Thursday, March 20, 2008


The reporter asked the vice president--after he said the "surge" was generally acknowledged to have accomplished a great deal--about the fact that the vast majority of both the Iraqi and American people wanted the war over, wanted American troops to leave.

"So?" he replied.

She quickly asked "You don't care what the American people think?"

He pieced together a reply to the effect that one cannot guide policy by the changing winds of public opinion.

I would have liked to have seen the reporter let that "So?" hang in the air for a good long time, a silent civics lesson, a silence underscoring the vice president's frank and stark revelation of the essence of what's going on. Mr. Cheney is a practiced interviewee, he might well have sat the silence out, demanding the next question without a word. How great would it be, after a minute or so of silence if, not getting another question, he just stood up and left?

Of course, he might have elaborated on his rhetorical dismissal of the criticism implied in the question. The reporter's second question was, after all, just an elaboration of her first.

For a long time I have wondered about how the American people have turned against this war and yet that makes no difference. The rejection of the policy is apparent in public opinion polls and in the last election. It's been clear for quite a while, now. Yet the war goes on as though it still had high approval ratings.

It may well be due the fact that the executive branch controls the making of policy to the exclusion of legislative direction. Does "the president controls foreign policy" mean that the legislative branch--which is the policymaking, as opposed to policy executing, branch of government--have no power over the President in this regard?

Apparently Dick Cheney thinks so, as so does the President. They think so because they have the power, apparently, to keep going despite what anyone thinks, and because they think that they have the legitimate Constitutional authority.

I have no doubt that they really do think they have the authority, and they really do think they are doing the right thing for the country and for the world.

He claims to be creating a shining city, while standing amid the rubble, the mounting carnage, and then, when asked about the fact that few others see anything other than the smoke and the death, he replies "So?"

Imagine, during the 2000 election campaign, that he was asked "What would you say to the American people if the vast majority of them opposed a war that your administration was prosecuting and that had cost billions of dollars and almost 4,000 American lives?"

Would he even be vice president today if he had replied, then, "So?"

My follow up to "So?" would be...

Is what we are doing consistent with the values we espouse? Or do we cast those aside as idealistic and unworkable in this "real world" situation?

Is what we are doing creating an inclusive framework of relationships? Or are we building a world that leaves some people out?

Is what we are doing providing benefit to all from the system of which they are a part? Or are we exploiting some for the benefit of others?

Is what we are doing careful of what we have, using as little as needed to do necessary things? Or are we wasteful of resources or of lives, using them extravagantly in things of no lasting value?

Is what we are doing making people easy with one another? Or are we making people afraid of and angry with one another?

(Of course, the question is "is what we are doing" not "are we claiming/intending/hoping that what we are doing." The answer to the question is the result, not the stated intention.)

It's a good framework of analysis for most any political question, for any question. Integrity, community, equality, simplicity, peace. The Fruits of the Spirit. They all describe love; charity, mercy.

It's the faith and practice of Friends.

It's not so different, if different it is at all, from the faith and practice of most all spiritual traditions. It's just so different from how our cultures have conditioned us to actually live.


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