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Stop the Rhetoric
of Destruction:
A Response to Cheney's
Waldorf-Astoria Address
By Greg Moses

Original message sent via email 10/19/2001, 10:49 p.m.

"We cannot deal with terror. It will not end in a treaty. There will be no peaceful coexistence, no negotiations, no summit, no joint communique with the terrorists. The struggle can only end with their complete and permanent destruction...
"... and in victory for the United States and the cause of freedom."
   --US Vice President Dick Cheney, Waldorf-Astoria Address, Oct. 19, 2001

This mighty rhetoric of destruction cannot be good for us. We must stop it quickly, for the world is round, and the things we shout today will echo behind us soon enough. The logic of "their complete and permanent destruction" is a logic that respects no speaker. The leaders of the USA have an obligation to adopt a rhetoric that will contribute to global community, not global chaos.

When the President and Vice President of the United States are sworn into office, they take a very simple oath, "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Whatever course of action our leaders take, we need only ask if the Constitution is better off. But today, the Constitution seems altogether lost in a battle cry of destruction.

Of course, we will applaud our leaders in times of great distress. They need us, and we need them. But it would be better for both our leaders and ourselves if the rhetoric of leadership were better chosen, because it is not only their words that will echo through the world, but our applause will echo behind them. And we deserve to be treated to words that represent our Constitution with the care and dignity that it deserves.

In times of distress we would like for the world to hear us applauding our Constitution, preserving its precious principles, and extending its vision globally to fellow human beings. We do not want the world to watch us while we dismantle our Constitutional rights and stampede our Constitutional vision in a trample of panic. Horrified as we may be, the great citizens of this country deserve words that uplift our courage and dignity. We shall not be made into a posse or vigilante mob.

It would be better to hear from our leaders how they are redoubling their commitments to our Constitution at a time like this, for it is our commitment to our Constitution that will decide the value of our cause. Whoever took down the twin towers on Sept. 11, we have seen worse. Whatever they threaten to do next, we have faced worse. Whatever we're going through now, we have been through worse. And we have our Constitution to prove what we learned from all those difficult times.

In this crisis we need not chase after our hatred, anger, or revenge. We need not place at the center of our universe the ugliness of a wicked deed. We need only stand where we are, preserve what we cherish, protect what we love, and defend what we value. The values that brought us this far will take us further. We need not be led astray.

Think of Lincoln for instance and the battle he faced. Did he ever cry out for complete and permanent destruction? Think of Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. Did he write of complete and permanent destruction? Think even of Wilson or Roosevelt. Did they ever seek complete and permanent destruction?

Our greatest moral hero to the world, Martin Luther King, Jr., would surely flinch at this language. He fought hard for many good things, but he never talked about anybody's complete and permanent destruction. There is a way to pursue justice, liberty, and the Constitutional vision that makes us great as a people, but that way is not through complete and permanent destruction. Surely, better ways abound.


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