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Political apathy and frustration go hand in hand

Published in St Louis Post Dispatch
By Edmund Fruchter, supporter of
Friday, Jun. 10 2005

It might help if young people saw politicians, including the president, being held accountable for their actions.

While the Downing Street Memo - the "secret and strictly personal" minutes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's July 23, 2002, staff meeting on Iraq - has enjoyed wide circulation in the British press, it remains virtually unknown to most Americans. Is this a matter of ignorance or choice?

As an undergraduate at Washington University, I do a lot of reading. Having studied the student rebellion in France of May, 1968, the accounts of young Americans pouring blood on Vietnam draft records and the overwhelming activism of my parent's generation, what I wonder is: Who hit the reset button?

Since April 4, the first day of the Student Worker Alliance's sit-in here, St.
Louisans seem to have the impression that Washington University is a "radical" school. I disagree. In the rare absence of political apathy, there is something else: ambiguity. Students, when not parroting inherited political biases, seem confused. Potential activists lacking outlets for their frustration grow cynical and removed.

So why is an 18-year-old writing about the Downing Street Memo? I'd turn the question around: Why aren't all 18-year-olds raising a stink about it?

There may be some connection between this and the poor turnout among young voters in the 2004 presidential election: No draft, no problem. In other words, if the issues don't hit us where we live, why bother? Truth is, there seems to be a shortage of easy answers. Here's a complex one.

Written in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the Downing Street Memo includes accounts of earlier meetings between British and U.S. officials and raises longstanding questions about pre-war intelligence, especially whether diplomacy was seriously considered or merely used as a smokescreen.

In his minutes, Matthew Rycroft, a British foreign policy aide, writes of those earlier meetings: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, has emerged as a vocal proponent of looking more closely into the memo's contents. "These minutes," Conyers wrote in a letter to President George W. Bush, "indicate that the United States and Great Britain agreed, by the summer of 2002, to attack Iraq, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action, and that U.S. officials were deliberately manipulating intelligence to justify the war."

What message does this send to American youth - indeed, to Americans of all ages? That adultery is worse than an unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation supported by fixed intelligence?

This answer is simpler, given two prerequisites:

First and most obviously, the memo must be genuine. In the month since it first appeared in the British press, its legitimacy has not been challenged. Second, and more subtly, the word "fix" must be used in its more informal American sense of improperly rigging the outcome of something, rather than in, say, the navigational sense of fixing one's location.

If these two conditions are met, then President Bush must be held accountable and, as I see it, impeached.

Let us see the same moral piety displayed by congressional Republicans during President Clinton's impeachment applied to one of their own. If justice is not swift, the apathy my generation knows all too well is likely to spread even further.

Edmund Fruchter of St. Peters is a junior at Washington University and a
staff writer for the Washington University Political Review, a student



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I think this column is wonderful. Bravo, Edmund. Keep up the great work. And, I felt it was very diplomatic to qualify the call for impeachment by saying that the memo must be genuine (i.e., truthful) and the meaning of fix must be consistent with the american vernacular. Keep it up, Edmund. I'll be googling your name from now on.

I've never read the post dispatch, but if they publish quality like this, I must get a subscription. Edmund: you are wise beyond your years, and, frankly, you kick ass. Run for office, man; we need you. Impeach Bush!!!!!

Bush isn't going to be impeached; his party will protect him to the last minute. The memo isn't a smoking gun, as some would like it to be, but it does confirm what we've been thinking, and I imagine that it, in addition to everything else, merits an investigation that isn't affected by the administration, and will speak the truth, whether or not it vindicates Bush or proves us, in the camp of doubt, wrong.

Justice is important, and Mr. Fruchter should be thanked for his article, which probably let a lot of people know about the memo, the Washington action around it and, most importantly, his feelings as a young man thrown into the political process. Congrats on a good column, and continue to stand for what you believe in, Ed.

Nice Job!!!!!

Dear Mr. Fruchter;
I am sending your article to everyone I know. There are millions out there that agree with you and with our continued pressure on the media and the Congress--we can make a difference. I have two daughters (18,21) and if we are to ever make a radical change it will be from the public demanding such. It is time. Thank you for your strong work.
Jocelyn D Davis

A very well thought out, well spoken letter. If you were thinking of being a jounalist(White House stenographer) you have too much talent.

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