William Cook: A Personal Declaration of Independence

By William A. Cook

“If there’s any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it’s flawed logic … 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.” (President George W. Bush, Sept. 15, 2006  report by AP’s Terence Hunt)

Citizens of the United States of America bear an awesome responsibility to maintain control of their government’s behavior since that government derives its powers from the consent granted it by the citizens. When the government ceases to act in accord with the dictates of the respective consciences of its citizens as determined by its foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights — , when it violates the established principles that give this nation legitimacy before the nations of the world through mutually accepted agreements, charters, and conventions, when it abrogates the inalienable rights granted the citizens by the Creator, when it declares unequivocally that the citizens cannot dissent with an action or actions taken by the government, then it is the right and the duty of the citizen to “alter or abolish” that government.
For the past five years, the present government of the United States, including the Executive branch, the Congress and the Senate, has committed a “long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object (that) evinces a design to reduce them (the citizens) under absolute despotism.” As a citizen of these United States for 70 years, I refuse to be ruled by a tyrant who imposes despotic, autocratic control on the citizens of these United States through a series of clandestine actions that usurp the rights of the people.

I refuse to accept as my government actions by the current administration and its obsequious servants, the Republican Congress and the Republican Senate, that include
* spying on its citizens without their knowledge or consent, an action contrary to existing law;

* elimination of personal privacy through the Patriot Act, an action that presumes culpability, not innocence until proven guilty;

* preemptive invasion of other nations determined by the unilateral judgment of an all powerful executive that eviscerates the power of the peoples’ representatives;

* acts of extrajudicial execution and the abandonment of rule by law thereby making the President, in effect, judge, jury and executioner;
* acts of torture and the unilateral infliction of “acceptable” torture techniques thus casting America before the world as an amoral nation beholden to no international agreement and placing at risk the soldiers who defend it;

* imposition of illegal actions of war instituted through an orchestrated control of lies communicated to the citizenry thereby negating their democratic right to know that they might vote in accord with their conscience;

* levying an incredible tax burden on the citizens to pay for the consequences of these lies that will cost them and their children dearly for decades to come while corporations reap a windfall of profit from closed bids and corruption;

* infliction of a forced military occupation on a nation against the desires of its people and enabling that occupation to use illegal weapons of war contrary to the Geneva Conventions thus implicating its citizens in acts against humanity;

* development of diverse nuclear weaponry in direct violation of the UN Charter even as it decries other nations for attempting to acquire their own nuclear weaponry;

* acceptance, indeed, complete complicity and support of the barbaric and genocidal actions of the state of Israel against the people of Palestine, and most recently, and most deplorably, the abandonment of all pretense to the behavior of a civilized nation through its almost unanimous acceptance of a resolution written by the American Israeli Political Action Committee to endorse the Israeli state’s wanton destruction of the state of Lebanon.       

These are not the actions of a democratic state; these are the actions of an autocratic state, an amoral state, an arrogant state that rules by force and acts more ruthlessly than the “extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective,” negating by its actions the unthinkable comparison the President decried.

For six years I have tracked the deception of this government as it surreptitiously acted to acquire more and more power by instilling in the American people the fear necessary to propel the autocrat to absolute power. Fear suppresses individual inquiry even as it enables control of the people, ostensibly to provide protection for them. Fear creates victims, especially in the minds of those who have not been violated. It is the unknown, what might be that metastasizes into the mental slave, the compliant citizen who marches to the drum of those who would control a society. It is the instrument of tyrants and dictators.

This government hobbles its citizens by using fear to manipulate their belief in end time prophecy, by implanting fear of imminent threat from “Islamofacist” fanatics, and by immersing the people in a false sense of “victim hood” that links them with the state of Israel as the only “friend” in the mid-east suffering from the same terrorist scourge. It is time to dispel this fear that enslaves. It is time to declare that this government no longer serves the people, that, indeed, it surpasses in its behavior “the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.” It is not the “compassion and decency of the American people” that is in question; it is the absence of “compassion and decency” in this administration that is at fault.

It is time to withdraw recognition of it as the government of these United States.
How can a citizen withdraw recognition, one might ask? I would answer simply that no person with a conscience could recognize the validity of this government that commits the actions listed above, each more heinous than the last, the worst being its near universal acceptance of the genocide perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinians, actions that are inclusive enough to incorporate almost all the others. If every person of conscience gave sign of their aversion to the behavior of this government by wearing a black armband or posting a black flag or ribbon on the door or window ledge or by flying our flag upside down, the numbers who distrust this government would be manifest for the nation and the world to see and we would not have to wait till election time to cast our conscience on the screen.

I tell you this, each day that passes casts more gloom over this nation as hundreds more die and thousands more are maimed, and all for a lie and all in our name. Appealing to our representatives accomplishes nothing; they are but lackeys to the administration and to the primary lobbing groups that determine for them America’s foreign policy, AIPAC and the lobbies for the military/industrial complex. We can no longer wait for the ballot box to determine our future; it may not be our conscience that is voted to office. Should we not act to declare this government unjust and hence unfit to be our government, then we will be no better than those who dictate and inflict these atrocities on the innocent. I will not have my conscience held hostage by an elite few who rule without a conscience. The honest citizen carries no weapons against his brothers and sisters; the honest citizen marches forward in tune with reason and common sense not fear and ignorance. 

