October 15, 2001
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Preparing for the big speech
I was sitting on a silly seat in that Florida classroom when I learned about the tragedies. I was there to provide photo opportunities in support of "my" education program, yep, pure, probably raw politics. Florida is the place to do that sort of thing. And I get to see Jeb and the family.
First reactions were to appear steady and presidential although my blood quickly boiled in white hot anger. I was pissed at whomever did it. I was pissed that our political need for an enemy, kept at a reasonable distance, of course, was now shoved right in my face. We knew what to do about Chinese, North Koreans, Iraqi, Irani, drug lords, mafia bosses and various others and now we were outsmarted and called out by some bothersome ragheads. Damn!
The nervous ones hauled my ass on AF1 and let me appear a bit panicked by looping around to our versions of safe houses. Took all day to get them back on track and me back in Washington. In the midst of all the hassles, folks just wouldn't leave me alone. It was a couple of days before I got a chance to get upstairs and sit alone. Laura, bless her, kept her distance. She knows me well enough to let me be when I am actually thinking for real, rare as that may be in her estimation.
Ok, I just sat and sat some more. A lot of cobwebs had to be swept aside. Yes, I slept through most Yale classes. Boring. At Harvard Business School, I was one of the charmed core of elite and most of whatever was going on there went right on by. Who needed that stuff anyway. Sitting alone I struggled to bring back what was said about history and philosophy. What was said about economics and strategy. Mostly I tried to remember what was said about history. The hardest part was digging back even further to hearing what was said in various otherwise very dull sermons- the kind I am supposed to smile through and to look awake somewhat.
What to do? I suppose a whole bunch of posturing would be needed to keep the jackals of all kinds at bay or just baying at shadows, as much Jungian as chimera. See, I did get that Jungian pun straight, right! My shadows did a real number for a long time while I sat there. Kept telling myself I gotta work through this stuff. The old ways of thinking won't do it any more.
Over the next few days, everybody and their relatives from all over the world badgered me with their yakkety-yakking. Boring. I let the boys play with their toys, get all excited about bashing here and blasting there. They settled on Osama bin Laden as the perfect enemy for this one. Why not? He was the baddest of the moment and we had invested mucho propaganda and expended even more loot on creating him as the baddest of the bad since Noriega served his time in that slot.
Politically, the whole thing was a hoot way beyond our wildest dreams. From a shaky seat on sharp end of a big tack we were now the answer to all projections of all Americans - except a few, but they aren't worth doing anything about in any case. In private, quieter voices whispered other matters. A scapegoat serves our interests better than taking on the others likely to be more responsible in actuality. With that settled, scapegoat identified and the total resources of the formidable apparatus of US and allies marshaled to make fact of fictions, I am guaranteed re-election. We can forget about Congress going Democrat in '02, too. Clear sailing ahead. Wow! Daddy came in several times with a big shit-eating grin whacked clear across his face. Never seen him so happy.
Whenever I could, though, I went upstairs, pecked Laura on the cheek and slipped off to my corner to sit some more.
I think I got it now. Here is what I am going to do.
I will set up a speech before the assembled houses of Congress, Supreme Court, international poobahs, and such, in prime time with all international stations clued in. The speechmakers and spindoctors will jockey up a sword rattler of a speech and spread around advanced copies. We will bustle real mean folks all around Afghanistan and play cowboys to their indians like nobody will believe. Turn Powell loose and crank up that old killer, Negroponte, at the UN to work up a big sweat about a grand alliance to end terrorism. Tell the girls to lay low on boozing for now, smile right purty and look heavy at the cameras. Untied we stand. Wish I could get away with the ten gallon hat more often, seems a little overdone most of the time, though.
Now, I will show up in my perfectly tailored dark blue suit with a barely blue shirt and red tie. Flags to the right and more flags behind and flags to the left. Bring up a hearty Marine band doing "Hail to the Chief" and fading into the "Star Spangled Banner." Clips will be shadowed into the background showing cheering patriots from all over the country along with shots of military troops in many postures all very scary to watch.
Drop that back and I will slowly look up. Give the teleprompters my number one serious stare. Clear my throat harshly and put on my best gruff face before slowly and quietly beginning.
With my left hand I will scrabble up the sheets of paper which might represent my script and hold them out slowly to arm's length and then drop them, keeping my open hand in full sight before slowly bringing it back just as in synchronization I raise my right hand to my heart.
One of the props set on the lectern was a rock. The script called for me to pick it up and hold it high while reciting "We now stand together, solid as this rock I hold." Instead, before speaking, with right hand on my heart, expression near tears, I lifted the rock, being a leftie, and drilled it right through the teleprompter. Hah, gotcha good! Nobody was drifting off now.
Taking a very deep breath, I talked slowly up my chosen path to Golgotha, ready to pause at all fourteen stations on the way. Wait a minute, you say. George W. Bush doing a calvary bit rather than riding with the cavalry? Yep, now watch.
