An Open letter to George W. Bush
Reflections on Patriotism
September 3, 2006
An Open letter to George W. Bush
On August 14, 2006, following the devastating attacks on the cities and citizens of Lebanon, America's best-known Lebanese-American, consumer activist Ralph Nader, sent this stinging letter to George W. Bush.
The widespread destruction of a defenseless Lebanon -- its civilians, its life-sustaining public services, its environment -- is a grim and indelible testament to your consummate cruelty and ignorance.
Nearly two weeks ago, when your tardy Secretary of State met with the Israeli Prime Minister, the message she carried was summarized in a large headline across page one of an Israeli newspaper, "TAKE YOUR TIME."
Yes, take your time, says George W. Bush, pulverizing fleeing refugees in cars full of families, bombing apartment buildings, hospitals and the poor huddled in large south Beirut slums.
Take your time, says George W. Bush, in destroying bridges, roads, gasoline stations, airports, seaports, wheat silos, vehicles with medical supplies, clearly marked ambulances taking the wounded to clinics, even a milk factory.
Take your time, says George W. Bush, while shelters are demolished with bodies of little children together with their mothers and fathers buried in the rubble.
Take your time, says George W. Bush, while the number of fleeing refugees nears one million Lebanese, many exposed to hunger, disease, lack of potable water and medicines. All this in a country friendly to the United States, which played by your rules, protested the Syrian army back into Syria and was trying democratically to put itself together.
Take your time, says George W. Bush, while he speeds more supplies of precision missiles containing deadly anti-personnel cluster bombs which will claim the lives of innocent children for years into the future. The phosphorous bombs laying waste to fields growing crops and horribly burning innocents come from the U.S.A. under your direction.
Do you think the taxpayers of America would approve of such shipped weapons were they ever asked?
Are there words in the English language suitable for the impeachable serial war crimes you are intimately involved in committing not only in Iraq but also now through your encouragement and supplying of the once again invading Israeli government?
Are there words to describe your strategic stupidity which will further increase opposition and peril to the United States around the world and especially in the Middle East? Your own Generals and former CIA Director, Porter Goss, among others in your Administration, have declared that your occupation of Iraq is a magnet attracting the recruiting and training of more and more "terrorists" from Iraq and other countries. And so now this will be the case in Lebanon. All this is a growing "blowback," to use the CIA word for a boomeranging foreign policy, that is endangering the security of the United States.
The calibrated Israeli terror bombing of Lebanon comes in three stages. With its electronic pinpoint precision bombing and artillery, the Israeli government goes after civilians, their homes, cities, towns and villages. Then after telling some to abandon their neighborhoods, it cuts population centers off from each other by destroying transportation facilities into and inside Lebanon, making both refugee flight and delivery of emergency relief efforts either impossible or very difficult.
Then its planes, tanks and artillery endanger or destroy what food, water and relief efforts manage to get through to the injured and dying. Warehouse food supplies are incinerated. About four hundred small fishing boats north of Beirut on the oil-polluted coastline were demolished as well.
All the above mayhem and much more have been reported in the U.S., European, Lebanese and Israeli media. The bulk of the fatalities in Lebanon have been civilians. The bulk of the fatalities on the Israeli side have been soldiers. Very fortunately for the Israelis, the Hezbollah rockets are very inaccurate, the vast majority falling harmlessly.
Unfortunately for the Lebanese, the precision American armaments of the Israelis are very accurate, which serves to account for why the total casualties and physical destruction are 100 times greater in Lebanon than in Israel.
Most of these accurate munitions come from your decision to send them. Knowing they will be used for offensive purposes, including the lethal demolition of a long-established UN compound, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act which you have sworn to uphold, places the responsibility of being a domestic law breaker squarely on your shoulders.
There is another law that is not being enforced -- the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act of 1996 sponsored by then Republican Senator Robert Dole. Foreign aid is supposed to be cut off to any nation that obstructs the provision of humanitarian aid to another country. As one example, press reports that two tankers, each with 30,000 tons of diesel fuel critical for operating Lebanese hospitals and water pumping stations, are idling in Cyprus from fear of the totally dominant Israeli navy and air force.
There are only a few days left of fuel in Lebanon, which is heading for a larger wave of secondary casualties. They and other critical suppliers need safe passage which the U.S. Navy in the area can readily provide, should it receive orders from the Commander in Chief.
