Americans Pay Price for Speaking Out

screaming face

He's a Vietnam War hero from a proud lineage of warriors who served the United States, so he never expected to be called a traitor. 

After 39 years in the Marines, including commands in Somalia and Iraq, Gen. Anthony Zinni never imagined he would be tagged 'turncoat.' 
The epithets are not from the uniforms but the suits - 'senior officers at the Pentagon,' the now-retired general says from his home in Williamsburg, Va. 'They want to question my patriotism?' he demands testily. 

To question the Iraq war in the U.S. - and individuals from Main St. merchants to Hollywood stars do - is to be branded un-American. 

Dissent, once an ideal cherished in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, now invites media attacks, hate Web sites, threats and job loss. 

After Zinni challenged the administration's rationale for the Iraq war last fall, he lost his job as President George W. Bush's Middle East peace envoy after 18 months. 

'I've been told I will never be used by the White House again.' 

Across the United States, hundreds of Americans have been arrested for protesting the war. The American Civil Liberties Union has documented more than 300 allegations of wrongful arrest and police brutality from demonstrators at anti-war rallies in Washington and New York. 

Even the silent, peaceful vigils of Women in Black - held regularly in almost every state - have prompted threats of arrest by American police. 

Actors and spouses Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon have publicly denounced the backlash against them for their anti-war activism. 

Robbins said they were called 'traitors' and 'supporters of Saddam' and their public appearances at a United Way luncheon in Florida and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this spring were cancelled in reaction to their anti-war stance. 

Actor/comedian Janeane Garofalo was stalked and received death threats for opposing the war in high-profile media appearances. 

MSNBC hosts asked viewers to urge MCI to fire actor and anti-war activist Danny Glover as a spokesperson - the long-distance telephone giant refused to fire him despite the ensuing hate-mail campaign - and one host, former politician Joe Scarborough, urged that anti-war protesters be arrested and charged with sedition. 

'There's no official blacklisting,' says Kate McArdle, executive director of Artists United, a new group of 120 actors devoted to progressive causes. 

'This is Hollywood, so there are always rumours starting up. Mostly it was producers saying, 'We know your position - do you have to be so vocal?'' 

Internet chat rooms have spouted 'tons and tons of vitriol aimed at us,' says McArdle, a former network TV executive. 

'Things like, 'Tell me where Tim Robbins lives and I'll go bash out his brains,'' she says. 

'Or, 'If you don't like America, why don't you move to Iraq? Why don't you move to Canada?' 

'The real backlash comes from the right wing, from America's talk radio guys - when their ratings are down - not from the industry,' McArdle says. 'We get the 'You're either with us or against' us.'' 

Comes with the territory, she adds. 

'We're a nation of dissenters.' 

The Dixie Chicks country pop group won worldwide attention for their anti-Bush comments, which were met with widespread radio station bans against playing their music. Their fans have responded by circulating petitions on the Internet objecting to the 'chill' that has tried to silence free speech in the U.S. 

And opposition to the war has spawned many new songs - some remixes of old Vietnam protest songs - and Web sites devoted to anti-war lyrics. 

Dozens of fans walked out of a Pearl Jam concert in Denver, Colo., last spring when lead singer Eddie Vedder hoisted a Bush mask on a microphone stand and sang, 'He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer.' 

But musician Carlos Santana was cheered in Australia - a key U.S. ally in the Iraq war and recent proponent of the 'Bush doctrine' of intervention in smaller states' affairs - when he spoke against the war and American foreign policy. 

West Coast bands are organizing a Bands Against Bush free concert and rally in Los Angeles this fall to publicize their discontent with American foreign policy in the Middle East. 

Even country singer Merle Haggard, whose song 'The Fightin' Side of Me' was a pro-war anthem in the Vietnam era, penned a protest against tame media in the wake of the Dixie Chicks controversy. 

