Editor’s Note: As George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ratchet up the "you're
with us or you're with the terrorists" rhetoric, it's important to
remember the American principles that are at stake in this momentous
What Bush and Cheney have in mind is a permanent restructuring of the
U.S. constitutional system under an authoritarian executive who can
waive any law and any freedom for anyone he deems an "enemy combatant"
or a "bad guy." Dissent will be dealt with harshly through a
right-wing media built to destroy the reputations of anyone who resists.
Yet there are
positive signs, too, of a bipartisan uprising of Americans who care
deeply about the principles that have guided this democratic republic
for more than two centuries. As representative of this trend, we are
publishing this guest essay by William Frey, a founder of
Republicans for Humility
who seeks to return his party and the U.S. government to a more
supported George W. Bush
in the presidential election in 2000, believing then that he best
reflected my love for America and for our tradition of liberty. I
supported the war in Afghanistan. In March of 2003, I believed that the
invasion of Iraq was justified based upon pre-war revelations presented
to Congress and to the American people. Accordingly, the indictments
contained herein apply, first and foremost, to myself.
Many Americans whom I know and love, including many current
supporters of President Bush, remain conflicted over both his ultimate
intentions in Iraq as well as domestic curtailment of civil liberties.
Many have given the benefit of the doubt to President Bush, and, in a
misdirected spirit of unity, have supported, as did I, Administration
policies that conflict with our essential values.
This essay explores many of the issues that led me personally to the
recognition that the policies I was supporting in Iraq were not
consistent with the justifications made for the invasion in the spring
of 2003, that implicit in our post-invasion actions was the goal of
permanent occupation, which would ensure endless war and the
resultant degradation of our liberty, our security, and our moral
For me, recognizing that I could no longer support the President for
whom I voted, and the occupation of a land we had invaded, remains
I have learned that while it is difficult to admit being wrong, such
recognition is a prerequisite for redemptive action, necessary both for
individual growth and for the healing of our nation.
It is in this spirit that I submit these reflections.
individuals, are punished for their transgressions.”
Ulysses S. Grant
Heeding the admonitions of battle-hardened generals is
scarcely a strength of the Bush administration.
Dwight Eisenhower's presidential leadership was forged in his experience
as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during WWII.
Facing, in the dawn of the nuclear age, an arms race with the
“There is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security,
but it can bankrupt itself morally and economically in attempting to
reach that illusory goal through arms alone.”
farewell address, Eisenhower was the first to describe and warn
Americans of the dangers he observed in the rapidly expanding military
“The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city,
every statehouse, every office of the federal government……..The
potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will
persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our
liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing
of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our
peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper
Eisenhower’s judicious leadership and balanced priorities, despite a
unified, nuclear-armed, and assertive Soviet Union, averted nuclear
catastrophe and preserved civil liberties.
In contrast, despite the dissolution of the
Soviet Union, the Bush regime, not content with
America’s current status as the world’s sole superpower, has
adopted a National Security Strategy which seeks American hegemony
and total dominance, entailing a military industrial complex far greater
than any of which Eisenhower warned.
Those familiar with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC),
whose founders include Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld among many who
went on to serve in the Bush administration, are familiar with their
long advocacy of increased reliance upon the assertion of American
military force, supported by an expanded worldwide network of permanent
Regarding the Middle East, the PNAC policy statement published in 2000,
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses”, plainly stated the objective of an
increased military presence in the region as a reason for invading
Iraq, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate
justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the
Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
An Administration Astray
“Conquest is not in our
principles. It is inconsistent with our government.”
Thomas Jefferson, Instructions to William Carmichael
These goals of total military dominance, pursued by
civilian, mostly non-combat-experienced, war-hawks despite opposition
and warnings from many of our
most experienced generals, not only conflicts with American ideals,
but is irreconcilable with administration rhetoric. Indeed, President
Bush and members of his administration have taken precautions to dispel
any notion that they have plans for a permanent military presence in
On April 13, 2004, President Bush
said, “As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an
indefinite occupation and neither does America.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, testifying before the Senate Armed
Services Committee February 17,
stated, “We have no intention, at the present time, of putting
permanent bases in Iraq.”
