Readers weigh in on Bush's crackdown on the antiwar movement. Plus: Getting queasy over Drudge, and more debate over Bush's missing National Guard days.

Published February 14, 2004 9:42PM (EST)

[Read "Outlawing Dissent" and "A Thousand J. Edgar Hoovers," by Michelle Goldberg.]

Before moving to Minnesota last April, I lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., for six and a half years. During that time I came to know some people associated with the People's Alliance mentioned in the article, including Abby Puls, as well as the friend she's mentioned as traveling with in Argentina. They are incredibly brave and decent people; I was disgusted to learn, before leaving Grand Rapids, that they were a target of police surveillance. It's a depraved and miserable society indeed that molests people like Abby while lionizing ... oh, take your pick. God bless Salon for publicizing their story.

-- Phil Christman

Salon is sacrificing any hard-earned credibility by misrepresenting the content of the article about infiltrators into antiwar groups and reporting mere innuendo as fact.

First, to imply that individual police forces spying on antiwar groups is due to the current president is simply irresponsible and false. As long as there is a group that presents itself as outside the mainstream, there will be people in positions of authority who will perceive them as threats to that authority. Right-wing militias were watched after Oklahoma City, communist groups during the Cold War, and anarchists during WWI. Tone down the spastic rhetoric against Bush as evil puppeteer and attack him on what you believe is truly wrong in his philosophy and actions.

There was absolutely no connection between the content of the article and the image of the "nameless" female protester that led the story. Where is your journalistic integrity? Of course, a beaten and bruised woman is an arresting image. To display her as an example of Bush's policies is inflammatory and baseless.

-- Matthew Grygor

Goldberg sure plays loose with the truth: We know that terror is planned from mosques and Islamic student organizations; we also know that the black brigades, as well as the ELF [Earth Liberation Front] have popular support from "mainstream" protest groups (such as ANSWER). I might've had more sympathy for Goldberg's position had not the left -- and again, mainstream protest groups -- not smugly overlooked, and in fact celebrated, the destruction in Seattle a few years back, happy that protest had reached new levels.

If a meeting is public, it's public: That means the police might be there. Planning to break the law, whether for personal gain (such as a robbery) or for civil disobedience, is a crime called conspiracy. If the left wants to bitch that it needs privacy to openly discuss how to clog city streets with the illegal purpose of shutting them down, or that radical Islamists need privacy to plot the destruction of Western civilization, I just don't think you'll find a very sympathetic ear.

-- Jeffrey Abelson

Your two-part article was another excellent report on the erosion of civil liberties. I think it's time for activist groups to develop a more proactive response to this sort of police activity, a sort of counter-COINTELPRO, if you will. Some suggestions:

1. Develop your network. Identify members that walk the corridors of power or who come into contact with persons or organizations that wield authority. The Spanish-language translator described in the article need never have shown her face at the protest if organizational leaders had compartmentalized her involvement as a pure information gatherer, considering the access she had.

2. Collect information on those who watch you. Find your local precincts and courthouses, head on down, and start taking pictures. Strike up casual conversations with police officers you meet. Keep track of the makes, models and plate numbers of unmarked police cars.

3. Do a little infiltration of your own. Activist groups should consider developing their own sources within law enforcement agencies, from clerical-level employees right up to cops. Get inside their organizations and start collecting information. The added value, of course, is that your organizational mole can lead by example from within, serve as a whistleblower, and even catch actual criminals. What a novel idea!

But above all, activist groups need to develop their own shibboleths in order to foster some degree of trust within their organization, even as suspicion threatens to penetrate.

-- Jason Linkins

[Read Joe Conason on Matt Drudge and the GOP smear machine.]

This latest report from Matt Drudge just makes me sick. Just ask all the Americans who have lost their jobs during the Bush administration if they care whether John Kerry had an affair. Our nation is spending billions on a war we did not need to fight, our economy is not recovering, health insurance is about to implode -- and we want to waste our time on this?

