TCS Daily

Not One Damn Dime?

By Seth Leibsohn - January 17, 2005 12:00 AM

An old friend of mine sent me a chain email about "Not One Damn Dime Day," a boycott of the United States on what most people know as Inauguration Day. You will see more of this chain email as January 20 approaches. The chain email reads in part:

"Since our religious leaders will not speak out
against the war in Iraq and since our political
leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it,
Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is 'Not
One Damn Dime Day' in America. On 'Not One Damn Dime
Day' those who oppose what is happening in our name in
can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of
all forms of consumer spending.

"During 'Not One Damn Dime Day' please don't spend
money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn
dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one
damn dime for anything for 24 hours. On 'Not One Damn
Dime Day,' please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target.
Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience
store. Don't go to the movies. Don't buy any fast
food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

"For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the
retail economy down."

My friend went on to mention to me "one of the five freedoms: speech," and said the boycotters were availing themselves of theirs. He then quoted me the Preamble to our Constitution and lamented that we have lost its intent and meaning -- especially by going to war in Iraq. He asked me for my personal response, not knowing where I stood on the matter. I responded as follows:

Thank you for your heartfelt email, and thoughts, your quotes from the Constitution, etc. You do ask for my thoughts and in candor and good will (the Socratic conditions of dialogue), I'll briefly share mine:

Let me start simply and work backward: I firmly support our efforts in Iraq.

You mention the five freedoms our country was founded on, and I agree with them if you are counting those freedoms as found in the First Amendment-although I count six. If you mean the freedoms as enumerated by FDR, there were four, and, of course, he looked "forward to a world founded upon" them. I pause to note none of these freedoms existed in Iraq before the U.S. liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Now they are beginning to.

You also cite the preamble to our Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."

Why do we think all of these foregoing treasures belong only to Americans? When we see an oppressed and immiserated people, should we not do our best to liberate them? Is this not why, for example, so many looked to the U.S. after the Asian Tsunami and why, for further example, we have 13,000 U.S. troops there now? A mere 2,000 less troops than we have in Afghanistan?

I believe in democracy and believe it is something everyone should be entitled to. Why do the Iraqis not deserve it? Why did they deserve -- using UNICEF figures -- Hussein's killing 5,000 children a month in Iraq? Why did they deserve, as Kenneth Pollack (Clinton's NSC advisor for the Middle East and a fellow at the Brookings Institute) wrote, a regime where children would have their eyes gouged out to punish their parents? Or, as liberal British parliamentarian Ann Clywd discovered in her visit to Iraq, a regime where plastic shredding devices were used on humans, sometimes head first, sometimes -- to prolong the death -- feet first?

I think an honest assessment of the Iraq situation requires a memory of who Saddam Hussein was: Hussein was a bloody tyrant who not only attempted to obtain nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction over the course of his tenure, but a tyrant who invaded two neighboring countries, launched missiles at Israel, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people (this does not include the war against Iran which he launched). He used chemical and biological weapons against his own people, and supported terrorists as well as harbored them: e.g., he paid suicide bombers in Israel 25,000 dollars per family; and only two years ago we learned that Abu Nidal (the worst terrorist of the 1970s and early '80s) was living in Iraq, as was Abu Abbas, leader of the Achille Lauro hijacking. Indeed, it is worth reading the Senate Intelligence Committee report from last summer (signed by, among others, John Edwards), starting with page 312, where one can read about collusion after collusion between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism.

The people of Iraq, living under the thumbscrew of a dictator who used poison gas, torture, and rape as a means of governing, had no chance of revolution (unlike, say, the people of the former USSR). They needed outside help. And it was not going to come from France or Germany who profited off of Hussein's leadership.

Yes, Iraq has huge problems right now. Huge. But it is indisputably a better place than it was under Hussein and elections there have a chance of hope and opportunity. It is important to remember, with all the violence one sees in Iraq now, it is confined mostly to the Sunni triangle, and some 80 to 85 percent of Iraq is relatively calm. It is also worth reading the polls out of Iraq, polls of Iraqis who overwhelmingly want to vote and look forward to voting, the most recent of which includes a poll of, of all places, Baghdad (see Alsabaah poll of earlier this month; 4,974 "Iraqis living in and around Baghdad"): Question: "Do you support military action against the terrorists?" Answer: "Yes, 87.7%." Question: "Will the security problems cause you to? Not come out and vote the day of elections = 18.3%; Come out and vote the day of elections = 78.3%" That, from the Sunni Triangle.

There is no denying the fact this is an intensely complicated situation. But at the end of the day, if people live under tyranny with no hope of self-help, where can they turn to? Basically us. This is why, for example, when dissidents marched in Tiananmen Square, they marched with paper replicas of the Statue of Liberty and held up copies of the Declaration of Independence.

Can democracy work, take hold in Iraq? I don't know. As Yogi Berra said, "The hardest thing to predict is the future." But the more important question is what if it does work? What if democracy can take root and hold there? It has the potential to reshape not just the Middle East but the world: it is a good in itself and a good for the region. This hope, this opportunity, is precisely why terrorists are so active there now: they know this is their greatest challenge to power, and that they could not be elected in their own right.

In the end, you write of "a beacon of hope and a citadel of freedom" that those who struggled for our founding created. I agree. I think too they struggled because they believed all men were created equal and endowed with unalienable rights. And, as Abraham Lincoln said of those words, they were "an abstract truth applicable at all times" so that "in all coming days" they would be a "rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression" and not just here, but the world over. I believe, too, Jefferson was right when he wrote that "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." I think many Iraqis are reaping the benefit of that belief now, as have over 20 million Afghanis over the past two years. Our efforts in Iraq have been, far from a departure from our founding principles, some of the greatest exportations of them.

I support your and all your friends' rights to your boycott, that too is a very American thing. I disagree with the merits of the boycott. But, while we disagree, can we at least agree that it is a wonderful thing to behold a country where one can peaceably protest and boycott? Iraq, I believe, will be such a country in toto very soon. For the last 25 years, it was not. In the interim, I hope you take this email with the good will it is intended, and the invitation you posed to me.

I remain, sincerely yours,


Seth Leibsohn is the Executive Director of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, a project of the Claremont Institute, where he is also a Fellow.


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