Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bush administration v. free speech

The Bush administration is continuing its assault on the freedoms of American citizens. This particular story was brought to my attention at Andrew Sullivan's excellent blog ( link here) . This is the disturbing story in a nutshell: a nurse is being charged with "sedition" for writing a letter critical of the Bush administration (I know, how dare she!) This is not long after Cindy Sheehan (who I do not like) was absurdly arrested for wearing a T-shirt critical of the Iraq war. Here's the link to the report in the Alibi.

The nurse wrote a fairly tame letter--criticizing Bush for Katrina, Iraq, global warming, etc.. I've read worse at the letters sections of my local paper. Apparently, VA Information Security employees seized her computer at the local VA hospital where she works. The VA's chief of Human Resources said this was done because ""The agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition." Sedition, for those unfamiliar with the law, entails a plot to overthrow the government by force. The penalty can be up to 20 years in jail. The nurse's lawyer makes a damning accusation: "The administration," he says, "has developed a culture of fear around federal employees." Yes, I would agree.

Is there a historical precedent for this kind of harassment and contempt for the First Amendment? Unfortunately, yes--in the administration of Woodrow Wilson, where people protesting World War I were routinely given harsh jail sentences. For example, a woman who wrote "I am for the people and the government is for the profiteers" was sentenced to ten years in prison. As I consider Wilson the worst president of all time, I hardly think this is an example Bush ought to follow.

This is the letter. Try as I might, I can't see any treason behind it.

Dear Alibi,

I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government. The Katrina tragedy in the U.S. shows that the emperor has no clothes! Bush and his team partied and delayed while millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands were abandoned to a living hell. Thousands more died of drowning, dehydration, hunger and exposure; most bodies remain unburied and rotting in attics and floodwater. Is this America the beautiful?

The risk of hurricane disaster was clearly predicted, yet funds for repair work for the Gulf States barrier islands and levee system were unconscionably diverted to the Iraq War. Money and manpower and ethics have been diverted to fight a war based on absolute lies!

As a VA nurse working with returning OIF vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder; now we will have hundreds of thousands of our civilian citizens with PTSD as well as far too many young soldiers, maimed physically or psychologically—or both—spreading their pain, anger and isolation through family and communities for generations. And most of this natural disaster and war tragedy has been preventable ... how very, very sad!

In the meantime, our war-fueled federal deficit mushrooms—and whither this debt now, as we care for the displaced and destroyed?

Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil.

Katrina itself was the size of New Mexico. Denials of global warming are ludicrous and patently irrational at this point. We can anticipate more wild, destructive weather to occur as a response stress of the planet. We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times. (end of letter)

Did I miss the recent amendment to the Constitution repealing the First Amendment?

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