Lyndon Johnson almost pulled it off with Vietnam. He was ready to back off and withdraw, admitting error, begging forgiveness, if you can imagine it. He was going to announce his decision and then along came Tet. Kissinger and others backed him in a corner and threatened a coup. All Lyndon could do then was announce he would not run for re-election. The rest is history.
"My fellow Americans and those of the world audience who are with us tonight.
We will never weep enough to end our grief for those who are sacrificed at the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon and in the crashed airliners. They are forever graven into our lives now.
On deep reflection, I cannot in good conscience commit any more to death over these matters. For centuries beyond count, we have chosen more death to avenge deaths done avenging yet other deaths. Now, using those powers vested in my office through the Constitution of the United States of America and mindful of the high values which we claim and sometimes violate, I will dedicate myself to other paths, other ways of dealing with our grief. Ways which I fully believe can and will break the cycles of deaths surrounding too many of the world's peoples.
My first action is to order all military, paramilitary and otherwise armed forces of the United States of America, wherever they may be, to stand down, to return to barracks to use the old phrase. I will assume all allied forces everywhere involved will do the same. Establish defensive perimeters. Launch no offensive actions. Turn the other cheek in whatever words or ways the military need to understand. That order is now issued and immediately effective. Any disobedience will be dealt with according to military and/or civilian laws.
Second, I will acknowledge error. Too many times over too many years, Americans have chosen force before other alternatives. We have ridden rough shod over peoples from the Philippines to Vietnam, from Haiti and Dominican Republic to Panama and Columbia. I say stop. Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick is to be carried but rarely used, especially in anger. Riding up San Juan Hill is a wonderful fantasy. Blowing up the Maine or setting up Pearl Harbor had their uses in their time. We no longer need those approaches.
Third, I will acknowledge that my attention has been fully engaged now. The wake up call has me wide awake. It is my sense that there will be no follow-up acts to those of September 11th, 2001. There is no need for them. We have been wounded gravely. Our security has been penetrated with ease. We are on our way to becoming our own worst enemies, clamping down harshly on ourselves in anger and frustration at our inability to slaughter our shadows.
Fourth, I now call for a meeting. I will do whatever may be necessary to set up this meeting and I want it as soon as possible, no nonsense will deflect me from this intent. I want to meet, one on one, with Osama bin Laden.
The ground rules are simple. We each get to bring one person and two interpreters, if needed, and two court stenographers. There will be no published record, no video or tape recordings, other than an agreed upon transcript of the stenographer's records.
The full integrity of the United States will be used to guarantee his safety to travel to a place of his choosing so that we can meet and then to return to wherever he may want. We will make no efforts of any sort to track his location before or after we meet. I will travel with no more than ten security people and he will come to the chosen site accompanied as he feels fit. At a chosen distance, say five miles, all weapons will be surrendered. All others will stand aside. From that point, we will go to the meeting place together with only our chosen associate along with interpreters and stenographers. Maybe we will even walk. The location chosen will be equipped with only that equipment useful to the stenographers to transcribe and print out their work. There will be no communications equipment, not even the box to set off nuclear rockets which otherwise follows me everywhere. We will be naked to each other in terms of weaponry and meeting on our honor to come in peace to talk openly for once about whatever is important to us then.
Islam is a world religion totally on a par with Judaism and Christianity of the monotheistic schools. There are many varieties of Islam as there are many varieties of Judaism and Christianity. There is agreement within each religion only on the core scriptures of the religion and, even then, much source of disagreement internally and externally on interpretations of those scriptures. Equally valid for those who believe are all the other spiritual traditions to which peoples are committed every where on this planet. All are true for those who hold them true. We need to honor them as we honor the people who are guided by them. I propose to follow that guidance which, for me, comes from Christianity. Jesus Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek if struck. We are all taught to do unto others as we would be done ourselves. There are no more eyes to be taken for eyes already lost.
I have some ideas to discuss with Osama bin Laden and want to understand his thinking and to get his responses. Osama bin Laden is a man driven by his principles. We trained him well and equipped him generously assuming that he would remain our vassal. He didn't.
Whether he is understood or misunderstood is a matter of perspective. My perspective is to seek him out with as open a mind as I can. I must understand what he thinks and what he represents if I am to exercise leadership at this time. I cannot take filtered opinions when the options shown mean death to any more anywhere.
It is my current understanding that many within Islam are strongly offended by the presence of foreigners, any non-believers, for any reason who approach sites considered holy by Islam. I understand this feeling is similar to those who adhere to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as only one example. This is very difficult for most of us to understand. We have a very poor history or honoring sites sacred to others anywhere. We are very poor at leaving people alone. And yet protection and sanctity of sacred sites seems to be a strongly held opinion which clouds relations with Islamic peoples as a whole. These sacred sites include Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia and various other sites primarily located in the heartlands of the monotheistic religions mostly now with the territories claimed by Israel.