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad,
said in an interview on Iraqi television August 15, 2005, “We are
not seeking to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.”
But concrete speaks louder than words. In March, 2004, the
Chicago Tribune reported the planned construction of
14 “enduring bases” in
Iraq. By May, 2005, the Washington Post reported that plans called for
consolidating American troops into 4 large, more substantial facilities,
designed to withstand direct mortar attacks, centered around the
airfields in Tallil in the south, Al Asad in the west, Balad in the
center and either Irbil or Qayyarah in the north. These were
“Contingency Operating Bases” in February, 2005. Funding for the
first group of redesigned barracks was included in the $82 billion
supplemental war-spending bill approved by Congress in May. Also
included was funding for construction of the
world’s largest embassy, located on 104 acres with a staff of 1020
and 500 guards.
This dissonance between President Bush’s rhetoric of democracy and
self-governance and the reality of his actions has yet to be reconciled.
Once again, we may find
guidance in Eisenhower’s words, which are relevant not only to our
Iraq, but within our own borders,
“We know that freedom cannot be served by the devices of the tyrant. As it is an ancient
truth that freedom cannot be legislated into existence…… And any who act
as if freedom's defenses are to found in suppression and suspicion and
fear confess a doctrine that is alien to
“The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are
trying to defend from without.”
Indeed, within America, in the name of defending our freedom, we
witness the ongoing and significant
erosion of fundamental civil liberties, and of the rule of law,
erosions so egregious that it is indeed difficult to comprehend their
reality and future implications:
We witness rulings that in the War on Terror, not
only non-citizens, but even an American citizen apprehended and accused
on American soil, unbelievably may be
imprisoned indefinitely without charges or trial.
We witness the Administration concocting legal theories
to evade both the Geneva Conventions as well as American legal
prohibitions of torture. These legal theories have now expanded to
include the remarkable proposition that the President, as
commander-in-chief, has the
“inherent right” to “set aside” American law. When the Senate
requested the relevant legal memos advocating this proposition that “The
President is above the law”, we have witnessed the Administration not
only refuse Congressional access, but classify the legal memos so as to
be inaccessible until 2013.
Despite military leaders and Republican Senators,
including former POW John McCain, cautioning that American observation
of Geneva Conventions prohibitions against torture have been vital to
protecting our own servicemen, we have seen the administration
oppose Congressional efforts to re-instate these prohibitions.
Of the consequence of loosening the prohibition against the obtaining of
confessions by torture, Patrick Henry
said in 1789, “We are then lost and undone.”
The moral gymnastics a patriotic American one must perform to reconcile
support for these positions with long honored American traditions of
justice grow greater with each subsequent encroachment.
How has it come to this?
Framing the Issues
“No speech about homeland security or
Iraq should begin without a
reference to 9/11 ....
you describe it simply as a ‘preemptive action,’ some Americans will
carry deep reservations about the rightness of the cause. Americans are
conditioned to think that hitting first is usually wrong .... By far,
the better word to use than ‘preemption’ is ‘PREVENTION ’ ....”
from GOP spinmeister Frank Luntz's June, 2004
Even the corrosive influence
of a coarsened public dialogue dominated by personal invective and
focus-group tested, predigested talking points is not sufficient
to blind observant Americans to the dissonance between these actions and
our values. The repercussions of perpetual war, unwanted occupation of
a foreign land, a reviled
abroad, and permanent erosions of our liberties have rendered the rents
in the fabric of our democracy all too apparent. Rationalization for
such egregious departures from our values can be accomplished only with
the generous use of denial and self-deception.
predictable pattern has developed. Misguided policy – most specifically,
convinces Iraqis that we are intent upon
permanent occupation –
fuels increasing insurgency. With each set-back President Bush has
reacted by rhetorically “upping the ante”. Each escalation of rhetoric
is accompanied by increasingly strident claims that those taking
exception to his policies are “siding with the terrorists.”
