It was a beautiful sun-strewn Great Pacific Northwest summer evening as the mammoth USS Abraham Lincoln slowly entered Port Gardner and made its way to its way to its home slit at Naval Station-Everett.
The carrier had recently spent nine months at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., where it underwent major refurbishing and modernization and then proceeded for five days of sea trials.
As it approached, its 4.5 acres of deck space now devoid of aircraft, appeared empty and lifeless with the exception of tiny objects encircling its entire deck. As it passed a tiny park from which I was watching its arrival, the objects began to take on a life and I realized it was the ship's crew forming a perimeter around the deck.
Watching it begin to maneuver into position for arrival at its home port I couldn't help but think of an old joke about a Navy ship's dispute with Canadian authorities on a cruise off the coast of Newfoundland.
Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
US Navy: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
US Navy: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No, I say again, divert YOUR course.
US Navy: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS, AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH ... I SAY AGAIN ... THAT'S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH ... OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP!!
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
More memorable, however was the USS Abraham Lincoln's arrival at its home port in Everett in May 2003. In July 2002, Lincoln was deployed to familiar waters albeit an unfamiliar world after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It assumed duties in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch. The ship's deployment was then extended to further support Operation Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom as US forces occupied Iraq.
Its extended 10-month deployment ended with its Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, dressed in full "Top Gun" regalia landing on the deck and later congratulating the ship for its efforts after the ship had carefully maneuvered into position so as not to reveal the San Diego skyline in the background only a short helicopter ride away. It was on its flight deck that Bush declared "we" had won the Iraqi war while the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner was stretched overhead.
Like this day in June 2007, I remembered watching the Lincoln returning to Everett in May 2003 and thinking only about the terrible destructive power that had been released from its deck in the previous months. Now 3,598 deaths and 26,350 wounded later (as of July 4) the "mission" has still not been accomplished nor does it appear to be resolved anytime soon.
In the meantime we have been lied to, deceived and seen our Constitutional form of government corrupted, if not totally disregarded. Our "Top Gun" has declared publicly that he is the "Decider" in "my government."
Indeed the commutation of "Scooter" Libby was only the tip of an iceberg when it comes to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney putting their egos and dubious legacies before the good of the country and the laws which they swore to protect.
To draw a parallel, while one could justifiably argue the Richard M. Nixon was also more conscious during the Watergate scandal regarding his legacy than he was in protecting the laws of the land. But in the end, as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, chronicles:
"When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous 'Saturday Night Massacre' on October 20th, 1973, Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously. 'Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people.'
"President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people. It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party's headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.
"And in one night, Nixon transformed it. -- instantaneously -- so it became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law ... of insisting -- in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood -- that he was the law.
"Not the Constitution.
"Not the Congress.
"Not the Courts.
Olbermann argues, "Just -- Mr. Bush -- as you did, yesterday. The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the 'referee' of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's analogy ... these are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.
"But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush -- and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal -- the average citizen understands that, Sir.
"It's the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one -- and it stinks. And they know it.
"Nixon's mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment. It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to 'base,' but to country, echoes loudly into history.
"Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign . ..."
Now as the USS Abraham Lincoln glides into its home dock once again and I look around the park observing happy families and people enjoying an evening picnic the words of the ship's namesake echo in my head.
"... that we here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
It is only logical, I think to myself, that the best place to begin that "new birth of freedom" is for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to resign their offices immediately.
A.V. Krebs publishes the online newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2007
Subscribe to The Progressive Populist