Betrayers of Freedom

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who spent his life in the Army before being twice elected commander in chief, was about 100 times smarter than the present occupant of the White House.

Here are a few quotes from Eisenhower that are relevant to America today:

"If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government."

"Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed."

This next one is particularly applicable to George Bush and fanatic partisans.

Eisenhower said: "Without exhaustive debate, even heated debate, of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual or party that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous, then, indeed, we are approaching the end of freedom’s road."

Eisenhower, though a soldier, kept us out of war and built the nuclear deterrent that protected Americans long after he was gone. Here is what he thought of war:

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." That’s not unlike a statement made by another warrior, Gen. William Sherman, who said in a public speech: "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror." Nobody can ever accuse Sherman of being a softie. He was brutal in the extreme in his pursuit of victory.

Perhaps President Bush would likewise view war with horror if he had chosen to join John Kerry in the jungles of Vietnam. Instead, he chose to party in Texas and Alabama. The point is not whether he fulfilled his National Guard duties. The point is he chose, unlike Kerry, to avoid going to Vietnam. So did Vice President Dick Cheney and a lot of other Republican chicken hawks, like former Rep. Newt Gingrich.

As for Kerry’s anti-war activities, he simply shared the same opinion of war as Eisenhower and Sherman because he had seen it and experienced it. Nobody can look back on the Vietnam War — which gained America nothing but 58,000 dead, a quarter of a million wounded and a divided country — and honestly say that Kerry wasn’t right when he opposed it.

As for all these chicken hawks in the administration and the media who condemn anti-war folks as treasonous or disloyal, it is they, as Eisenhower pointed out, who are the betrayers of freedom. America is a lot closer today to fascism than it is to a free republic. When Americans can no longer voice dissenting opinions without being victims of character assassination, then indeed we are nearing the end of freedom’s road.

I wish there were some way we could gather up all these chicken hawks, put them on a plane with rifles and parachutes and dump them out over Fallujah. If they’re so enthusiastic about war, they ought to participate in it. Instead, they are like a bunch of kids urging someone else to fight so they can be entertained. There is hardly a more contemptible role a human being can play than being a vicarious warrior.

Too many Americans today are allowing a bunch of draft dodgers and chicken hawks to scare them with the boogeyman into giving up everything that makes this country worth fighting for.

If the president cannot fight terrorism and preserve American freedom at the same time, then he’s obviously in a job well over his head. Instead of telling senators who disagree with them to go "f— —" themselves, we should be saying that to the terrorists. We should be telling the terrorists that nothing they can do will make us abandon our free society, that we can argue at home and fight them at the same time.

Someone once said that modern man stands on the shoulders of giants of the past. I’m afraid today that the mental and moral midgets standing on the shoulders of giants are a light load.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.