In his call to arms, “You are either with us or against us”, by
paraphrasing the words of Christ from the twelfth chapter of Mathew,
President Bush appropriates the language of faith for the cause of total
and unquestioning support for Administration war policy.
Such framing of the issues encourages a view of reality with only two
options: siding with an infallible, virtuous, freedom-spreading America
led by George Bush, ordained by God to democratize the world, or siding
“Upping the ante,” as well as the re-defining of both patriotism and
divine will so as to be in accord with administration policy, solidifies
our emotional commitment to the premise that every act of war, every
Fallujah, every death of a son or daughter, every “liberated” Iraqi
civilian who becomes “collateral damage”, every new
infringement upon our civil liberties, is all for the greater good.
By such a process, we may find solace, avoid recognition of the actual
horrors we have come to support, and psychically deflect responsibility
for the unintended, but predictable, consequences of our actions.
that do not fit this world view, a “true believer” may resolve the
cognitive dissonance by simple disbelief:When
confronted, on Hannity & Coombs, with the revelation that American hero
Pat Tillman, killed while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan,
opposed what he viewed as an illegal war in Iraq, Ann Coulter could only
Hannity agreed, “I don't believe it either…..He signed up because of a
desire to fight.” Coulter then incorrectly speculated that this must be
a fabrication of the media. The reality of a patriotic American who
would give up a lucrative sports contract to risk his life defending
America in Afghanistan, while simultaneously opposing the war in Iraq,
appeared, to both Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, simply incomprehensible.
“With us or against us” dichotomy forces Americans to choose between
blind support for misguided policy, or painful but necessary patriotic
dissent while simultaneously being unjustly maligned as “siding with the
Like the courageous and patriotic Pat Tillman, many Americans share a
more nuanced view of the world, and are committed to proper moral
action. But rejecting a falsely polarized, overly simplified “Us or
Them” administration view may be painfully difficult for those patriotic
Americans who share a deep commitment to our values of liberty, but who
also feel a moral obligation to speak out to correct misguided policy
inconsistent with those values.
Breaking free from this false framing of reality requires independent
vision, intellectual honesty, and the courage to face painful
realities. Skillful control of the
framing of issues has been a significant factor in advancing the
Bush/Rove agenda. Utilizing the skillful linguistic and psychological
cunning of Frank Luntz’s talking points, pre-digested prior to delivery
to legions of surrogates in the media, the Bush/Rove machine has
mastered the art of issue framing and spin.
But just as the fabled unclad emperor learned, there are limits beyond
which a false version of reality cannot be sustained. There comes a
point at which the price at which believing the prevailing myths becomes
Such is now the case on the ground in
Voices of Reality
“The ear that heareth the reproof
of life abideth among the wise."
While President Bush emphatically
rejects the suggestion that “extremism has been strengthened by the
actions of our coalition in Iraq,” senior military and intelligence
officers report a different reality:
Vice-Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the
Defense Intelligence Agency, tells the Senate Intelligence Committee,
“Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.”
CIA Director Porter Goss testifies,
“Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new
Gen. George Casey, the most senior commander of
coalition forces in Iraq, tells a Congressional panel that coalition
“feed the notion of occupation” and
“fuels the insurgency”.
Gen. John B. Abizaid of the U. S. Central Command
testifies that it is critical to "reduce our military footprint" in the
"make clear to the people … that we have no designs on their territory
Larry Diamond, former advisor to the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Iraq, states, "Intense opposition to U.S.
plans to establish long-term military bases in Iraq is one of the most
passionate motivations behind the insurgency…There are many different
strands to the violent resistance that plagues Iraq: Islamist and
secular, Sunni and Shiite, Baathist and non-Baathist, Iraqi and foreign.
