well on their own. They sought it in Iraq. They received the help." The detainee in question, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was never considered reliable by American intelligence, and by 2004, all data received from him was pulled and discarded by the CIA. Rice's lie was merely an accent in the symphony of deception that led us to our current bleak estate.
I could fill page after page with the lies and misrepresentations proffered by the Bush administration regarding Iraq, but this has been done countless times already. Rumsfeld and Bush are no longer trusted, their lies no longer carry weight, and so they have resorted to denouncing a majority of the citizens they supposedly represent. Worse, they chose to do so by raising the specter of Hitler and Nazism. This is nothing less than a rank attempt at rhetorical intimidation, and it is disgusting.
I thought about all of this while sitting in that jury room, while doing my small part to serve the better angels of our system. I tried to come up with an appropriate response, but kept returning to the words of Keith Olbermann. Olbermann, a favorite television personality of mine since his days at ESPN, anchors the MSNBC news program "Countdown." On Wednesday night, Olbermann offered a personal comment of his own to Rumsfeld and Bush. It was perhaps the most eloquent denunciation of all that has transpired I have heard to date.
"Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday," said Olbermann, "demands the deep analysis - and the sober contemplation - of every American. For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty - of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants - our employees - with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration's track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve. Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq. It is also essential. Because just every once in a while it is right, and the power to which it speaks, is wrong."
"The confusion we - as its citizens - must now address, is stark and forbidding," continued Olbermann. "But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note - with hope in your heart - that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too. The confusion is about whether this secretary of defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: the destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City so valiantly fought. And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion, that this country faces a 'new type of fascism.' As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too, was he right when he said that - though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed."
I am no appeaser of fascism, for I have fought this administration at every step. Millions have done the same, and will continue to do so. To stand in opposition to this new type of fascism, embodied in the hypocrisies and lies of men like Rumsfeld and Bush, is as much our patriotic duty as the time I spent in that jury room.
The appeasers are the ones who continue to march in lock-step, who swallow the pabulum of official misconduct and spew it back without thought or care. The appeasers would have us forget all the falsehoods, all the death, all the scare tactics, all the failures. The appeasers would have us kneel, submit, acquiesce to a government that cares little for the truth and cares for its own people not at all.
Don Rumsfeld and George W. Bush have insulted the people of this nation. They have sullied our honor, lied to us and given nearly 2,700 American soldiers and countless thousands of civilians over to death. They have used our fears for their own political gain, deliberately and with intent. They are the shame of a generation, and their falsehoods will echo long down the corridors of history.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.