The Show Funeral

Lee Harris writes that President Bush’s critics have manged to turn the old Soviet “show trial” concept on its head, turning Coretta Scott King’s memorial into what Harris calls a “show funeral”, in which, “instead of properly honoring the memory of the dead, the occasion is deliberately exploited for its propaganda value”:


Carter, for example, used the opportunity to insinuate that Bush’s “domestic spying” was like the spying done by the FBI on Dr. King. Carter commiserated with the King family for having been subjected to such an ordeal at the hands of their government, and, by implication, he also commiserated with those Americans who had been subjected to Bush’s domestic surveillance. But does this analogy honor the memory of Dr. King and his movement?

Let’s make a simple thought experiment to find out.

Suppose al-Qaeda had decided to air its grievances against the United States by holding a massive peaceful “sit in” at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Suppose Islamic terrorists, instead of blowing up innocent human beings, had vowed only to use civil disobedience. Suppose Osama bin Laden, like Dr. King, had struggled with all his might to keep his organization from turning to bloodshed and violence. Would Bush have felt the need to launch a domestic surveillance program on such a pacifistic movement? Maybe; maybe not. But the fact that al-Qaeda embraces violence and celebrates terrorism — doesn’t this small detail destroy the basis of Carter’s analogy? If you can equate bin Laden with Martin Luther King, and al-Qaeda to King’s non-violent movement, then, by all means, go ahead and draw the same analogy that Mr. Carter drew about Bush’s domestic surveillance program. If, on the other hand, you cannot equate the two, then Carter’s analogy becomes at best ridiculous and at worst obscene.


If it were actually possible to equate the two, Carter would be the man to do it: As Jay Nordlinger thoroughly documented in his great “Carterpalooza” piece in 2002, from Tito and Ceausescu to Yasser Arafat to Kim Il Sung to Daniel Ortega, Carter’s never met a terrorist or dictator he didn’t openly admire.



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