The headline for a statement by activists opposed to the U.S. war on terror is, "Not in Our Name," but it more accurately should read, "We're better than you are."
The signers include C-list celebrities such as Ed Asner and Casey Kasem, and perennial lefties Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky and Gloria Steinem. They "call on all Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world."
Then, of course, the biggies leave the common people and return to their favorite topic: themselves, and how truly great they are to question the U.S. government.
The statement explains that after Sept. 11, America's leaders "told us that asking why these
terrible events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate."
Note the dishonest implication that anti-Bush critics were just asking questions. Wrong. Many legitimized the attacks by referring to their "root causes" (bad America). To ask what were the root causes of the Sept. 11 attacks is analogous to asking what the Jews did to invite the Holocaust.
Who said it was treasonous to ask questions? "That's a very good paraphrase of things said by (White House spokesman) Ari Fleischer and the president," said Not in Our Name spokesman Clark Kissinger. "That's not a verbatim quote."
Translation: No one in the White House said it was treason to oppose the Bush war effort.
The Not in Our Name website carries another statement that protests America's "destruction of civil, legal and political rights, including the very right to dissent."
Destruction of dissent? In Afghanistan, that meant the Taliban shot critics in the back of the head. In America, that means appearing on cable TV news in a panel stacked against you, three to one.
When I asked for examples of the suppression of dissent, Kissinger mentioned a University of South Florida professor who was suspended with pay after a videotape was shown of him shouting "Death to Israel." In 1995, the feds had raided a university-based think-tank run by the prof, Sami Al-Arian, and froze its assets, after alleging it was a fund-raising front for terrorists.
Kissinger also cited the indictment of attorney Lynne Stewart, who was charged with passing messages for her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of plotting to bomb five New York landmarks. Kissinger found it irrelevant that Stewart had violated a signed agreement not to act as the Sheik's conduit.
Kissinger also repeated Dan Rather's memorable quote to the BBC, that, "In some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck."
By the Not-Names' definition, it's suppression if someone (a liberal) feels uncomfortable or fears criticism about expressing an opinion.
The "Not in Our Name" signers complain that "dissident artists, intellectuals and professors" are "attacked." Witness the conceit that theirs is a battle of big brains -- oooooh, they're "intellectuals" -- versus boneheads. The statement dismisses "the simplistic script of 'good vs. evil'" -- because only rubes and flag-wavers believe in evil.
The shame of it is: There will be times when the left is right, when the feds push too far, when innocent people are harassed and detained or when academics lose their jobs because of their politics. Too bad the political center won't listen to them. In their hysteria and self-aggrandizement, they shred their credibility.
The statement even compares petition-signers to volunteers in the Underground Railroad and Vietnam War draft-resisters. Yes, the Ed Asners of America think they're patriots with "conscience."
What do they risk? Not their lives, but not getting a guest spot on a game show.
They proclaim "not in our name," apparently unmindful of the fact that they can say that freely largely because of the nameless military recruits, demoralized FBI agents and intelligence workers who put their lives on the line to keep America free.
Anonymous people protect their lives and freedoms -- and in their delusions of moral grandeur. They return the gift with ingratitude.