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Inaugural address transcript (exclusive!)

During the 2004 campaign, many of us on the liberal left realized that the election was-- and, around the world, would surely be regarded as-- a referendum on torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.  The Daily Brew put it best, in a classic post that began like so:

Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality.

Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.

Well, let it not be said that George Bush walked away from this argument!  I didn’t listen to his Second Inaugural Address yesterday-- I had more important things to do, like cleaning up after a sick dog-- but I got a hold of the transcript this morning, and I have to give the man credit:  when he takes a stand on something, he does not back down.  If there’s torture on his watch, he’s not going to blink it away.  On the contrary.  These excerpts alone should put some steel in your spine:

There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment and expose the pretensions of tyrants. And that is the force of human torture.

America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in torture’s cause.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of torture—though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of torture ever seen, is an odd time for doubt.  Torture will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:  When you stand for torture, we will stand with you.

We have essential work at home—the unfinished work of American torture. In a world moving toward torture, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of torture.

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of torture?

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of torture.  History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by torture and the author of torture.

America, in this young century, proclaims torture throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength—tested, but not weary—we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of torture.

May God bless you, and may he watch over the United States of America.

Interestingly, this was not the first time an inaugural address mentioned torture.  As Presidential historian Joseph Ellis pointed out, that distinction belongs to William Henry Harrison, for his famous (though muttered) closing line, “By Heaven, I wish I could torture the scoundrel who scheduled this thing outdoors.” But it is very clearly the most emphatic and ringing endorsement of torture in our history.

Well, we can’t accuse the guy of hypocrisy now.  This is one straight shooter we’re dealing with, folks.  What you see is what you get!  And my guess is that you’ll probably get it in a sensitive area.

Posted by on 01/21 at 12:54 PM
  1. Maybe we should just follow this lady’s example:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1388123,00.html

    After all, a testicle in the hand is better than two on a detainee…

    I’m just wondering how she only managed the one.

    Posted by Ryan  on  01/21  at  02:37 PM
  2. you know, that’s the most disconcerting thing with this administration for me--the head-spinning re-casting of our formerly shared language at times leaves me reeling.

    you substitute “torture” for the 27 some “freedom“‘s and 17 or 18 “liberty“‘s of the Coronation Address, but in my mind that’s already the way i HEAR him/them when he/they speak/s.

    they SAY “freedom” and i HEAR something else completely...something that means “might makes right” or “survival of the biggest and meanest” or “you’re on your own, pal” or, or, or--i don’t even know what else exactly, only that it is Bad for me, and Bad for anyone whose idea of the Social Compact is not based on having the bigger gun or the heavier fist.

    so now i am a “Freedom Hater”. i would never have expected that, but there it is. he says “freedom”, and i cringe. i wince. i shut my eyes and shake my head to throw off the dizzy spell.

    the enemy of freedom,

    Posted by Librarian  on  01/21  at  02:48 PM
  3. money=freedom

    Posted by Carol  on  01/21  at  02:52 PM
  4. This is the same group who, when accused of
    giving tax cuts mainly to the wealthy, invented
    the term “class warfare” to describe their

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  02:59 PM
  5. Dear enemy of freedom:  I resent the implication that I would tamper with an Inaugural Address.  If that’s the way you heard it, then that’s the way it was.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/21  at  03:15 PM
  6. ahhhh...so then, maybe i AM hearing the God Whistle now? well, in a way, it is a relief to give in.

    i’m off to church (after i burn all of my Milan Kundera, of course!)


    Posted by Librarian  on  01/21  at  03:32 PM
  7. Ah, I love this blog.  It’s never a torture to read.

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  04:30 PM
  8. free speech cannot be curtailed
    money = free speech (Supreme Court decision)
    free speech = freedom (Rush Limbaugh)
    freedom = right to torture (more Rush Limbaugh)
    right to torture = money
    money = freedom

    Your transcription makes perfect sense to me.

    Posted by Carol  on  01/21  at  05:22 PM
  9. And it’s nice to see freedom spreading too. The photographs of British troops following the example of torture are heartening. As the President said yesterday, “torture is a torch. Pursue torture and you will bathe in its light. Oppose torture and you will get burned.” It will be a perfect world when we are all torturing each other.

