One of the shameful byproducts of 9/11 is that journalists have generally become timid in asking the tough questions. While the influential New York Times and Washington Post have apologized for their pre-war coverage, the industry hasn't quite met the challenge for the 2004 election either. Here are some questions that should be asked prior to November's elections.
For President Bush and Sen. Kerry:
(1) With the U.N.'s Kofi Annan deeming the Iraqi war illegal, what has the invasion done for the cause of "pre-emptive war"?
(2) Does the U.S. government have the right to redefine the meaning of torture, to pick and choose which prisoners are covered under the Geneva Conventions, to secretly detain anyone indefinitely, and should it be subverting the International War Crimes Tribunal?
(3) In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has adopted the Israeli tactic of "targeted assassinations" that invariably always kill innocent bystanders. How do they differ from military death-squad assassinations, and what is the legal basis for them?
(4) California Gov. Schwarzenegger advocates driver's licenses with special marks for undocumented drivers, and Congress is proposing de facto national ID cards. Is Big Brother government in our future?
(5) How do your views on the sanctity of life manifest on the issues of abortion, stem cell research, capital punishment, unjust wars and eradicating racism?
For President Bush:
(1) The 9/11 commission and the Iraq Survey Group have unquestionably debunked your reasons for invading Iraq. Does not your continued insistence otherwise and your continued rose-colored-glasses assessment of the war disqualify you from continuing as commander in chief?
(2) You speak of spreading democracy. Shouldn't we be free here from threats posed by the Patriot Act to our own freedoms and liberties? And how can we export democracy if one-person/one-vote is not the law (for presidential elections) of this land?
(3) Four terrorists were recently pardoned by Panama's former president. You've not denounced this action. Does this not send out the wrong message? Also, are you not personally responsible for the prisoner abuse scandals?
(4) You promised to be a uniter, but the Iraqi war has sharply divided the nation and has turned most of the world against the U.S. Can the public trust you to restore the respect that most of the world had for the United States immediately after 9/11?
(5) You aggressively seek out war and consistently side with corporate interests on virtually every issue. How is that compassionate?
For Sen. Kerry:
(1) Why do you seem to have problems answering questions in a straightforward manner? And why did it take you so long to come out against the war in Iraq?
(2) The president demonizes the idea of guaranteeing medical coverage for all Americans, this while health care costs soar and more than 45 million Americans are uninsured. What's you're alternative?
(3) You volunteered for Vietnam. Bush and Cheney evaded that war. Why are you on the defensive?
(4) You are attempting to attract the support of Republican-leaning independent voters. Why not appeal to the tens of millions of disaffected former voters?
(5) The president's call for a generational war against terror -- along with calls for worldwide U.S. military dominance -- requires a permanent state of war. Do you stand with him on this?
For Ralph Nader: Is there not a better way of delivering your message other than running for president?
For the U.S. electorate:
(1) Everything about the president's "war on terror" has been an utter failure. He did not act on information that Osama bin Laden, who remains loose, was set to attack the United States. Once again, Afghanistan leads the world in opium production. Iraq is an intractable quagmire. Why should a grossly incompetent president -- who exploits grief and traffics in fear -- be rewarded with another four years?
(2) How does one rationalize a vote for John Kerry -- who does not appear to have a clear position on Iraq -- other than wanting to be more effective than the current president?
(3) If our civil liberties begin to be eroded and the environment is placed in extreme peril, who do you trust to stand up to big government and the world's corporations? And who do you trust to get the economy back on its feet and to make health care available to all Americans?
For the media: After they've responded evasively with their usual campaign sound bites, and after they've traded insults, will you insist that they answer the questions?