- A writer at The Times counted 27 references to freedom
in Bush's inaugural speech. The speech contained not one reference to his
ugly war in Iraq, but for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis the only freedom
established by Bush's invasion was their freedom to miserable deaths or
future lives as cripples.
- Bush promised he would bring freedom to the world's dark
corners. It is worth noting that none of the world's people asked Bush
to assume such a task, and every poll of those living outside the United
States shows Washington now widely regarded as one of the world's darkest
corners, a source of fear itself rather than freedom from fear.
- But I guess that's how it is with freedom. Much as when
the Incas and Aztecs were offered the freedom of Christianity under the
drawn swords of blood-spattered Conquistadors, the world will just have
to accept Bush's benevolent gift. Bush has said many times he won't be
consulting the world's people about what America does, and at least in
this one particular, I think we can take him at his word.
- Perspective is important to understanding the
of any act or words. Bush's promise was made from behind a bullet-proof
podium under the eyes of snipers and police dogs. It was made with missile
batteries in plain sight and heavily-armored police menacingly occupying
every corner of central Washington. In various parts of the world,
were keeping thousands of people in cages as he spoke. Torture, centuries
after being banned in England, came to America's service in the fight for
freedom, even achieving a certain respectability as a discussion topic
over dinner. A plane, returning an Australian home after his release from
Guantanamo's grotesque tortures, was refused passage across American
because the Australians refused to keep him shackled.
- Does anyone think Bush's vision of liberty includes
like coup-installed General Musharaff of Pakistan or the hideous General
Dostum, now set up cozily as a warlord in Afghanistan under American
Would Bush mean old friends like President-for-Life Mubarak or General
Pinochet who keeps eluding any justice after killing and torturing
in Chile on America's behalf?
- Somehow we know that Bush means only the unelected who
oppose America's view of how things should be organized. On second thought,
he likely includes the elected, too, having already deposed the elected
President of Haiti, attempted to depose the elected leader of Venezuela,
and having browbeaten and insulted many of the world's truest democracies
such France, Germany, or Canada.
- Bush's pledge is the kind you make when you don't want
to be honest about your intentions. It's an ad for American foreign policy
photographed through one of those silk-screen filters Hollywood used to
turn the mummy lips and cracked surface of aging-ingenue faces like Doris
Day's into glorious Technicolor fuzziness.
- Freedom is an abstract words like happiness, rich with
favorable associations, because there are many unpleasant things in human
experience from which we would like to think ourselves free. But abstract
words have only abstract meaning without reference to real situations.
You must be free from or of something specific. Apparently the something
specific Bush has in mind is freedom from America's telling you what to
- Freedom is a much-abused word, being, after all, the
proud subject of one of the state's three basic slogans in 1984. Hitler
used the word often. Dr. Johnson punctured the pretentions of American
revolutionaries when he pointed to the bitter irony of "drivers of
Negroes" making exalted claims about freedom.
- Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father most beloved by
America's ragtag army of super-patriots, con men, Aryan types, and
spoke often of the Empire of Liberty. At a quick pass, Jefferson's phrase
could seem high-minded, but it truly represented the darkest part of the
American character. What Jefferson - and close associates like Madison
- worked toward was an entire American hemisphere ruled by the privileged
group in frock coats who ruled early America, an aristocracy where the
vast majority of people enjoyed no more right to vote and no more of any
other rights than they had enjoyed under British colonial rule. It was,
of course, an aristocracy built upon slavery. It's only real merit from
a local point of view was that it was local.
- Jefferson wrote catchy slogans on liberty and freedom,
effectively becoming his own best public-relations man. The fact is he
opposed liberty for slaves in Haiti. He opposed liberty for slaves in the
U.S. He opposed liberty for women. He opposed liberty for those with no
financial assets. He ruthlessly opposed any effort for parts of the
Purchase - people and their lands callously sold to Jefferson by a bloody
European dictator - to become independent of the United States. He even
opposed the role of America's Supreme Court in interpreting the
for the states, wanting the Bill of Rights to remain another
piece with no force of law (something he and his followers largely
in achieving for a century to come).
- Now Bush threatens to place the entire planet under the
shadow of Jefferson's piratical banner, using phrases like "the power
of freedom." Ask yourself why an idea like freedom require B-52s and
cluster bombs for its spread? And why isn't there room for more than one
version of freedom?
- Bush's "The survival of liberty in our land
depends on the success of liberty in other lands," is a ominous
for a new shadowy tyranny under a rich bully. Freedom, as Orwell so
put it, through slavery.