The one thing that unites these disparate elements is Iraqi (or broader
pan-Arab) nationalism—resistance to what they see as a long-term project
for imperial domination by the United States…Neutralizing
this anti-imperial passion — by clearly stating that we do not intend to
remain in Iraq indefinitely — is essential to winding down the
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a veteran of Viet Nam,
states, “We should start figuring out how we get out of there… I think
our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East.
And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will
But President Bush is undeterred by these patriotic voices of realism.
As with his threats to veto Congressional attempts to re-instate
American bans on torture, the President rejects Congressional action to
neutralize the greatest of source of Iraqi resistance by committing to a
policy rejecting a permanent military presence in
On a national level, the “moral
bankruptcy” of which Eisenhower warned may be reflected in a loss of
moral authority. Not only may this be a factor in worldwide loss of
esteem, but it may provide passion and longevity to the widespread
resistance to our leadership.
The most tragic moral consequences, however, accrue to those who
suppress their more noble instincts to blindly accept ill-fitting and
ever-changing rationales for
policies that conflict with our most cherished
principles. That this may be done out of a misdirected sense of
patriotism or faith is of little consolation.
Reclaiming the American Consensus
Emerging from moral bankruptcy requires that we properly reframe the
We must not surrender flag and faith to those who would use both to
support a war which honors neither.
To those who would attempt to silence Americans
with the call that “We must support our troops,”
we must meet squarely on the issues: The troops are our sons, our
daughters, our husbands, our wives. They volunteered to defend our
nation, not to pursue a hidden agenda of those who do not honor our
nations values. We must never abuse their courage, their patriotism, and
To those who insist we must spread liberty: Our
founders established our nation as a beacon of liberty. We must never
confuse the defense of liberty with the pursuit of an agenda of
domination that is offensive to our democratic values and
counterproductive to our security, inflaming the passions and
determination of those less powerful.
To those who exploit a climate of fear
to assert that we must now abridge fundamental liberties for the sake of
security, we must remind of the insights of wiser Americans,
"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither
liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
"Liberty is always dangerous,
but it is the safest thing we have." Harry Emerson Fosdick
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the
guise of fighting a foreign enemy" .... "We are right to take alarm at
the first experiment upon our liberties." James Madison
To those who claim that we who oppose the war in
Iraq are "anti-American",
we must confront with the truth that we who oppose the occupation come
from all points on the political spectrum - Democrats, Republicans, and
independents - left, right and center - and include the
majority of Americans. To those who persist in challenging our
patriotism, we must remind of the words of
Theodore Roosevelt, "To announce that there should be no criticism
of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or
wrong, it is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally
treasonable to the American people."
The issues that unite
the growing American "antiwar
majority" today are principles that since our founding have defined
what it means to be an American. So ingrained have these core American
values become in our national psyche that even those who seek entirely
opposing goals routinely give them rhetorical lip service:
War only with
consent obtained for justifiable, non-aggressive, honesty-stated
No ambition of
empire, or desire to
dominate, and rejection of the role of world policeman.
Belief that only a society that both respects and actually
practices individual freedom, rather than seeking the illusion of
security through authoritarian measures, will succeed in preserving and
spreading genuine liberty.
The conviction that no man, including the president, is
above the law.
An uncompromising belief in the
humane treatment of even our most despicable enemies.
Americans, with broad bipartisan
support, have not only embedded our unambiguous
rejection of torture into American law (establishing legal
constraints which the Bush administration is now determined to
dismantle), but have for generations been in the forefront of
establishing such standards worldwide through treaties including the
Similarly, previous generations of Americans - left, right, and center -
have been unified in the belief that not only is such conduct essential
for the safety of our own captured servicemen and women, but that any
nation which does not adhere to its own basic values (regardless of any
self-proclaimed virtue) would cease to possess the moral prerequisites
for genuine success.
