[HCCN] Watchfires of Freedom, by Rob Shetterly

Judith Robbins judy at robbinsandrobbins.com
Wed Dec 16 20:33:28 EST 2009





Watchfires of Freedom --- Burning a President’s Words


Ninety years ago a small group of women led by Alice Paul and Lucy  
Burns set an urn in front of the White House and in it burned the  
words of President Woodrow Wilson. They called their action  
Watchfires of Freedom. Wilson had been extolling the great benefits  
of democracy brought to the world by the bloodbath of World War I. If  
this were true, the women asked, where are our rights? What respect  
does anyone’s words --- especially a president’s --- deserve when  
they are based in hypocrisy? When there is no accountability in  
either the media or the courts for the distortions and lies of  
elected officials, how are citizens supposed to express their disdain?
On December 17th at 5 pm in front of the Federal Building in Bangor a  
group of citizens will burn the words of President Barack Obama from  
his speech justifying the escalation of the War in Afghanistan. We  
will not act to advance the agenda of any political party. Our agenda  
is democracy and truth. It’s an old truism that the first casualty of  
war is truth. It might equally be said that the first casualty of  
untruth is democracy. Democracy is a sacred trust. That trust must  
burn with the pure, transparent clarity of a flame. If a democracy is  
really to be of, by and for the people, the people can only take on  
its responsibility if they know everything their elected officials  
know. How else, then, can they make decisions to devote their  
precious lives and resources to solving their common problems?   
Elected officials who employ fear, patriotism, propaganda and false  
history to mislead their own people have betrayed democracy.

President Barack Obama in his speech of December 1, 2009 calling for  
the escalation of the War in Afghanistan, used multiply duplicities  
about the present and the past to make his case for expending more  
blood and money.

We will enumerate and denounce those lies and distortions, burning  
them as a metaphoric act of destruction, purification and  
transformation. Our acts are ritualistic --- demonstrating immense  
respect for life and an equal abhorrence of deceit.  While the style  
of our president is articulate and persuasive, his content is  
hypocritical and purposely misleading. Our intent is to burn the lies  
and shed light on the truth. George Orwell said, “When deceit becomes  
universal, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”  If truth  
is war’s first casualty, then telling the truth must the harbinger of  
peace and justice.

President Obama said, “The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well- 
known and need not be repeated here.”  It does not bear repeating  
because the  fundamental, though unacknowledged, “debate” was not  
about going to war, but about whether to commit a war crime or not  
--- whether knowingly, by lying to the American people and the  
world’s people, precipitate a crime against humanity, a crime  
designated as such by our own Constitution and our binding treaties.  
And our president has used his persuasive power to insist that this  
real debate should never take place. And that those guilty of  
plotting the crime not be held accountable.

President Obama justifies the war on Afghanistan by the actions of  
9/11. He says the US attacked Afghanistan only after the Taliban  
refused to turn over Osama bin Laden. This is not true.  The Guardian  
reported in October of 2001 that three times the Taliban offered to  
surrender bin Laden and, each time, was rejected by the Bush  
administration. The Bush administration was more intent on war than  
justice.

  Whereas Obama asserts we have no interest in occupying Afghanistan,  
that’s difficult to square with the invasion of troops, contractors,  
CIA agents, and advisors and the construction of an enormous embassy  
in Kabul and over 80 very permanent-looking military installations.
The president says, “We did not ask for this fight,” a statement that  
is disingenuous at best. The great Czech writer Milan Kundera once  
said, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory  
against forgetting.” None of the 9/11 terrorists were from  
Afghanistan. And we are being asked to forget that during the 1990s  
many prominent figures of our military industrial complex spoke of  
the urgent necessity for finding a reason to attack Iraq and  
Afghanistan --- long before 9/11. The reasons for wanting war  
involved control of oil and gas supplies and the enlarging of the  
US’s sphere of imperial power. Perhaps we did not ask for this war,  
but we surely wanted it. Nothing about that situation has changed  
except that what was once a hypothetical desire is now a reality.

Obama said the U.S. has underwritten global security for six  
decades.  We would ask, “Where does the history of Vietnam and the  
2-3 million lost lives fit in that vision?  How secure might the  
people of East Timor, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana, the Congo feel  
after our meddling in those countries?  And has Obama forgotten what  
he admitted in his speech earlier this year in Cairo --- that our CIA  
overthrew the democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 and  
brought back the repressive Shah in order to preserve western oil  
interests?

Most astounding, Obama says, “Unlike the great powers of old, we have  
not sought world domination.”  The facts are otherwise:  a military  
budget equal to if not larger than the rest of the world’s combined,  
over 1000 foreign military installations (while all other countries  
may have 200 total), and a substantial U.S. military presence in over  
100 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Germany, Columbia,  
Italy, & Iraq. The Pentagon calls their plan for military control of  
the world Full Spectrum Dominance.

Truth telling is the only path to political and cultural sanity.  
Without truth telling there will be no democracy, no peace, and no  
justice. Our goal is not to tell truth to power, but to insist, as we  
all must, that power tell the truth. We burn lies to feel the warmth  
of truth.

The Nigerian writer Ben Okri says, “Nations and peoples are largely  
the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories  
that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those  
lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths,  
they will free their histories for future flowerings.”








  
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