Wednesday, September 20, 2006

That's Unacceptable Thinking, Sir

Bloggermann, Sept. 18, 2006

The President of the United States owes this country an apology.

It will not be offered, of course. [...]

The President revealed this last Friday, as he fairly spat through his teeth, words of unrestrained fury directed at the man who was once the very symbol of his administration, who was once an ambassador from this administration to its critics, as he had once been an ambassador from the military to its critics.

The former Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, had written, simply and candidly and without anger, that “the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.” [...]

“If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic,” Bush said. “It's just -- I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.”

Of course it's acceptable to think that there's “any kind of comparison.”

And in this particular debate, it is not only acceptable, it is obviously necessary, even if Mr. Powell never made the comparison in his letter.

Some will think that our actions at Abu Ghraib, or in Guantanamo, or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, are all too comparable to the actions of the extremists.

Some will think that there is no similarity, or, if there is one, it is to the slightest and most unavoidable of degrees.

What all of us will agree on, is that we have the right -- we have the duty -- to think about the comparison.

And, most importantly, that the other guy, whose opinion about this we cannot fathom, has exactly the same right as we do: to think -- and say -- what his mind and his heart and his conscience tell him, is right.

All of us agree about that.

Except, it seems, this President.

With increasing rage, he and his administration have begun to tell us, we are not permitted to disagree with them, that we cannot be right, that Colin Powell cannot be right.

And then there was that one, most awful phrase.

In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years - the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.

“It's unacceptable to think,
he said.

It is never unacceptable to think. [...]

There needs to be an apology from the President of the United States.

And more than one.

But, Mr. Bush, the others -- for warnings unheeded five years ago, for war unjustified four years ago, for battle unprepared three years ago -- they are not weighted with the urgency and necessity of this one. [...]

Oddly, there are other words of Voltaire's that are more pertinent still, just now.

“Think for yourselves, he wrote, “and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”

Apologize, sir, for even hinting at an America where a few have that privilege to think and the rest of us get yelled at by the President.

Anything else, Mr. Bush, is truly unacceptable.

* * *

Colin Powell explains why he publicly opposed Bush on torture: “If you just look at how we are perceived in the world ...”

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