Ask the parents who lost a son or daughter in Vietnam if that ridiculous war was worth it. I applaud John Kerry and his fellow protesters against that war. Maybe if the American people had been listening to them, 58,000-plus might still be alive to enjoy life. The media just does not understand that the American people for the most part are sick and tired of this politics of destruction. There must be a way to put a stop to this. Why must we sink to the lowest level in this country? Do we get the government we deserve, or do we deserve the government that we get? I pray to God the next nine months go by quickly. This may explain why 50 percent of voters do not vote anymore. I will vote in the next election because I believe that is my obligation to my beautiful grandchildren. Please wake up, America, and please concern yourselves with the important problems we have in this country.

-- Diana Pollack

Let's be clear about what is going on here. Karl Rove, the "Mayberry Machiavelli," who cut his political milk teeth on the dirty tricks of the Nixon campaigns, is pissed off and out for blood. Why? Well for one, the press has actually pursued the story of Bush's sham military service, at last. Two, because Kerry is a very serious contender and Bush has got that deer-in-the-headlights look once again.

Bush, Rove, et al., will stoop to anything and say anything to hang on to power. Veracity doesn't play into it. Looks like the vast right-wing conspiracy is back in high gear. Do the press and media have the guts to tell it right this time? We still don't care about the sex lives of middle-aged men.

-- Elena Kehoe

[Read "Bush's Service Records: The Score Card," by Eric Boehlert.]

Why isn't anyone just saying it flat out? Let's be honest, people, there is a huge difference between putting your life on the line (regardless of the rightness of the cause) and your butt directly in front of a bullet in another country, and simply marching around and learning to fly airplanes while still close to home.

To those who hear this line of criticism and begin to bluster about serving their country, I have to say, "Sorry, guys." However much you may feel you're "doing your part" for the country, let's just cut the crap. During war, those who stay home are much more likely to live and are at much less risk. Why is everyone so scared to be honest about what Bush did? Yeah, he stayed home. He kept his wealthy, upper-class behind well out of the line of fire and then skipped off to play for a year, to boot.

Community service is great, but I won't compare that with the poor (and I mean this literally) guys who were shipped off to Vietnam with no influential parents to tip the scales in their favor. However much I am against war in general I wouldn't dare to dishonor men who did what they had to do. To compare and defend Bush's "service" and to equate it in any way with even one guy who actually took a risk is insulting to the extreme.

George W. Bush is a pale shadow of his father -- who, although I don't care much for him either, I would swap for in a second. Bush II is a modern-day "Bonny Prince Charlie," moronically running around playing soldier and king with no clue or frame of reference for what he's doing. Perhaps if the man had any actual battle experience, he would have made different choices about going to war in Iraq.

In the meantime I will ask what the hell he was doing during his esteemed "military" service. If that offends a few guys doing soft duty at the moment, so be it; I think they're aware of the difference of their jobs. Any real vet might appreciate that as well.

-- Megan Dixon

In response to Eric Boehlert's series of exposés on Bush's service record, I feel annoyance, indignation and shame. Not for George Bush -- for the Democrats and liberal independents who stoop to muckraking Bush's service record as a way to discredit him. Come on. You're acting like Republicans.

"'I'm fed up,'" Gen. Turnipseed said. 'People want me to give them something to bash Bush.'"

Well, I'm fed up, too, with the substitution of ad hominem slander for debate about policy and morality.

I don't care if Bush somehow avoided part of his military service. What I do care about is that he and his administration took the United States into an unjust war in Iraq, that they rig government policy to favor their cronies and the rich at the expense of everyone else, that they are creating laws and taking executive actions reflecting the worst combination of Ayn Rand plus Christian fundamentalism plus might-is-right moral philosophy.

I feel that we must make every effort to get rid of these guys. But not by these dirty tricks. Do we really have so little faith in the electorate that we have to resort to smear campaigns?

-- Joe Grohens

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------