U.S. Senate slams free speech

It seems to me that some elected representatives to the Federal government don’t respect the free speech rights of citizens to criticize government officials. Sadly, one of those is my elected representative, Dianne Feinstein.

Senate Approves Resolution Denouncing MoveOn.org Ad – New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 â?? The Senate approved a resolution on Thursday denouncing the liberal antiwar group MoveOn.org over an advertisement that questioned the credibility of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq.

At a White House news conference, President Bush called the advertisement disgusting and said it was an attack not only on General Petraeus but also on the entire American military.

General Petraeus is a government official. As such, he is valid subject of criticism. Here, MoveOn felt it necessary to pay for an advertisement pointing out that the General has not been forthcoming to the American people in his evaluations of the war and, as policy, waters down essential statistics used to evaluate the war so things appear more rosy.

I disagree with President Bush that this is an attack on the American military. First, he’s overused and abused the “attack on the military” rhetoric. It seems that the Bush Administration categorizes every criticism of the war as an attack on the military and each soldier. Time to turn off the broken record that cries wolf. Second, criticism of the war itself and the officials leading the war does not equal an attack on the soldiers fighting the war. The attack here is levied at the policies of the military brass, particularly its leader General Petraeus, who make the decisions about how to wage this unpopular war. The ad brings up several good points regarding statements the General has made, his role in the war, and his policies that understate how many people have died. Nothing in the ad appears to criticize the ground troops. Third, the only reason the President finds the ad disgusting is because he’s directly responsible for the policies the ad criticizes the General for.

With that in mind, the Senate resolution is a travesty and violates the spirit of our Constitution, if not the actual text. It is irresponsible for the Senate to consider rebuking any critique of how the government operates, no matter how crude, rude, indecent, or obnoxious it gets. The First Amendment was enacted specifically to give citizens the freedom to criticize the government. The Founding Fathers themselves had a nasty habit of criticizing the English Crown when it was their government and felt it prudent to explicitly provide free speech rights to all when creating their fledgling government.

I am not a member of MoveOn, have never given it money, and don’t really like its tactics. That said, it is the right of the MoveOn membership to criticize our military leaders for their policies and statements.

Also covered in: The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

Suggested reading: Animal Farm

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