When it comes to freedom and liberty, these words must mean different things to different people. They sound good, but it was obvious during the campaign and again at the inauguration that one did not have the freedom to wear clothing sporting anti-Bush sentiments. That could get you carted off by the police, and at campaign events one had to sign up as a supporter in order to attend. These may seem small thing in terms of a larger global vision, but they have an underlying significance just the same. Spreading The American Way is in theory an admirable goal, but just how this gets done is another matter and what it actually means in terms of practice can be a murky place indeed. I suspect that Bush supporters who favor military solutions heard a big-stick approach in the President’s speech and those who think diplomacy is the way to go took him to mean something softer, just sanctions maybe bolstered by a selection of succulent carrots.
Of course those prickly questions always arise about our purported friends in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere. How much freedom and liberty exists in those countries people ask. And what about conditions in Rwanda and Darfur. Are we prepared to help those beleagured peoples escape their misery? Not so fast would probably be the response; we can’t be everywhere. Let’s focus on Iran, Syria and some of those Southern-hemisphere countries.
Is the next step about to be military action against targets in Iran or encouraging Israel to act? And if so does the administration think we will be made safer by removing those nuclear threats when the proliferation of such weapons already exists in Pakistan and North Korea, to say nothing of all that unaccounted-for nuclear material in Russia. Need we remind our leaders that September 11th was accomplished by terrorists flying commercial aircraft, most of them Saudis like Osama bin Laden and that one his rallying points was the existence of US military bases in Saudi Arabia? Apparently we are busy at work building bases in Iraq. Is this the road to stability or just another stick in the eye of Muslim populations?
Unfortunately when it comes to critical speech, this administration does not celebrate that particular freedom. And, sadly, promoting a one-note vision of domestic and foreign policies, supported by a facilitating media, is not a promising formula for progress either at home or abroad. There is an ominous sound to some of the current chatter that is reminiscent of the Viet Nam era when it was said to be necessary to destroy villages to “pacify” them – rather like Faluja today.
If the only acceptable media coverage, in the administration’s eyes is from the right, and preferably Fox News, a recent broadcast exemplifies what this can mean in terms of integrity. On his radio program OReilly talked about ‘when he was in combat’ implying of course that he was in the service, only to be forced by a caller to admit he had not served but had been in combat situations as a reporter, telling the caller in the end to “shove it” – – a small thing perhaps but illustrative of the very loose connection to fact-based reportage so often served up as truth in the current political climate.

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