September 29, 2001
William Rivers Pitt
"Never trust thine enemy: for like as iron rusteth, so
is his wickedness. Though he humble himself and go crouching,
yet take good heed and beware of him, and thou shalt be unto
him as if thou hadst wiped a looking-glass, and thou shalt
know that his rust hath not been altogether wiped away." -
Apocrypha: Ecclesiasticus 12:10–11
Recently in Boston, noted historian Howard Zinn implored
a hall packed with peace activists to remember, "Governments
lie. Governments lie all the time, because if they tell the
truth, they won't be in power for very long."
Those of us who have stood in defiant opposition to the man
who took over the White House by foul means last January,
know this truth all too well. Before September 11th, there
were many who did the best they could to keep track, catalogue
and challenge all the lies that flowed from the Oval Office.
On some days, we felt like Sisyphus. We would roll that rock
up the hill and show it to everyone, and the damned thing
would roll right back down over us.
It seemed, in those days, that we had the Bush administration
on the run. The budget was a catastrophe, the tax cut was
dragging our economy into that ditch laying alongside the
information superhighway, and a legion of Democratic Senators
had just finished spending August practicing their rhetorical
broadsides in the bathroom mirror. The recently deceased entities
once known as Social Security and Medicare were about to be
laid at Bush's feet.
There were even rumors that Al Gore was going to emerge and
do an "I Told You So" tapdance all over George's head.
Republican Congresspeople were running for political cover
at such an accelerated rate that they became mere blurs. Bush's
energy plan was facing a brutal savaging in the Senate, because
a number of environmentally-minded members from the ranks
of the GOP knew in their hearts that what Bush was peddling
amounted to nothing more than actual, literal poison.
Bush's faith-based initiative promised to fare equally poorly,
and his Vice President was looking forward to subpoenas from
the General Accounting Office because he refused to divulge
the width and breadth of the plum that had been secretly offered
to the giants of the energy industry.
In the murky distance, almost too amazing to be believed,
lay the results of the independent review of Florida votes
that had been undertaken by a number of newspapers. No one
could guess what it would reveal, but a hint was delivered
to the American public on Monday, September 10th. Newsweek
Magazine ran several articles that all but accused Bush of
being a total fraud.
They did not reveal the results of that review, but one can
read between the lines of their published stories and see
the news probably wasn't so good for Bush. They were getting
out ahead of what looked to be a long series of very bad days
for the man from Crawford.
Then…infamy. In the unanimous words of the media industry
and those in political office, everything changed.
It became a pressing moral imperative to get in line behind
Bush and declare absolute solidarity with fellow citizens
and with the Government. I, myself, professed this viewpoint
widely. The reversal was jarring, but in those first terrifying
days it seemed necessary beyond measure.
Because, you see, everything had changed.
In the days since the attack I have tried with all my might
to hold on to that feeling of unity with Bush, because I felt
I owed it to my fellow citizens, to the office of the Presidency,
and to the nation itself. A voice inside me hissed that it
would be treasonously unpatriotic to do otherwise.
In the end, the truce flag was raised virtually everywhere.
Eloquent cries of anguish and loss were voiced from voices
usually engaged in partisan snarls. We mourned in bleakest
sorrow those who died, praised the men and women who worked
to save them, and laid aside our political differences in
the name of the common good. The rising tide that had threatened
the Bush administration broke and receded, and what had been
a swelling, powerful Movement shattered in disarray. It was
The spark of outrage, the tiny voice inside that wailed whenever
Bush's face or voice entered our consciousness, never entirely
faded, however. We listened to him and his minions with ears
well-trained in detecting duplicity. Soon enough, even in
the depths of this awful crisis, we heard it again.
It became clear that any voices raised in opposition to anything
Bush said were to be regarded as treasonous. Simply put, that
meant all of us. Never again, under any circumstances, could
we question the man at the top.
Those in the media who dared to speak their minds were stomped
like roaches. A reporter from Nebraska was fired for stating
in the public prints that Bush hid like a coward on September
11th. Popular television personality Bill Maher was subjected
to a withering assault and the loss of advertising revenue
for suggesting that launching cruise missiles from 1,000 miles
away was not the bravest moment in American military history.
