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So This Is What He Meant

Friday, January 27, 2006, 18:37 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

George W. Bush, addressing a joint session of Congress
September 20, 2001

Thus proclaimed the President of the United States more than four years ago, and though that remark was directed toward "every nation, in every region," you don’t have to go far to find an individual for whom the words are equally appropriate. Here’s the latest real-life example of what Bush was talking about.

Twenty-four hours after Osama bin Laden told the world that the American people should read the work of a little-known Washington historian, William Blum was still adjusting.

[ . . . ]

From Blum’s end of the conversations, you could tell the reporters were expecting him to express some kind of discomfort, remorse, maybe even shame. Blum refused to acknowledge feelings he did not have.

"I was not turned off by such an endorsement," he informed a New York radio station. "I’m not repulsed, and I’m not going to pretend I am." He patiently reiterated the thesis of his foreign-policy critique — that American interventions abroad create enemies.

In other words, "See, I’m right! Osama himself agrees, and if Osama says so, that’s good enough for me." Not exactly what most sane people would consider a desirable endorsement, but when you hate the U.S. that much, bin Laden must start to look like he just might have a good reason for having his minions fly commercial jets into buildings, if you think of it from his point of view.

Even the English didn’t hate the French enough to side with the Nazis and the fascists in World War II. But the English were on the whole more sensible than today’s obsessed Bush-whackers, who decided about 20 minutes after Al Gore conceded the 2000 election that Dubya was evil and should be impeached and still haven’t let it go. Not that they’re a one-trick pony; the impeachment campaign hasn’t prevented them, for example, from offering money to Photoshop artists who can manufacture a believable photo of Bush with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Resourceful little imps, aren’t they?

Anyway, in reading the entire transcript of that presidential address several Septembers ago, I came across something Americans probably need to hear again, to refresh our short memories and temper our stubborn desire for quick fixes even if they don’t fix anything.

Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war — to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.

This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.

An overwhelming majority of Americans lauded that speech and the long-term commitment it articulated. Now, many of those same people demand tangible, measurable, public results. They are decrying the use of "every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement"—even those they never objected to when previous presidents invoked the right to use them broadly.

It’s different, of course, when it’s Bush, because Bush Is Bad and even if he takes the same actions as a previous president who was good, Bush’s Reasons Are Bad and consequently he must be opposed. This isn’t "he’s guilt because what he did was wrong"; it’s "what he did was wrong because he’s guilty."

Now this is America and you can believe whatever you want, even if you end up contradicting yourself. But speech and actions have consequences, and while no one gets executed in this country for speaking against the government, that doesn’t mean we speak and act in a vacuum. Words and actions, even if constitutionally protected, have consequences, and no intelligent person should make ridiculous claims of censorship when they find that not everyone agrees with them. The constitutional right to freedom of speech does not come with a constitutional responsibility for anyone else to agree with you or even to listen to you. More importantly, if your actions cause a particular result—intentional or not—don’t expect everyone to ignore your complicity.

Is William Blum with us or with the terrorists? Osama bin Laden has given us a pretty clear answer, and Blum agrees with it. Say what you want about Blum; he is more honest than all those "dissenters" who believe what he does but will never admit it.

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