PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Two Presidents Remembered Today by peaceprobe
December 30, 2006, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Politics of Empire

Today I am reading the news of the death of two Presidents. In Iraq sometime before 6 am this morning Saddam Hussain was put to death. This afternoon the body of Gerald Ford arrived in Washington to be placed in the capital rotunda. The reach of their lives represents almost a century of human history spanning perhaps the cruelest and most violent in human history. The one President is vilified because he killed so many of the citizens of his country. The other, is described as a nice man who was able to reach the highest office almost by accident. One is described as a tyrant and the other as a consensus builder who served an age when this was a value in public life. Neither one was particularly distinguished in rolling back the great forces of violence that typified their era.

I was a living witness to the history of both of these men. I witnessed the cruel bombing and assassination programs of the man that President Ford replaced. I lived in Washington when the Watergate break in took place. President Nixon did not apologize for his cover up at Watergate nor did he apologize for the deaths of Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Americans in Southeast Asia. Despite the failure of this one time Quaker and President, to honor those lives in the most basic way by apologizing,” he was pardoned. Saddam Hussain did not apologize for his actions and he was put to death. 

When President Nixon was pardoned I felt like a dagger had pierced my stomach. I was younger then and I thought that the highest hopes of truth and humanity would prevail. What happened after the pardon (itself controversial at the time ) was that the country went into a sigh of relief because the long night was over. I guess it was a reconciliation of sorts, a “nice” reconciliation that failed to serve the long term good by not allowing the nation live up to its rule of law and the common covenant represented by the constitution. The absence of real reconciliation at that time set the stage for the next quarter century and the age of smart bombs. This brings us to the present day deaths of two Presidents.

I am honestly glad that President Ford was a nice man. Being nice however does not always serve the long term good.

The deaths of the Presidents today remind us that we have so much listening, praying and hard work of organizing to do. Their deaths also remind us that it is not easy for Presidents to do good. In fact they are like the rest us who try to find short cuts around the tough decisions and actions that follow therefrom. The century of Saddam and Ford was typified by forcing violent solutions to the problem of security and terror. We survived but it was close. Is it possible that this new century might be overcome by the power of decisions for the long term good. I hear voices whispering that we can be stretched to hope.


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