You heard high Israeli officials accurately say on the day the massive bombing of Lebanon began, followed not preceded by Hezbollah rockets, that "nothing in Lebanon is safe." That huge over-reaction to the recent Hezbollah border raid, in addition to many more previous air, sea and land border violations by the Israeli government, certainly put you on public notice.
Since you view yourself as a reborn Christian, and since you have the power to stop the Israeli state terror assaults on Lebanon, you may wish to reflect on Leviticus 19:16 "Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor." Lebanon was a friendly country to you and you have stood by not just idly, but willfully aiding and abetting its devastation.
Reflections on Patriotism
Julia Butterfly Hill (Independence Day 2005)
I am ashamed of my government. I am ashamed that we have made a mockery of our Bill of Rights by allowing the newly reauthorized and expanded "Patriot" Act to give our government near-absolute authority to define dissent as "terrorism."
I am ashamed that my President speaks about "liberty," "freedom," and "democracy" yet our country continues to carry forward a centuries-long agenda of environmental destruction, social inequity, imperialism, and violence.
I am ashamed that regardless of scientific evidence pointing to global warming and peak oil production, we aren't making any significant strides towards a sustainable new society where all of us can thrive together in harmony with nature.
I am ashamed that these atrocities, and thousands more, happen in my name.
Yet this Independence Day, I am reclaiming the term patriot for all of us who don't agree with the status quo. Rather than looking at our options as set out in George W. Bush's proclamation: "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists," I choose instead the words of American essayist, Edward Abbey: "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
On Independence Day, we remember our founding fathers who stood up for what they believed in and risked their lives to set in motion the country we live in today. We celebrate them with fireworks, picnics and parades. But these were ordinary people who fought against the tyranny of the English government, denouncing the status quo.
America's legacy of patriotism includes other ordinary people, summoning the courage to speak out when our most treasured values and principles are threatened. Some of the most inspiring patriots I can think of include Rosa Parks, who, 50 years ago, demanded that she as a black woman be accorded the same dignity as everyone else riding the bus; people like Cesar Chavez, who took a daring stand in the fields for a better life for all farm workers; and people like Camilo Mejía, who was the first U.S. soldier to actively resist the Iraq War, relinquishing his own freedom in the process.
Indeed, every right we often take for granted today is the result of people who have acted courageously to help create a more humane and inclusive America. From women's suffrage, to civil rights, to today's movements for peace, sustainability, and global justice, concerned people have shown that activism is not only patriotic -- it's essential to making our country and the world a better place.
We cannot allow those in government to unilaterally create our country and our world. Each of us has precious talents to offer and can use those gifts to create positive change -- whether that action is voting, organizing, gardening, dancing, speaking out, writing letters, volunteering with a local cause, or engaging in direct action and civil disobedience.
I sat in a redwood tree for 2 years without coming down in order to protest the destruction of our nations' ancient forests. People come up to me and tell me all the time, "Wow, Julia, I never could have done that." And I respond, honestly, "Neither could I." In fact, when I climbed the tree, I planned to stay there for only a couple of weeks, or maybe a month. Each day, I made a new choice to stay in that tree. But for two years and eight days, the call of activism rang far louder in my ears than the call of clean sheets and a comfortable bed.
This Independence Day is a perfect time to allow yourself to hear the call of activism. It is a perfect time to reclaim patriotism -- regardless of your political point of view. Find that action that drives you day in and day out to make our country and our world a better place for all life.
Choose to participate in local revitalization efforts, voter registration drives, teach-ins, debates, marches and other events. Commit yourself to smiling at everyone you pass one day, or to picking up every piece of trash on your block. Become one of the millions of people utilizing their minds, money, voices and votes to create a better country and a better world. I promise when you find the actions that call to you most powerfully, your excitement and passion will be powerfully contagious.
And to help you out, the nonprofit, Circle of Life, has assembled some of the best grassroots resources for activism in the country, at www.activismispatriotism.org.
You, yes you, make an enormous difference. Your country and your world need you -- now more than ever. From every mountainside, let activism ring!
Julia Butterfly Hill is an activist and the bestselling author of The Legacy of Luna. In 1999, while still living in the giant redwood Luna, she founded Circle of Life (www.circleoflife.org) to promote conscious action toward a peaceful, just and sustainable planet.
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