'That's The News' has bitter lines like: 
Soldiers in the desert sand still clinging to a gun 
No one is the winner and everyone must lose ... 
Politicians do all the talking, soldiers pay the dues 
Suddenly the war is over, that's the news. 

Peace scholar Stephen Zunes - so-named for winning a Peace and Justice Studies Association award for leadership in promoting such scholarship - says he was recently 'uninvited' to speak to the Arizona state bar association despite a six-month-old commitment. 

'It's censorship' for his perceived anti-Israel views and outspoken opposition to a foreign policy that has made the U.S. a target of terrorists, says Zunes from his office at the University of San Francisco, where he teaches politics. 'You'd think lawyers would be more concerned about civil liberties.' 

A recent tour for his new book, Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, drew 'obscenity-filled e-mails ... calling me a traitor' and similar 'outrage' on-air from TV commentators, he says. 

'I've been called all sorts of names on national TV. It's been pretty ugly. 

'There are a lot of Americans who don't want to believe their government is lying to them. It's becoming more and more clear that the American people have been lied to, so I think it's important ... particularly for intellectuals, to point out those lies.' 

Full-page ads in the New York Times - at $37,000 (U.S.) each - and other high-circulation dailies have been bought by American religious leaders, actors and a range of wealthy activists to spur anti-war dissent. 

Harvard dean Stephen Walt, an international affairs professor, helped organize such an ad with 32 other security experts at universities from coast to coast. The wordy ad detailed reasons for fighting terrorism and not Iraq, unless under direct threat, and warned of increasing Middle East instability. 

Expressions of support came from colleagues at home and overseas, Walt recalls. 'We said you could be against this war without being against uses of necessary force' elsewhere. 'The world is a nasty place, but this is just stupid.' 

The 32 signatories 'transcended a lot of the traditional (anti-war) lines,' says Walt, who admits to disappointment that the Democrat minority in Congress and Democratic presidential candidates, except Howard Dean, have been 'very slow off the mark' in backing public dissent over the war. 

Non-politicians may fill that gap., claiming a membership of more than a million Americans - and another 700,000 beyond their borders - is running full-page newspaper ads across the U.S. demanding an independent inquiry into the apparently exaggerated need for the Iraq invasion. 

'It would be a tragedy if young men and women were sent to die for a lie,' the ad states below a photo of Bush, tagged 'MISleader.' 

The ad has drawn about half a million replies after its New York Times kickoff last month., founded in 1998 by California spouses Joan Blades and Wes Boyd (inventor of the flying toaster screen saver), already has logged more than 1 million e-mails and calls to Congress with protests against the war. 

Another national ad campaign has been launched by billionaire George Soros, urging Americans to call Congress and demand a post-war investigation. 

'When the nation goes to war, the people deserve the truth,' the ad states. 'American men and women risked and gave their lives for a war based on fighting an imminent threat to homeland security. The case for this war - made unequivocally by President Bush and members of his administration - rested on intelligence that has been exposed as exaggerated or even false.' 

Zinni says he has no regrets about challenging the administration, despite the disdain of 'senior Pentagon officials.''I was very, very careful not to say anything once the troops were on the ground. I worried that I would be accused of not supporting them.' 

His father fought in World War I, his cousins in World War II, and his only brother in Korea. 'I'm not anti-war.' 

But his speech last fall at the Middle East Institute in Washington outlined reservations about 'the wrong war at the wrong time' against a tyrant 'who could be contained.' 

Zinni argued the U.S. risked alienating allies and possibly creating more enemies if it attacked Iraq without multilateral backing and without new proof of weapons of mass destruction. Warning 'war should always be a last resort,' he appealed for more weapons inspections, United Nations support and better post-war planning. 

'I wish I was wrong. I don't feel good about it. I would rather be wrong,' Zinni says. Still, as evidence appears to mount against the White House, he adds, 'Whatever you take to the people, you should be accurate. If there is no imminent threat, if it's not true, then someone should be held accountable.' 

