I know it seems like another lifetime given the age we live in where last evening’s news becomes today’s archaic information. But joggle your mind a tad bit and let’s take a stroll down memory lane. The year is 2001 and our country was just attacked in ways that rocked our very foundation. The Twin Towers were reduced to a smoldering ash and the Pentagon had a hole in it the size of a football field—September 11th forever changed our lives and shepherd us into the age of fear and anxiety.
Our innocence as a country was eviscerated among the shards of broken glasses, reduced steel and shattered lives. We would never be the same after that day; two oceans were no longer insurmountable walls that protected us from foreign intervention. It was during this time of shock that we were hoodwinked in short order to start an immoral and unjust war in Iraq.
Let me say this from the outset; my stance against the Iraq war is by no means meant as a knock against the valor and courage of those who put on the uniform and served their nation. In fact, our outrage should be elevated to code orange when we realize that countless number of veterans who returned home from Iraq broken are now residing on sidewalks shrouded by indigence. This article I wrote about veterans, along with the poem found at the bottom of this article, highlight the broken soldiers we thank from a distance without understanding their tribulations.
It took hindsight for me to realize just how nefarious our political leaders were. The Iraq war was a decade in the making as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) had its design on the oil in Iraq and projecting force in the Middle East at least six years before the first plane hit the first tower. All they needed was a national tragedy and a massive public crisis to coax a war leery nation into a crusade to remake the Middle East in their own image. From Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Iraq, the plan was to topple each nation one by one and then install a puppet government that would be beholden to the agenda of globalists and corporate imperialists. As you read this article, I hope more and more people stop conflating patriotism with saluting authority.
Even within the context of the military, soldiers are duty bound to question immoral leadership. The truest form of patriotism is standing up to enemies of the United States both foreign and domestic.
This was my first education of the fecklessness of the Democrat party. Although I have to admit, back then I saw George Bush as the tyrant and the Democrats as benevolent wimps. I realize in hindsight that both Democrats and Republicans were in on the war from the outset. Did you know that Ash Carter, Obama’s Secretary of Defense, was part of the Project for New American Century? But we will get back to this topic in a bit for there are layers of lies that we are fed that has us thinking the Democrats and Republicans are political opponents when in reality they are flip side of the same bankrupt ideology of factionalism and corporatism.
During the run up to the Iraq war, few had the political courage to stand up to Bush. In fact, most Democrats were acting as cheer leaders for Dubya and were banging the drums of war. From Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden and all in between, major Democratic figures were being paraded on news outlets trumpeting the urgency to initiate an unholy war against the people of Iraq. Democrats and Republicans alike were lying through their teeth, fabricating out of thin cloth a casus belli in order to dance to the genocidal melody of bombs over Baghdad.
If there was any justice in this world, the Bush administration and every Democrat leader who voted for the Iraq war would be tried before the Hague Court for the genocide committed against the people of Iraq and for the lives of over 5,000 Americans lost in a war declared for the sake of oil and stealing Iraq’s natural resources. Alas, those that have superiority of the gun gets to preach morality and rule of law while practicing none of it.
Yet in the cacophony of Democratic cravenness leading up to the Iraq war, one voice stood up against the Bush administration and did all she could to speak truth to power. Her name is Cynthia McKinney, the then congresswoman from Georgia’s fourth congressional district. As our government was in the throes of quickly white washing September 11th and using the 9/11 Commission to erase both the truth and responsibility of failed leadership that culminated in the death of over 3,000 Americans, Cynthia mustered the courage to speak out and refused to stay silent like her Democrat counterparts. Cynthia leveled this charge at the feet of the Bush administration:
“It is known that President Bush’s father, through The Carlyle Group, had–at the time of the attacks–joint business interests with the bin Laden construction company and many defense industry holdings, the stocks of which have soared since September 11. In the month that followed the attacks, when New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani refused to cash a $10 million check written by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in light of the Prince’s suggestion that the attacks were an indication that the United States “should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.”
Not only did her fellow Democrats not rally to her side to hold the Bush administration accountable, the Democrat leadership did the opposite and reprimanded Cynthia. I would call the Democrat’s did to reprimand Cynthia cowardice of the highest order, but that is being too kind. The truth is that the Democrats in DC wanted war just as much Bush. Most of the “liberal” establishment was supporting the Iraq war even as they pretend otherwise after the Iraq war proved to be a debacle. The same for the mainstream media like the New York Times and Washington Post who could not wait to count the clicks on their website once the bombs started dropping in cities like Mosul and Tikrit.
Cynthia, however, refused to relent; she defiantly leveled one accusation after another and demanded a hearing of the facts in Congress. Instead, Democrats and Republicans acted in a bipartisan basis to sweep the truth of 9/11 under a rug and then in short order gave a blank check to George W. Bush to unleash hell throughout the Middle East. You see, Cynthia spoke truth to power before Obama was anywhere in the picture; she was not only against the illegal war in Iraq, she actually demanded accountability for what happened on that awful September morning.
