by Richard Macintosh

July 19, 2004   


"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare."
—Mark Twain
"'The only courage there is, is physical,' said Michel Foucault. What if the opposite were true? If true courage, the most difficult admirable kind, were intellectual, moral courage? What if the only courage that lasts, the one from which all others come, were the courage to reflect for oneself, to think against the grain, to live or conduct oneself differently, to look evil in the face, to stare into the eyes of your enemy and tell him the truth?"
—Bernard-Henri Lévy (1)

(Swans - July 19, 2004)  Speaking truth to power is perhaps the most courageous thing to do, for the tongue is the most untamed of human weapons and can bring on all the others, simple and complex. This can be demonstrated by the response of Demaratus to Xerxes, in 480 BC, when asked if he thought the Spartans holding the pass at Thermopylae would fight, or not:

"O King," Demaratus replied, "Do you wish for a truthful answer, or do you wish for a pleasant one?" (2)

Most of us have heard stories about "killing the messenger" and Demaratus wasn't taking any chances. Xerxes was a cruel and capricious king, who was known to have people who displeased him killed on the spot.

Perhaps we think we live in more enlightened times, yet two recent events tend to question that assessment. First, on July 8, 2004, Republicans in the House of Representatives defeated an attempt to modify the Patriot Act. (3) Fear trumps reason as the United States slowly descends into a Police State.

Secondly, Republican officials have surfaced with a proposal to develop a plan to cancel ("postpone") the 2004 elections. Mr. DeForest B. Soaries, a Bush appointee to a new voting commission, has raised the need for such a plan should a terrorist attack occur in the United States between now and November. (4)

"I'm hopeful that there are some proposals already being floated," Soaries said. "If there are, we're not aware of them. If there are not, we will probably try to put one on the table.'' (5)

Do you realize how grave such a plan is to what is left of the Republic? Never in the history of this country has such a plan arisen, not during the dark days of the Civil War, not during World War II, not during the Cold War, when nuclear-tipped missiles were aimed at the United States. Never!

So why now?

Why, indeed!

Perhaps Mr. Soaries's call for a plan to "postpone" elections is a "trial balloon." Yes, maybe, but with the track record of the current administration, and the presidential election in doubt, this "maybe" becomes more credible. On the other hand, it could be a well-placed red herring.

So what is the truth? Is there such a thing? Can we citizens speak truth to power? Do we dare?


The truth is that the United States of America is in mortal peril from those within our ruling class. There are two things to keep in mind as we dig for truth: First, follow the money. The "big boys" (and girls) never lie with where they place their money. Second, watch for what is actually done, not what is said. The words and actions must line up, or what you are being told is a lie.

It is well to remember the admonition of Mark Twain on the subject (Notebook, 1898):

"It is said that honesty is the best policy; but it is never government policy, no matter whose government."

The Iraq war was based on deception and fraud, yet the leaders of both "major" political parties declare they will "stay the course." They will "stay the course" with our money and the blood of our children -- not theirs. When confronted with their lies and sophistries, you will notice that words proliferate, but the original plan proceeds apace. The politicians, bureaucrats and various "advisors" may point their fingers at each other, attempting to shift the blame, but the plan for invasion, occupation and appropriation of resources is unchanged.

At home, American citizens have been gulled into giving up many of their Constitutional rights in the name of "security." The PATRIOT Act essentially shreds the Bill of Rights. To keep up the fear level, the Department of Homeland Security maintains an ongoing series of color-coded terrorist alerts. Where the danger is, or of what kind is not mentioned. (6)

Americans have an overheated economy and are trillions of dollars in debt. Yet, our FED chairman claims that this is not a problem. Americans continue to purchase on credit at alarming rates and bankruptcies are on the rise. (7)

American citizens support a military-industrial complex that eats up roughly half of our governmental budget. A fraction of this would fund better schools and health care for all of us. (8)

American citizens support over 725 military bases around the world. (Fourteen new bases in Iraq alone.) This does not count naval attack squadrons or secret bases. (9)

Americans allow a growing mercenary army -- those with loyalties to private corporations -- to operate under a "black budget" with no congressional oversight. (10)

Americans allow well-connected corporations, such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Vinnell, Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), and DynCorp, to gain "investment rights" in conquered countries -- without bidding for these rights. Furthermore, the United States government guarantees these corporations against losses. (This means that you -- the taxpayer -- guarantee these companies against losses.) (11)

Americans allow elected officials with monetary ties to the above mentioned corporations to earn as much as one million dollars a year in deferred payments. (12)

