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The politics of summer - or what they did while you were away

by David J. Raymond, Opinion editor emeritus


The president’s lies
Over the summer, while American soldiers were fighting and dying in “liberated” Iraq, the American press, with typical timeliness, reported that at least one of the intelligence reports used by the Bush administration as justification for the invasion (sorry, liberation) of Iraq was in fact, erroneous.

The Democratic opposition, doing its job for a change, has seized upon the lie as one of many, added it to the debacle of Iraq liberation and the absence of weapons of mass destruction, and proceeded, with the help of the media, to heap criticism on the administration. All this, coupled with a still-sluggish economy, has meant a less-then-pleasant summer for the White House.
A president who lies to the people to justify a war and who is, when the lie and his knowledge of it is uncovered, too (stupid? arrogant? craven?) to take responsibility for it, should certainly, and has, upset the citizenry, but not as much as one would expect. Only a 10-point drop in the polls. Most of the country is not as mean-spirited as the Republicans have shown themselves to be. As Bill Clinton said, it was not that big a deal. (But then he would say that, wouldn’t he?)
As with most things political, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy here. Reports that Saddam Hussein was somehow acquiring nuclear weapon technology from Africa should have been subjected to critical questions before the commitment of American troops, rather than after. Instead, the media, in a show of patriotic fervor not seen since the legendary three monkeys, simply closed their eyes, shut their ears, and covered their mouths in acquiescence. So too did Congress, Democrat and Republican alike.

One isolated intelligence report cannot explain the lock-step manner in which the American public eagerly accepted the house-of-cards justification for war offered by the Bush administration. Taking advantage of the shock of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the White House has invaded not one, but two sovereign nations, committing American troops to years of tedious, if not dangerous occupation duty in hostile territory, while squandering billions in tax revenues that could have been better spent in reviving the domestic economy. The United States may not be the “world’s policeman,” but does 9/11 give us the right to act as global frontier sheriff, enforcing our own subjective code of justice?

Even now, four months after the end of “major fighting,” there remain unanswered fundamental questions regarding the purpose of the war in Iraq as well as a lack of connection between the “free” people of Iraq and their liberators. The questions that are being asked now should have been asked then; where is the proof of Iraqi links to terrorism? Proof of the stockpiling of chemical, biological, and nuclear material? Proof of the imminent threat of Iraqi aggression that warranted a preemptive invasion? To a certain extent there was fear, here in the United States, that voicing such questions would have been seen as “unpatriotic” or demonstrated a weakness in resolve to the enemy. Nevertheless, for the media and political opposition to claim that they had been duped into agreement is at best, an exercise in self-deception.

Patriotism should not be used as an obstacle to a critical examination of American war plans and foreign policy. Nor is it unsupportive of our troops to hold the Bush administration accountable for its questionable perceptions and decisions: they are the ones who are dying for a lie. Ultimately however, it must be recognized that every American soldier now in Afghanistan and Iraq was sent there not at the fiat of the President, but rather by the will of the American people through their elected representatives. Thus, every soldier killed or wounded becomes the responsibility of the nation, not just the White House. Thomas Jefferson once said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. He was not just talking about external threats, but also internal ones. We are less likely to lose our liberty to a foreign invader than we are to a native demagogue.

Public vs. Private: the Court’s good judgment
The U.S. Supreme Court, which like its Congress also likes to save potentially controversial decisions until the last day of its session, recently ruled that a long-standing Texas law against sodomy was in fact unconstitutional. Supporters have hailed this as a victory for gay rights and a stepping stone to the recognizing of marriages between same-sex couples as valid as unions between heterosexuals. Critics on the other hand, have blasted this decision as undermining the moral fabric of society, warning that this would set a precedent that will eventually lead to adultery, bigamy, and incest.

Such hysteria aside, an objective analysis reveals that what the Court had ruled on was neither “gay rights” nor moral standards, but rather the privacy of the individual. In writing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated that, “the issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce…views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law.” In other words, does the state have the right to intrude on the activities of knowing, consenting adults in their own home? In the ruling, the Supreme Court found in favor of the individual, citing that the state unconstitutionally sought, “to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals’ right to privacy.”

In its conclusion, the court makes clear that this ruling does not extend to sexual conduct in public (such as prostitution.) The court also makes clear that this case does not pertain to “whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” Thus it requires a considerable leap (of faith, presumably) to see this ruling as a triumph for “gay rights” or a stepping stone to incest or bigamy.

Cocking an eyebrow
Closely related to the aforementioned Supreme Court decision is the curious activities of televangelist Pat Robinson, who has called for a month-long campaign to pray to God to exercise divine providence to “arrange” for three Supreme Court judges to “step down” from their posts, to be replaced by those more compliant to His will. In a recent interview, Robinson conceded that it is generally understood that an appointment to the Supreme Court is for life, although he does point out that the actual text merely states that justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior.” He then goes on to state that “the problem is you have five unelected people who are determining what the Constitution is, how it affects all of us, and these people aren’t elected. They’re accountable to nobody, and I’m just saying there needs to be some accountability, that’s all.”

After reading this, one begins to wonder just what Pat Robinson has in mind? He claims that the majority of the American public want “conservative” judges (presumably as defined by Robinson himself), but bemoans the virtual impossibility of affecting such changes through legal channels. His appeal to God to intervene to remove Supreme Court justices reminds us that on 9-11 the United States experienced another religious fundamentalist who uses God’s judgment in order to justify violent change to American society. Remembering Robinson remarks, with his cohort Jerry Falwell, about 9-11 being the visiting upon all of us of the judgment of God, we see again that Islam does not have the corner on fanaticism.

And for some good news
Congratulations to HPU student Justine Michioka, who in May was named Miss Hawai‘i USA for 2003. She received the crown from her sister Alicia, an HPU alumna, journalism major, and former business manager of Kalamalama. Both are intelligent, graceful, and charming, fine examples of the modern island woman.

Congratulations also to former Kalamalama section editor Reenie Young Rea, who won the Mrs. Hawai‘i USA crown in May only days after graduating with her Bachelors Degree in Journalism. See page 7, where our special photo correspondent Rick Bernico, also an alum, provides a collage of the Miss Hawai‘i USA pageant.



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