What Cynthia got for her courage was primary challenge with the approval of the Democratic National Committee. In an age where congressmen and women almost never get primaried, Cynthia was all the sudden faced with a well-funded candidate named Denise Majette. A well orchestrated campaign that encouraged Republicans to vote in the Democratic open primary ensured Cynthia’s defeat. The reward for valor and speaking truth to power was a one way ticket out of DC only to be maligned as a traitor for daring to have the audacity to stand up to a rush to war. Demagogues get accolades, truth tellers get the shaft—this is why our country is in shambles.
Cynthia’s story is a moral of our broken system of government, those who actually try to stand up to corruption and graft in DC have no chance in hell to remain in office. While we are led to believe that the struggle within our government is between “left” and “right” and between Republicans and Democrats, in reality both wings in DC work in tandem to perpetuate immoral wars, unjust foreign policies, and unfair economic policies. Those who try to speak against these depravities that take place in DC on a regular basis are either quickly defeated, as opponents are given millions of dollars to overwhelm any elected official who dares stray too far from the plutocratic orthodoxy or some scandal is unearthed about them only for corporate media to be set against them like rabid dogs. In the worst case, those who speak truth to power meet an early death.
This is how our system of governance keeps our bankrupt politicians in check and beholden to the checkbook of billionaires. It’s a stick and carrot approach; play nice and pretend to be outraged by immoral policies and splinter society by way of politics and the system rewards these craven politicians with fortunes and access to power. Refuse to toe the corporate line and the stick comes out as a sudden news leak inundates the offending politician in a tsunami of bad news.
Every politician in DC has bones in the closet; the sin of Marion Barry was not the exception in DC, indecency is the rule as congressmen, senators and our presidents act in ways that make the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah blush and seem downright prudish. The debauchery of politicians and pundits only become news when they refuse to play along with their political benefactors or if they dare threaten the money of their billionaire masters. The House of Cards is quaint and child’s play compared to the muck that goes on in DC.
Even if they are maligned, we remember the courageous few who dared to speak truth to power. For people who value justice and honor truth in their souls more than they cravenly seek power, it is better to be principled and deal with the repercussions. Cynthia retained her dignity even as she was kicked out of Congress for daring to stand up to the war criminal Bush and those who sent our young men and women overseas to die and unleash fires on the citizens of Iraq. Cynthia chose courage before it was popular to speak against the Iraq war.
After we finally realized the ways we were all misled into war, Obama gained the presidency by feigning the courage that Cynthia displayed in real time. In reality, Obama was just another deception; we were sold a bill of goods of hope to make it seem like the system changed when in reality Obama would initiate more illegal wars than even Bush could have imagined. The Project for a New American Century was started by Bush and implemented fully by Obama. The First Bank President started wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen as outlined by PNAC in 1996. This deception woudl come into sharp focus as Michelle Obama and George Bush hugged and exchanged orange M&Ms. While Hollywood is remaking the image of Bush, Cynthia remains true to her character and continues to hold neo-cons and neo-liberals alike accountable.
While I do not necessarily agree with everything that Cynthia McKinney says nor do I concur with all her views, I nevertheless admire her willingness to seek truth instead of using talking points and teleprompters to hide her beliefs. Our problem as a nation is simple, we keep voting for demons who pretend to be angels and turning away from angels who fight demons and struggle just like us. #McKinneyTreatment Click To Tweet
We follow authority because it has supremacy instead of following those with better ideas. Unless information comes directly from our government or from our feckless mainstream media, we tend to dismiss those who speak truth to power as “conspiracy theorists”. Saddest of all is that we conflate fame and fortune for wisdom and virtue when in reality fame and fortune are only acquired by those who have cunning and lack any virtue. It is no accident we just exited an empty suit Obama who peddled false hopes and now have an even emptier carnival barker Trump who is feeding hatred and childishness into the soul of our nation.
“Every dollar that is printed should not represent a debt to private bankers. It should represent an investment potential in the common good, in the common needs of our country.” ~ Cynthia McKinney
We keep letting these two bankrupt political parties lead us by the nose by way of disinformation, endless outrage and grievance peddling. All is done in order to keep us perpetually distracted and in the blind about what our government is doing in our names. There is a simple lesson to learn from revisiting the story of Cynthia McKinney. People who remain in power are part and parcel of the very injustices they speak against. From Bernie to Elizabeth to Cruz and Gowdy and all those who pretend to be speaking truth to power, they are doing no such thing. The rule is easy, the minute our elected officials actually do stand up to the graft and corruption in DC, they are given the McKinney treatment. It is up to us, the people, to stop idolizing the political snakes in DC and actually stand for those who truly stand up to the overreach in DC without respect to political ideology.
Aren’t you tired of letting the powerful divide us and in the process running roughshod over all of our lives? Aren’t you tired of those who are supposed to administer laws yet get away with abject lawlessness. We have let our country get hijacked by tyrants in suits and hustlers in DC and Wall Street as they thrive by feeding on our hopes and our livelihood. Enough! How many more diversions will we fall for and how much red meat will we ingest from pundits, politicians, and plutocrats before we rise up and reclaim our nation. The struggle is not between left and right nor is it between political ideologies, the struggle has always been and continues to be between the powerful and the rest of us.
*This article was republished today to remind Americans the difference between true valor and speaking truth to power versus the circus we will be treated to this evening during the State of the Union carnival as both parties hold a hypocrisy contest.
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.