People With Honor
Monday, December 28, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Seasons Greetings DaveNet readers!
I've been keeping up on the issues of impeachment, reading newspapers and websites, and considering ideas that have not been showing up in these places. I've also been talking with people and listening, and I think people in the US are overlooking something that we may not be able to ignore much longer.
First, there is definitely a serious split in this country. Some people blame the Republicans for what happened, I've even heard people say they're so angry with the Republicans that they'll never vote Republican again. To them, I want to say, save some of your rage for Clinton. Understand that there are two sides here.
Clinton screwed up, the Republicans responded, and Clinton did more, and on and on. How far has it gone? That's what I want to think about now, logically, precisely, and not emotionally or expressively. And I want to consider other points of view, especially those from outside the US.
If we're ever going to work together again, there will have to be give on both sides, sooner or later. We'll have to see ourselves as one country, responsible for what we do, no matter what party you belong to or support.
I was going to bag this piece, it's not worth the trouble, I said to myself, until I saw CBS's 60 Minutes last night, and listened to Andy Rooney talk about how far it's gone. He asked the same question I'm going to ask here.
The question: Was the US bombing of Iraq an attempt by Clinton to stay in power? This question has to be asked, although I do it with trepidation, imagining that some of my fellow Americans will accuse me of treason, or not pulling behind our leader in a time of crisis.
But as I sort thru this, I want to know, where is the crisis? Does Iraq threaten us? If so, how? Oil prices are now lower than they have ever been, as if oil prices were an honorable reason to bomb another country. How would we feel if Iraq had bombed US cities? How would we feel if Iraq found a way to retaliate now that we have bombed their cities? Could we blame them if they did?
Did Israel ask us to bomb Iraq? Clearly if Iraq attacks Israel, that's a problem for Israel, and we're an ally and protector of Israel. Did Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan or Egypt ask us? How come they're staying silent on this? Or are they not silent and we're not hearing about it?
If timing was a big issue, as Clinton says it was, why choose to bomb Iraq just as the House was convening to decide impeachment? Are we to believe that the decision was made without considering impeachment?
At some point in the deliberation, someone must have said "But Mr. President, couldn't this backfire on us? Couldn't it look as if we're doing this to bolster your Presidency?" It's the first question that pops into a thinking mind.
The question has barely been raised on TV or in the newspapers or on the web. Why? This is supposed to be an open country. I can't believe that anyone who's really thinking about this hasn't asked themselves this question. It's on my mind, I can tell you that for sure.
These are very strange times.
This came home in a new way when I saw a TV clip of Carole King entertaining the troops on a US warship. What was she doing there? Did I miss something? Is this the Bizarro World? Next is it going to be Bob Dylan, Jesse Jackson, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg?
What am I missing? What are we supporting? If you had a debate with a thoughtful person from outside the US, what would you say about how our military is being used? Justly, fairly, wisely, respectfully, honorably? And is it really still just about sex? Can Clinton blame the Republicans for this? Where will the buck stop this time?
The appearance of dishonorable militarism is enough to cause some people to draw their own conclusions. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck..
I'm reminded of those who said they knew that Clinton was lying when he said he never had sexual relations with that woman. I wonder if they're listening carefully to his words now. Are they really this gullible? How will you feel if it escalates, and you or your children are asked to fight a war in Iraq? What will you be fighting for?
This is very bad for the US. We are being irresponsible. We let a dishonored president bomb foreign countries and we look the other way. I keep watching the Op-Ed pages for a clue to this, but they are silent. I wonder why?
Over the weekend I watched a great movie, Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman. He's a tragic Christ-like figure, making it an appropriate movie to watch during the big Christian holiday.
He says and does things the other inmates wish they had the courage to say and do. The warden breaks his spirit, but it returns before the movie ends. Cornered, resigned to dying, he repeats, with a twinkle in his eye, what the warden said in an earlier scene. "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Then the jailkeeper shoots him. As they carry away his dying body I wonder whether it was worth it.
In the end the prisoners are still in prison, but they have the memory of his courage to warm them. Luke is gone, the truth is gone, but at least they had a glimpse of what it's like to be alive.
Compared with perjury and obstruction of justice, it matters more to me that the President looked into the camera, with induced outrage, and denied doing something that he later admitted doing. It was his outrage that did it for me. He's an emotional manipulator on a mass scale. Looking at the film of the Cabinet officers saying they believed him, I wondered "How could they?"
If this country ever had courage, now is the time for it to surface. Don't wait for a hero, no one person can do it. We all have to decide if honor counts. Or at least a good portion of the electorate has to get there.
The Democrats point to Clinton's historic 70 percent approval rating, and they're right to do so. We preach the value of democracy, but are we hypocrites, do we get any benefit from democracy in our own country? The man lies. Even his supporters acknowledge that. We accept that, but what's the limit? How far will we go? Consider that seriously, as you try to understand the news, as you try to understand the country you live in and how it relates to other countries.
If Clinton stays, do we have a system based on lies? None of us know how deep it goes. We may be fighting a war as a by-product of this, a real war, with battleships and bombs. Don't blame anyone but yourself. You could have stopped it and you still can, it's not too late, yet.