Viewpoint: Bush tries to end dissent

Bush tries to end dissent

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

On April 20, an estimated 200,000 Americans marched in Washington, D.C. to protest the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

The demonstrations were peaceful but may mark the beginning of a student-based anti-war protest movement of national proportions.

As a result, George Bush and company have stepped up their efforts to quash all opposition to the so-called War on Terror. Naureen Shah, a 19-year-old student at Northwestern University, told William Walker of the Toronto Star that she has been called a “Taliban,” a “Nazi” and “un-American” because she voiced her objections to Bush’s war.

“I’ve been called all kinds of names,” she said, “but I think it’s the Patriot Act that’s un-American. I think broadening the war to a place like North Korea is un-American.”

We’ve all heard about what happened to Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. She dared to raise questions about the events of Sept. 11 and why no answers have been forthcoming. She was subjected to vicious attacks from various national media pundits who seem capable only of spouting the party line.

Some of this same attitude has been witnessed in Rockford, sorry to say. We at The Rock River Times have been accused of disloyal and irresponsible reporting for printing what is on the minds of many thousands of Americans but not spoken publicly. Responsible reporting is equated with Republican propaganda.

A war against dissent is occurring in this country. This unprincipled war is not only directed at students and professors, but at business people, journalists and even retirees who have spoken out about how they view some of the administration’s recent actions.

Journalists Jackie Anderson of the Sun Advocate in Price, Utah; Dan Guthrie of the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Oregon; and Tom Gutting of the Texas City Sun lost their jobs for questioning the war on terror in print. Some senior White House and Capitol Hill reporters in Washington have been shut out of information by legislators for putting forth similar views.

Private citizens have been questioned by FBI agents for voicing criticism of the U.S. government’s actions. Even a museum came under intense scrutiny and intimidation by Secret Service and FBI agents over an anti-war exhibit that had been set up before Sept. 11.

The effort to stifle dissent is being led by Dubya himself. He has repeatedly stated, “you’re either with us or you’re against us,” leaving no room for any dissent or questioning. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has warned: “Americans need to watch what they say; watch what they do.”

Bill Bennett, secretary of Education in the Reagan administration and founder of the right-wing Empower America organization, stated: “Professional and amateur critics of America are finding their voices. They’re finding their voice on campuses, in salons, in learned societies and in the print media and on television.”

Bennett fails to grasp that the critics are not criticizing America, but the American government; two very different entities.

University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen observed: “Whatever kind of intellectual climate we have is, I think, being slowly starved. It’s like we’re saying to people, ‘You shouldn’t think. You should listen to the people in power, and if they say we should go to war, we should go to war.’ That’s what disturbs me.”

Jensen was castigated by the president of his university for publishing a column in which he advised Americans to confront the “ugly truths” about this country’s history of targeting civilians in war as a means of understanding why some fundamentalist groups hate us.

Despite tremendous propaganda efforts by the U.S. and Israeli governments and their military to prevent press access to Afghanistan and the West Bank, Americans are seeing through the false imagery and deducing the truth. They are protesting the Bush-Sharon war in the Mideast and the “collateral damage” in Afghanistan.

Americans should also be aware that terrible acts fall on both sides of the Arab/Israeli conflict. Both sides spin propaganda that they are the only righteous ones, but the cost of their mutual hate is dreadful. As an editorial in the New York Post, stated young teenagers are being used in the conflict by the Palestinians and are being killed in attacks on Israelis. In Saudi Arabia, MSNBC correspondent Bob Arnot, after being told, “Film anything you want. We are a free and open society,” had his interview tapes, notes and laptop seized by Saudi Ministry of Information officials. Alleged collaborators with the Israelis are being executed without trial by the Palestinians, and their bodies were hung from street signs for public abuse. While many reports have come in on Israeli suppression of the press in covering their recent campaign, few have reported on similar Palestinian actions. The Palestinians did take hostages in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity—and then the Israelis attacked the Christian Shrine. Both sides were very wrong and innocent people continue to be maimed and killed.

Likewise, Americans don’t believe innocent people should be harmed as we pursue the al-Qaeda network, and they do not want the war widened to other countries, such as Iraq.

Jennifer Atienofifatar of Washington, D.C. was one of the recent marchers. She declared: “The war machine is about profit, not about security, and we are not going to have peace without justice. I believe that terrorism is terrorism, whether it is raining down from U.S. war planes or if it’s desperate people blowing themselves up.”

Terra Lawson-Remer, a member of the steering committee for the April 20 march, said we must speak out and expose the Star Wars myth by drawing out the truth.

“The Bush administration has effectively employed a Star Wars mentality to obscure the complexities of truth,” she said, “lulling us into an Orwellian reality where ‘justice’ means revenge, ‘freedom’ requires the sacrifice of fundamental liberties, and ‘terrorism’ refers only to attacks against Americans.”

Karen Dugger, professor of women’s studies at Towson University in Maryland, commented: “Sept. 11 created a justification for fascism. Fascism is permeating American society right now.”

Yet, the scene is not devoid of hope. Robert Fisk, columnist for The Independent, a British newspaper, has lectured in this country for more than a decade, and he sees obvious signs of a shift in public attitude.

Fisk recently wrote: “What shocked me was the extraordinary new American refusal to go along with the official line, the growing, angry awareness among Americans that they were being lied to and deceived. For the first time, it wasn’t my lectures they objected to, but the lectures they received from their President and the lectures they read in their press about Israel’s ‘war on terror’ and the need always, uncritically, to support everything that America’s little Middle Eastern ally says and does.”

As Naureen Shah said: “Our opposition to the war is no joke. It’s based on facts. We want to draw together concerns about globalization issues, the Middle East and NAFTA, to make the connections to the war on terrorism. We don’t feel that’s been properly done until now.”

The consciousness and anger is beginning to rise here in the Heartland, on the West coast and in the Southwest and Southeast. The ordinary, decent people of this country, more and more, are beginning to understand that the emperor has no clothes, not even a thong—and we don’t mean “Let the Eagle Soar.”

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this editorial.

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