Friday, January 21, 2005

Kaplan rips the inaugural address

Give Me Liberty or Give Me... What? - The muddle in Bush's inaugural address. By Fred Kaplan

No, it wasn't a great speech. It was a disturbing speech.
... Whatever freedom is, how do we go about spreading it? The president said in his speech that the mission "is not primarily the task of arms," though he added that sometimes it must be. If not with arms, then how do we spread freedom? With rhetorical encouragement? Bush's answer was intriguing: "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." The United States will also "encourage reform" in repressive governments "by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. … Start on this journey of progress and justice," President Bush told these rogue leaders, "and America will walk on your side."

This sort of talk raises three questions. First, does the president really know what he's saying here? In 1956, the Voice of America encouraged the rebels of Hungary to rise up against their Communist regime, and when they did so, they were mowed down; the United States did not come to their aid and had no ability to do so. In 1991, George Bush's father encouraged the Shiite rebels of southern Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein, and after the Iraqi army was expelled from Kuwait and the war declared over, Saddam mowed down the rebels; the United States did not come to their aid. If the leaders of a democratic underground in some dictatorship hear this speech and rise up tomorrow against their own tyrants, will George W. Bush "stand with" them? Really?...
When Kaplan's done, there's not much left of Bush's inaugural address.

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