Freedom’s Just Another Word

Last October Atlanta Journal-Constitution political cartoonist Mike Luckovich drew the word Why? made up of the names of 2,000 troops killed in Iraq. In response, a 17-year-0ld named Danielle Ansley used the names of the dead to render the word Freedom.

Naturally, righties find Danielle’s illustration inspirational and clever, while Lukovich is dismissed as a “moonbat.” So good with words, those righties.

I don’t want to be too hard on a 17-year-old, but I do hope eventually the child learns to think, and not just regurjitate. Not to sound like Tom Cruise, but freedom is too glib. The word has been just about stripped of all meaning and has become little more than a tribal totem, waved about by the likes of Michelle Malkin, an apologist for racially motivated imprisonment. Yeah, that’s freedom for you.

First off, the idea that any American should die deposing a dictator who was no threat to the U.S. is problematic of itself. There were no WMDs; there was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Our soldiers were sent to Iraq thinking they were defending America, and they were not. They were sent to fulfill some cockamamie political theory dreamed up by a pack of over-educated twits at the Project for a New American Century.

Second, whether the people of Iraq, right now, really are more free than they were before the invasion is debatable. Some Iraqis, certainly, are more free. There is more freedom to openly practice Shiia Islam, for example, which is fine. But this Christmas Iraqi Christians were afraid to go to church.

In spite of token rhetoric about women’s rights in the provisional constitution, women are less free than they were when Saddam Hussein was in power. They are less free to walk the streets without a veil. They are less free to marry as they choose. They are less free even to leave their homes. President Bush likes to brag that the invasion closed Saddam Hussein rape rooms; he doesn’t add that the lack of security leaves women more vulnerable to rape and kidnap than they were before. But I guess it doesn’t count if women aren’t raped in “rape rooms,” and the perpetrators are not agents of the state, but just thugs.

In any event, perhaps Danielle Ansley would like to explore the deeper meaning of the word freedom by living as a woman in Iraq (outside the Green Zone) for a while. If she survives, she might learn something about the gap between rhetoric and reality.

As Riverbend wrote,

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.

The bald, hard, bare-assed fact is that the deaths of 2,178 American soldiers (as of today) haven’t brought any measurable amount of freedom to anyone on the planet, except perhaps for the small cadre of men who are getting wealthy from wholesale corruption and war profiteering. In this country, the Bush Administration hides behind the “war on terror” to chip away at the civil liberties preserved in the Bill of Rights. In Iraq, it seems to me that one jackboot is replacing another. I don’t blame American soldiers for this, since most of the oppression right now seems to be Iraqi against Iraqi. One can, however, blame the flaming fools in Washington who sent U.S. soldiers to invade Iraq with next to no plans for post-invasion security.

But what about democracy? What about elections? The fact of the matter is that democracy and freedom are not the same thing. A country can be democratic and still oppress its people; the United States before the Civil War, when millions were enslaved, comes to mind. For that matter, the United States after the Civil War also comes to mind. A majoritarian republic allows the majority to oppress minorities any way it likes. The independent and sovereign Iraq now struggling to be born might technically be a “free” country, but if women must hide behind drapes and veils to avoid being murdered without compunction, then by no definition of the word are they free. Freedom takes more than democratic government; it takes a nation and society committed to the civil liberties of all.

It may be that in the fullness of time Iraq will become a truly free country. And it may have been that in the same fullness of time Iraq would have achieved that happy status without our “help.” We’ll never know what might have been.

But what we can see unfold before our eyes is the appropriation of the word freedom to mean “policies of the Bush Administration.” Perhaps the next word Danielle Ansley should learn is Orwellian.

Update: See also Kathy at Liberty Street.

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Federal Election Commission Stacked With Bush Cronies

Here’s a story that just about slipped through the cracks here on The Mahablog — I overlooked it until I saw this editorial in today’s New York Times

President Bush has announced four nominees for the Federal Election Commission, moving to keep the policing of campaign abuses firmly in the hands of party wheel horses. The timing of the announcement – the president waited until the Senate had gone home – is likely to allow the nominees to avoid the full hearing and confirmation process needed to evaluate them properly.

Holy Diebold!

The most objectionable nominee is Hans von Spakovsky, a former Republican county chairman in Georgia and a political appointee at the Justice Department. He is reported to have been involved in the maneuvering to overrule the career specialists who warned that the Texas gerrymandering orchestrated by Representative Tom DeLay violated minority voting rights. Senators need the opportunity to delve into that, as well as reports of Mr. von Spakovsky’s involvement in such voting rights abuses as the purging of voter rolls in Florida in the 2000 elections.

The nomination of von Spakovsky was announced a couple of weeks ago. I missed it, but John Gideon of the Brad Blog did not:

He is an attorney who is presently the head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section. He is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society, and joined other Bush cronies in the Florida recount battle in 2000, and he is President Bush’s newest recipient of a crony-nomination.

Yeah, this is exactly the guy we need on the bleeping Federal Election Commission. Voters, we are bleeped.

In addition to nominating four new members, Bush moved up a Republican crony already on the FEC to be head of the commission — Michael Toner, a former attorney for Bush ‘s election and the Republican National Committee. A real impartial guy. Toner was named a member of the FEC by Bush via recess appointment in 2002. As head, he will replace Scott Thomas, a Democrat. The New York Times calls Thomas “the one incumbent praised for his independence by Senator John McCain, who has campaigned for a clean, hack-free Federal Election Commission.” Thomas’s term has expired.

Bush named Robert D. Lenhard to be one of the three Democrats to serve on the six-member board. Lenhard was part of a legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. But get this, from Sourcewatch:

“As a lawyer, Lenhard wasn’t able to overturn McCain-Feingold before it took effect, but, as an FEC commissioner, he’ll be able to do the next best thing and try to gut it,” Arianna Huffington wrote December 18, 2005. “But that’s not why I’m obsessing (if I got worked up every time Bush picked a fox to guard a government henhouse, I’d never get anything done!). No, the thing that has my mental wheels in overdrive is the fact that Lenhard is the husband of Viveca Novak — the Time Magazine journalist whose loose lips may end up saving Karl Rove from joining Scooter Libby on Indictment Row.”

Cough. Small world, ain’t it? Mind you, Lenhard is one of the three Democrats on the board who are supposed to be making the board “bipartisan.”

Beside von Spakovsky and Lenhard, the other two nominees are David M. Mason and Steven T. Walther.

Mason, a Republican, has already served one term on the FEC board. He was originally appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 1998. Before joining the FEC Mason had been a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

News stories identify Walther as a political associate of the Senate minority leader Harry Reid.

“By endorsing them, the president has finally shown his commitment to bipartisanship in the worst of ways: by installing another undistinguished group of factotums to referee the democratic process,” says the Times.

Beside Lenhard and Walther, the other Democrat is Danny Lee McDonald, who’s been on the FEC board since 1982.

See also: Ghosts in the Voting Machine and From the New Deal to the Dirty Deal in George Bush’s America.

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