Terrorism and Freedom

World Reports

The head of the Natural Resources Defense Council says the September 11 attacks spell out in frightful terms that America’s unchecked consumption of oil has become our Achilles heel. It leaves our economy dangerously vulnerable to price shocks. It invites environmental degradation, ecological disasters and potentially catastrophic climate change.

Following the terrorist attacks, it didn’t take long for the wartime opportunists to crawl out of their offices determined to grab what they can for their clients. How do they propose to fight the long and costly war on terrorism? Why, restore the deductible three-martini lunch. Cut capital gains for the wealthy. Eliminate the corporate alternative minimum tax and refund to those corporations all the minimum tax they have ever been assessed.

Give coal producers freedom to pollute. Shovel generous tax breaks to giant energy companies. Open the Alaska wilderness to drilling. Give the president the power to discard democratic debate and the rule of law concerning controversial trade agreements. Set up secret tribunals to run roughshod over local communities trying to protect their environment and their health.

The administration and its Congressional allies are allowing multinational companies to make their most concerted effort in 20 years to roll back clean-air measures, exploit public lands and stuff the pockets of their executives and shareholders.

Once again, the Republican Party has lived down to Harry Truman’s description of the GOP as Guardians of Privilege. And it breaks my heart to report that the Democratic National Committee has used the terrorist attacks to call for widening the soft-money loophole in our election laws.

What a different country it would be if we had a citizens channel on television with a mandate to cover real social problems, not shark attacks or Gary Condit’s love life. Such a channel - committed to news for the sake of democracy - might have told how corporations and their alumni in the Bush administration have thwarted the development of clean home-grown energy that would slow global warming, while reducing our dependence on oligarchs, dictators and theocrats abroad.

The soul of democracy has been drowning in a rising tide of big money contributed by a narrow, unrepresentative elite. What’s at stake is democracy. We’ll lose it if we roll over and shut up. It is every patriot’s duty to join the loyal opposition.

Bill Moyers is the conscience of US journalism. These remarks were drawn from a speech at the Environmental Grantmakers Association and a cover story in The Nation (November 19, 2001).

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