Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 20 June 16 - 22, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
the share in total income of the bottom half of the population fell from 20.3%
in 1988 to 17.8% in 2000, the share cornered by the top fifth actually rose from
51.8% to 54.8%. This stunning and worsening inequality is brute affirmation that
the rich have it good even when times are bad.
16 June, 2002
Reverend Jerry Vines, senior pastor of the Jacksonville, FL First Baptist
Church, spoke to thousands of the faithful at the Southern Baptist pastors
conference in St. Louis this past Monday. In his remarks, Vines stated that,
"Islam is not just as good as Christianity." Vines went on to decry
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, as, "A demon-possessed pedophile who had
twelve wives - and his last one was a nine-year-old girl."
Reverend Jack Graham, newly elected president of the Southern Baptist
Convention, seemed to speak for the congregation as a whole when questioned
about Vines' remarks. "His statement is actually a statement that can be
confirmed,'' said Graham. ''I believe the statement is an accurate
was by no means the main event of this conference. That Wednesday, George W.
Bush graced the pastors with his presence via satellite link. His image smiled
down upon them from a huge screen. "I want to thank all of you for your
good works," Bush told them. "You're believers, and you're patriots,
faithful followers of God and good citizens of America. And one day, I believe
that it will be said of you, 'Well done, good and faithful servants.'"
pastors, to make a bad pun, went into raptures as Bush spoke. The message was
clear: The President stands with them. Vines' patriotic work spreading
xenophobia and religious intolerance across the nation had earned him the title
of patriot. The Southern Baptists are already politically powerful - House
Majority Whip Tom DeLay is a member of the Texas congregation - and Bush's words
only reinforced the belief they hold in their own rectitude.
simple bigotry within Vines' statements would be laughable if it were not so
appalling. Imagine the outrage that would pour forth if someone were to claim
that all Christians on earth are on the same moral level of belief as Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson, who blamed the September 11th attacks on gays,
feminists and the ACLU. Imagine if someone called Jesus Christ a
"demon-possessed" individual who consorted with known whores.
appearance in a place where intolerance and hatred are preached by Christian
spiritual leaders underscores the central crisis facing America today. America
is a great nation. The attacks of September 11th did not only take life and
destroy property, however. The attacks have brought us to a place where we are
unsure of the validity and sustainability of our most basic freedoms.
Due to a catastrophic failure of leadership at the highest levels, Americans are no longer sure which way is up. We have lost our sense of moral clarity. Our freedom to ask questions without fear of reprisal has been cast into a well of doubt that is made all the more darker by homespun threats and intimidation.
Ashcroft's announcement that an American named Jose Padilla had been arrested
for plotting to explode a low-yield "dirty" radioactive device in a
major American city set the nation on tense edge. The White House has since
reprimanded Ashcroft, stating that the threat was minimal and that his
predictions of "mass death and injury" were off the mark. Padilla had
been arrested a month earlier. It quickly became clear that he was little more
than a petty criminal who talked a good game, but lacked the resources to blow
up much of anything.
Rumsfeld and Cheney have been telling everyone that will listen in recent weeks
of impending doom, inevitable biological attacks, suicide bombers on American
streets, and the looming destruction of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn
Bridge. This spate of warnings came hot on the heels of revelations about
security breakdowns before 9/11, FBI agents who were starting to talk, and a
Congressional inquiry into it all. Even within a badly compromised media, a
sense that the administration is purposefully jarring Americans with these
warnings to deflect heat, and to cow the Democratic opposition, has begun to
fester openly. Ashcroft's gaffe has only exacerbated this.
are now subject to a government that will terrorize them in order to further
whatever agenda happens to present itself at the moment. More often than not,
that agenda is about protecting the Bush administration from criticism about the
catastrophe that was their preparedness for 9/11. The administration and its
security apparatus was warned, repeatedly and in detail, by foreign intelligence
services about an impending stateside attack. They failed to act, and now scare
Americans into forgetting to ask the hard questions about this. There is no
moral clarity here, but only a base instinct for self preservation that shames
loss of our moral clarity has left us in such dire straits that we do not even
need a fear-mongering government to slap us into line. On far too many occasions
of late, we do this to ourselves in the name of 'patriotism.'
this Friday, Ohio State University held its graduation ceremony. George W. Bush
was the commencement speaker. Students there had organized a Turn Your Back On
Bush protest to signal their disregard for his war and the shredding of civil
liberties at home, and had marked their mortarboards with taped-on peace symbols
so each could know the other. At the moment Bush was to appear on the podium,
these protesters would, simply and eloquently, turn their backs to him.
