Speech of the Day

From MoveOn.org, an exerpt from a speech by Al Gore:

GEORGE W. BUSH promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead he has brought us humiliation. He promised us “honor and integrity.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country, and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard M. Nixon It’s been less than three years since the events of September 11th, 2001, when we had the good will and empathy of all the world, when a leading French newspaper ran a headline proclaiming, “We Are All Americans Now.”

Today, that good will and empathy have been squandered, replaced by horror and disgust at the pictures from Abu Ghraib. How did we get to this point? To begin with, from its earliest days in power this Administration has sought to destroy the foreign policy consensus

that has guided America since the end of World War II. Our time-honored strategy of containment was to be abandoned, in favor of a radical new theory called pre-emption.

And what they meant by pre-emption was not the inherent right of all nations to act against an imminent threat, but rather the assertion of a unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law at will, and launch military action against any nation, even in the absence of an imminent threat.

The Administration’s frequent use of the word “dominance” to describe its strategic goals is particularly noteworthy, and disturbing. An American policy of domination is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly photos showing the domination of helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners.

Dominance is as dominance does. It isn’t really a strategic policy at all, but rather a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for yet more power by striking a Faustian bargain. And, as always happens sooner or later to those who shake hands with the Devil, they find out that what they have given up in that bargain is their soul.

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of one’s soul is a failure to recognize the existence of the soul in those over whom power is being exercised, especially the helpless, who come to be dehumanized and degraded.

Ultimately, dominance is not just unworthy of America. It is an illusory goal in its own right. Our world is unconquerable because the human spirit is unconquerable. Any national strategy based on domination is doomed to fail. And our current strategy has indeed failed. Not only does it create enemies for the United States and recruits for Al-Qaeda, it undermines the international cooperation that is absolutely crucial to defeating terrorism. Thanks to his contempt for any person, institution, or nation who disagrees with him, George Bush has actually exposed Americans to a greater, rather than lesser, danger of attack by terrorists.

The President has created more anger and righteous indignation against Americans than any leader of our country in 228 years, by insulting the religion and tradition of other nations, and by pursuing policies that have resulted in the death of thousands of innocents. President Bush said recently that the war in Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. It’s not–but it has become the central recruiting office for terrorists.

The current Bush team is endangering the lives of our soldiers and sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions of people and embittering an entire generation of anti-Americans. Our nation is at risk every single day.

What happened at Abu Ghraib prison, it is now clear, was a natural consequence of this Administration’s purposeful dismantling of constraints on its power, its virtual war on our system of checks and balances. Abu Ghraib flows directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Bush Administration’s march to war, and its abuse of the trust placed in the President by the American people in

the aftermath of September 11th.

PRESIDENT BUSH himself set the tone for our attitude toward suspects in his 2003 State of the Union address. He noted that more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And then he added, “And many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way. They are no longer a problem to the United States …”

He promised to change the tone in Washington, and indeed he has. George W. Bush has refused to honor the Geneva Conventions, just as he has refused to honor UN treaties, the opinions of our allies, the expertise of our own top military leaders, the role of Congress

and the courts, and what Jefferson once described as “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.”

How dare this Administration blame its misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit? How dare they humiliate our nation in the eyes of the world and the conscience of our own people? How dare they drag the good name of the United States through the mud of Saddam Hussein’s torture prison?

The soldiers who are accused of committing atrocities are, of course, responsible for their own actions, and if found guilty, must be severely and appropriately punished. But they are not the ones primarily responsible. Private Lynddie England did not make the decision that the United States could ignore the Geneva Conventions.

AMERICA’S GREATEST EXPORT has always been hope, hope that through the rule of law, people can be free to pursue their dreams. Hope that democracy can supplant suppression. Hope that justice, not power, can be the guiding force of society. Our moral authority in the world derives from this hope.

It is precisely America’s moral authority that is our greatest source of strength. And precisely this authority has been recklessly put at risk. In my religious tradition I was taught in the Book of Matthew, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” We now face a great challenge restoring America’s moral authority in the world. One of the most tragic consequences of these official crimes is that it will be very hard for any of us, as Americans, to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere.

This Administration has shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of freedom and human rights everywhere. I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, “We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility.”

I disagree with Gore when he says that America’s moral authority is our greatest source of strength. When he uses the term ‘moral authority’, it amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking. However, I do agree that America’s greatest export is hope in democracy and justice. However, you cannot force someone to be just. Nor can you force democracy. Democracy has to evolve through a common set of value in diverse opinions and the greater good. The Bush Administration’s brand of ‘Democracy’ simply involves the tacit act of voting. As long as a vote occurs, they call it ‘Democracy’.


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