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David Jenkins: Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War
November 22, 2003
By W. David Jenkins III

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"

- Mahatma Gandhi - "Non-Violence in Peace and War"

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

- Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

George W. Bush is speaking in the "sterile zone" of Whitehall Palace as I write. He was also supposed to address the members of Parliament during his controversial visit but he chickened out of that one because, as we all know, the members are quite keen on voicing their own opinions. I can't seem to escape the irony of the appointed leader of America extolling the rights to speak freely - as he did earlier this week - only to hide from the demonstrators and politicians who would do just that.

The reports earlier this week of the preparations by the British and the many incredible demands made by the Bush people on their British hosts betrayed the extent that Bush has become his own prisoner - a prisoner of his own invention.

His admission to British journalists of being required to do his "traveling in a bubble" is not so much a reflection on any physical danger to the president, but more the emotional damage and the ensuing political danger should Bush or the American people actually witness the hostile dissent roiling outside t hat bubble.

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Those who represent this country live in constant fear Americans might actually come to the conclusion that Bush and his handlers have really screwed up if we were free to witness dissent - especially dissent among our allies. Theirs is the desperate need to increase the boundaries of the sterile zone which they and the media have worked so hard to create here at home. This is just more evidence as to how America, too, has become prisoner to Bush's war.

The prisoners in Bush's war on terrorism come in many forms but make no mistake - we are all prisoners.

There are some who insist that the actions taken by this administration have been a positive move and will bring "victory" to those who love freedom. There are some who ignore history, differing cultures and basic common sense while mindlessly waving their flags and thumping their chests. These very people are locked in a blind struggle against those who still believe in the principles and liberties which this country once stood for - the very freedoms which the self-proclaimed patriots cannot see crumbling before their very eyes.

"The open-endedness of the situation and its impact on the mental health of the population has become a major problem."

The above quotation was taken from a statement made by Christophe Girod, a senior Red Cross official, back in early October. He made these remarks after witnessing the disintegrating condition of the prisoners being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, but his remarks just as easily could have applied to so many Americans who have been swept off their feet by a wave of nationalistic testosterone which has become the most outward characteristic of a people consumed by an underlying blood-lust coupled with a perverted sense of Manifest Destiny. There is only black-and-white, and woe to those who dare point out any gray because that only proves treasonous disdain for their own country.

The present leaders of this country have succeeded in building an unquestioning army of supporters incapable of independent thought while all dissent is met with a collective chorus of finger-pointing and liberal-bashing. This ridiculous charade is comparable to the crew of the Titanic running up and down the decks telling the doomed passengers, "Yeah, but he's a GREAT captain and so much better than the guy who was supposed to run this boat!"

Hear the prison door slam shut.

Too many Americans have been taken prisoner by this shut up and salute - we're at war mentality and it is a greater threat than any terrorist attack. The worst any terrorist can do is kill innocent people, granted a horror none of us wish to relive, and there is much that can be done to make us and the rest of the world as safe as humanly possible. Removing Bush, it says here, would be a good start. But the greater threat we face is the death of a healthy, needful American ideology - not the corporate or political ideology which has become the Bush American Way, but the very basic rights and liberties which I believe most Americans yearn to regain.

As Americans we are supposed to have the right to be informed, to actively participate, to dissent and - above all - we have the right not to be kept in a bubble for the political safety of our appointed leaders. We also have the right not to be led by fear and xenophobia, which only strengthens the walls that incarcerate our dreams and hopes for our future and that of our children. But to be led by fear is exactly how this administration governs, and this fear has produced a kind of 21st century not-so-Civil War between the people of America. America is stuck in another kind of open-ended war, and, sadly, this one originates from within.

The prison door slams again.

That the events of 9/11 will stand forever as the origin of our division instead of a call for productive unification is abhorrent to the memories of those we lost that day. Rather than the event being used as a new beginning, it has been used as nothing more than an excuse for the beginning of the end.

The very people who call those questioning our leaders' motives and secrecy "paranoid" are the same people who stocked up on duct tape and plastic sheeting months ago. Those who call themselves "patriots" see nothing wrong with more than four hundred flag-draped coffins being flown home in the dark of night, thus depriving our brave warriors of receiving well-earned public display of honor and respect.

The military has stated that it suffers from not only insufficient armor, but the armor it does have is inadequate to protect the soldiers. Those of us who point this out to the self-proclaimed patriots are immediately branded as un-American or against the troops.

During this week's trip to England, Richard Perle conceded to a London audience that the invasion of Iraq is illegal. An inside member of the inner PNAC circle admitted to breaking international law! Yet he has been given a pass by those who were so concerned about "lying under oath" a few years back!

And the door slams again.

The hypocrisy and ironies go on and on and will continue to go on until this war is over - and therein lays the problem.

The sham that is the war on terrorism will go on as long as those in power can dupe and scare enough Americans into supporting its inevitability. They not only will continue to take advantage of the "sincere ignorance" and "conscientious stupidity" that Dr. King spoke of, but they will continue to afflict their victims with the same maladies. There is obviously a lot of room in Bush's bubble as so many seem to want to crowd into it. There is a false sense of "safety" in there if they ignore the fact that the war on terrorism isn't going to end any quicker than the wars on drugs, poverty and racism.

What the patri-idiots in the White House and their supporters don't seem to realize is that no army on earth is large enough to conquer ideology or religious zealotry. Those characteristics come from within and are passed on from generation to generation. The invasion of Iraq was nothing more than a reckless miscalculation to put a face on terrorism because Bush couldn't and can't win the war on terrorism he declared. And now he's gone and messed up an invasion as well.

If ever anyone questioned whether there is a reason to send these treasonous, appointed leaders packing, the answer would be obvious: Americans will never break out of this prison until they are gone.

We need to do it before the bubble itself breaks and we find out that the America we once loved is gone.


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