John Brown’s Wake-up Call for the President

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[Note to Tomdispatch readers: I’ll be traveling much of the week — with no access to email until perhaps Tuesday, limited access until Thursday, and minimal ability to respond to letters and requests.]

Just a week back, I suggested that there was no reason to believe the President’s approval ratings had bottomed out. In fact, I wrote, “There is no reason to believe that a polling bottom exists for this President, not even perhaps the Nixonian Age of Watergate nadir in the lower 20% range.” Now, the latest Fox News poll puts the President at an all-time low — a 33% approval rating. Democrats are long gone; independents peeling away in droves; and, it seems, even Republicans not so desperately far behind.

Fox News, whose trusty team not a month ago could be found banging away at CBS News (when its poll hit 34%) for “wildly oversampl[ing] Democrats,” now tells us that “for the first time under 70% of Republicans approve of the Bush presidency.” As we all know, the President has already lost the informal poll of generals and now, according to historian Sean Wilentz in Rolling Stone magazine, he’s lost the historians, too. Across the political spectrum, Wilentz writes, historians are coming to agree that George Bush is the worst president in U.S. history. (“No previous president appears to have squandered the public’s trust more than Bush has.”) President James Buchanan’s shade can now rest easy.

Increasingly, the price of unleaded regular at the local gas pump (on average, $2.86; in California, $3) and the price of a barrel of crude oil ($75), not to speak of the ever more disastrous situation in Iraq, the unreconstructed New Orleans and Mississippi coasts, the ever-deepening Plame case investigation, all those conservatives undergoing conversion experiences, the range of government bureaucrats and intelligence officials leaking up an angry storm as well as the former officials (as on 60 Minutes tonight) spilling the beans about administration misdeeds, and too many other disparate phenomena to name indicate that George and his pals stand in the rubble of their project to dominate the American public and the world.

On March 10, 2003, diplomat John Brown wrote an open letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell submitting his resignation in protest against the onrushing invasion of Iraq. He wrote in part: “The president has failed: To explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time; to lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties; to specify the economic costs of the war for ordinary Americans; to clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror; to take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration.” And he added that this administration in its “unjustified use of force” was “giving birth to an anti-American century.”

Despite the millions then demonstrating worldwide, Brown was part of a rather lonely crowd in American officialdom. (Only three State Department officials resigned in protest.) But how on target he proved to be. Now, viewing that rubble, all those wasted lives, and the trillion-dollar or more Afghan-Iraq wars, he writes directly to the President, calling on him to take some responsibility for what he has wrought. Tom

On Waking Up Sleepless in the Middle of the Night
By John Brown

By John Brown

TO: The President

FROM: A former American diplomat

SUBJECT: Waking up in the middle of the night

Mr. President: Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night? Do you? Do you ever wake up sleepless in the middle of the night?

What have you done in Iraq? Do you ever realize, in the middle of the night, what you’ve done? Do you?

1. You’ve caused over 2,370 American soldiers to die in an impoverished land that never attacked us. Was that the right answer to 9/11 or the “threat” from Iraq? Do you ever ask yourself that question?

2. Because of your Iraq invasion, thousands of U.S. enlisted personnel are maimed, physically and mentally, for life. What can you tell these victims of your war? That you’re honored by their duty towards you, our “mission-accomplished” commander-in-chief?

3. Your decision to go to war has led to the death of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Do you have any remorse for this, Mr. President? Or was it that, for you, Iraqis only really deserved to serve as props in “shock and awe” — your name for your made-for-TV porno/violence program at the beginning of the war, produced and distributed directly into our living rooms by the mainstream media? (Thank you, Fox News.)

4. Will you ever, ever accept responsibility for making torture all-American at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere? And the Statue of Liberty — why, tell us why, did you allow it to be replaced by that image of an abused, hooded, helpless prisoner on a box? Aren’t you the least bit concerned at how America is seen by the rest of the world because of your war — as a brutal aggressor nation, dismissive of the opinions of mankind?

5. What about your mercenaries (“Pentagon contractors”) that our tax dollars pay for? Who are they? What are they doing in their multi-thousands in Iraq, and to the Iraqis? Do you know? Or don’t you care to know?

6. You said you wanted to “rebuild” Iraq — but isn’t it true that all you’ve really done is construct a Roman-Empire-style camp, a “Green Zone” for Iraqi collaborators (whom you now mistrust) and U.S. personnel in the heart of Baghdad that is an invitation to insurgent mortars? Haven’t you — tell the truth — destroyed in Iraq more than you have built? Haven’t you?

7. You say Iraqis now live in a land of “freedom” — but what kind of freedom? How can it ever be like the Four Freedoms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt — freedom of expression and worship, joined with freedom from want and freedom from fear? As electricity fails and bombs terrify citizens in Baghdad, where is the freedom you promised Iraqis, Mr. President?

8. Your occupation of Iraq has led to a bloody sectarian conflict. Why do you and your ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad now blame the Iraqis for their problems? Don’t you share responsibility for the desperate situation they are in?

9. Your trillion-dollar binge of destruction in the cradle of civilization — who will pay for it? The widows of our soldiers? Our young people, already too debt-burdened paying for their educations? Or their baby-boomer parents who may see their pensions evaporate to support your war?

10. Why can’t you truthfully tell us, Mr. President, the reasons you led America into war? Was it for the WMD, for regime change, for the oil, for grand neocon visions, to avenge your father, to win elections at home? What were your real intentions? Are you afraid to tell us? Or is the truth that, deep down, you never really knew?

11. And, Mr. President, as you contemplate another war, this time against Iran, won’t you ever wake up in the middle of the night, and stop more madness before it is too late?

John Brown, who writes regularly for Tomdispatch and, is a former diplomat who resigned from the State Department over the planned war in Iraq, compiles the Public Diplomacy Press Review, available free upon request at the site.

Copyright 2006 John Brown