Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hiding Dissent: Honesty in the Bush II Administration

The shuttering of dissent by the GW Bush administration, as discussed below, has only continued. Basically the attitude they are taking is that anybody who disagrees with them must be shouted down, shunned, rejected, and squashed.

An example today is the latest movie by Michael Moore. The movie is titled Fahrenheit 9/11 and covers an examination of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, and how they were created. It supposedly (I haven't seen it yet) makes a number of very alarming connections that should shake this country's belief and loyalty to GW Bush. These connections have been covered on this web site, particularly here, but to mainstream America that's been spoonfed a pack of lies, these connections are sure to be very alarming.

The movie has been taking a long strange trip to being shown to the public. First there was the funding, and subsequent refusal to release the movie. The movie was made under the direction of a movie studio owned by Disney, however when the movie was finished and ready to release (in the Spring of 2004, smack in the middle of the election campaign) Disney refused to release the movie to the public. The claim they made is that the movie is highly political, and therefore was not appropriate to release during a campaign cycle as it might skew the election. However, Michael Moore being who he is, he went public with this, and raised a ruckus. This is America, land of Free Speech is it not?

Second, Michael Moore went to the Cannes movie festival with his movie. At the festival he won the Palm D'Or, a highly respected prize.

Third, he managed to find a distributor other than Disney to distribute the movie. So much for the attempt at censorship by Disney.

Now there is a cohort of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" types making various attempts to quash this movie, even as it is being released (salon.com article). The article details these smear campaigns

  • David Bossie head of Citizens United. Busily making and airing political advertisements smearing not only Michael Moore's film, but Bill Clinton's memoir which is being distributed this week as well.
  • Howard Kaloogian, whose Move America Forward launched a letter-writing campaign last week against a select number of theaters that planned to show "Fahrenheit." Kaloogian was part of a cabal that takes credit for recalling Gov. Gray Davis. Now they've set their sights on Moore.

While this may seem like a bit of a tempest in a teapot, it's part of a larger pattern. For example there is the case of Joseph Wilson and his wife. Wilson is a former ambassador, who under the previous Bush administration was co-chief of the Embassy in Iraq just before the first Gulf War, and was highly lauded by the previous Bush administration. He was sent by this Bush administration to do fact checking in Niger about possible sales of Uranium to Iraq, found the claims to be false, and said so to the administration, yet was shocked when the administration went on claiming the allegation to be true, and finally went public saying that he had told the administration this story was false. Ever since going public Wilson has been roundly denounced by the right wingers (whereas he had formerly been highly praised by them), and his wife's identity as a CIA agent was disclosed (this being an act of treason to disclose a secret agents identity). The Bush administrations response to the treason by one of their staff has been to stonewall the investigation. See The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity -- A Diplomat's Memoir

[2003 October 16]

In this year there is a lot to protest in what the Bush Administration is doing. There is a war in Iraq which I and many others didn't agree to, and which now appears to have been launched in a series of outright lies put forward as justification. The government is running a huge deficit, thanks to the tax cuts for the rich, and the costs of this war. The tax cuts were intended to incite "the economy" to recovery, but the recovery is still far away.

In short, times are hard, and the administration is failing its duty to the country.

Yet over and over, there are signs that the administration is ignoring dissent. This goes back to GW Bush's inauguration, under a cloud of controversy. Recall that the election was highly contested, and may well have been stolen (nobody was sure), and many protesters lined the Inaugural Parade route with signs reading "Hail To The Theif" and the like. But, were those signs broadcast on television? Nope.

Rather than face any criticisms, the administration engages in spin meistering to deflect the criticism, attacks on character, and the like. Further, one of the harshest criticisms, that the President (and other officials) were lieing when, to justify the war in Iraq, they claimed Iraq had been seeking Uranium. Somehow, coincidentally maybe, the identity of the critics wife, a CIA agent, was disclosed, along with the fact that she is a high level covert CIA operative. Disclosed and published in the column of a widely read newspaper columnist. Was this an accident, or was it an outright warning to other critics that "this could happen to you"?

In March 2003 I was protesting the imminent war, as is my duty as a citizen to voice my feelings about government policy. During the protest I watched as a group of peaceful protesters, who had been marching down the sidewalk, slightly noisily, were arrested by the police. (here) I followed news of following protests, having to read about them at indymedia.org and other similar non-mainstream web sites. Not only did the mainstream news organizations largely ignore the protests, they were actively shut down by police agencies.

In April 2003 a couple protests happened in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara CA. This is my neighborhood, in the heart of Silicon Valley. In one case President Bush arrived at Moffett Field and was whisked to a local Defense contractor to give a speech. People were prevented from departing on the light rail train along his route out of Moffett Field, and in the vicinity of the Defense contractor many (peaceful) protestors were arrested. On another day a large force of protestors converged on the Lockheed campus in Sunnyvale. They had cleared the protest, and their plans, with the police department, but on the day of the protest they were brutally rebuffed by a combination of private security and the Sunnyvale Police.

The following are a sampling of news articles

[Oct. 16, 2003; Salon; salon.com/news/feature/2003/10/16/secret_service/] Keeping dissent invisible When Bill Neel learned that President George W. Bush was making a Labor Day campaign visit to Pittsburgh last year to support local congressional candidates, the retired Pittsburgh steelworker decided that he would be on hand to protest the president's economic policies. Neel and his sister made a hand-lettered sign reading "The Bushes must love the poor -- they've made so many of us," and headed for a road where the motorcade would pass on the way from the airport to a Carpenters' Union training center.

He never got to display his sign for President Bush to see, though. As he stood among milling groups of Bush supporters, he was approached by a local police detective, who told him and his sister that because they were protesting, they had to move to a "free speech area," on orders of the U.S. Secret Service.

"He pointed out a relatively remote baseball diamond that was enclosed in a chain-link fence," Neel recalled in an interview with Salon. "I could see these people behind the fence, with their faces up against it, and their hands on the wire." (The ACLU posted photos of the demonstrators and supporters at that event on its Web site.) "It looked more like a concentration camp than a free speech area to me, so I said, 'I'm not going in there. I thought the whole country was a free speech area.'" The detective asked Neel, 66, to go to the area six or eight times, and when he politely refused, he handcuffed and arrested the retired steelworker on a charge of disorderly conduct. When Neel's sister argued against his arrest, she was cuffed and hauled off as well. The two spent the president's visit in a firehouse that was serving as Secret Service and police headquarters for the event.

The article goes on to say this act of fencing protestors off to a separate and distant area is not unique, for this administration, but that they instituted the policy even before the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks. That the orders enforcing this banishing of protesters are made through the Secret Service. In a country which honors free speech, this policy is troubling, disturbing, and more.

The ACLU is involved and say there are two forms of segregating protestors:

  1. The protestors are kept far away.
  2. Anybody expressing any view are kept far away.

"We expect to see a lot more of this heading into a campaign season," says Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney at the ACLU

Hmm, and here I was hoping this is a Democracy I live in, where the Rule of Law is honored, and where elections are free and fair.