A July Fourth Call to Arms
July 3, 2006
Editor's Note: Urged on by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, right-wing pundits, politicians and radio talk-show hosts are denouncing -- and trying to intimidate -- the New York Times and other mainstream news organizations that have begun to show some independence in reporting about the "war on terror."
Hurling charges of "treason" and threatening prosecution of editors, this right-wing assault appears to have two key goals: first, to reestablish Bush's monopoly over which secrets can be released and which ones can't, and second, to rile up the Republican base for the congressional elections in November.
In this guest essay, political analyst Brent Budowsky criticizes this assault on independent journalism as an affront to the democratic vision of the Founders, who -- more than two centuries ago -- recognized that the patriotic role of a free press was to keep the American people as fully informed as possible:
As America celebrates July Fourth -- honoring Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and the other Founding Fathers who committed treason against tyranny and defeated an empire of kings with the power of freedom and truth -- we are reminded again of the preeminent importance of the First Amendment to a nation governed by the informed consent of a democratic people.
Every day in every newsroom these matters are debated endlessly, and
decisions are made, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but the charge of treason
is different, the sign of a darker impulse in a politics increasingly dominated
by demeaning tactics that violate the cardinal rules of the legacy left to us by
the greatest collection of minds who ever sat together on earth, in 1776, and
We have a President who claims the inherent, presumptive power to abrogate provisions of the Constitution and throw aside the Bill of Rights, a monarchical power he literally asserts with a doctrine championed by our current Attorney General.
Those who do not agree, are charged with treason, and threatened with prison. We have a President who claims more than 700 times that he can break the very laws he signs, and those who challenge this are called traitors, and threatened with retribution. We have an Attorney General who believes the Geneva Convention, championed by virtually all in the military who our President falsely claims he always heeds, is some quant relic of the past, and those who reveal the truth of abuses are called unpatriotic, enemies of the state, and threatened with investigation.
Our answer to 9/11 must be to unite our people to kill the terrorists who genuinely threaten us, not to divide our country with charges of treason, not to create a hidden secret regime of secret prisons, secret defendants, secret
courts, secret trials, secret spying on our fellow Americans, secret intrusions on personal freedom, secret policies by secretive partisans who disrespect the very notion of democratic debate, destroy the very institutions of checks
and balances, and demean and threaten those who dissent and even those who hold majority views in a nation that demonstrates its strong disapproval, in every poll.
Some of these secrets are valid, some not, but taken together these aggressive attacks against time-honored practices and time-honored values are a dangerous departure from our democratic tradition.
These deviations from our democracy create far more divisions and dangers than a foreign enemy that will never defeat us, but is used as pretext for treating our neighbors as enemies, fomenting a politics of fear, twisting war from a mission that should unite the nation into an unprecedented weapon of partisanship that abuses the national trust, with charges of treason unbecoming any commander in chief, or any partisan who acts in his name.
Freedom of the press, with all its flaws, protects a freedom that involves three branches of government, not one; gives voice to a politics that includes two parties, not one; informs a citizenry that defends freedom with bravery,
rather than surrendering freedom after appeals to fear.
Freedom of the press, with all the petty corruptions of the old media and Wild West styles of the new, gives voice to an America where many voices are singing, where many opinions are heard, where many truths are told.
Editors, publishers, readers, viewers, citizens of our Republic: our cities may be bombed but our freedoms will never be taken by terrorists, they can only be surrendered by ourselves.
It is time to man the barricades of democracy in defense of all three branches of government and the Fourth Estate, in the defense of the 200-year-old notion that we are indeed in this together, that we share a democracy of
fellow patriots where the voices that charge treason are not the voices of true Americanism, and that Thomas Paine's greatest sun that ever shined on earth is now ours to preserve, protect and defend in a nation of fellow patriots on a common mission, based on courageous search for truth defended by courageous heroism in war.
God Bless America. Happy Fourth of July.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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