By Nancy Waterman
Us Raise 1000 Contributions... Please Donate!
This week is our second quarter 2004
fund drive. Our goal is to bring in 1000 individual
donations before midnight on Sunday, May 16.
There is no minimum (or maximum) donation. Whether
you can spare $5 or $500, your contribution will
bring us one step closer to our goal. So please
take a moment to donate
Like a blazing torch lighting up a dark, untrod path, the
shining jewel of Democracy illuminated the founding of the
United States of America with ideas of equality and freedom
that marked a giant step forward in the evolution of human
consciousness. In the New World, no king would rule by Divine
Right and supercede the laws of men, no aristocratic class
would rule by accident of birth. Instead, we were given the
promise inherent in these immortal words from the Declaration
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these
rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their
just powers from the consent of the governed.
The ideas of freedom and equality that pervaded the country's
founding were given further definition in the subsequently
written Constitution and its many amendments, added over the
course of years as the meaning of democratic principles evolved
further. The Constitution itself represents the foundation
upon which the rule of law is built.
Most significant is the First Amendment, which resolutely
and without exception provides for freedom of religion, freedom
of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and
freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Interestingly, not only are these freedoms guaranteed to all
individuals, but their very existence creates the free flow
of ideas and the interchange of opinion that stimulate the
development of healthy and fruitful policy, as well as the
unmasking of abuses of power, when necessary.
At present, through a series of extraordinary trespasses
on the vulnerable fabric of democracy, the Bush administration
is deeply mired in a failing war in Iraq, now further complicated
by a humiliating prison abuse scandal that threatens to shred
American's reputation throughout the world. Under the current
White House regime, the flourishing garden of American democracy
has been struggling under drought conditions. Freedom of speech
has been shriveled by the administration's intolerance of
any criticism or even any opinions at variance with its own.
There are numerous stories of character assassination directed
at those who spoke out and exposed administration mistakes
or weaknesses and examples of threatened job loss for those
who wished to. As a consequence of this, because truth was
bludgeoned and then buried under an avalanche of pre-existing
ideology and an inability to hear opposing views, Colin Powell,
General Shinseki, and the allies at the UN were all marginalized
and their concerns dismissed.
We ended up in a war that should never have been fought,
a war based on lies and now mired in corruption. In a healthy
democracy, the free interchange of ideas can be the cornerstone
of a sound, flexible policy, whereas a tightly circumscribed
debate, suffocated by a rigid worldview, often leads to a
Another basic tenet of American democracy is that the rule
of law supercedes the will of individual men, no matter
how elevated their position in government. Since George Bush's
inauguration, however, his administration has demonstrated
a thinly veiled contempt for any treaty or law that in any
way thwarts the administration's will to do as it pleases.
Nuclear treaties have been cancelled, an environmental treaty
rejected (Kyoto), and the Geneva accords largely ignored.
Environmental regulations have been trashed by executive order
and Congressional funding specified for Afghanistan has been
secretly transferred to prewar, unlegislated planning for
It is easy to see the trickle down effect of such thuggery
in the recent prison abuse scandal, where nothing so trivial
as regulations, treaties, or laws hindered the stated goals
of extracting information. When the rule of law is supplanted
by the will of the powerful, the heartbeat of democracy goes
on life support.
Another tragic casualty of the Bush administration is Truth.
Though truth is not specified in our founding documents, it
underlies all honorable human interactions, and its absence,
ultimately, creates profound and unrelenting chaos. Although
politicians are famous for their manipulation of facts and
figures to suit their agendas, the Bush administration has
taken dishonesty to such new heights of proficiency that virtually
nothing its members say can be taken at face value.
There are soldiers in Iraq who still believe they are fighting
the perpetrators of 9/11, a deception repeatedly promulgated
by the White House. There are those who hear of the administration's
Clear Skies initiative and think it suggests an actual environmental
policy rather than an enrichment scheme for corporations.
Virtually nothing is as it seems in Bushland.
Unfortunately, the consequences of such deceit are very grave.
Even before the prison scandal, the nation's international
credibility was at an all-time low due to its flagrantly dishonest
presentation of its case for war against Saddam Hussein. Like
the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Bush White House is neither listened
to nor trusted in many areas around the world.
Interestingly, the neoconservative
doctrine, the foundation of the Bush administration's
foreign policy, also carries within it a basic disconnect
with the fundamentals of democracy, as well as with the basic
goals of the War on Terror, despite its flowery rhetoric to
the contrary. Essentially, the neoconservative drive for "benevolent"
global empire, including a huge military and strategic American
presence in the Middle East, is diametrically opposed to the
War on Terror's quintessential need to dissipate Arab antipathy
towards the United States and the West.
The Arab World recognizes the underlying coercion inherent
in a policy that strives for the economic and military dominance
of America and for the prevention of any competitors to emerge.
And the Arab World resents the growing American military presence
on its soil. In fact, the more the aggressive, imperial neoconservative
agenda is pursued, the greater the mistrust of America in
the Middle East and the greater the recruitment pool for terrorism.
There is nothing appealing or inspiring about a global hegemon
dictating how others should live "for their own good" with
the firepower present to make it happen.
The overwhelming fear of a menacing terrorism may underlie
the Bush administration's compulsion to viciously subjugate
any real or imagined threat. Or it may simply be an inability
to grasp the deeper meaning of democracy with its presumptions
about inherent human dignity and the protection of human rights.
But the current prison abuse scandal, which has brought with
it an extraordinary compendium of human rights abuses, shows
us that the rule of law must be the bedrock of our civilization
no matter what the perceived danger. Without it, nothing differentiates
us from those we so righteously oppose.
As a nation, we have already gone well beyond the fork in
the road - to our great shame. If this abuse scandal can truly
bring the hidden poisons of our current system to the cold,
clear light of day, it will provide us an enormous opportunity.
our current journey will only lead to less and less respect
for individuals, greater contraction of our liberties, and
the ultimate death knell for our democracy. The untrod road
left behind at the fork is the one we must struggle to find
and to traverse with firm footing. This other road will return
us to our founding principles and enable these truths to once
again be "self-evident," evolving even further in a newly
globalized world. For equality, basic rights, and the rule
of law must not only be reaffirmed within America but also
in America's dealings with the world and its citizens.