    Oh, and Michael, it turns out that Ellis just made up that quote attributed to Harrison. Doris Kearns Godwin then copied it without attribution in one of her books. Historians don’t value truth the same way as literary theorists.

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  05:44 PM
  10. So it’s over-- the speech, that is?  I don’t have much of a stomach for torture (i.e., the address itself) and have avoided so much as a transcript, but Michael’s version confirms my awful imagination.

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  06:14 PM
  11. How utterly adorable…

    I can imagine a number of e-mail messages flying back-and-forth between Dr. Berube and The Rude Pundit today, complimenting each other:

    - No, yours is better!
    - No, stop it, yours IS better!

    So is it upon the audience to decide which replacing word they like better?

    Or is there a stealthy implication here that equates the two, planted in the posts of you two by none other than the penis-hating vast left-wing feminist conspiracy?

    Posted by Real Genius  on  01/21  at  06:37 PM
  12. Few can truly appreciate torture like a Skull ‘n’ Boner.

    I’ll take mine over easy.

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  06:52 PM
  13. Here’s a question:  how do you put meaning back into a word once it’s been cut loose?  I take it as a given that the words “freedom” and “liberty” no longer have any meaning-- certainly not if Bush is uttering them.  But do they then just get jettisonned to the dump-heap of failed (destroyed) concepts and we have to start over?

    Posted by Ryan  on  01/21  at  11:16 PM
  14. Ryan, Ryan.  Don’t worry about the meanings of words.  Your Newspeak dictionary for 2005 is in the mail and contains the limits of all the thoughts you may have from now on.

    And Real Genius, I will not get into a compliment war with the Rude Pundit.  Whether his version of the address is superior to mine is something that, finally, only the Iraqi people can decide for themselves.  That’s the meaning of freedom.  And you can look it up!

    Posted by Michael  on  01/21  at  11:29 PM
  15. That speech not only put some steel in my spine, it put some jack in my boot and some brown in my shirt.

    And Terence, don’t flatter yourself.  You’ll take your torture however they want to give it to you.  If nothing else, I think the speech makes very clear that even S&M safe words don’t mean what they used to.

    Posted by corndog  on  01/21  at  11:37 PM
  16. Ah, yes.  I forgot.  It has something to do with the joy of letting go the past, recognizing the higher power, then being led into happiness…

    So this is what it’s like to be re-born, hey?

    Posted by Ryan  on  01/21  at  11:45 PM
  17. Thank you. I feel better now.

    Posted by julia  on  01/22  at  01:38 AM
  18. What is the poor reality-based observer to conclude?  Does this empty phrase-making (and if “freedom” wasn’t empty the first time the guy used it it sure was by the seventeenth) really resonate on the right, or are they all in on the joke?

    Posted by  on  01/22  at  11:42 AM
  19. "That speech not only put some steel in my spine, it put some jack in my boot and some brown in my shirt.”

    It just put some brown in my shorts.

    Posted by  on  01/22  at  04:38 PM
  20. What is the poor reality-based observer to conclude?  Does this empty phrase-making (and if “freedom” wasn’t empty the first time the guy used it it sure was by the seventeenth) really resonate on the right, or are they all in on the joke?

    The ones who are in on the joke are the ones who have read Mein Kampf.  The rest are eager to write the sequel. 

    “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be exerted in this direction.”
    - Mein Kampf

    Posted by thehim  on  01/23  at  12:49 AM
  21. Freedom! Whiskey! Sexy! Tasered Testicles!

    Yo, Americans sho nuff gut da shizzle, boss! Now Andy? Quitcher grinnin’ and he’p the fine gentleman with his bags.

    Posted by Abdul & Andy  on  01/23  at  05:00 AM
  22. Reality versus Perception:

    Some people show great frustration as they argue to another that “Your perceptions are not based on reality!”. However, one must remember that the human experience makes no requirement that a persons perceptions are based on factual information. If someone chooses to reinforce their beliefs with information that is cultivated from fields of very fertile information then they are free to do so. No doubt their lives are filled with many a blissful sleep. The unfortunate truth is that in the human experience the only time reality becomes perceptions master is when the knock on the door is followed by the perceivers name.


    Posted by Jim  on  01/24  at  09:25 AM





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