Lies, videotape, and democracy

I want to point out how two pieces of popular technology have contributed to the exposure of the lies and attempted cover-up of the misdeeds of two U.S. presidents, and to urge you to use your vote to oust Bush in 2004.

President Richard Nixon insisted on tape-recording all confidential conversations with his closest associates. This simple recording method did him in, in spite of all attempts to cover up his actions. The tapes were the main source of information (the “smoking gun”) used against him by federal investigators, and the uproar finally drove him out of office.

In George W. Bush’s case, the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners was digitally photographed and videotaped. The brutality and torture exposed by the digital images and videotapes sparked an outraged and ongoing outcry to find out who is responsible for such inhuman atrocities. Bush and Cheney are doing everything in their power to avoid any blame. Here again, tapes have provided an arsenal of weapons in the hands of investigators. Where it will all end is a matter for speculation, but the images are ammunition for all critics of the Bush war policy.

Behind all of this is the all-American concept that no one – not even the president in office – is beyond the law and democratic process. This fundamental concept has been fought for mainly by the U.S. working class, ever since our nation became independent of British domination through a hard-fought people’s revolution. The concept has been fought for in many ways short of revolution – in the courts, through free speech movements, workers’ strikes, even civil war to abolish slavery, and the ongoing struggles of native American Indians seeking compliance with treaties our government has repeatedly violated.

President Bush and his colleagues are trying to evade the Geneva Conventions, which were ratified by the U.S. Congress. These people argue that the president is not bound by such protocols. They claim he is free to do what he and only he thinks best. They say enemy combatants (the term they like to bandy about and apply to whoever they want) are not protected by the rules of Geneva. Neither are the prisoners held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, nor many held within the U.S., as well.

I doubt that Bush and colleagues will ever face a world tribunal. Nonetheless we should be optimistic, based on the wide discussions taking place about these issues involving all Americans, from elementary school children to college students, at the workplace, and beyond. The popularity of the film “Fahrenheit 9/11” – effectively using a variety of videotapes the public never saw before – is an indication of the ferment. This is a heartwarming development. These things tell us that masses of people are involved and engaged, and that only they can speak for the American people – not George W. Bush. Bush’s speeches do not fool many people, and he certainly is not carrying out the American values he claims to represent.

The 2004 elections offer us an open door to express ourselves. I sincerely hope that U.S. voters take full advantage of their voting power and use it to send President Bush back to Crawford, Texas. I look forward to being able to say the tapes helped drive him from office.

Lorenzo Torrez is chair of the Communist Party of Arizona. He can be reached at lptorrez @ aol.com.