Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The Best Speech Of His Presidency
I urge all of you to read President Gore's speech if you didn't get to see him give it.
Al Gore has a unique position in the eyes of the world, especially in places where Machiavellian vote counting schemes are the norm rather than the exception. He is the shadow president, the man who should be at the helm instead of the man whom they have almost universally come to despise.
His words have particular meaning because they express to many the beliefs of the majority of Americans. He alone has the authority to speak for all of us who were cheated and have been forced to sit by as this usurper, through incompetence, misplaced machismo and --- most of all --- unbelievable hubris, has managed to destroy more than half a century's worth of international goodwill and over two centuries hard won belief by the American people in the rule of law.
The world is watching to see what we do in November. They are counting on us to save this country and them. Al Gore is the single best person to reassure the world that we are serious, we understand the problem and we are going to deal with it.
A few excerpts follow, but I urge you, again, to read the whole speech:
What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances.
The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th.
There was then, there is now and there would have been regardless of what Bush did, a threat of terrorism that we would have to deal with. But instead of making it better, he has made it infinitely worse. We are less safe because of his policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation -- because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him.
President Bush said in his speech Monday night that the war in Iraq is "the central front in the war on terror." It's not the central front in the war on terror, but it has unfortunately become the central recruiting office for terrorists. [Dick Cheney said, "This war may last the rest of our lives.] The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States. Just yesterday, the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that the Iraq conflict " has arguable focused the energies and resources of Al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition." The ISS said that in the wake of the war in Iraq Al Qaeda now has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks.
Make no mistake, the damage done at Abu Ghraib is not only to America's reputation and America's strategic interests, but also to America's spirit. It is also crucial for our nation to recognize - and to recognize quickly - that the damage our nation has suffered in the world is far, far more serious than President Bush's belated and tepid response would lead people to believe. Remember how shocked each of us, individually, was when we first saw those hideous images. The natural tendency was to first recoil from the images, and then to assume that they represented a strange and rare aberration that resulted from a few twisted minds or, as the Pentagon assured us, "a few bad apples."
But as today's shocking news reaffirms yet again, this was not rare. It was not an aberration. Today's New York Times reports that an Army survey of prisoner deaths and mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanisatan "show a widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known.'
Nor did these abuses spring from a few twisted minds at the lowest ranks of our military enlisted personnel. No, it came from twisted values and atrocious policies at the highest levels of our government. This was done in our name, by our leaders.
These horrors were the predictable consequence of policy choices that flowed directly from this administration's contempt for the rule of law. And the dominance they have been seeking is truly not simply unworthy of America - it is also an illusory goal in its own right.
A policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the United States and creates recruits for Al Qaeda, it also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating the efforts of terrorists who wish harm and intimidate Americans.
Unilateralism, as we have painfully seen in Iraq, is its own reward. Going it alone may satisfy a political instinct but it is dangerous to our military, even without their Commander in Chief taunting terrorists to "bring it on."
They resent any constraint as an insult to their will to dominate and exercise power. Their appetite for power is astonishing. It has led them to introduce a new level of viciousness in partisan politics. It is that viciousness that led them to attack as unpatriotic, Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in combat during the Vietnam War.
The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter". If he president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh - perhaps his strongest political supporter - who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."
But what we do now, in reaction to Abu Ghraib will determine a great deal about who we are at the beginning of the 21st century. It is important to note that just as the abuses of the prisoners flowed directly from the policies of the Bush White House, those policies flowed not only from the instincts of the president and his advisors, but found support in shifting attitudes on the part of some in our country in response to the outrage and fear generated by the attack of September 11th.
The president exploited and fanned those fears, but some otherwise sensible and levelheaded Americans fed them as well. I remember reading genteel-sounding essays asking publicly whether or not the prohibitions against torture were any longer relevant or desirable. The same grotesque misunderstanding of what is really involved was responsible for the tone in the memo from the president's legal advisor, Alberto Gonzalez, who wrote on January 25, 2002, that 9/11 "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
The abhorrent acts in the prison were a direct consequence of the culture of impunity encouraged, authorized and instituted by Bush and Rumsfeld in their statements that the Geneva Conventions did not apply. The apparent war crimes that took place were the logical, inevitable outcome of policies and statements from the administration.
President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world - but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions. He also owes an apology to the U.S. Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders. Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the United States of America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under a rule of law in their own lands. Of course, the problem with all these legitimate requests is that a sincere apology requires an admission of error, a willingness to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable. And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America.
In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.
I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability...
So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.
I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
I hope that this speech is covered heavily in the rest of the world. The situation is so dire that it is important that people realize that the duly elected president of the United States stands in stark contrast to the usurper who sits in the White House. These words could go a long way to calm some of the anger overseas by clearly and distinctly separating the hated president from the American people.
digby 5/26/2004 01:59:00 PM