Our present need for
"the decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is no less
compelling than it was for our founders. But the primary need for
realigning our actions with our values is not improved public relations.
The most compelling need is, for the benefit of our own society, to
reaffirm moral constraints upon our actions, individual and collective,
without which the character of our nation will be diminished.
Accomplishing this can only be done by reframing the issues in a manner
which befits our Judeo-Christian and American values.
This will be contentious. The unifying values implanted
America's founders - values of liberty, non-aggression, and antipathy to
authoritarian government – have historically prevailed only despite
significant opposition from Americans with less honorable priorities.
Indeed, the very eloquence with which Jefferson, Madison, and other
founders defended civil liberties and warned repeatedly of the dangers
of unrestrained executive power and the pernicious consequences of war
and empire is primarily because their views were not universal. Their
beliefs in liberty, defended by non-aggressive, anti-imperial foreign
policy, and the right of dissent have survived to become the “common
ground” of the American civic vision only after bitter and divisive
During such times these cherished principles - now universally claimed
(even those whose oppose the substance of their beliefs claim them
rhetorically as their own) and taken for granted – have not infrequently
been severely threatened.
Today the rhetoric of this consensus American vision of liberty and
non-aggression remains unscathed. But the substance of the beliefs of
our founders (which constitutes the basic “common ground” of our
political compact) is under assault. Certainly no one overtly
challenges our commitment to “liberty” and “democracy”.
Yet we witness proponents of “freedom” at home and abroad advocating
perpetual military occupation, rationalizing permanent detention of
without charges or trial, and those who claim to respect the
“rule of law” remaining silent while administration lawyers concoct
methods for the president to evade American legal prohibitions of
torture and promote the legal theory that the president has the
“inherent authority” to “set aside” American law.
How have conscientious and patriotic Americans come to
support policies so antithetical to our values?
How can so many remain unmoved when all evidence
shows our stated justification for our first ever pre-emptive war is
How can a self-proclaimed Christian, writing in his
column in National Review, the “flagship
of the modern conservative movement”, bemoan that our nation is not
willing “...to fight this war
the way it needs fighting, with grim ferocity and cold unconcern for
legalistic niceties? To lay waste great territories and their peoples,
innocent and guilty alike, to level cities, to burn forests and divert
rivers, to smite our enemies hip and thigh, to carry out summary
execution of captured leaders...”?
How can anyone have their “faith renewed” by
British police putting “Five
in the Noggin” of a
How can so many who profess “moral values” remain
missing in action as the president claims the
right to legitimize torture? How can they remain in denial even as
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an Air Force colonel with congressional
suppressed Abu Ghraib evidence, reports, “The American public needs
to understand we're talking about
rape and murder here. we're not just talking about giving people a
humiliating experience.”? How can 20 million radio listeners a week
applaud as a mocking Rush Limbaugh maligns Sen. Graham as a “Republican
in Name Only” and shamelessly
Ghraib Day” parties?
Most sobering is that these perverse sentiments do not result solely, or
even primarily, from the shameless exploitation of fear. Rather, they
arise as the unintended consequence of a world view that derives it
strength from a direct appeal to and diversion of American's most
Support for virtuous goals may mutate over time into
support for malignant policy.
Many, perhaps most, who now tacitly support perpetual occupation would
never have supported such policy at the time of the invasion. Many
supporters of President Bush applauded his
repeated past assertions that any commitment of troops requires an
"exit strategy," and his
rhetoric opposing conquest, occupation, and "nation building".
Congressional Republicans cited similar convictions in opposing the war
in the Balkans.
Support for misguided war policy evolves incrementally with shifting
justifications for the war. After support solidifies, the "goal posts"
may be moved to align with a prior
hidden agenda. Doubts as to the soundness of the policy or the
propriety of its circuitous implementation are deflected by appeals to
patriotism. Ultimately, anesthetized supporters may dismiss abhorrent
consequences with such mantras as, “Bad things happen in war.”
