Election 2004  
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The Waning Socratic Tradition

It seems the Right's perennial concern about "creeping socialism" has blinded large segments of the voting public to the dangers of creeping fascism.
 
 
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"The unexamined life is not worth living" -Socrates

The other day I was listening to that bastion of "liberal" propaganda, National Public Radio. They had this feature story about voters attempting to attend President Bush campaign events who were told to leave or be arrested by Secret Service agents because they might be "security threats."

What was the threat? One guy had on a Kerry T-shirt underneath a buttoned-up denim shirt. Another guy – a solider who partook in the war in Afghanistan – was booted out of a Bush event because a security check noted a Kerry sticker in his wallet. He and his family were shown the door.

It seems the Right's perennial concern about "creeping socialism" has blinded large segments of the voting public to the dangers of creeping fascism.

This kind of news isn't very surprising, given the President's either-you're-with-us-or-against-us philosophy. It's a theme that's been echoed a lot this campaign season by the president, his administration and numerous Bush supporters.

You recall the first presidential debate in which the president (with a straight face, mind you) criticized Sen. Kerry for criticizing the decision to invade Iraq. He gave several illogical reasons for why Kerry's "inconsistencies" are dangerous – one being that it sends "mixed messages" to the world to be publicly critical of the war in Iraq.

Mixed messages? This is a presidential campaign, for Pete's sake. Candidates are supposed to have opposing views. Isn't that the whole point of democratic elections? If the president is right – that to be critical of the decision to invade Iraq (under false pretenses, no less) is tantamount to putting the country at risk for another terrorist attack – then what's the alternative? Debates where candidates publicly agree with each other on every major foreign policy objective?

So in the interest of countering such a dangerous threat to democracy, which is what we are supposedly trying to foster among (rather, impose on) the "backward" peoples of the world, I suggest we have one gigantic Socratic session.

Here, I'll start. Since it turns out that UNSCOM chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter was exactly right, as was UNSCOM inspectors Roger Hill and Chris Cobb-Smith, not to mention UNSCOM's Executive Chairman from 1991 to 1997 Rolf Ekeus, who were all saying Saddam not only didn't have any WMD but because of the sanctions was incapable of reconstituting a WMD program, will the Bush administration now concede that pertinent, on-the-ground intelligence is a bit more than "just guessing," as the president recently characterized a CIA report laying out the unrosy trajectory of the war in Iraq?

On a related matter, when will the "liberal" media stop being war cheerleaders and fulfill the government watchdog role the Founding Fathers envisioned?

I mean, didn't it cross the collective "liberal" media mind to ask: OK, UNSCOM says its inspectors qualitatively disarmed Iraq by 1996 and you, Mr. President, are worried about what Iraq has been doing since the inspectors left in 1998. But given the crippling of Iraq's economy because of the sanctions, which prevented Saddam from rebuilding the civilian infrastructure that was destroyed in the first Persian Gulf War, how could Saddam have reconstituted a WMD program when, according to WMD experts, it requires tens of billions of dollars of industrial infrastructure to have a viable WMD program that could be considered a regional threat, let alone a global one?

I would wager that none of these questions will be asked of President Bush at any of the upcoming "debates," in part, because people with critical minds are not being allowed into the forum.

Long live the spirit of Socrates.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff reporter and a syndicated columnist.