The Buck Stops With Us

Joel Bleifuss

Scott Ritter, a former Marine intelligence officer and a veteran of the first Gulf War, served as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years. He had this to say during a recent talk in Santa Fe, New Mexico:Our Congress failed us. They are as culpable as the president of the United States. But it’s not just Congress, guys. It’s the media, the ones that spoon-fed the lies to us. … The media didn’t ask questions, they didn’t demand the answers. So the media has the blood of American soldiers on their hands, too. But you know what? I say the buck stops at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that would only be the truth, in the end, if this were a dictatorship. It’s a representative democracy, ladies and gentlemen. … We are culpable as well. It is our fault we are at war in Iraq. … If the president lied and he is not held accountable for it, then what we stand for as a people means nothing. … Collectively in this country we have stopped functioning as citizens. … This is a nation that is infected with a disease, a disease of complacency, a disease that is destroying citizenship, a disease that is destroying the Constitution that defines who we are as a nation. We have to cure this disease, not just the symptoms. Not just by voting Bush out of office in 2004 and making ourselves feel good. Bush is a symptom of the problem. Iraq is a manifestation of the problem. We have to start redefining our lives as citizens, good citizens, people who believe in this country and will live a life of citizenship dedicated to the ideals and values represented in the Constitution.

Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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