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February 5, 2005

George W. Bush's Inaugural Address (Excerpts, 21 January 2005)

"We have seen our vulnerability and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder, violence will gather and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom. We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

He has seen reigning on the earth tyranny, crime, and imposture. He sees at this moment a whole nation, grappling with all the oppressions of the human race, suspend the course of its heroic labors to elevate its thoughts and vows toward the great Being who has given it the mission it has undertaken and the strength to accomplish it. Is it not He whose immortal hand, engraving on the heart of man the code of justice and equality, has written there the death sentence of tyrants? Is it not He who, from the beginning of time, decreed for all the ages and for all peoples liberty, good faith, and justice?

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government because no one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

He did not create kings to devour the human race. He did not create priests to harness us, like vile animals, to the chariots of kings and to give to the world examples of baseness, pride, perfidy, avarice, debauchery, and falsehood. He created the universe to proclaim His power. He created men to help each other, to love each other mutually, and to attain to happiness by the way of virtue. It is He who implanted in the breast of the triumphant oppressor remorse and terror, and in the heart of the oppressed and innocent calmness and fortitude. It is He who impels the just man to hate the evil one, and the evil man to respect the just one. It is He who adorns with modesty the brow of beauty, to make it yet more beautiful. It is He who makes the mother's heart beat with tenderness and joy. It is He who bathes with delicious tears the eyes of the son pressed to the bosom of his mother. It is He who silences the most imperious and tender passions before the sublime love of the fatherland. It is He who has covered nature with charms, riches, and majesty. All that is good is His work, or is Himself. Evil belongs to the depraved man who oppresses his fellow man or suffers him to be oppressed. The Author of Nature has bound all mortals by a boundless chain of love and happiness. Perish the tyrants who have dared to break it!

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way. The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.

Republicans, it is yours to purify the earth which they have soiled, and to recall to it the justice that they have banished! Liberty and virtue together came from the breast of Divinity. Neither can abide with mankind without the other. O generous People, would you triumph over all your enemies? Practice justice, and render the Divinity the only worship worthy of Him. O People, let us deliver ourselves today, under His auspices, to the just transports of a pure festivity. Tomorrow we shall return to the combat with vice and tyrants. We shall give to the world the example of republican virtues. And that will be to honor Him still.

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people from further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America's resolve, and have found it firm. We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies. We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies. Yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty. Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty—though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals.

It is wisdom above all that our guilty enemies would drive from the republic. To wisdom alone it is given to strengthen the prosperity of empires. It is for her to guarantee to us the rewards of our courage. Let us associate wisdom, then, with all our enterprises. Let us be grave and discreet in all our deliberations, as men who are providing for the interests of the world. Let us be ardent and obstinate in our anger against conspiring tyrants, imperturbable in dangers, patient in labors, terrible in striking back, modest and vigilant in successes. Let us be generous toward the good, compassionate with the unfortunate, inexorable with the evil, just toward every one. Let us not count on an unmixed prosperity, and on triumphs without attacks, nor on all that depends on fortune or the perversity of others. Sole, but infallible guarantors of our independence, let us crush the impious league of kings by the grandeur of our character, even more than by the strength of our arms.

Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it…We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages, when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty, when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner Freedom Now they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, It rang as if it meant something. In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

You war against kings; you are therefore worthy to honor Divinity. Being of Beings, Author of Nature, the brutalized slave, the vile instrument of despotism, the perfidious and cruel aristocrat, outrages Thee by his very invocation of Thy name. But the defenders of liberty can give themselves up to Thee, and rest with confidence upon Thy paternal bosom. Being of Beings, we need not offer to Thee unjust prayers. Thou knowest Thy creatures, proceeding from Thy hands. Their needs do not escape Thy notice, more than their secret thoughts. Hatred of bad faith and tyranny burns in our hearts, with love of justice and the fatherland. Our blood flows for the cause of humanity. Behold our prayer. Behold our sacrifices. Behold the worship we offer Thee."

...with apologies to Maximilien Marie Isidore de Robespierre, speech to the Convention, Committee on Public Safety, 7 June 1794, six weeks before he was arrested and executed for his role in the French Reign of Terror.

February 10, 2005

Mr. Bush drags the world to a more violent place

It was in the Garden of Gethsemani that Jesus uttered his most prophetic words, "All those who take up the sword will perish by the sword," as he rebuked Peter for injuring Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. The Bush Administration began in the fall of 1999 to undermine South Korea's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea, which had no nuclear weapons at that time. Family exchanges, travel links, and increased economic contacts then had raised the specter of beginning talks leading to Korean unification.