'It's an obligation you have - in our history there have been too many times when generals didn't say what they thought,' he says. 'We all swear an oath to the Constitution. One of the things I thought I was defending was the right to dissent.' 


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Older Comments:
I think a lot of this depends of WHERE you live in the USA as far as the backlash goes. I live in Buffalo New York, and you can say what ever you want about the Administration. That is the way it is here. We all hate Bush, the whole city pretty much. Our TV news is the best, it is not owned by any of the big companies, and they say what is true. I turned off my cable because of all the lies, I only listen to local or Canadian or Buffalo News. I am sorry about the way it is all over the country, truely I am. But the bottom line is that most people don't think of Buffalo New York as being a liberal truthful and desirable place to live, when in fact it is a place where dissent is normal and easy. Nobody has been arrested for protesting. Even on February 15th, when the world came out to protest, our wonderful police where going by with hands up showing Peace signs with there fingers. I don't know what the answer is to the plight of the rest of the country EVEN NYC! My daughter says it is much worse even there! Nobody says here " If you don't live the country go to Canada" well, we are 5 minutes from the boarder and people go there all the time for dining and fun. I guess the most important message I am making is that it is not BAD all over, here, in Buffalo we say what we want.

Excellent posts Anna, and Muslim. However, no matter how much propoganda and lies are proliferated, the fact remains that an informed populace cannot be so easily tricked.
Americans are very fond of using words like democracy, freedom etc...but frankly I very much doubt they know what those words are about. Shame on them for their willful ignorance and arrogance.

Actually, the fact that rights guaranteed in the constitution of the USA are not extended to all its citizens is an American tradition. African Americans were not given those wonderful rights until recently. Women had to fight to be given the right to be persons, many minorities and poor people had experienced the unjust selective applications of those rights and freedoms, and lets not even talk about what has happened to the natives for centuries.

It is an unfortunate fact that the rights and freedoms written in the books are only given to the ruling parties and their supporters, everybody else can complain all they want, they don't have the power to make any difference. This has been the history of humanity in all parts of the world, whether under a king or a president, whether under authocracy or democracy.

The ruling elite has always existed and the laws of the land applied to them differently then the rest. What is happening now is nothing new.

There were no weapons of mass destruction only weapons of mass deception. Since 90 per cent of the media is controlled by 6 per cent of the zionist media moguls it was very easy to brainwash the American public at large. Americans amaze me by their sheep-like behaviour in believing all the media propaganda WMD are possessed by the US and Israel and until these countries are held accountable for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim world, there will be no peace on earth.

What prevents anyone from merely planting (false) evidence of WMD somewhere within Iraq in hopes of justifying the invasion? Is it being prevented by any technical difficulties in doing so? Is it being prevented by a fear of alienating America's allies - should such tampering become public knowledge?

Would the previous administration have shown such reluctance - in attempting to obstruct justice? No reply is required and no offense was intended. It seemed to be the right time for speaking out.

Please ask for the truth and hope to receive patience. May you receive the blessings of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). Assalamu alaikum.

in britain, an independent inquiry is now finding that some of the claims about iraq's weapons capability had been greatly exaggerated by the government.

Almost speechless, so much for a "democraty", the so called the "greatest democraty" on Earth. Sad, terribly sad.

US has initiated a new discordant policy of defending wrongdoings. It is paying the price for its alice in the wonderland CIA tactices. Mr Bush is sowing the divisive seeds in American society.America is no more an emulative model.

In the USA we do, have the right of dissent, and I disagree with the article.

Dissent is wonderful, they have it and so do I.

No, I thought the article shallow and "Liberal" (Democrat), and not representative of U.S. values.