Once upon a time, words like these were well-protected by
our Constitutional right to free speech. It appeared that
the dark prophesy uttered by the media was indeed true: everything
Powerful men like John Ashcroft, who inspired the deepest
mistrust in us, demanded an enormous latitude with our civil
liberties. We knew him of old, and shuddered at the thought
of such a man wielding so much power over our very freedom.
Once upon a time, the powers he was asking for were beyond
comprehension. But, again, everything had changed.
As a leader, Bush himself showed demonstrable and dangerous
flaws. He appeared helpless to do anything other than refer
to the crisis as a struggle between good and evil, as a Crusade.
The very word inflamed virtually the entire Muslim world,
and rightfully so.
He described our attackers as being opposed to our freedoms,
assisting in the broadening of an already endemic case of
national amnesia and ignorance regarding the very history
that tragically helped to drive those wretched madmen to act
as they did.
Before September 11th, those of us who actively opposed George
W. Bush did so because were offended by the very idea that
an election could be so conspicuously stolen out from under
the American people. We opposed him because we feared that
a man capable of such a nefarious act was capable of virtually
anything. If votes no longer count in America, then freedom
itself stood in peril.
All of our nightmares appear to be coming true. Our freedom
to speak as we wish is under assault. In the media's rush
to beat the battle drum, our national discourse has narrowed
even further than what had been before. This is no small feat.
There is one calamity that has not yet dared be uttered aloud.
This unspoken tragedy is the elephant in the room, obvious
to all but commented upon by none. Simply put, George W. Bush
is the wrong man for the job, and cannot be trusted with the
freedom and security of the United States of America. There
is a small comfort to be taken from this. It is perhaps the
only fact of our American life that has not changed at all.
Bush currently enjoys an approval rating of 90%, if the polls
are to be believed. This says nothing about the man himself.
A ham sandwich would earn astronomical approval ratings in
a crisis such as this. That number is not a comment on his
leadership abilities, but is a testament to the loyalty of
the American people. He does not deserve it, nor has he, nor
will he ever.
This is tragic because I would be willing to surrender some
of the freedoms he is demanding if a person worthy of trust
stood in his stead. This is tragic because the very fact that
he is our leader in this crisis compounds our fears and paranoia,
a cruel twist of the knife. This is tragic because all the
sad and sorry truths about him and his administration have
been swept away, leaving him as innocent and blameless as
the day he was born. He does not deserve such a clean slate,
nor has he, nor will he ever.
Once upon a time, those of us who stood in opposition to
his plans rightfully believed we were doing our patriotic
duty. The time has come again to raise our battle standards
and our voices in dissent. This unspoken tragedy can not go
We will be called traitors, to be sure. It will be said that
we aid the terrorists, that we believe America deserved to
be attacked, that we insult the memories of the dead by refusing
to get in line. These are lies.
There is no underestimating the threat we currently live
under, and it is clear that measures need to be taken to ensure
our safety and security. Likewise, those who brought these
horrors to our shores must be brought to justice. This, too,
is a moral imperative. We know these things as well as anyone.
Nothing in this changes the facts at hand. America is under
assault on two fronts. On one side are the terrorists, a new
enemy difficult to track or thwart. On the other side are
Bush and his people, who threaten our lives and freedoms in
Once upon a time, we believed we could remove him, corner
him, strip him of his ability to do our nation harm. We are
stuck now with this man from Crawford, a fact which must be
swallowed in the face of all we know about the election of
2000. In place of our former agenda, a new course must be
We must remember that dissent is our birthright. We must
remind ourselves that the threat Bush posed to the health
and welfare of our country before September 11th pales in
comparison to what he is capable of now. His agenda is not
our agenda, his way is not our way, and his idea of freedom
is one we do not share. Again, here is proof that not everything
We must once again gather our collective strength and raise
our voices against him if he comes within shouting distance
of damaging our country. We must not be afraid to speak. We
must again mount the watchtowers and go where angels, and
too many of our elected representatives, fear to tread.
If it was important on September 10th, it is crucial today.
We are still patriots, lovers of America, and we still have
work to do.
Stout hearts. The battle has only just begun.