Friday, October 27, 2006
Sunday, October 15, 2006
What is the most important thing?
If you're wondering why I'm writing to you, its because I'm worried.
In 2000 I voted for Bush. Like many Texans, I thought he wouldn't do too horrible a job, and would probably take advice from his Dad, who was far from the worst president we ever had. Plus, I liked what he said in his campaign.
I liked how he said we wouldn't use our troops for nation building.
I liked how he said he would make the government more efficiently use our tax dollars, and then turn those savings into tax cuts (that means lowering spending too).
I liked how he said he wanted to increase access to education, the sure path to bringing people out of poverty and into the middle class, where they can help shoulder the tax burden instead of draining it.
I liked how he said he would reach across the aisle and be a uniter, helping to heal the fractured partisan divide in this country.
I liked how he said he would bring dignity and morals back to the government.
I liked how he said he would help keep government out of our churches and bedrooms.
I liked how he said he believed in personal responsibility.
And so I, like a minority of my fellow voters, voted for George W. Bush, and due to a weirdness in our election process and some intervention from the Supreme Court, he became President. I was happy to see Clinton go at the time, and pleased that we wouldn't have four years of Gore.
With the benefit of six years of hindsight, I'm extremely embarrassed to admit I fell for all of this. I was duped, straight up, completely.
The first sign that something was wrong was when he appointed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. This extremely divisive appointment seemed to directly contradict his "uniter, not divider" campaign promise. While I didn't know a lot about Ashcroft at the time, I would eventually come to find out why he was such a poor choice, but at the time what I was sure of was that there was certainly equally qualified persons available for the job who would be much less divisive. This frustrated me, but I was still willing to let things slide a bit.
Then, he went on vacation. And stayed on vacation. For a really long time. I began to worry. What was my boy from Texas doing? He was supposed to go to Washington DC and show them what it meant to be a Texan. He was supposed to clean up the town, burn through the red tape and whip some life into the government, making it better for all of us. Instead, he was too busy taking vacation. At the time, I wasn't fully aware that he was actually from the north, Connecticut to be precise. At the time I didn't know he'd gone to both Harvard AND Yale, the classic elitist Ivy League schools that personify the exact opposite of everything you think of when you think "Texas." Again, my ignorance rose up and bit me right on the ass.
Well, then 9/11 happened, and like many Americans I was relieved that George Bush was President, even if he'd been screwing up before. I was alarmed when, days after 9/11, I heard on FOX News that the White House was saying there may be a connection to Iraq. The whole concept seemed absurd to me, as Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaeda were a highly religious fundamentalist group, whereas Saddam liked to oppress the religious authorities in Iraq because they were a threat to his power. The idea that someone as paranoid as Saddam would ever let someone with as much charisma and power as Osama set foot in Iraq was just off the wall crazy. Still, it was a warning sign I should have payed more attention to.
Bush then sent a force to clean up the Taliban and round up Al Quaeda, and I was really happy about that. We were finally going to go and deal with one of the nastiest regimes on the face of the Earth, those scumbags who blew up 2000 year old monuments and publicly executed women for showing too much ankle. I was happy to see a US presence there, as I thought we could do a lot of good in a country that ended up being one of the central fronts in the Cold War against the soviets. Finally, we could repay those people and help them improve their quality of life, and their example would shine out not just to the rest of the Middle East, but to the various ex-soviet states around the area, like Uzbekistan, who were slowly sliding from the tyranny of the Soviets into home grown varieties.
And then they didn't send the troops to capture Osama in Tora Bora. They sent Northern Alliance mercenaries instead. This confused me greatly. Why was Bush taking the chance of letting Osama, the guy who blew up my people on 9/11, get away? Why didn't we have American soldiers in there so thick you could walk on their shoulders from Kabul to Khartoum?
So Osama escaped into Pakistan. I was pissed. Not at our soldiers, who did everything they could, but at their leaders back home, who didn't give them enough resources to do the job right.
And then the real insult came. "Iraq was tied to Al Quaeda! Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction! Saddam has missiles that can hit Britain with only 45 minutes of warning! We have to bring Freedom to the Middle East, and we have to do it by invading Iraq and making an example there!"
So, I thought, "If our government supposedly has such incredible evidence available about this WMD program, why don't they simply send some CIA dudes over to hang out with the Weapons Inspectors and do some surprise inspections. Surely, even if the Iraqis have a few minutes, even hours of notice, things like nerve gas and radioactive materials leave a trace that our science boys can detect, right?" We had the inspectors running around in Iraq, but our government insisted that they could not give the evidence they had to anyone, especially not the people whose job it was to find the WMDs.
