Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Lone Brave Voice

Note: Joseph DuRocher was for 20 years the elected Public Defender of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties. Since retirement, he’s been writing and teaching law at the University of Central Florida and the Barry University School of Law. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, serving as a Naval Aviator in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. On Monday, Mr. DuRocher returned his Lieutenant’s shoulder bars and Navy wings to President Bush, and enclosed the following letter.
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As a young man I was honored to serve our nation as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U. S. Navy. Before me in WWII, my father defended the country spending two years in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-14). We were patriots sworn “to protect and defend”. Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator’s wings.

Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind, and to “disappear” them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a U.S. Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a “signing statement” that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name.

As a citizen, a patriot, a parent and grandparent, a lawyer and law teacher, I am left with such a feeling of loss and helplessness. I think of myself as a good American and I ask myself what can I do when I see the face of evil? Illegal and immoral war, torture and confinement for life without trial have never been part of our Constitutional tradition. But my vote has become meaningless because I live in a safe district drawn by your political party. My congressman is unresponsive to my concerns because his time is filled with lobbyists’ largess. Protests are limited to your “free speech zones”, out of sight of the parade. Even speaking openly is to risk being labeled un-American, pro-terrorist or anti-troops. And I am a disciplined pacifist, so any violent act is out of the question.

Nevertheless, to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions. I do not. So, I am saddened to give up my wings and bars. They were hard won and my parents and wife were as proud as I was when I earned them over forty years ago. But I hate the torture and death you have caused more than I value their symbolism. Giving them up makes me cry for my beloved country.

Joseph W. DuRocher
(Mr. DuRocher can be reached at

(I was so moved by this letter that I responded in the following way:)
Mr. DuRocher,

Sir, I was very moved by your letter to the President. I just want to express my appreciation for your service to our country. And I wanted to tell you that, in my humble opinion, you are a real patriot. I know it must have been a heart-wrenching decision to give up those decorations so hard-won for the sake of principle.

I wish there were medals for what you are doing now, which I believe to be ever bit as large an act of valor as anything I can think of; but I'm afraid all I can offer is the poor thanks of one who is as deeply offended and broken-hearted as yourself over what has happened to our country.

God help us.
Grayson Harper.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Dogs are cheerful creatures and rarely, if ever, resort to self-annihilation. But dogs have never before been required to sniff for bombs at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, not until President Bush came to India. But I am getting ahead of the story; since it is ordinary Americans and Indians who are a little blue.

Interviewed on the phone, by Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, novelist Arundhati Roy was asked for her first impressions of Bush's visit to the country, and she responded...
"[I]t's been one of the weirdest times I've lived through, because on the streets, you have these hundreds of thousands of people protesting, and you have--we have a government that's been so obsequious that it makes your skin crawl, and we have stories in the corporate press in India which are unbelievable about how Bush arrived with 16 dogs that are staying in a five-star hotel and are not to be referred to as dogs, because they're actually officers in the U.S. Army.
The four-legged officers were cool with staying at the Maurya Sheraton, which Ms. Roy described as "the most expensive hotel in India". The doggies--excuse me--officers, were on duty later at the Gandhi Memorial, where they would have required medication, if they possessed a keener sense of irony or had caught the strong whiff of hypocrisy that clung to the air. Bush is photographed casting flower petals on the water, at the memorial of this iconic man of peace. Priceless.

Amy Goodman reported that in New Delhi alone, there were estimated to be 250,00 to 700,000 protesters to the President's visit. And aside from the President's dog-officer photo-op, there was only one other venue at which it was possible for him to appear with Laura. Once again, Arundhati Roy provides the flavor of the event...
"We have"..."the front page story today in the major newspaper"..."Laura Bush shooting with Boombah the bear"..."the front page story is why Bush missed his dessert at the banquet, and this whole nuclear deal, obviously, which sounds to me a bit like"..."I mean, I hate to be so rude, but it sounds like sort of like pimps negotiating how somebody should act with their client."

"And yesterday on the streets, while I was there, there were, you know, 53 widows, from my state of Kerala, of farmers who have committed suicide, because of the closing net of debt around them. Tens of thousands of farmers have committed suicide. And yet, you know, [Bush] arrived here with these corporates like ADS and Cogentrix and Unocal. All of them have such dubious records. It's really unbelievable, and yet if you see the way the CEOs and the corporates are falling over him--and I have to mention this, that they couldn't find a public space in India for Bush to speak, so he ended up,--the meeting was organized in the Delhi Zoo."
Bush's hosts in India wouldn't allow him to appear before Parliament, because in that kind of democratic environment, he was sure to be heckled. Clinton spoke there when he was President, but there would be no Parliament for George. And there would also be no recognition or media access to public sentiments on the street.
"I was there. In Delhi, there were demonstrations on two days continuously"...

"And yet, if you looked at the Indian news, you know, the major corporate Indian news, it is as if they never happened, because everybody's just so busy, even the heads of television stations who were invited to the lunch with Bush"..."they're being interviewed by their own employees, as if they're sort of corporate heads"..."on every channel , they are telling how Bush touched their hand or put his arm around their shoulder, and it's as if the demonstrations didn't happen."
By such accounts, we live in a world where every officer-and-doggie has his day. It is the surreal world of "Catch 22" or "Dr. Strangelove". What is approaching us, is a madhouse of the beguiled. That would be the protean, black and white world, where policies are never in error, but merely have to shift to accommodate more catastrophic circumstance. It's the world, dear reader, where you recognize that cowardice is contagious, in the Senate, and in other walks of life.

Fifty years ago, Edward R. Murrow said "We will not be driven into an age of unreason."..."No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices." This is true enough. But now, as then, it is not so much the one man, it is rather his accomplices who task us. And we have one means to prevail; we must be free of violence and lies.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


"Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what now is Donald Rumsfeld's vacation home: 25." --Harper's Index, Harper's Magazine, March 2006

They were tired of putting up with him.
The crucified was sure of that himself.

Once they turned from his body, he was gone.
Adjourned from forbidden arts and nakedness,
They lit cigarettes and snickered in the cold,
And thought the sleet would let up tomorrow.

They hissed as Little Eva made for heaven,
Taking the blue hands and body of Dilawar,
Slight, one-hundred-twenty-two pounds,
With lash and antebellum cry of soldiers,
Men who ask if they will pass by home
Once more, just this side of mercy.

Thanks Jeanne for illuminating so much

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...