But Candidate Bush began condemning North Korea as a threat, and using the supposed threat as a rationale for justifying huge new military expenditures on an internationally destabilizing missile defense system. Now Mr. Bush is receiving considerable criticism for having stood by idly, wielding only menacing rhetoric, while North Korea announces this week that it has in fact secured nuclear weapons "to defend itself against the United States." It is increasingly clear that this was precisely what the Bush Administration wanted. Now they can proceed unimpeded with restarting the world arms race that was so profitable for the Defense Industry, pointing to North Korea and pouring tens of billions of dollars into missile defense. The principled opposition to missile defense will now be paralyzed by the fact of real North Korean nuclear armaments.

This is much like the "social security crisis"—a very expensive non-solution to a problem that didn't exist until the Bush Administration created it.

Meanwhile, news emerged this week about the extent of Bush Administration efforts to develop new, heavier nuclear weapons of our own. They have indicated their intent to work toward suspending the international ban on nuclear testing. Is our world more peaceful because our president threatened North Korea, and compelled them to develop a nuclear capability? Will it be more peaceful once Iran has done the same? Will restarting the international nuclear arms race make us more safe or much less safe?

The one thing Mr. Bush fears is personal accountability. Even as he was undermining the successful Clinton Administration policy on North Korea, he began condemning the International Criminal Court. Having watched as his father killed 5000 innocent people in Panama City in December 1989, while sending the Marines in to "arrest" the country's president, he had a very real personal interest in making sure the first President Bush could never be prosecuted as a war criminal. This was further amplified in the waning days of the first Gulf War when Bush the elder ordered the slaughter of an estimated hundred thousand retreating Iraqi conscripts forced into military service when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Now Bush the younger has his own reasons to fear the International Criminal Court: 100,000-200,000 people killed in Iraq, widespread torture as a matter of US policy, and plans to militarize other disagreements around the world. The one thing of which Mr. Bush is deathly afraid is accountability before the world. Even as he advocates the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, he fears the judgment of others. This militarism is the sword, writ large, that Jesus condemned. We owe it to our deepest principles to oppose this spiral into increased violence into which the Bush Administration is leading us.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, wrote poignantly about this issue last February 10 in the New York Times:

"The United States so mistrusts the International Criminal Court that President Bush has instead proposed that the African Union and the United Nations create a Sudan tribunal based at the war-crimes court run by the United Nations in Tanzania. "We don't want to be party to legitimizing the I.C.C.," Pierre-Richard Prosper, the United States ambassador for war crimes issues, said in late January. That's an about-face from the American stance in 2002, when Mr. Prosper criticized the very same United Nations ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia that he now hails. Citing "problems that challenge the integrity of the process," like a lack of professionalism among staff, Mr. Prosper demanded that the interminable proceedings at those courts be wrapped up by 2008, regardless of who was left at large. Justice at these courts, he said, "has been costly, has lacked efficiency, has been too slow, and has been too removed from the everyday experience of the people and the victims."

Temporary courts suffer other disadvantages next to the permanent International Criminal Court. Because their mandates are finite, they tend to rush indictments and arrests, disregarding their potentially destabilizing effects on societies still reeling from conflict. The permanent court, by contrast, can time its arrests to advance both justice and peace.

Moreover, creating a court from scratch takes months, or even years. A new statute would need to be devised, staff members and judges would need to be recruited, and the African Union, which has never before overseen criminal trials, would need a crash course.

The ad hoc court could cost as much as $150 million annually. By contrast, the supposedly bloated international court, which is already investigating multiple crises simultaneously, will cost roughly $87 million in 2005. Couldn't that same $150 million be better spent on arming and transporting African Union peacekeepers into Darfur to prevent the massacres from being committed in the first place?

Skeptics say that international courts will never deter determined warlords. Musa Hilal, the coordinator of the deadly Janjaweed militia in Darfur, gave me a very different impression when I met with him soon after the Bush administration had named him as a potential suspect. He had left Darfur and was living in Khartoum, courting journalists in the hopes of improving his reputation. Almost as soon as I sat down with him, he began his defense. Like his victims, he had only one place on his mind. "I do not belong at the Hague," he said. Surely President Bush doesn't want to find himself on the side of someone his administration considers a killer."


Mr. Bush's truthful moments

President Bush's State-of-the-Union Address featured much crowing about how well things are going in Iraq, with the U.S.-imposed elections now over. Good news or bad, his highly optimistic pronouncements have remained virtually unchanged for the past two years. To give him the benefit of the doubt, the Pentagon was prepared to sustain tens of thousands of American casualties at the time of the invasion. The military was also prepared to spend vastly more money, and continues to argue regularly for "emergency appropriations" to cover these mammoth expenses.

By any objective criteria, however, Iraq has been a cesspool of mayhem. 13 million children there have suffered unimaginable psychological harm. Nearly 1500 American families will never see fathers, mothers, or children again, and new studies have suggested that over 15% of returning troops are suffering from serious psychological damage. Elections aside, why has Mr. Bush been so happy for so long about Iraq?

