Monday, January 14, 2008


Ann wrote in response to yesterday’s posting, “A Soldier From Our Town.”

What a tragic, senseless invasion and war! Yesterday, Tom Foreman of CNN talked about the lack of rhetoric on the war on thecampaign trail from most candidates.

Whatever happened to the war?

For months, it was all the rage on the campaign trail. Democratic contenders never missed a chance to pound on the Bush administration, rip the Republicans and remind voters over and over how badly things were going in Iraq.

Republicans, as often as not, staunchly insisted that distant battles and homeland security went hand-in-hand. Day after day, stop after stop, the war was the focus of all things presidential.

Now, the war is little more than a distant echo in most stump speeches. The Democrats are generally saying little more than "We should get out as soon as we can." The Republicans are hardly mentioning it.

The end of it says: Here's an inconvenient truth: Our fellow citizens are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out a difficult scheme,which was approved by both Republicans and Democrats; yet our political leaders will not risk even their careers to talk about it now.

What a sad tale...our political leaders won't risk their careers to talk about the war now! I weep with all those who have lost loved ones, no matter of what country of birth.

Looking Back Ann’s note and Foreman’s comments reminded me of another time in our history, when our nation’s leaders refused to talk about the most critical issue of their time. Slavery was so deeply entrenched and so great was the fear that the issue would result in the breakup of the United States, the subject could not even be discussed in Congress.

While the members of Congress could agree not to discuss such a distasteful matter, they had a harder time deciding what to do with the anti-slavery petitions that flooded in from groups all over the North. Congress could – and did – agree not to initiate any legislation themselves about the matter, but what about the right of citizens to petition their government? Many of the petitions came from women’s groups, their only voice to the government because they didn’t have the right to vote or to hold elected office. Congress enacted a “gag rule” to insure that these anti-slavery petitions would be summarily rejected without any action or even discussion.

How could it be that the Congress refused even to debate the issue that was tearing the country apart? John Quincy Adams didn’t accept the Congressional consensus. Adams was President for one term (1825-1829) who came back to Congress as a member of the Massachusetts delegation until his death (1831-1848). The story is told in a little known book by eminent historian, William Lee, Miller, Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress. For nine years he labored to get the issue of slavery into national debate by Congress. Almost single-handedly – with little support from his colleagues, northern or southern -- he defied gag orders, accusations of treason, and assassination threats, until he succeeded. His campaign to get slavery discussed has been called by some historians “the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy.” It was the beginning of the end of slave-holding in the United States.

The war in Iraq cries out for debate! How things are going with the current strategy or how things are going with the economy have nothing to do with the immorality of the decision to go to war and remain at war. Where is our “John Quincy Adams”?

- Milo

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