Written by Karsten Kolliker on Nov. 18th 2013 in view of the upcoming 50th anniversary of
the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and submitted as an op-ed to Huffington Post/ Slate/ Salon. (Ted Sorensen in memoriam)
My fellow Americans, looking back at the past 100 years, we have all been part of the exceptional rise of the United States of America to unseen power and prosperity. Extraordinary technological breakthroughs and innovations, all sorts of new conveniences and new forms of entertainment on the one hand, and on the other the engagement in two world wars, a long list of regional wars and the persistent Cold War. In the two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, we became accustomed to view our nation as supreme. When General Secretary of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev’s daring attempt to reform the Soviet Union led to the dismantling of this superpower, for a brief moment in history, the mighty power of the United States of America stood out with unrivalled supremacy.
The subject of this speech is to draw to our common attention, how this experience has shaped the way we think and the way we behave as a nation.
Every american has come to understand himself or herself as a member of a nation of absolute power. We do see ourselves as exceptional in a global context. And we’re not talking military power only. Many of our large corporations have through the course of the 20th century achieved positions of world dominance, and has further strengthened these positions through the export of the american way of life.
As many of our former leaders realized, the ascent of the remarkable power and strength of the US came with moral questions and political responsibilities. Not only did the US join the First and the Second World War to support the ideals and principles of our nation, as these ideals and principles were under siege by oppressive forces in Europe and Asia. After the Second World War the United States of America was instrumental in building up the United Nations along with a whole range of institutions for the civilization of the conduct of nations.
Where World War II left both Europe and Asia heavily damaged, the power and vitality of the US economy was exuberant. Thus the currency of the US dollar was established as the currency for international trade, which has brought our country many benefits but also responsibilities. Up until the cancellation of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, the american economy provided the foundation for robust economic growth worldwide by securing the value of the dollar.
The extraordinary power and supremacy of the US also affected it’s political institutions and it’s way of governance. Though some mandate was given to the institutions of the UN, as a superpower, the only constraints on the excercise of power are those which the superpower puts on itself. And there are powerful legal institutions in the US with a mandate to subject the exercise of power thorough scrutiny. And there is freedom of expression which allow journalists and ordinary citizens to publicly raise any critique of the government.
In times of war though, there are exemptions to this transparency of government. In times of war, for strategic and tactic reasons, a certain amount of secrecy is nescessary, and with a strong and enduring sense of patriotism this need for secrecy has been widely accepted by the american people.
My fellow Americans, as you are very well aware of, up until the attack on World Trade Center in 2001, our mighty military force was able to secure a peaceful life for the citizens of the US, and yet, if we ponder this question for a while, the US has actually been in a state of war constantly throughout the past 100 years. No real peace settled in the wake of WWII, since the grave ideological opposition of between free-market capitalism and the planned economy of socialism soon led to a war of interests, The Cold War, which practically relegated every nation on Earth to either side of this divide. Looking back at the past 100 years, this constant state of war is just as striking as the remarkable prosperity enjoyed by the majority of the american population.
This persistent state of war has led to the build-up of a military force of huge proportions on the one hand, and on the other, the build-up of a similarly huge web of information- and intelligence agencies with the CIA and the NSA at the very center. Due to the imminent threat of war these agencies and their operations have escalated in both scope and nature beyond any governmental constraints. At this point in time, there is no legal institution, not even the presidency, who can claim insight into and demand legal scrutiny of what these agencies are doing. Thus, it is the very unity of government, which is at question here. And as the figurehead, I provide the unity of government by claiming that I sanction any given action by any governmental agency.
Well, I am done with it. The purpose of this address is to seperate the presidency from all the illegal operations and all the inhumane acts of coercion, which are perpetrated under the cover of secrecy. America has become a nation fraught with secrets. And it’s not just the secret agencies, though in reality they may very well be points from which all the secrecy originate. This behavior based on secret knowledge and secret alliances has permeated not only large parts of our governmental structure, it also permeates a large part of our commercial and financial sector. The reality of our national state of affairs is probably, that beyond a certain level of economic or political power, the conduct of our institutions and corporations wouldn’t stand public scrutiny. In every corner of the nation, leadership is failing, because of this dishonesty and malconduct. There can be no true leadership, where the motives and actions can’t be stated overtly, and where the leaders in stead rely on manipulation and coercion.
So, my fellow Americans, though you may think I have forgotten all about the Movement of Change, that initially brought me to office, actually I haven’t. How should I ever forget? How should I forget the extraordinary hopes and aspirations and the immense enthusiasm, that were invested in my presidency?
