“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”
-- Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Instead, President George Bush's far-right fundamentalist supporters believe in a God of wrath who would pass judgment on all non-believers, a belief that is no less radical than the Wahhabi brand of Islam with followers like Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. They are every bit as dangerous by thinking that they are God's chosen nation fighting a war for world "dominion," and if, much to the chagrin of everyone else living on this planet, they think they are facing "eternal war," they will take that in stride because that is exactly what their eschatology predicts. But in reality it will be nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy that's based on delusion.
Yet theirs is in actuality less a particular set of religious beliefs and more a medieval mindset that is in opposition to the modern world of science, to human nature, and to reality itself.
It is a mindset where the word "radical" is improperly used to describe those who would protest against reckless warmongering and the right-wing capitalist vision of an America that would exploit the majority of its citizens and the rest of the world for the sake of an elite wealthy class. In this case the word "radical" is nondescript when it refers to political activism from the progressive left; it is most distinct when it is used to describe political policies that are expedient and extreme, such as the national "defense" strategy of the United States that is offensive. It is a strategy that follows a doctrine of "preventive war" that is self-defeating per se, because the only thing that war can prevent is peace.
The "word" of the United States is now meaningless in diplomatic circles thanks to the doublespeak of the Bush administration. This does not bode well for getting relief from our allies for America's "volunteer" army that must be coerced and involuntarily conscripted beyond agreed-upon enlistment periods in order to perform needed "security" duties in Iraq for which it is ill-prepared. The result has been the indiscriminate murder of thousands of Iraqi civilians that the military defines as "collateral damage" in the course of "peacekeeping" operations against Iraqi "insurgents" -- another concertina word for Iraqi citizens fighting for sovereignty in their own country against an occupational force that has no legal right to be there.
And thanks to the Bush administration, "torture" has been redefined in the narrowest of possible terms to allow for its very practice by those who would deem the upholding of human rights to be a hindrance to the "war on terrorism," and as a consequence will further endanger our troops to reciprocal actions if they were to become prisoners of war.
"Partisanship" has been redefined to mean "patriotism" where protesters stand to be arbitrarily prosecuted under the aegis of a government fighting a war on terrorism. The Bill of Rights was drafted to ensure that the political ambitions of capricious governments couldn't interfere with the civil liberties and fundamental human rights of its citizens. Yet the USA Patriot Act derails these very principles upon which our country was founded. There is a new and broader definition of "domestic terrorism," new powers of search and surveillance by the FBI, and the possibility of the indefinite detention of citizens without being formally charged. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, this undermines the principles of free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law: "The result of all of these actions has been the deliberate, persistent, and unnecessary erosion of the basic rights that protect every citizen and non-citizen in the United States.”
The last four years have witnessed an America that has been radically redefined from what was envisioned by our founding fathers. The American revolutionary leader Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Over two centuries later, the very principles that define America are on trial. Thomas Jefferson, who drafted our Declaration of Independence, stated in a letter in 1791, “If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.”
The Bible says, "By their works shall ye know them." It can be readily discerned what George Bush's intentions are by the results of his actions, not his words, and the tragedy of what is now occurring in Iraq is the direct result of the actions of this misguided president and his merry band of neocon nitwits. And it is no secret that the Pentagon has postponed its plans to "pacify" many Iraqi cities until after the U.S. elections in November for fear that the ensuing bloodbath might influence its outcome if done beforehand. "Pacify" now means destroying a country in order to save it from itself.
In 1815, Jefferson said, "I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be." So let's keep that in mind when we go to the polls, because the fate of the world will depend on what we define America to be on Election Day.
Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based independent scholar. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2004, Harold Williamson.
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