In his January 6, 1941 address before Congress, nearly a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt outlined four freedoms: “freedom of speech,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom from want,” and “freedom from fear.” Based on Roosevelt’s address, it is possible to call free speech our first freedom. Free speech is also listed in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, but it comes after freedom of religion. Note that Americans are guaranteed freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. It has become clear to me that based on its actions, the ACLU believes more in the latter. But that’s not what I really want to focus on today.
We enjoy a freedom of speech that other nations don’t have. Here in the United States, we have the freedom to stand up and call someone a sheep pimp if we want to. There will usually be repercussions from such an act, including a probable lawsuit for slander, but in the United States, truth is the best defense. If you can show evidence that said someone is indeed a pimper of sheep, then you can successfully beat any slander lawsuits. But such is not the case in Canada. In the land to the north, calling someone a sheep pimp and then laying out documents, videotapes, and recorded sheep testimonies will not stop the pimp in question from suing you for defaming his character and hurting his feelings. And the pimp would win, regardless of his own actions defaming his own character. So much for freedom to speak the truth in the Great White North. While you may still say what you want, truth is no longer a defense in court. Apparently, Canadians value not being offended or having their feelings hurt over the bare, honest truth. And there are times when the truth hurts and offends.
Speaking of offense, a person is currently generating some controversy because of the way he chooses to exercise his freedom of speech. Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado at Boulder is being condemned by numerous people for his defamatory comments about the victims of 9/11. Here is a fairly long excerpt from a longer article called “Some People Push Back:” On the Justice of Roosting Chickens which Professor Churchill wrote shortly after the September 11th attacks:
They [the September 11th terrorists] did not license themselves to “target innocent civilians.”
There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . .
Well, really. Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire — the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved — and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” — a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” — counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in — and in many cases excelling at — it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.
Churchill’s comments gained more attention when he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in New York. After the powers that be at Hamilton found out about Churchill’s essay and his follow-up book, they cancelled the appearance. Both the Colorado State Senate and House have passed non-binding resolutions calling the words of Churchill “evil and inflammatory.” The Yahoo news article on the subject finished with the comment: “Democratic state Sen. Peter Groff cast the lone ‘no’ vote, saying he disagreed with Churchill but that the resolution provides him with undeserved attention and attacks free speech.” What Senator Groff seems to have missed is that these resolutions in no way attack free speech. The resolutions merely indicate the opinions of the Colorado Senate and House. People like Churchill are still free to say what they want, but what they say can certainly get them into trouble.
Speaking of trouble, Lieutenant General James Mattis has been ordered to watch his mouth by his commanding officer. This three-star Marine Corps general is in trouble for saying, among other things, the following:
Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling, You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.
The Left recoiled in horror from this comment. Shock! Horror! Here was a general who wasn’t feeling conflicted and anguished over his job. Worse still, he actually enjoyed his job. Who promoted this troglodyte?
One comment came from General Mike Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps. He said, “Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully.” Notice that Mattis was not reprimanded for killing Taliban fighters. Rather, he was counseled to choose his words better in the future. The unspoken comment from his superior officer is to stop saying things in public that make other people feel bad or uncomfortable.
While I believe that the taking of life is a somber and serious affair, I can’t condemn Lt. Gen. Mattis too much. I doubt that Mattis, as a three-star general, is directly engaged in any firefights with the enemy. Generals usually give strategic direction. When you are looking at the big picture, it is genuinely gratifying to see that the mission has been accomplished–and if that means killing the bad guys and breaking things, then that is part of the job. And when you get down to it, winning is fun.
If I were to speak for the general, assuming that I knew what he meant to say, I would not use the word “fun” to describe the feeling of a job well done. Instead, I would say that when faced with an enemy like the Taliban, successfully removing such reprobates is emotionally gratifying, particularly when you know how much better the lives of the women in Afghanistan will be.
Because of free speech, Lt. Gen. Mattis is free to say what he wants–but also because of free speech, people are free to call for his dismissal. It doesn’t appear that the military brass will listen to these calls, but people are still able to express a desire for Mattis’ removal.
Speaking of removal, I’ll continue this article next time.