Israel is a primary focus of American sympathies related to its histories of persecution and pogroms culminating in the Nazi attempts to exterminate all Jews. We have invested immense treasure and have massive emotional identification with Israel. That the conflicts which plague that area between Arab and Jew, Islam and Judaism are dated back into prehistory makes little excuse for Israel to now become persecutor. We gain little by maintaining the fictions now rampant.
We must firmly ask and require Israel to join in creation of a secure Palestine. We must assure both the new Palestine and the emergent Israel that we must insist, to the point of force, if required, that they live in peace and work out their problems by other means. Israel and the United States will provide whatever we can to insure stability in the region. That stability requires provision of aid as needed to rebuild the economy and to assure the Palestinian people a meaningful life within the positive tenants of Islam.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon plus Turkey are states created primarily in the imagined ideas of former colonial powers, Britain and France for the most part. Russia has long been an interested and involved party in that area, too. Those states are a hodge-podge of messed up historical relationships. The Kurdish peoples, as only one example, now oppressed by Turkey, Iran and Iraq; have no meaningful identity. They have only rage. We need to understand the rage. We need to work with all parties to deal positively with the divisive forces of imposed history there.
We fought a strange war over Kuwait which was once part, in the Ottoman Empire, of what is now primarily Iraq. That war was about oil and the power associated with control of oil. Saudi Arabia is considered an ally in terms of our needs for oil. Saudi Arabia, in fact, is a most repressive and authoritarian state run by one family who ruthlessly maintains its control. We turn our backs and close our eyes to the actualities of governance there. We have a strong military presence in Saudi Arabia and throughout the region centered on the Arabian Peninsula to guarantee access to oil. If added to the prices for which oil products are sold here, we would need to cover billions of dollars spent to maintain our military presence there. That Saudi Arabia is also home to Mecca and Medina creates a conundrum, a puzzle which cries for solution.
As long as our addiction to oil exists, as long as that addiction is said to require a strong military presence in the region, we risk terrorism, as we call it. Now that terrorism is brought home, we can only reduce our risks and maintain our access to oil by creating positive alternatives.
I want to talk with Osama bin Laden and through him with the so-called radical or fundamentalist sects of Islam to propose a way out for all of us. We gain nothing and lose much by demonizing these people. I want to propose that the Islamic world create a state similar to Vatican City which will have sole jurisdiction over the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. I want to talk to the Islamic, Christian and Judaic worlds to create a mutually administered state incorporating the holy sites now within the territory held by Israel.
Vatican City within Rome within Italy is a separate state, fully under control and administration of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a theocracy headed by the Pope within which he is the absolute authority. The concordats governing that situation and worked out over many centuries can provide models for the creation of states incorporating the holy sites of Islam in Saudi Arabia and joint creation of a similar entity to hold the sacred sites now held by Israel. We can also extend our compassion to sacred sites anywhere and be sensitive to the pain caused by callously ignoring them out of ignorance or design.
By separating our needs to control oil resources from their needs for protection of sacred sites, we begin processes based in resolving rather than aggravating differences. Let us concentrate on smoothing the rough spots as a means to greater mutual understanding and tolerance. Islam, as has been urged upon me by honorable men and women, is a religion of love as is Christianity, as is Judaism. Let us honor our spiritual traditions in their most literal sense.
I am under no illusions that these ideas and plans will be met with universal acceptance. Powerful interests will do everything they can to frustrate these intentions. I am, however, no less determined. I will use all the powers related to this office to make this happen. Those who obstruct, however they attempt to do so, will be identified so that people world over will know them for who they are.
I will need the active help and support of all who love peace wherever they may be, whatever they believe. And I will need it now.
Thank you and good night."
[Ed. Note: This is the third part of a four-part essay: Previous « - » Next]
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2001. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
What Would You do if You Were in Charge? - by Gilles d'Aymery
Casualties Of War - by Alma A. Hromic
Sparrow - by Michael W. Stowell
10 Years to Peace - by Deck Deckert
I'm Against Terrorism: Now, If Only We Could Get Washington On Side - by Stephen Gowans
Preface: Bingo! Simplicity Itself; Oligarchy - by Milo Clark
Back to Basics on the Way to Going Ahead - by Milo Clark
Afterword: Function of Failures - by Milo Clark
Suggestions for Concrete Actions - by Jeff Lindemyer
Change the Education Paradigm - by Philip Greenspan
Wisdom and Compassion Need to Become Action - by Andreas Toupadakis
The Media Marches off to War - by Deck Deckert
A Day in Kafka Land - by Alma A. Hromic
Civil Disobedience (1849) - by Henry David Thoreau
Milo Clark's Commentaries on Swans
Essays published in 2001
Essays published in 2000
Essays published in 1999
Essays published in 1997
Essays published in 1996