We pollute conquered territories/countries with depleted uranium weapons (DU) -- a war crime. Naturally, our ruling class denies that depleted uranium is dangerous. (13)

Americans allow their military to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in wartime -- another war crime. Our leadership refers to such as "collateral damage." (14)

Americans allow the use of torture and group punishment to attain our ends in conquered countries -- another war crime. We have been known to arrest and imprison wives and children of Iraqi men we want to capture. Fear that their families will be harmed does work (the Gestapo was good at this). (15)

In America, there is one set of rules for our ruling class and another set for the rest of us. (Do you think your Congressperson or Senator worries about his or her health plan, or the rising cost of pharmaceuticals?)

And while all this is going on, Americans sit in front of their television sets, watch what they think is "news," enjoy "reality TV," sports, the latest "sit-coms" and wonder what they can consume next. After all, didn't our President urge us to go out and spend money? Doesn't that just make you want to go out and eat another "ballpark frank?"

I suppose I could continue in this vein, but I think you get the point. Just in case you don't:


Your country is at risk!

I love America, but I fear the direction our government is leading us. I fear the direction, because I am aware that such things have led to disaster in the past. I am a history teacher and I have taught about such things happening in other countries and at other times. It is not too difficult to see them beginning to happen here. It is my country that is in danger and the time is now.

· · · · · ·

Notes and Resources

1.  Lévy, Bernard-Henri. War, Evil and the End of History, Melville House Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2004. p. 215.  (back)

2.  Herodotus, The Persian Wars, Book VII, Random House, New York, 1942, p. 534.  (back)

3.  "House GOP Defends Patriot Act Powers," The Washington Post, July 9, 2004.  (back)

4.  Weaver, Erica (AP), "Voting Official Seeks Process for Canceling Election Day Over Terrorism," The Detroit Free Press, July 25, 2004.  (back)

5.  Ibid. DeForest B. Soaries was appointed to the Federal Election Assistance Commission (a new commission) last year by President Bush.  (back)

6.  Prestowiitz, Clyde, "Even traditional conservatives outraged by radicalism of the right." The Boston Globe, August 10, 2003  (back)

7.  "A slap in the face," Mogambo Guru, The Daily Reckoning, July 12, 2004.  (back)

8.  Graham, John L. "Eisenhower Warned Us: Rise of militarism under George W. Bush puts America on the road to ruin." The Orange County Register, November 30, 2003. John L. Graham is Professor of International Business, The Graduate School of Management, U.C. Irvine.  (back)

9.  Johnson, Chalmers, The Sorrows of Empire, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2004, pp. 155, 167.  (back)

10.  Ibid. p. 148.  (back)

11.  Moore, Michael. Fahrenheit 9/11. June 25, 2004.  (back)

12.  "Cheney Lying About Halliburton Involvement," The Daily Mislead, June 15, 2004, http://daily.misleader.orga/ctt.asp?2u=1198191&40364 The Vice-President of the United States -- Dick Cheney -- receives approximately one million dollars per year in deferred payments from Halliburton, a company of which he was once CEO.  (back)

13.  Moret, Leuren, "Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War." World Affairs -- The Journal of International Issues, July 2004.  (back)

14.  Cloughley, Brian, "America is Committing War Crimes in Iraq," Counterpunch, May 22, 2004.  (back)

15.  Dorning, Mike. "GI: Boy mistreated to get dad to talk." The Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2004.

Ferner, Mike, at Abu Siffa, Iraq, "Collective Penalties in Iraq," Counterpunch, May 29, 2004

Strouss, Susan, "Point-by-Point guide to our military's violations of the Geneva Conventions," Unknown News, May 25, 2004.  (back)



You're a brave man they tell me.
                                           I'm not.
Courage has never been my quality.
Only I thought it disproportionate
so to degrade myself as others did.
No foundations trembled. My voice
no more than laughed at pompous falsity;
I did no more than write, never denounced,
I left out nothing I had thought about,
defended who deserved it, put a brand
on the untalented, the ersatz writers
(doing what anyhow had to be done).
And now they press to tell me that I'm brave.
How sharply our children will be ashamed
taking at last their vengeance for these horrors
remembering how in so strange a time
common integrity could look like courage.

—Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Moscow, 1956.
Yevtushenko, Selected Poems, Robin Milner-Galland and Peter Levi, S. J., trans. Penguin Books, New York, 1962.

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Richard Macintosh on Swans (with bio).

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Published July 19, 2004
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