The Progressive By John Paul Culotta
John Paul Culotta is a New York City native who has traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Active in union activities as a negotiator, he is a graduate of the parochial schools and of the City University. Cullot lists Pope John Paul, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Jerry Lewis among those he admires most.
Stuart Mirsky’s recent column ("Politics and Disclosure") was a diatribe about Democrats past, present and those not yet in the womb. All Americans suffered as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The victims and their families were Democrats, Republicans and independents. President Bush and his minions now appear to be saying that any criticism of his administration’s handling of the war against terrorism is unpatriotic and/or an assistance to our foes.
Let’s take a look at the historic precedents. Wartime presidents have traditionally be criticized for their handling of the war effort.
Lincoln was harshly criticized during the Civil War. He constantly changed generals as a result of that criticism. Honest Abe criticized the war with Mexico. That war is still controversial today.
Samuel Clemens, whose pen name was Mark Twain, wrote scathingly of the purpose of the war. Twain said that the war with Mexico would taint the American Flag, stating that Euro peans would begin calling the Stars and Stripes a "pirate flag" as a result of the war.
Woodrow Wilson suppressed criticism during World War I by jailing Eugene V. Debs, the head of the Socialist Party, fearing that the Socialists might become a viable third party. Critics of all stripes considered Debs a "political prisoner."
A Republican president, Warren G. Harding, finally released Debs, an action that was popular at the time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was criticized when we fought the fascists. In fact – one of his critics was Harry Truman. Truman criticized the profiteering of some of Roosevelt’s corporate friends. We need not speak of Vietnam.
Political criticism of a sitting Pres ident during a time of war is part of the democratic tradition. Elections have been held during periods of strife throughout our history. We need this exchange of views more than ever – considering the expenditure of Amer ican lives and economic resources. To imply that this critique or analysis is just politics as usual is to belittle our democratic processes.
Recent disclosures by Richard Clarke, the analysis of Hans Blix, the testimony of the CIA chief before the 9/11 committee is in the parvenu of political disclosure. Senator McCain, a republican, felt the need to say he did not feel Mr. Kerry was weak on defense. Many of former President Clinton’s advisers have testified before the 9/11 committee that they warned the incoming of the Al-Qaeda threat.
Both political parties are capable of chicanery and manipulation to achieve their goals. The American people will decide in November which party can lead this nation. All major issues need to be discusses.
In wartime, it is historical precedent for Presidents to invite members of the opposition to be part of their administrations. Bush has no prominent Demo crat in his administration. He has not properly used the positive global sentiment toward the United States after 9/11. France and Germany sent troops to Afghanistan. Our allies have a vested interest to fight Al-Qaeda. The terrorist attacks before 9/11 were mainly on European and Middle Eastern soil. There is nothing to gain by negating their support and input.
As to Mr. Mirsky’s assertion that the economy is roaring back and jobs may soon be generated, this is little solace to our unemployed. He states the deficit is not the worst in history considering the size of the current economy. Not all the Republicans in Con gress agree with him. They are seeking to reduce spending. If deficits do not matter, why do we need to reduce Social Security payouts? Why do we need to charge veterans when they use veteran hospitals?
As to the question of Mr. Hussein, the reason we were told war against his regime was that he was an immediate threat to our shores and that he supported terrorism. This has been determined to be bogus according to people in the intelligence community. American lives have been lost, others have been injured, children have been burned by cluster bombs, economic expenditures increase daily and the results are hardly positive. Al-Qaeda is now in Iraq when previously the terrorist organization was an enemy of Hussein.
All of the world but especially our allies in Europe showed solidarity and support after 9/11. Massive demonstrations and government actions by our allies were touching. After 3/11 this country showed little solidarity for the victims of the attacks in Madrid. The administration did not feel the need to show support in a demonstrative way.
America is assured of a vicious, dirty, political campaign this year. This is how democracy works. Criticism is part of the process. Asking embarrassing questions is imperative. We cannot export democracy is we do not practice it at home.