Eyewitnesses at the scene state that they were unable to count the number of
peace symbols, because there were too many to be counted.
Before the students were led into Ohio Stadium for the ceremony, however, an announcement from the school administration was made. Students who turned their backs on Bush faced expulsion from the ceremony, denial of diploma, and arrest. Staff members, police officers and Secret Service agents would be watching. As they entered the stadium, the students were told to "cheer loudly for President Bush." Despite all this, the protesters planned to go ahead with their action.
protester never got the opportunity to see how it came off. When the moment
arrived, he stood and turned his back on Bush. Before he could assess how many
others around him were doing the same, he was hustled out of the stadium by a
Columbus police officer and a Secret Service agent. He was told that if he left
peacefully, he would not be arrested for "disturbing the peace."
Because he had his daughter with him, he wisely avoided detainment.
so it goes. Who needs a PATRIOT Act when ordinary Americans - educators, no less
- will happily suppress, with threats of arrest and the denial of future
employment, any views contrary to those espoused by the government. The Bush
administration was likely more than pleased with OSU's actions on Friday, for
they govern by the same principles. This government does not lead with hope and
promise, but with fear. They are the purveyors of night sweats and bad dreams.
They are profiteers in the boneyard.
boneyard they use for their gain, however, is haunted. It is haunted by Katy
Soulas, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center. It is haunted by Mary
Fetchet, who lost her son. It is haunted by nearly one hundred parents,
brothers, sisters, and children of the 9/11 victims who rallied outside Congress
this past Tuesday to urge an independent investigation into the attacks. They
came as the Congressional inquiries, which Bush believes "understand the
obligation of upholding our secrets," met behind closed doors.
these families, the secretive nature of these hearings is insufficient. A
picture appearing aside the Washington Post's report of the rally showed one
family member holding aloft a sign which read, "Bush & Cheney Left D.C.
For Over A Month, Bush in Florida 9/11, Ashcroft Stops Flying Commercial
Airplanes." Only an independent investigation, free of political influence,
will suit them. They know too much.
moral clarity of these families is beyond question. They do not launch bigoted
attacks against Islam, and they do not wish to turn the deaths of their loved
ones into some sort of boon. They seek to make sure that nothing like September
11th ever happens again, and believe an all-inclusive unrestrained investigation
is the only way to achieve this. Beside them at the rally were Democratic
Senators Schumer, Clinton and Lieberman, along with House Minority Leader
Gephardt. Each affirmed the demands of the families by stating that the ongoing
inquiry is not enough.
are hard to come by these days. These families, however, are a beacon of light
in the darkness. The Democratic Congresspeople who stood with them deserve
highest praise, as do Democratic House members Barbara Lee, Cynthia McKinney and
Dennis Kucinich, who stepped forward to question the ways and means of this
terror war long ago. Those who faced down the threat of arrest at OSU on Friday
are an inspiration to us all.
is a beginning. Many within the opposition still fear to speak openly of their
doubts about Bush and his administration. Those who do get short shrift from the
national media - CSPAN, which covers virtually every event in Washington, failed
to afford coverage to the 9/11 families' protest and the Democratic leaders who
attended. Concern that opposition to Bush will translate into defeat at the
polls, and frustration at a news media that tirelessly suppresses stories which
cut against the grain of the terror war, are obstacles that desperately need to
Bush and his people would have us believe in a black-and-white world of clear good and clear evil. Though such premises are hopelessly simplified, their actions are actually bringing about the setting of such straightforward divisions. Bush stands on one side, praising bigoted religious xenophobia, speaking of secrets while whispering of disaster. The families of 9/11 victims, along with a few bold Democrats and the students at OSU, stand across from them seeking the truth and demanding a country of principles. In between them lies the moral clarity that will save us all, if its imperatives are heeded.
William Rivers Pitt is a frequent contributor to t r u t h o u t.