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Reasoning against voting for Bush

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, October 27, 2004

We are about to elect a president to lead the most powerful country in all of human history. A wrong choice could lead to horrific consequences. In my view as an observer of the American scene for more than half a century, giving George W. Bush another four years would be a disastrous mistake. I want to share with you my reasons for holding that view.

One reason for voting against Bush: Apart from the seeming need for any presidential campaign these days to deal in half-truths and illusion, the policies and practices of the current Bush administration have been based on systematic deception. One such deception is that Bush himself is a strong leader. He is instead a man with considerable personal charm, but modest intellectual abilities, who has been taken under the wings of professional image makers and given a public persona serviceable as a figurehead for the ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party. In this capacity he functions as a mouthpiece for the real decision makers of the administration – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condolezza Rice and a shadowy group of so-called “neo-conservatives” of whom Paul Wolfowitz is a key member.

The neo-conservatives are political theorists trained in the thought of Machiavelli and in a conservative reading of Plato sponsored by the late Leo Strauss of the University of Chicago. Although it is hard to capture the gist of their views in a nutshell, they tend to think of themselves as having the kind of political knowledge attributed to the Philosopher-Kings of Plato’s Republic. Thinking of themselves in this way as members of a very select political elite, they consider it part of their role to spread “noble lies” among the less gifted populace in the interests of achieving the “right” political goals. Among their long-standing goals – going back to the Reagan years – was to capture Iraq, to defuse its threat to Israel and to make it over into a “democracy” run by elite political theorists like themselves.

A vote for Bush is a vote to keep this group of ideologues in power.

A second reason for voting against Bush: George W. Bush’s war in Iraq has been based on deception from the beginning. With key decision makers in his administration looking for an occasion to take over Iraq, the horrific attacks of 9/11 provided a perfect opportunity. Under the fabricated rationale of a connection between the perpetrators – most of whom came from Saudi Arabia – and Saddam Hussein, Bush attacked Iraq and quickly moved into Baghdad. He did so in arrogant defiance of most of the civilized world, including our traditional European allies who had been cooperating in diplomatic efforts to make sure Saddam posed no genuine threat beyond his own borders.

Since Bush’s infamous declaration of victory shortly thereafter, things have gone from bad to worse in the war with Iraq. One of the worst consequences has been a massive increase in the number of young people in Arab nations willing to give up their lives in what they view as intolerable military and economic bullying by Bush’s America. Bush has not made the world safer for America. He has made it far more dangerous.

Another dire consequence is that the United States is no longer trusted by other major powers in the free world. (Forget about the paltry “coalition of the willing” who have supported this war primarily for economic reasons.) In the days immediately following 9/11, we had the opportunity to lead the free world in a genuine effort toward world peace and prosperity. Bush squandered that opportunity in favor of the ideological goals of his neo-conservative handlers.

Yet another horrendous result is that Bush has precipitated a bloody clash between fundamentalists of Islam and fundamentalists of Christianity that may take decades to extinguish. Fundamentalism spreads distrust and hate, and all too often a willingness to kill other people with divergent religious conceptions. A conflict of this sort is the last thing the civilized world needs at this perilous point in its history.

A third reason for voting against Bush: The most immediate threat to world civilization is not the growing number of politically disaffected people chaffing under America’s military and economic policies. Our greatest danger is the immanent collapse of the environmental systems by which human society as we know it is supported, a danger recognized today by hundreds if not thousands of ecologists and environmental scientists. Since the mid-19th century, a growing environmental movement has been documenting the ecological destruction caused by the growth-driven economies of the First World. These economies, in large part, are managed by people who have a stake in the up-coming election. Many of these managers have contributed large sums to Bush’s election campaign.

During the Clinton administration, substantial gains were made toward reducing the environmental devastation caused by incessant economic growth. When Bush took over, a clandestine effort was mounted to remove the environmental restrictions primarily responsible for these gains. For the most part, these actions have been taken under the cloak of bureaucratic deception. A notable exception, one of the most shameful public moments in Bush’s presidency, was the announcement that the United States would not support the Kyoto Protocol – to reduce greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming – on the grounds that provisions of this protocol would be economically disadvantageous for this country.

Another four years of benighted disregard for environmental problems would bring humankind even closer to a catastrophic loss of its environmental support systems. Even if in some sense we ultimately “win” Bush’s war against terrorism, the victory will be hollow if victor and vanquished alike are wiped from the face of the Earth by ecological catastrophe.

Many of my fellow Catholics find it difficult to vote for Sen. John Kerry because of his support of legalized abortion. Their hope is that by voting for Bush, they can hasten the day when abortion is made illegal. Like them, I am convinced that abortion is morally wrong and should be prevented. But we must realize that the Catholic view on the evils of abortion plays directly into the strategy of a thoroughly deceptive neo-conservative political campaign. Great evil that it is, abortion does not automatically “trump” all other issues. Destruction of countless millions of human lives by actions resulting in environmental collapse is arguably an even greater evil.

We should realize, furthermore, that voting for Bush in hopes of stopping abortion may well turn out to be counterproductive. As pointed out so clearly in a recent letter to the New York Times by Mark Roche, dean of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, social policies under Clinton’s administration resulted in a 11 percent drop in rate of actual abortions, with no appreciable drop during the prior Republican administration. For someone seriously concerned to prevent abortions, electing to do it the “Republican way” by unenforceable legislation is simply the wrong choice (remember the futility of making alcohol illegal).

Here, in summary, are three reasons I believe make it imperative that Bush be defeated in the upcoming election. First, his administration is run by ideologues who believe democracy is based on deception. Second, the war he started in Iraq is proving increasingly contrary to American interests. And third, his administration is actively dismantling environmental safeguards aimed at correcting the damage caused by the profit-making practices of large corporations.

Any one of these in itself is sufficient reason for voting Bush out of office. Together, they add up to a moral imperative to take any ethically permissible steps necessary to remove his administration from power. If you can’t vote for Kerry in good conscience, then simply refrain from voting.

Kenneth Sayre

philosophy professor

Oct. 27