Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I support BYU, its Administration, and America itself. . . but I can't in good conscience support Cheney's policies

I support BYU. I've already mentioned that I'm on campus. By choice. I choose to be here and love it. For a great many (and perhaps off-topic) reasons. Even now that Vice President Cheney has been invited to address the commencement guests, I still heartily support the aims and mission of Brigham Young University.

I support the BYU Board of Directors. They've already indicated exactly why they reciprocated when the US Vice President asked to come to commencement and I believe that supporting them includes taking them at their word. If they state that the visit "is seen by the university's board of trustees as one extended to someone holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather than to a partisan political figure" then I think that it is distrustful, disrespectful, disingenuous, and flat-out dishonest to portray anybody who protests Cheney's policies as anti-BYU, anti-administration, or anti-American.

I hope that not too many squander good-will by attacking BYU or its administrators because of Cheney's impending visit. I do, however, applaud any who take this opportunity to open dialogues on the vice-president's policies (whether by letters to the editor, or blogs, or civil "protests", or other effective means).

I can't support Dick Cheney's policies. I find them ill-advised at best and murderous at worst. And yet, in fairly recent history, I've been part of the problem. I voted for George Bush and Dick Cheney in both of the recent Presidential elections. Part of the reason that I supported the sitting Vice President in these last two elections is my heartfelt opposition to abortion. By 2004 I was starting to realize that perhaps our war with Iraq was not what had been sold to the American people but John Kerry went on record as saying he would do nothing different in that conflict (a terribly shrewd political miscalculation in my book . . . I wonder how many Republicans like me there were who would have voted for a change in foreign policy already by 2004). So all things being equal in the two major parties on the war, my thoughts went back to issues like abortion and I voted Republican. Why do I bring this up? Because I'll bet I'm not the only one who picks one or two major issues and lets it determine my loyalties. A lot of active LDS Saints have supported the Republican party faithfully for these last couple of decades because the national Republican party was growing more united in opposition to abortion while the national Democratic party was growing more vocal in supporting abortion in even the most extreme cases (for instance, late-term abortions after the infant would be viable if delivered . . . really, who could possibly defend that?)

I recognize that if we want to get into messy party politics then there are number of other issues that attract people into one party or the other. There are a number of potent economic issues, just for starters. But I've talked to a lot of ardent supporters of this administration for whom abortion is the only moral issue they can really defend with any clarity and for whom all the other messy issues including war and foreign policy simply follow on the coat-tails of their faith in that particular issue.

And so now I have a dilemma. I've watched as the Republican party has been commandeered by 'neo-conservative' warhawks. I have been slowly growing apart from the national Republican party platform as I try to maintain my moral values. I haven't suddenly registered Libertarian or Democrat or Green or Constitution but I see in this incident a renewed motivation to return to the "Independence" we should all probably proclaim with regard to political issues. I find it deeply troubling that support for the Cheney platform is centered in the BYU Republicans and opposition to it has been organized by BYU Democrats. This shouldn't be such a partisan issue. Cheney's policies speak for themselves.

If an individual finds moral resonance in any party platform then it's their prerogative to support that party in the issues they can in good conscience support but it seems clear that too many of us have lackidaisically and dangerously checked our reasoning and morals at the door the moment we chose to walk into a party. There is not room here for a reasoned discussion of parties and their history within American politics. But suffice it to say that both the Founding Fathers and our current religious leaders have warned vigorously against placing too much allegiance in man-made political parties. Unfortunately, pragmatics quickly overwhelm ethics in this arena and almost everybody I know who has made an earnest attempt to be involved politically finds themselves deeply enmeshed with some party or another in ways that can be seriously unhealthy (myself included . . . you're reading my confessional now) .

As I've studied what has happened to the Republican party (and so-called 'conservative' talk-radio, etc.), one of the most stridently vocal proponents of nearly all the ideas that I find so morally offensive has been Richard Cheney. He manipulated intel at high levels to get decision-makers on board to attack Iraq (who can guess as to whether or not he did so out of 'honorable intentions'? . . . the fact remains that Colin Powell, "Scooter" Libby, and numerous others of his colleagues have clearly identified him as doing so). He maintains that suspending our civil liberties is vital because 'we are at war' (despite the fact that his definition of war is one that will never allow a lifting of the suspensions he is pushing.) Cheney has agitated for a violation of dozens of treaties, agreements, and sometimes simply 'moral high ground' that the US has always previously honored. And regardless of my belief that perhaps all of his ties and influence within the revolving doors of the military-industrial complex are perfectly legal, I think that his behavior and history are a perfect highlight of the conflicts of interest and problematic relationships that exist in that arena.

Finally, I find it most reprehensible that Vice President Cheney is so dogmatic in his insistence on 'military solutions' at every corner. He is almost preternaturally anxious to send young men and women on these missions to kill and die. He blasts international terrorists out of one side of his mouth for "their indiscriminate killing" (a topic on which he and I would heartily agree) and then he turns right around and orders bombings of neighborhoods that level city blocks full of innocent men, women, and children that are blown into bits on the off-chance that a "highly sought-after target" might have also been among the rubble.

If I question whether we might not, in fact, be causing more problems than we are helping with in Iraq at the moment, does this make me an anti-Patriot or a heathen? I hope not. I think we need to periodically assess why we are pursuing a military solution in Iraq, how successful our current procedures are, and what, honestly, we are attempting to do as an occupying empire.

If we are noble in our aims (and I believe most of our servicemen and women are) then of course we are going to re-assess this kind of thing at every step of the way. On the other hand, if our aims are a bit more complicated (if we are attempting the kind of world-reshaping, belligerent, foreign-entagling, empire-building, pompous, meddling that Richard Cheney proposed when he he helped forge the 'Project for a New American Century' just a couple short years before he began advising the President on foreign policy) then we might just be tempted to label any question-asking as weak, unpatriotic, and even 'evil' if we can.

I think before we throw in our hats with the hate-radio jocks that don't seem very careful of whether or not they are calling 'evil good and good evil' we would all do well to remember a not-so-distant First Presidency warning penned by the Prophet we are studying in Sunday School this very year:

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel – ships, planes, missiles, fortifications – and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).

President Spencer W. Kimball
"The False Gods We Worship”
First Presidency Message, June, 1976


Reluctant Conquistador said...

Crazy quote... I agree that blind partisanship has got to go!

Keep up the good work!

jenica said...

wow, thanks for the honesty. i loved this post. are you writing letters like this to the local editors? your words echo what i'm feeling.

Toadicus Rex said...

There's a fine line between being a pansy and a warmonger. I disagree with the assessment of Cheney, I think he's a good man; perhaps too willing to use the military for your taste, but we have experienced too many years of leaders being too afraid of public sentiment to implement it.

Fact is, the strength of a country is derived from the willingness to engage in conflict.