That just didn't add up for me. It all seemed like a big distraction from the important job we had to finish in Afghanistan. We had world support for the fight against the Taliban, governments that traditionally wouldn't even talk to us unless we payed them off with "aid packages" just to come to the table were suddenly giving us unprecedented access. The people who died on 9/11 had not died senselessly after all, their sacrifice had created an opportunity for America to build bridges to the entire world, to strengthen the ties to our allies and to make new friends all over the globe, all the while eliminating the ever present threat of Terrorists.
But Bush was throwing it away on evidence so thin that they couldn't confirm it, either with special operations forces deep in Iraq (and don't tell me our spec ops guys couldn't go wherever they wanted to inside that country, they're the pinnacle of Military Training and if they were tasked to deliver the Moon to the front doorstep of Mars I'm sure they'd find a way) or by giving enough information to the inspectors to go and get some evidence they CAN share.
As it turned out, there were no WMD programs in Iraq. No WMDs. No nuclear program. No trips to Niger to buy yellowcake uranium. No "weapons of mass destruction related program activities (as Bush said in his state of the union)." After three years in Iraq the best they could find was some inert artillery shells from the 70's tucked away in the back corner of a warehouse, forgotten by everyone and missed in the sweeps Saddam did to get rid of his WMDs.
It was then that I finally, fully realized how wrong I'd been. They had already started the Tax cuts, but they weren't cutting spending. They were preparing to launch a war of aggression against a country who hadn't attacked us. John Ashcroft was releasing his "hit" single, "Let the Eagle Soar," and had ordered the Justice Department to put a dress on a statue of Justice because she had a bare breast. The Justice Department's number one initiative was not catching terrorists, it was tracking down online pornographers (hardly a threat to national security).
Meanwhile, Bush wasn't vetoing anything. ANYTHING. They tried to tell us that if he vetoed a spending bill, that was it. The money to run the government simply wouldn't flow. As if, if he vetoed it, they couldn't just make a new one without all the pork and send it up.
No, it turns out the only thing Bush has ever vetoed was the Stem Cell bill.
And then they called a special session of congress for Terri Schaivo, but they couldn't do it to find a way to give Humvee armor and Kevlar for the people they'd sent to die.
And then they created the department of homeland security and passed the PATRIOT act, but didn't address the office politics in the FBI that let the 9/11 hijackers slip through the cracks (thats right, the FBI and CIA both knew who they were, but they didn't act on it because it got squelched by office politics).
And then they passed a law allowing torture and removing the protections against unlawful search and seizure, and unlawful detention.
And then they cut funding to college grant and student loan programs.
And then poverty increased every year.
And then they pulled us out of the Kyoto treaty.
And then they pulled us out of the Non-proliferation treaties that helped us win the cold war.
And then they funded research into newer, more deadly nuclear weapons.
And then they spent billions of dollars on a missile defense system that has never been successfully tested, even when they rigged the tests to guarantee success.
And then they decapitated FEMA.
And then they appointed such incompetents that when New Orleans was drowning, and the incompetent and corrupt Louisiana government was standing around wondering what to do, our Federal government just stood there right alongside them.
And then they protected a child rapist so they could save a house seat, all so they could hold onto power.
And so I realized the truth. It took a while for it to sink in, but i finally understood.
Bush wasn't the man he came off as in 2000 when he ran for President. The Republicans weren't the party of morals, personal responsibility, and good government. It was all a lie.
All a lie crafted carefully to accomplish one thing: to keep them in power.
And its hard. Its hard to know for sure, because you listen to one source and it says, "Oh, no thats just the liberals playing politics," and you listen to another source and it says, "These guys are crooks and liars and they're destroying everything we've worked so hard to build."
But the world is not subjective. Our senses might be tricked, but there is an underlying reality beneath it all, an ultimate truth. And the truth is not what you hear on the News. Its not what you see on TV or in the movies, or even in the Newspaper (although that is slightly more reliable).
Once you see the truth, you won't be able to look back. You won't be able to see the world the same way you did. Once you make that leap forward, there is no going back.
So what is the truth?
You can't be told the truth. Anyone who claims to be telling you all of the facts is a liar. As certain as I am that everything I've just written is true, I've been wrong before and I will be again. So I'm not going to tell you the truth. All I can do is tell you my story, the story of my own personal search for truth. All I can do is ask you to look, really look, at the man behind the curtain and see if he really is a wizard after all, or just an excellent manipulator.
All I want is to enjoy life, finish college, spend time with my girlfriend and eventually find a nice job working in my chosen profession. I suspect that if you've read this far, you have similar desires. But freedom isn't free. You have to work at it, at least a little bit every day. You have to find your way past the smoke, the mirrors, and the illusions and ask yourself the question, "Is this true? Is this right? Is this going to make the world a better place?"
Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now open them and start to look, really look, at the world around you.
You might be surprised what you find.