Increasing casualties may paradoxically galvanize support as it becomes
ever more consequential to acknowledge error. Culpability is negated by
increasing commitment to the initial noble goals, and to the contention
that the policy befits those goals. Conflicting information eliciting
cognitive dissonance is met with increasing denial. Views calcify.
In this manner good people may become inexorably committed to malignant
The noble values upon which such a flawed paradigm is
based both underscores the import of the proper framing of the issues,
and illustrates the formidable challenges of achieving constructive
Fear perversely augments this process. In a perilous world, simplistic
authoritarian measures that exploit an insatiate desire for security
become especially seductive.
Our present policies provide ample evidence of the perverse outcomes of
such an illusory quest for security. In
the pursuit of "stabilization" by means of perpetual occupation is
bearing instead the fruit of endless war.
And in America, the upward ratcheting of the "national security state"
in illusory pursuit of "safety" can only deliver one assured result: the
preemptive abdication of our individual liberty and open society.
Countless refugees from tyranny are witness that authoritarian
suppression is no guarantee of safety.
When Edmund Burke observed, “The people will only give up their liberty
under some delusion,” he presciently foretold our current paradox: a
“freedom loving” people not only acquiescent to the surrender of their
liberty, but welcoming “Big
Brother” in the pursuit of the mirage of security.
Rejecting such beguiling but false promises requires
more than the courage to face uncertainty. Although authoritarian
solutions are counterproductive in securing liberty, a frenzy for safety
may reward the unscrupulous politician at the polls.
Reestablishing an American consensus for honest,
reality based policy, one which pursues non-expansionist national
defense while protecting civil liberties, requires the integrity to
refrain from short-sightedly exploiting the twin passions of
But this is the challenge we must overcome if we are to avoid endless
war, and preserve for our children a free and open society.
This attainment will be difficult. The cult of empire is propped up by a
ubiquitous and effective
spin machine. Megastar media surrogates saturate the airways with
their 24/7 presence. They advance a creed of conquest that confuses
strength to defend the nation with the pursuit of world domination.
Their message thrives on the demonization of both foreign power and
While they peddle a creed that holds in contempt both the actual
exercise of liberty and the practice of authentic faith, these false
prophets cloak their message with a veneer of professed moral and
patriotic values. And they have infected our culture with their
audacious claim that their values reflect the values of America. The
difficult challenge of properly reframing these issues is amply
illustrated by the 22% of Americans who state that they rely on
talk radio as their primary source of news.
But cracks are appearing in the ideological foundation
beneath this unhistoric and insupportable world view of
America as empire:
The moral blind spots displayed by those who profess respect for the
"rule of law" and "moral values" regarding a presidential "inherent
right" to "set aside law" and legitimize torture are symptoms of the
"moral bankruptcy" of which Eisenhower warned.
These blind spots reflect a void in the soul of America. Filling this
vacuum requires rejecting false idols, repairing a flawed paradigm, and
restoring a consensus based upon authentic American values. No simple
formula will address all issues.
But the "common ground" to be found in the still revolutionary vision of
America's founders - a vision embracing
individual liberty, opposing wars of
conquest, protecting the rights of
dissent, limiting presidential
powers, and maintaining the moral
high ground with unambiguous rejection of any legitimate role for
torture - maintains it power by virtue of its moral authority. This
compelling vision provides unifying objectives to America's growing
Those supporting current policies will continue to use all the resources
of their propaganda machine to attempt to perpetuate their distorted
view of the role of power, of empire, and of
role in the world. And they will continue to appropriate the rhetoric of
“freedom” to promote policies which repudiate the substance of the
American vision of liberty.
We must reframe the terms of debate to reclaim
America's authentic vision.
We cannot permit a war begun for the purpose of disarming a tyrant to be
used to justify the permanent unwanted occupation of a foreign land.
We must never enable the rhetoric of patriotism and faith to support a
policy of domination pursued through deception.
