Think Before You Vote
(c) 2004 by Ross Anthony

The 2004 Presidential Debates

The Debates Transcripts

So I've been paying attention. Listening to both sides of the story, extremists certainly have a lot to say. They're scary and it's hard to know whom to believe. That's why I'm so excited by the debates. Not only do the debates present information directly from both horses' mouths, but they do so very conveniently. I can even multi-task by eating dinner, or folding my laundry while gathering very useful decision-forming information. The time it takes to watch the debates is simply not a sufficient excuse to warrant ducking them.

In fact, during the debates, I learned a great deal more about both candidates than I had in the whole year prior. Kerry seemed more like a salesman than a president, and Bush seemed more like a dictator than a president. But once I saw them both on stage debating at length, going head to head like two boxers, that's when I really started to get a sense of them. (Those paid ads were nearly useless.)

Neither a Democrat nor Republican myself, I find many faults with both of the candidates. Still, because of their differing stances on the Iraq situation, I see my vote as having a great deal of power toward saving lives. It's difficult, of course, to find the time to be educated about this vote. But, our petty excuses for not being educated pale in comparison to the sacrifices made by our men and women stationed in Iraq. The very best way we can support our troops is to best understand the Iraq situation. Make a judgement (as best we can) whether or not our men and women should be risking their lives in Iraq. And then vote for the presidential candidate most aligned with that judgement. Of course it's much easier just to trust Kerry or Bush when they say we'll all be fine if we follow their plans, but that's not fair to the soldiers over there. I encourage you to uncross your fingers and become as educated as possible.


"Do you approve of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?"
"Army Times" recently polled its subscribers and found 60% of the responding Active Duty personnel answered "yes."
Interpreting these results:
Only 60% of folks who subscribe to a paper called "Army Times" and are willing to be polled - said yes. That's worth more thinking, isn't it? Also: Of the 31,000 subscribers asked, only 2,700 active duty responded. "Army Trail" points out that their sample pool may not represent the general military, and that most of their subscribers tend to be higher in rank and about 60% Republican. Polls were taken Sept 21-28,2004 -- before the debates. Of the total Active Duty responding -- over 60% never served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Soldiers write Letters home: Doing a good job in Iraq:
6 Soldiers agree with contents of letters, but say they didn't write the letters that have their signatures.

"Dear Mike, Iraq sucks",2763,1319718,00.html
Letters from soldiers stationed in Iraq. These letters are sent to Michael Moore, so there will no doubt be doubt over their credibility. You be the judge.

"You realize that the people to blame for this are not the ones you are fighting."


Iraq war timeline.

What we thought about the war in the days before.

Does the rest of the world think we're fighting terrorism in the right way?

My opinion: Unlike an invasion by a regime, it seems to me terrorism isn't something you can point at geographically and blow up. It might feel good, it might feel like you're doing something and doing something may give you a sense of security or simply the sense of revenge -- but the reality of what you've done will prevail. We must ask ourselves, even if all goes well, even if we protect Iraq long enough for Iraq to stand on its feet and the terrorists simply do give up -- will we have won the war on terror? Will we in America be any safer?

This is a very difficult question and one that further inquiry will lead to even scarier questions. Not the least of which is... "Why did they attack us in the first place?" Again, it's simple and somehow reassuring to just assume that they are crazy. And maybe they are? But if they are crazy, how will securing Iraq end terrorism? They don't live in Iraq. Does Freedom and Liberty really cure Terrorism? Prior to 1776, were Jefferson and his band of renegades seen as an insurgence by the Brits?

This is America. Why were we not asking "why?" "Why did these educated people consciously make a choice to give up their lives? What had they to gain? Were they manipulated? Who is responsible for that manipulation? What can we do militarily, politically, diplomatically to make it very difficult for people to be manipulated so severely that they'd be willing to sacrifice their own lives in acts of terrorism? I want to know the answers to those questions and I want to know why I've not heard these questions being asked? Aren't the answers so important to HOW we fight the war on terror? I'm not soldier, but I see a lot of war movies and the theme "Know your enemy" pops up quite a bit.