How can anyone champion FREE SPEECH only to be condemn,harassed,threaten or attacked for doing so? There's definately a HUGE contridiction in this matter. I am very ant-establishment but that doesnt make me ant-American for being so. If your reponse to what I've just said is Well if you dont like it here in the US then get out!!!" Did the American Patriots "GET OUT" when they didnt like the way things were going when the fought against British control in the American Revolution? The United States of Amerikkka exists upon illegally occupied land WHICH MEANS the USA legally has no right to exist. Its based upon the genocide and forced relocation of the Native People and the Enslavement and cultural-castration of MILLIONS og kidnapped Africans,and Uncle Sam tries to coceal this great sin by sloganeering: "MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG" So what that means is that not only are they aware of the fact that they are doing wrong but they want you to follow them in their wrong doing. What makes the US-IRAQ war wrong is that the US uses the veneer of LIBERATING these people from an oppressive regime/dictator. Where was the US to liberate the African masses from the former Aparthied regime of SOUTH AFRICA?!? How can they justify not liberating the oppressed of this regime [they didnt even fire so much as a paper clip against it,they even supported,financed and traded with it] and justify liberating people of Sadaam's regime? Its about economics and not "FREEDOM" as they would lead you to believe. I totally support the attacks upon the US troops in Iraq. NO NATION HAS THE RIGHT TO OCCUPY ANOTHER NATION WITHOUT THE OTHERS CONCENT The US took it upon themselves to do this with the intent to install a puppet government that will SUCK up to the dictates of US capitali$m. All the Empires of the past and present have fallen due their misdeeds and immorality and other evils and the US is no exception. When you do evil,expect evil. But these fools are so patriotic they see no wrong

Freedom of speech is so important, just because it is written down in the Constitution doesn't mean it is guaranteed. It must be taught as an important value to everyone, and everyone must understand why it is so important. Freedom of speech doesn't mean protecting speech that you like, but protecting speech that you don't like. We must become a tolerant world and respect EVERYONE's point of view and beleifs.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it." - Voltaire

America the free - yeh right. Even the media is told what to air and not to air. Public opinion is swayed by news releases, movies, music. Where is SARS that killed only 200 chinese people. Do you know how many people die of bacterial pneumonia a year, worldwide? Try tens of thousands. Whatever happened to Anthrax? It's a political ploy, a motive, and the general public is nothing but a gullible group of pawns for the government. After all how can they keep the foreign people in check? How soon they forgot how they themselves are foreigners, emigrating from Europe and forcefully taking over the lands of the truly free american Indians. Who are now forced to live on reservations, if they desire to live in their native manner. America - the free. Freeing Iraqis from their oil, but leaving chaos in the cities. How soon the media turns a cheek from the truth!

American presidents who were impeached in the past
did not do things as bad as George W.Bush.The late Richard Nixon was guilty of evesdropping. That was a mild wrong doing when compared to what W has done. Why is W. not impeached?

Great article. So true. The corrupt Bush administration, under the name of freedom, is slowly eroding the rights of its own citizens- demonizing anyone who dares to speak out. That's what Hitler did to his people as well. Which is quite a scary thought. May Allah help us all.

I write President Bush almost every day. My only request is that he remove our troops from Iraq and the Middle East. Israel is not an excuse for imperialism. Terrorism is not an excuse for random destruction by American armed thugs. Innocents have been killed on both sides.

It is a duty on every person who has a conscience to oppose any and all injustice and tyranny everywhere. The first step must be to help make everyone aware of the injustice, then to encourage and work with others who share the feeling of responsibility to help change it, God-willing. We need a continuous strong stream of similar articles from all over the world.

The way I figure it Zinni dodged a bullet. Not working in the white house for this administration has got to be an advantage come judgment day.
The US has lost it's claim to democracy for me. I am reminded of the words of some smart fellow "Wrapping an idea in a flag isn't democracy, its fascism."
I'll leave you with these words of wisdom. "All that is necessary for evil to win is for good people to stay silent. It is the first and most profound form of corruption."

i hate to say this but 99% of americans are ignorant by choice.the other 1% are those who will seek the truth and stand up for it..(and they are not politicians)