Think how many Lebanese died, how many were maimed, how many went homeless, how many die now after the cease fire because Israel left its calling card in the form of miniature mines for children to play with, how much destruction and wanton devastation this government inflicted in our name while our representatives waited for AIPAC to pen the resolution that gave license to such slaughter. If any justice came from this invasion it was this: the world was witness to the savagery and barbarism of Israel that ruthlessly devastated another people out of sheer anger turned to vengeance, a behavior that it has inflicted at will on the Palestinians behind locked gates and its Wall of Infamy.

Think now of the holocaust being inflicted on the people of Gaza, the reign of fire that comes with missiles launched into crowded civilian neighborhoods randomly killing mothers and children, a reign of terror that has lasted over three months as the Israelis lock the gates to prevent access to medical care, food, employment, and business, a reign of terror that starves the children, denies the people electricity and water, a reign of terror that is calculated, vicious, and inhumane. But it is done behind the Wall, out of sight of our conscience, locked out of public view by the Israeli IOF and its government that has closed access to Gaza by air, sea, or road. Americans cannot complain because our representatives have capitulated to an Israeli government gone mad, driven by racism as it surreptitiously rampages through schools, refugee camps, factories and homes killing, demolishing, executing at will a population that is cornered, starved, and near total death; yet America supports this mayhem justifying it as “self-defense.” How does an illegal occupying force operating on stolen land defend what they do not own and call it self-defense? What non-sense guides this crippled republic that our representatives would defend such dementia?

Where does one turn for guidance out of this morass? Will our Christian leaders proclaim the teachings of Jesus from the steeples of their churches? Will they condemn the government for its ruthlessness? Will they march in the streets to demand change? Will they echo Tolstoy’s astute observation, “to kill is incompatible with man’s uprightness…(for) A Christian, whose doctrine enjoins upon him humility, non-resistance to evil, love to all (even to the most malicious), cannot … join a class of men whose business it is to kill their fellow-men.” (Writings on Civil-Disobedience and Non-Violence). Oh, there are those who cry in the wilderness, congregations that have divested themselves of the atrocities inflicted by Israel and they are to be praised even as they are ignored by our representatives. There are the Christian Arabs in Bethlehem who weep each day as they see their flock decimated and their brothers and sisters murdered, maimed, and humiliated as that malicious Wall surrounds the birth place of their God and our representatives turn their backs. And there are voices for peace, millions of voices that decry the wanton brutality of this regime, Christian and Jew and Muslim, men and women who know they are drenched in the blood of the innocent because this despotic “President” has determined how they must think and how they must behave and our representatives kneel on bended knee before his throne.

But the horror of America today rests not just in the dementia of its leaders but in the distorted madness of its evangelical fanatics who have cloaked themselves in the armament of prophecy declaring themselves God’s voice on earth as they propel their sheep to wage endless war against God’s creatures. Men who follow not in the footsteps of the humble and peaceful Jesus but in the footsteps of prior fools and idiots that ran rampant in other days and times inflicting mayhem and death on the innocent. These fanatics do not know the teachings of Jesus; they read from a gospel of fear that has metamorphosed Jesus into a General who wields a bloody and fiery sword, stomping over the hills and valleys of the earth wreaking havoc and death, thus does the God of light and peace, of brotherly love, become the new Satan to whom these TV evangelists pay homage.

They are men of war who stand behind their pulpits in glistening cathedrals of gold and glass while they send the children of their congregations to slaughter. These men are criminals not Christians. They do not understand the bells of penitence for sin; the only bells they ring intone the opening of the Stock Market or the cash register.

Pastors like John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Benny Hinn, and all the others who crowd the Cathedral of Television lead their respective laity into battle each day, marching at their head, holding aloft their missiles of fire and brimstone, tearing incendiary passages from the Old Testament and Book of Revelation that pour like acid from their mouths and flame forth against perceived disbelievers and infidels. Their exhortations on behalf of their malicious God pits dementia against the teachings of Jesus, pits vengeance against brotherhood, pits fear against love, and power against compassion.        

Have we transformed a nation respectful of all, protective of the rights of all, assertive of the inherent rights that give personal authority to our conscience, into a nation that denies these values in order to inflict our will on all peoples of the mid-east? Has this nation granted to its President and Congress absolute authority to determine what we as a citizenry must obey if we are to be Americans? Have we returned to the days of McCarthy, days of fear and loathing, forcing on all the demented ideology of a few? Have we willingly accepted their lies that brought forth the invasion against the Iraqi people, the subterfuge that perpetuates the genocide of the Palestinians, the fear they use to compel loss of individual rights? Have we handed to this administration the one force that gives us power in this nation, our right to dissent? Liberty is not liberty if it is defined for you; freedom is but a word if it does not give you peace of mind; and conscience does not exist if you do not exercise it.

I would assert that as long as the compassion and decency of the American people are defined by this administration, we are a nation without compassion and without decency and as long as this administration directs the behavior of this nation, any comparison to Islamic extremists who “kill innocent women and children” pales in comparison with the hundreds and thousands this administration has slaughtered in our name in Palestine and Iraq and Lebanon. There is but one response and that is to deny it my consent.    

-William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Depception: Bush’s Mideast Policy He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU.

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