R. Scott Appleby, Professor of History, begins to speak to this question:
(National Catholic Reporter)
"The Sept. 11 attacks were an attempt by Osama bin Laden to awaken the majority of Muslims from their passivity and to demonstrate dramatically that there is a crisis within the Muslim world and that Muslims must take sides, Appleby said. Ironically, he added, President George W. Bush adopted the same stance when he issued his challenge to the world: "You're either with us or against us." The message of both leaders was the same: There is no middle ground."
More Appleby:


"Cronkite: Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack:
Faulty Intelligence Played Role in Decision to Engage Viet Cong"
(You can hear Walter Cronkite interview President Johnson.)

"The Fog of War" and "In Retrospect"
Wouldn't it be nice to know what Rumsfeld is really thinking? And all of the things that he can't say now for political reasons? We probably won't get to know that, but we can hear the reflections from the Secretary of Defense (Robert McNamara), who advised the president during the Vietnam War. In the film "The Fog of War" McNamara speaks candidly. "We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why." Don't you think it would be useful to read McNamara's book "In Retrospect" or see the film "The Fog of War" before you vote? Perhaps it's irrelevant. View it, read it, then you be the judge.

An interesting article that puts McNamara in a less impressive light.

Jimmy Carter's thoughts on presidential election security and the Florida "fiasco."
President Carter (now there's a guy I trust) and President Ford and 38 other very intelligent people sat down and studied this idea of electronic voting polls. They recommended emphatically, that the polling units dispense a paper receipt of the vote for two reasons. 1) So that the voter could confirm that, in fact, the machine accepted the vote as he/she meant it and 2) So that those receipts could be kept in a box and recounted if necessary. President Jimmy Carter said that the electronic voting units in this election will have absolutely no paper trail. There will be no way of recounting the votes should "something go wrong." We'll just have to trust the company that developed the machines, the programmers and the people running them. (Btw, I thought I heard him say that you can request a paper ballot vote even if they have the machines at your polling place.)

Floridians urged to not trust Jimmy Carter:


I don't know all the answers. I'm not telling you who to vote for, but I am urging you to do your best to collect the facts. I am urging you to wake up from any kind of blind trust in either party/candidate. You've read this far, so no doubt, like me, you care. So then, I urge you to urge those around you to THINK before they vote. Think about their American counterpart stationed in Iraq. Think about why America is worth defending. If you or they haven't seen the debates -- then see, hear or read them.

I want to make it clear that I both appreciate, respect and out and out stand in awe of the bravery and service our soldiers are demonstrating on behalf of myself and all Americans. Actually, it is because of them, that I can no longer sit silently crossing my fingers. These good people are risking their lives and limbs for me and you, we should have the courage to at least ask very difficult questions, seek the information as best we can, and make hard decisions with our eyes as wide open as possible.

AND READ THE DEBATES (a matter of life and death).
Why aren't the Debates (neither VHS/DVD or transcripts) available in every American library? I stopped into my local library and asked if the debates were available there. The librarian said, "No, and you are the first to ask about that, either by a patron or staff." How disappointing. Paid TV, Radio, Poster campaign ads are almost entirely void of substance -- why are they everywhere and the debates not?

Some more links: (Can download Debates audio and other speeches) - League of Women Voters - Info about candidates and issues - both sides - Federal, State and Local candidates and issues

(Btw, Within my own family we debate, sometimes even passionately about this election. We disagree, but we still respect and love each other. With so much negative being said about both candidates, it's difficult to keep an open mind to the potential positives; but if we aren't really listening, how dare we expect to be heard? It is in this spirit of respect and love that I encourage healthy debate among voters.)

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Copyright © 2004. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 11-Dec-2007 09:56:24 PST