For my own part, I thought I was well prepared for the job, when in fact, I wasn’t. I was in no way prepared for the enormity and the weight of all the secrets bearing down on the presidency. Just the absurdity of the insights into all that had played out on Wall Street for the past decades, made me momentarily speechless and clueless. When I took office and I was initiated into this huge web of shadow government, I instantly knew that I had two options: Either to stand by my vow and appeal to the support of the american people in a public showdown with the shadow government, or to co-operate with all the more or less shady stake-holders to fend off the immediate financial crisis in the hope of finding ways to reform the structure of government somewhere down the line
As you are all perfectly aware of, I chose the latter option, and that was a mistake. A huge mistake, for which I apologize. Things did not turn out the way I hoped. Not at all. The policies I was recommended to put in place to overcome the financial crisis, didn’t solve the crisis at all, but merely kept an unsound system afloat at the expense of the broad, middle-income population. This development made me sick to the core, but what was even worse, I soon found myself in a position, where I had to defend these wretched policies along with many, many others.
Since we are all so very aware of the power and strength of the US, practically every citizen of the US expects the president to be strong and to show leadership. As the commander in chief, as the head of state, I am expected to control every branch of government and all their actions. If any malconduct in any branch of government is disclosed, it weakens my authority in the public eye. And a severe weakening of the presidential authority poses its own grave risks. This was my dilemma. I was deliberately let in on all sorts of shady activity in the expectation, that I would be forced to keep up a credible appearance to the public, thus letting this shadow government keep on its operations, or, as my alternative, to let the american people in on all these shady activities and thereby suffering a huge loss of authority and a potential break-down of government, which in all likelihood would correspond with a break-down of our national identity.
With this address to you, my fellow Americans, I try to make up for my former mistakes. I should have taken an uncompromising stance on honesty and clarity. I should have exposed all those who exerted a strong non-constitutional influence on government. I shouldn’t have taken advice from the corrupt leaders at Wall Street, and I shouldn’t have bailed them out either.
This address to you is what I should have done right from the first day in office, and that is to trust that I have your support, when I sincerely work on your behalf. To trust in the power of clarity, to trust in the constitution, to trust in the judgment of ordinary people when provided with all the available information. And, in the end, to trust in our ability as a nation of free citizens to overcome severe hardships, to persevere and to create a society where our wishes are met and our dreams are fulfilled.
Though it has been in the making for long time, I owe my resolve to take on this showdown with the shadow government particularly to one man, a man I have officially condemned, but in my heart of hearts I have admired and cheered. I’m speaking of the young computer specialist Edward Snowden. By his tremendous courage and great care he has set an example for all of us, and for this I have decided to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This task of clearing our political system and our structures of power of all the secret dealings and malconduct entails the participation of practically all the citizens of our nation. As I today confess to you, that I wasn’t able to stand up against the coercion exerted by the shadow government when I took office, I call for every man and woman, who has been engaged in any wrong-doing as part of an organization, to reveal it to the public. By the example of the Truth Commission of South Africa, that enabled a peaceful abolishment of apartheid, I have devised a plan to set up a Truth Commission in each state across the country. Every member of our society will be free to testify before the Truth Commission, and will be granted an amnesty for any wrong-doing.
So, what I’m calling for, is for our nation to search its heart. I’m calling for each and everyone of us to make this leap of faith, to confront our realities, to be honest with ourselves, and in honesty, to regain our self-respect.
Never before in the history of mankind has a national self-awakening of this magnitude been carried through. Any yet it is presumably the only way to overcome the dire predicaments facing our nation.
Due to all of this fraudulent and shadowy government, America is no longer an economic powerhouse, and there is no way that the US can sustain a military force of its current size, its current technological sophisication and its current level of international engagement. Though it is deeply disturbing for me to say this, the effects of the ever stronger shadow government has led to a frightening decline in moral standards. We have to realize, that the United States of America has gradually transformed its role in the world from being the provider of stability, friendship and prosperity, to being the most ruthless extractor of wealth and resources. Apparently, the temptation to use our unrivalled position of power to our own advantages was too hard to resist. Our star has fallen so utterly, that any political progress on the international level is dependent on the US recovering some kind of humility in its attitude towards the citizens of the rest of the world.
We have to get passed the notion of American supremacy, we have to rid ourselves of all the shady leadership and restore clarity, and when we do, we may actually rediscover the true entrepreneurial spirit of the American people. We may reveal new kinds of societal cohesion and innovation, we may unleash a new kind of prosperity. And due to its educated citizenship, the US may cast itself in a new leading role in the fulfillment of the wishes and dreams of ordinary people around the globe.
It is up to you, my fellow Americans, to deem what is strength and what is weakness. Your view of government and your support of what you consider to be true government is the make or break point of my presidency. If you stand by me in this moment of crisis, I promise you, I won’t waver in my resolve to restore clarity to our political system. My determination is to stand by my ideals and convictions, and to return to what I have allways thought leadership is all about: To inspire and to support. You are the important ones, you are the creators of this country.
Nothing great is achieved through command, compared to what can be achieved through a joint effort.
With humility and resolve, let’s gather together in this rebirth of our nation.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.