His supporters have frequently touted honesty as one of his central character traits. One month after September 11, he proclaimed, "Parents should teach their children by word and deed to understand and live out the moral values that we hold, such as honesty, accepting responsibility for our actions, and loving our neighbors as ourselves."

At the White House last August 5, he said, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Another verbal gaffe? Perhaps it's time to take Mr. Bush at his word. The occasion was the signing of the Defense Appropriations Act, funding the military for fiscal year 2005 and shattering the $400 billion mark for the first time. Given that we have no major military adversaries, and that we now support two Defense Departments (the other is Homeland Security), this is a staggering sum of money. That law represents one of the most successful efforts in our history to transfer wealth from all Americans to thousands of military contractors that are increasingly an extension of Mr. Bush and his Party.

Why were they prepared to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives, and to spend hundreds of billions in Iraq when their war rationale was so flimsy? What Mr. Bush discussed only obliquely in his State-of-the-Union are all the cuts in funding for early education and ultimately for the Social Security benefits of all Americans. No plan was put forward to care for 11 million American children without health insurance. Instead, hundreds of billions will be siphoned out of domestic programs into new and continuing military operations. Who benefits from all these precious dollars going into Iraq and elsewhere? It's not just the direct transfer of our taxes to these contractors. Elections aside, our Coalition Provisional Authority has permanently locked in American economic dominance in Iraq for years to come.

From this standpoint, Mr. Bush's two years of optimism rings completely true. Of course he's happy with how things are going in Iraq. Another $80 billion is soon headed from us to some of Republican Party's biggest supporters. Every American child and adult will pay $150 this year for Mr. Bush's Iraqi transfer-of-wealth scheme. A hundred thousand Iraqis dead, according to the medical journal The Lancet? The Pentagon refuses to even study the issue. Thousands of devastated American families? Mr. Bush attends none of their funerals, and pays a death allowance of only $12,000 apiece.

So perhaps we should be grateful for moments of candor, like that day last August when Mr. Bush uttered his famous remark, "Our enemies…never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." This brief honesty is so refreshing, when it squeaks out from behind the din of misrepresentations that typify most pronouncements by this Administration--such as the total mis-characterization in Mr. Bush's speech Wednesday night about the financial future of Social Security (For instance, see Prof. Paul Krugman's recent dissection of this dishonesty at http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_020105E.shtml). When it comes to the wellbeing of average Americans, and indeed the current victims of the misuse of American power around the world, this President needs somewhat more education regarding his other utterance, namely the part about "accepting responsibility for our actions, and loving our neighbors as ourselves."

February 13, 2005

Dr. Howard Dean, new Democratic Party chief, seeks the views of Catholics and people of faith

With the election of Dr. Howard Dean as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, our party has an opportunity for new beginnings on many fronts. In some ways, Dr. Dean's election is a true victory for moral conduct in public life. As an ardent opponent of the war in Iraq, he showed that he was willing to stand up for the value of life against an Administration that cares nothing for the individual lives being lost on both sides of that conflict.

Dr. Dean has invited us to submit our views on the future of our Party, and the Nation. We would strongly urge all our supporters to write and tell him how important it is not to let the Republicans get away with hijacking Christianity in America to advance their radical economic vision for a government that does not insure a secure retirement, retreats from advancing biomedical research for healthier lives, and shifts the tax burden to those least able to pay it. You can write to Dr. Dean at http://www.democrats.org/chair/feedback/index.html?psc=front.

Beyond the central moral issue of war, Dr. Dean has indicated his commitment to working with religious leaders of many faiths to provide aid and comfort to committed Catholics who have felt they were without representation in the current political arena. At the recent DNC meeting, Dr. Dean told a caucus of advocates for women's issues, "People of faith are in the Democratic Party, including me." As quoted in Christianity Today, he went on to say, "We are not pro-abortion! There is not anyone I know who is pro-abortion." For once Catholic Democrats have a public advocate who attacked the Bush Administration for overseeing an increase per capita in abortions, reversing the positive trend that had taken hold under President Bill Clinton. He pointed out that Mr. Bush has made vague gestures indicating opposition to abortion, while guiding public policies that actually increase the number of abortions.

Under former chairman Terry McAuliffe, the DNC has embraced new efforts to work with Catholic leaders across the country—in part to illustrate the ways that the Democratic Party continues to be the standard bearer for Catholic values like the wellbeing of the poor, absolute opposition to the insane notion of preventive war, the random and race-based implementation of the death penalty in America, and the despoilment of God's creation.

We look forward to working with Dr. Dean to bring our Catholic values front and center to the public debate, in our efforts to stem the immorality that has characterized the Bush tenure in Washington.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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