According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, I am suffering from either “moral or intellectual confusion” or both. In a speech to the American Legion National Convention, this conclusion is grounded on the fact that I do not agree with the Bush Administration's activities regarding the invasion of Iraq.
I would like to make it clear that I was not, in principle, opposed to the invasion of Iraq. In fact, I do think that the nations of the world should be as reluctant to remove a despotic leader from power as a community should be in arresting and imprisoning an abusive parent. That is to say, parents should be given the benefit of the doubt, but clear signs of abuse deserve a determined response. At the same time, I disapproved of Bush’s invasion of Iraq precisely because I saw Bush as an incompetent leader who will do far more harm than good, and I wanted the country to find a competent leader to do the job.
As I see it, the Bush Administration has wasted $300 billion and the lives of 2,500 American soldiers – money and lives that a competent leader could have used to much greater effect.
Here, however, I would like to look specifically at whether Rumsfeld’s accusations have any merit.
In the area of intellectual clarity, please recall that this is the same Administration that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" over three years, nearly $300 billion dollars, and over 2,500 American lives ago. This is not a promising indicator of intellectual clarity. This is only one of a long list of instances in which the Bush Administration displayed significant intellectual shortcomings – evidence that included its false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that the conflict would last only 6 months, and that the war would pay for itself (basically because of our plan to loot Iraq of its oil revenue).
More importantly, however, is the intellectual bankruptcy of comparing our current situation with World War II and the fight against Nazi Germany, that I have wrote about in a post titled "Islamic Fascism" -- and that this gives the Bush Administration to shove aside any claim that there are moral and Constitutional limits on what the President may do.
I found it interesting that, in Rumsfeld's speech, he mentioned an email from a soldier that said, "I ask that you never take advantage of the liberties guaranteed by the shedding of free blood, never take for granted the freedoms granted by our Constitution."
He quotes this letter after he has spoken in defense of the Administration practices of warrantless searches and seizures, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, the denial of life, liberty, and property without due process, and cruel and unusual 'punishment' (though these acts fail to qualify as 'punishment' because the accused have not been convicted of a crime or even put on trial).
In fact, the very people that Rumsfeld targets with his wrath are those who refuse to take our liberties for granted -- those who demand that they be defended and protected against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The defenders of these rights are the very people that Rumsfeld calls "morally and intellectually confused."
The irony would not have been any deeper if Rumsfeld had teleported himself back in time to 1788. There, he could speak to James Madison and the other members Congress themselves, and speak to them personally. He could then tell them directly how morally and intellectually confused they are for seriously considering that there is something as foolish as "rights" to be written into the Constitution. He could then tell them directly how idiotic it is to tell the President that his job is to protect and defend those rights. He could then brag to them about his own intellectual and moral superiority because he (unlike James Madison and his allies) recognized the folly of having a government devoted to protecting and defending rights.
In his speech, Rumsfeld asked four questions that he says we must face honestly.
With the growing lethality and increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?
Rumsfeld's break with reality is so severe that he thinks there are people out there talking about appeasing vicious extremists.
That's not the complaint at all. At least, that is not my complaint.
My complaint is that if you give somebody the use of $300 billion plus 160,000 troops to use for 3.5 years where 2,500 of them die and over 20,000 are wounded, that one had better make some progress. Nothing that the Bush Administration has done in Iraq with this money has made America any safer. In fact, it may well be that the Bush Administration has created more terrorists, and filled them with a much firmer resolve, than he has killed or captured.
Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists.
Who is he talking about? Is this, perhaps, a reference to Iraq negotiating a peace between its Shiite and Sunni populations? If this is what he is referring to, then it had better be possible for them to do this. The alternative is to argue that either the Shiite or the Sunni be exterminated. Those are the two options when cultural groups enter into civil war – peaceful coexistence or genocide. Rumsfeld seems to be arguing in favor of genocide.
Can we afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply law enforcement problems, like robbing a bank or stealing a car; rather than threats of a fundamentally different nature requiring fundamentally different approaches?
Well, actually, I would view them as law enforcement problems such as the assassination of McKinley and Kennedy, the Wall Street bombing of 1920, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Ku Klux Klan, the Columbine Massacre, any event in which somebody steps into a former place of employment and starts shooting, any instance where a child is napped off of the streed, and organized crime in its various forms. These are horrendous acts. If terrorism deserves a 'fundamentally different approach' that requires abolishing the Constitution, then all of these crimes do.
Of course nobody is comparing terrorism to stealing a car. Rumsfeld is attempting to score rhetorical points, to manipulate people through deceptive use of language, rather than deal with the issues and those who present them honestly.
But, ultimately, here again we have two options. Terrorism is a permanent part of our lives – it always has been, and it always will be. As a result, we can either (1) treat it as a criminal problem and deal with it in a way consistent with preserving and protecting freedoms, or (2) declare a permanent police state and destroy those freedoms ourselves rather than wait for the terrorists to do it for us.
And can we really afford to return to the destructive view that America, not the enemy, but America, is the source of the world’s troubles.
No, Mr. Rumsfeld, it is not America that is the source of the world’s troubles. It is you and President Bush that are the source of those troubles – and almost entirely due to the fact that you fail to understand and apply the principles that once uniquely defined and distinguished America as a great country.
It is not uncommon for megalomaniacal leaders to equate themselves with the countries they lead. King Louis the XIV of France famously uttered, “I am the state.” In Rumsfeld’s case it represents an inability to distinguish between criticism of Rumsfeld as a person, and criticism of America. It is an attempt to deflect blame by saying, “Anybody who hates me, hates America.”
No, Mr. Rumsfeld, that is not true. In fact, it is quite possible for the opposite to be true – for somebody to hate you because the love America and they hate those who would abuse her.
There is nothing of moral or intellectual merit in what Rumsfeld said. It is true that if we want to keep our freedom, we need to protect it from all of those who would seek to destroy it.
One reliable indicator that we are dealing with somebody who wants to destroy our freedom rather than preserve it comes when we hear somebody say that we face permanent “threats of a different nature” that we can only fight by giving up that which is the only thing worth fighting to protect; freedom. One reliable indicator that we are not dealing with a government intent on defending that freedom comes from their repeated claims that we give up that freedom.
In fact, if you listen to the speeches that come from the members of the Bush Administration, they all seem to be carrying the same message. “I am here to declare that all of those who insist on being free and fighting those who would destroy that freedom are traitors, and that all true patriots will gladly surrender their freedom to me at the soonest possible instant.”
It’s not a message that I ever expected to hear in this country. I expected even less that the numbers of Americans who value their freedom so little that they would surrender it as eagerly as they do.