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What They Are Saying...
March 21, 2002
By Sheila Samples

They say it's a public relations campaign to shore up support for Bush's never-ending war on evildoers. They say they're a brand new group—and they call themselves Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT). They say their intention is to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing."

I say they're the same old bunch, all dressed up in a brand new name. I say they're either the same as, or the evolution of, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)—formed by hard right-winger Lynne Cheney and "liberalocrite" Joe Lieberman to stifle opinion on college campuses. I say their intention is to silence those groups and individuals who dare question Bush for declaring an never-ending, ever-widening global war on anyone whom he pleases without consulting Congress—the only body in this democracy authorized to declare war.

Bill Bennett, this nation's self-appointed moral cop and founder of Empower America, is AVOT's chairman. Bennett and his right-wing, neo-conservative henchmen vow to "resist" dissention both here and abroad. In simpler terms, Bennett's mission is to seek out American citizens who dare to question Bush. Then, by using the far-ranging tentacles of AVOT and ACTA—to smoke 'em out, git 'em on the run—and bring 'em to justice...

Bennett and Cheney are working in tandem to target U.S. citizens who "hate" America by exercising independent thought, who pose a real "threat"—such as college professors and faculty, former presidents, concerned legislators and writers. In a report issued last November, Cheney's group "outed" 117 college professors in an enemies-of-the-state blacklist reminiscent of the McCarthy era. One professor even went so far as to say, "Ignorance breeds hate..." Another dared to plead for an "end to the cycle of continued global violence." For infractions such as these, Cheney's November ACTA report attacked college and university faculty as being "the weak link" in America's 9-11 response, and concluded, "the message of much of academe was clear: BLAME AMERICA FIRST."

Bennett's group ran a full-page ad in the March 10 Sunday New York Times with the dark warning that such individual thought "stems from either a hatred for the American ideals of freedom and equality or a misunderstanding of those ideals and their practice." Bennett's AVOT ad blasted as traitors those who dare to speak out, and accused them of "attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of BLAME AMERICA FIRST."

Such warmongering has rendered an entire populace mute for far too long. They say, "Be silent in the face of evil, and freedom will be victorious." They say any criticism of the administration's conduct of the war will hurt our national resolve and will give aid and comfort to the enemy. But as I look in wonderment at the smiling, nodding, SILENT world into which I have been catapaulted, I say Americans cannot walk in fear and freedom at the same time. I say that, in a democracy, people are not free unless they are free to speak—freely...

There is no difference in AVOT and ACTA. Their militant agendas march in perfect lockstep with the president's own crusade against anything even remotely challenging him. On September 20, President Bush said, "This is a fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom." That was the first—and last—"founding-fatherly" statement I ever heard him make, for he immediately demanded uncritical support and blind obedience—not only from Americans, but from those throughout the world who would be our allies. There is no middle ground, no excuse for being neutral. The world's nations are either for us or against us—a status that is not open to negotiation.

They say it is anti-American to question Bush's foreign and defense objectives. America stands for freedom of thought and speech, for diversity and dissent, but they say we must not exercise those freedoms. We must not question anything we see or hear. But I say that the charge of "anti-Americanism" is itself profoundly anti-American. It is a means of silencing others, of dismissing opinions not in line with those of the administration—of excluding critics from rational discourse. There's no doubt in my mind if our founding fathers appeared fullblown on the scene today to remind this administration of the principles enshrined in their declaration of independence, Attorney General John Ashcroft would round them up, throw them in jail as potential terrorists and listen in on their conversations with their attorneys...

I say our founding fathers made a lot more sense than Bennett or Cheney and their self-reighteous groups dedicated to stilling the sounds of freedom. I refuse to believe everything they say just because they say it. I do not believe the selfless reasons they give for Bush's crusade against evil specifically because I so fervently believe in the progess, pluralism, tolerance and freedom that Bush claims to be defending.

Unless we are prepared to question, to expose, to challenge and to dissent, we'll be forced to stand by and watch the demise of democracy--the very system for which they say we are fighting...

Sheila Samples is a freelance writer from Oklahoma—Nickles, Inhofe and Watts' Country—whose denizens stand united and proudly silent.

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