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Henry Steele Commager was an American historian and defender of civil liberties. He said:
"Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive."

What we have in the current administration is absolute refusal to not only be held accountable for their actions and policies, but one that won't even allow discussion about them. What we have is an administration that stonewalls any attempt to get the truth out to "We the People", the ones these public servants work for. I was looking at a few examples the other day and was amazed at how often this actually happens. Its one thing to refuse to answer the questions posed to them, but quite another to take the juvenile approach of attacking the messenger.

Here's just a sample of what I found:

MSNBC 8/29/06: In an exclusive interview Tuesday night on "NBC Nightly News," the president said history would vindicate his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and remove President Saddam Hussein from power. But it would consign him to ignominy (which means shame, disgrace or dishonor) if he heeded the calls of critics and much of the public to pull U.S. troops home before democracy could be stabilized in Iraq. (Bush: Anger over war won't change U.S. policy)

Time 1/14/07: Digging in for confrontation, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney said they will not budge from sending thousands more U.S. troops to Iraq no matter how much Congress opposes it. "I fully understand they could try to stop me," Bush said of new Democratic-run Congress. "But I've made my decision. And we're going forward." When asked if the White House was ignoring the will of the American people, Cheney said no president worth his salt would make big decisions based on polls. "You cannot simply stick your finger up in the wind and say, 'Gee, public opinion's against; we'd better quit." (Bush: Critics Won't Halt Iraq Policy, Ben Feller)

ABC News 7/16/06: (Secretary of State) Rice rejected the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq have shaken Middle East stability... "and so the notion that somehow policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque." (Rice Defends Israel, Calls Criticisms of Bush Policy "Grotesque", Ed O'Keefe)

Press conference 9/15/06: Terence Hunt asks: Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.

TH: Can I just follow up?

THE PRESIDENT: No, you can't. (Whitehouse website)

CNN 4/18/06: Pressed to respond to critics who say he is ignoring the advice of respected former military commanders, Bush vigorously stood by Rumsfeld. "I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision," he said. "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. (Bush: I'm the decider on Rumsfeld)

Washington Post, 10/27/06: With his chorus of critics expanding deeper into Republican ranks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told detractors yesterday to pull back as U.S. and Iraqi officials grapple with the uncertainties of laying out Iraq's course. "You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult," Rumsfeld said, appearing unusually combative as he sparred with reporters at the Pentagon. (Rumsfeld Tells Iraq Critics to "Back Off", Jonathan Weisman and Ann Scott Tyson)

CNN 1/25/07: In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, conducted a day after Bush delivered his State of the Union address, Cheney was asked to respond to some Republicans in Congress who "are now seriously questioning your credibility, because of the blunders and the failures."
To that, Cheney answered, "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash."
Cheney said the administration is committed to moving ahead with its plan to send more troops to Baghdad, even if Congress passes a resolution in opposition. "It won't stop us," he said. (Cheney: Talk of blunders in Iraq is "hogwash")

National Journal 4/27/06: The CIA has imposed new and tighter restrictions on the books, articles, and opinion pieces published by former employees who are still contractors with the intelligence agency. According to several former CIA officials affected by the new policy, the rules are intended to suppress criticism of the Bush administration and of the CIA. ("Silencing The Squeaky Wheels")

MSNBC 11/17/05: In the sharpest White House attack yet on critics of the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday that accusations the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the war were a "dishonest and reprehensible" political ploy.
Cheney called Democrats "opportunists" who were peddling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" to gain political advantage while U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. (Cheney calls war critics "opportunists")

Los Angeles Times 8/30/06: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warning Tuesday that the United States is confronting "a new type of fascism."
Rumsfeld, speaking before the American Legion convention, delivered some of his most explicit and extended attacks yet on the administration's critics, provoking criticism from furious Democrats who accused him of "campaigning on fear."
By comparing U.S. foreign policy with World War II and the Cold War, Rumsfeld sought to portray skeptics of Bush's foreign policy as being on the wrong side of history. Rumsfeld again ridiculed U.S. officials who, before World War II, wished to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. (Rumsfeld: Bush critics similar to Nazi appeasers, Julian Barnes)

I am a firm believer in the adage that it is "We the People" who have the true power and that elected representatives are just that; representatives. Although they may perceive themselves to be our leaders, and others may perceive them to be so as well, they are merely public servants. Politicians work for us and are accountable to us. By shutting out the dissenting voices, they thwart the whole democratic process.

The Declaration of Independence states that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Shutting down criticism disallows that power of the governed, us, you and me. I find this not only unethical, but destructive as well. Destructive to our form of government. Destructive to "We the People." When dialog ceases to exist, and critics are made out to be nothing more than a fringe group unworthy of attention, the political process ceases as well. It is even more unethical when that so called fringe group is actually a majority. The political process should allow all parties a voice. Perhaps not an equal voice, but certainly not one that eliminates a portion, often a majority of participants, to have their voices not only heard, but addressed. The current administration has taken that option off the table.

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, said:
"All men having power ought to be mistrusted."
I'd like to think that is too cynical, but I'm beginning to think we need to take his words to heart.

I suspect that most of you are familiar with the movie, "The Matrix", so I won't elaborate, but will quote what is perhaps the most well known line from the movie:
Morpheus says to Neo: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

We can, and should, think critically about any information presented. We are in control of our thoughts unless we allow others to take that power from us. In an age of information overload and sound bite attention spans, it requires an effort to ferret out the truth rather than accept things at face value. The choice to take the red pill is ours; if we accept that responsibility. The alternative is to turn that power over to others, but doing so gives others power over you. I'm suggesting that we never relinquish that power. Never take the blue pill.

Morpheus says: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
Neo asks: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus responds: You've never used them before.

My hope is that we will use our eyes and see how the current administration is going beyond secrecy and telling us and the press to go screw ourselves; that we don't matter, by not allowing dissenting or critical voices to be heard, and refuse to accept that as valid.

One last quote, from Stephen Biko, an anti-apartheid activist:
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".

Free your minds. Stand up and be counted. Make your voices heard.
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Mark Petersen has a B. A. in Speech Communications/Public Address & Rhetoric and is currently a Master of Humanities candidate in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Denver. His writing and (more...)
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