Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Plus ça change

A number of bloggers, columnists, and other assorted wordy-type people already have variously analyzed, picked apart, and dismissed Shrub's Veteran's Day speech attacking those who criticize his war policies, so there is no need for me to go over that same ground. I did, however, want to provide a little historical perspective of a déjà vu sort, courtesy of two old copies of a right-wing news digest I came across the other day.

On the one hand, we have:

November 11, 2005: George Bush called his congressional critics "deeply irresponsible."
"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges," Bush said. ...

"These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will.

"As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."
And of course there is the White House gang's continuing opposition to Congressional attempts to put limitations on their "freedom" to conduct the War on Terror(c)(reg.)(pat.pend.) any way they damn well please.

But on the other hand, we have:

June 20, 1970: Spiro Agnew accused eight well-known critics of Nixon's Vietnam War policy of being "apologists" for North Vietnam who favor an American surrender in Southeast Asia. He called Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and J. William Fulbright (D-AR) "Hanoi's most effective - even if unintentional - apologists today." Fulbright, he said, was trying to "forge ... legislative shackles that would deny the president the authority and freedom he needs to protect American troops in the field and to win an honorable and just peace." He called the critics "failures" who "may have developed a psychological addiction to an American defeat."

September 16, 1970: Richard Nixon denounced "mindless destruction and terror" in the US, saying "terrorists" share "not only a contempt for human life but also a contempt for those elemental decencies on which a free society rests." He also attacked those who "excuse or apologize for the terrorists in the streets and on the campuses ... when this happens, the community ... loses its integrity and corrupts its soul."

September 16, 1970: Spiro Agnew assailed those who favor amnesty for Vietnam-era draft resisters. "There is a segment of our society that embraces amnesty as a way of life. This segment is represented far beyond its numbers in the United States Senate. This little band of men is guided by a policy of calculated weakness. They vote to weaken our defenses, they vote to weaken our moral fiber, they vote to weaken the forces of law. They were raised on a book by Dr. Spock, and a paralyzing permissive philosophy pervades every policy they espouse."

September 17, 1970: Attorney General John Mitchell declared that various US-based groups are "working on a national basis" to carry out terrorist acts in cities and on campuses.

September 17, 1970: Rep. William Cramer (R-FL) introduced a bill to make killing a police officer a capital offense under federal law, claiming attacks on police are "part of a nationwide plan by the radical revolutionaries, aimed at the ultimate overthrow of our government."

By the way, the same issues of the magazine also referred to Cesar Chavez as a "pro-communist agitator," called the New York Times "one of the best propaganda outlets the communists have in the United States," and labeled Ken Gibson, newly-elected as the first black mayor of a major northeastern city (Newark, NJ), "the 'moderate' front man for the radical Left."

So yes, my friends, we have been through this before. The "terrorist threat." The "don't tie the president's hands" argument. The "defeatists" in their "weakness" sending "wrong signals" in the face of an enemy out to "destroy our way of life." We've heard it all before and in some cases, rather more eloquently. But experience shows that when these sorts of claims are made, when the accusations against even establishment figures escalate, it's because the forces in power are in trouble: They are losing - or have already lost - the argument, and they know it.

That is to minimize neither the urgency nor the dangers of the present moment, but only to provide a bit of energy, a bit of inspiration, to carry on. Because:

November, 1970: William Cramer tries to move from the House to the Senate in a campaign in which he "had the entire Nixon administration stumping for him." He lost to Lawton Chiles.

October 10, 1973: Spiro Agnew resigns after pleading nolo contendere to charges of tax fraud.

August 9, 1974: Richard Nixon resigns after it becomes clear he will be impeached for obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal.

February 21, 1975: John Mitchell is convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up; he is sentenced to two and a-half to eight years in prison.

Carry it on.

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