Nor the rhetoric of fear to blind us to the
dismantling of the legal framework for our freedoms.
We can no longer tolerate business-as-usual politicians in either party
who will not act to reassert historic constitutional restraints on
executive power, end a misguided war, and repel the perilous
Effective action requires that we first overcome our own denial.
We cannot absolve ourselves from responsibility by pointing to our
John Locke, intellectual mentor to
founders, stated in his Essay on Human Understanding in 1689 “It is vain
to find fault with the arts of deceiving, wherein men find pleasure to
Overcoming this human frailty remains a formidable challenge.
The False Comfort of Self-Deception
Many besides myself can attest to the difficulties associated with
effecting genuine personal change. Denial remains a potent disincentive
to change precisely because of the compelling subjective benefits it
affords. These transient emotional comforts can present a formidable
barrier both to personal growth as well as to the correction of a
dysfunctional political system.
For many reasons it may be problematic to move beyond the illusory
comforts of denial to experience the uncertainties of reality.
It is much easier on our moral sensibilities to
believe we invaded for the noble cause of disarming an outlaw than to
face the shameful truth that the rationale we used for our first ever
pre-emptive war was based on
When evidence for weapons is lacking, it is much
more gratifying to believe we are on a mission to democratize grateful
oppressed peoples than to grapple with the unpleasant understanding that
they regard us as unwelcome
It is less depressing to imagine we are stabilizing
a volatile region than
insurgency, and hardening hatred.
It is less disconcerting to delude ourselves with
the belief that our leaders are on a mission to liberate all humanity
than to comprehend that, in a climate of fear, the legal infrastructure
protecting our own liberties is being systematically and permanently
It is more reassuring to believe in the
truthfulness of our President, than to grasp the fact that while he
continues to claim
no intent for permanent occupation,
permanent base construction continues unabated.
It is more tempting to seek solace in the “With Us
or Against Us” simplicity of George W. Bush, disregarding inconvenient
facts and unintended consequences, than to heed the wise and more
nuanced counsel of Generals
Tony McPeak, or Dwight Eisenhower.
It is far more comforting to believe that the Iraq
war has been sanctioned by God than to recognize that fallible human
leaders have dishonestly abused the
rhetoric of patriotism and faith to
advance policies that dishonor our values.
It is more consoling to entertain the myth that our
soldiers will be there “as long as they need to be, and not one day
longer”, than to awaken to the terrible truth that those who
peddled this war to Americans as a focused military action,
necessary for disarming of a tyrant, have no intention of American
troops ever departing from Iraq, irregardless of Iraqi wishes, and
contrary to administration
rhetoric of Iraqi
But the price of continued denial is too great. The
realities on the ground in
Iraq, of which Gen. Casey tells us, cannot be changed by wishful
thinking. Occupation of foreign lands incites insurrection. And in our
own land, as James Madison observed, “No nation can preserve its freedom
in the midst of continual warfare.”
Blind adherence to the false conceits of those whose quest is world
domination can lead only to continued erosion of our moral authority,
our esteem and influence abroad, and damage to our freedoms and
democracy at home.
In the eloquent prose of the King James translation, the Author of
Proverbs tells us, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit
before a fall.”
The solace to be found in self-deception is impermanent.
true solace, one more substantial than that afforded by the denial of
reality, may be more profitably sought in constructive action.
Thomas Jefferson told us, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for
people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Patriotic Americans can no longer afford the hollow comforts of blind
self-deception, nor the transient respite of continued silence.
William Frey, M.D.
has practiced medicine for 26 years. He is a founding member of
Republicans for Humility,
which advocates the return to the unifying American values of humble
foreign policy, constitutional government, and respect for individual
liberties, and stands in opposition to the recent dominance within the
Republican Party of policies favoring unilateral military expansion,
empire, and the accompanying erosion of civil liberties. He has authored
A Time for Moral Outrage,
The Tragedy of a Complicit Media, and other essays.