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lofter1
August 10th, 2005, 11:14 AM
Wondering how many of our tax dollars will be spent on this...

Pentagon unveils 9/11 concert (http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/pentagon-announces-september-11-concert/2005/08/10/1123353364623.html?oneclick=true)

'America Supports You / Freedom Walk' is planned; Website (http://www.asyfreedomwalk.com/); Iraq, 9/11 linked.


The Department of Defense (DOD) has planned a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing today.

http://www.asyfreedomwalk.com/

From the website:

Q: What is America Supports You?
R: " America Supports You," is a nationwide program launched by the Department of Defense (DoD) to recognize citizens' support for our military men and women and communicate that support to members of our Armed Forces at home and abroad. For more information, visit www.AmericaSupportsYou.com (http://www.americasupportsyou.com/).

Q: Who is supporting the Freedom Walk?
R: The America Supports You Freedom Walk enjoys the support of Stars and Stripes newspaper, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Subway, Lockheed Martin, The Washington Post, WTOP Radio Network, and ABC WJLA-TV Channel 7 & NewsChannel 8, among others.

Q: Why is DoD organizing this event?
R: Since September 11, 2001, the Pentagon has provided citizens with opportunities to commemorate September 11 in meaningful ways. The America Supports You Freedom Walk is the fourth September 11 commemorative activity sponsored by the DoD. The goal for the 5th anniversary in 2006 is for each state to host a Freedom Walk in order to provide an opportunity for as many citizens as possible to reflect on the importance of freedom.


http://www.asyfreedomwalk.com/images/FW-banner17.gif (http://www.asyfreedomwalk.com/index.html)

BrooklynRider
August 10th, 2005, 04:51 PM
Another shameless attempt to link 9/11 to the war in Iraq. Let's look at the war on Iraq: no WMD's, no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein, no link to 9/11, no capture of Osama Bin Laden, troops still in Afghanistan, troops still in Iraq, and more terrorists out to get America than ever before. Americans dying daily. Civilians dying by the tens of thousands.



Bush: "Mission Accomplished"

TLOZ Link5
August 11th, 2005, 12:42 AM
As long as we're on this subject, I hope that 9/11 is never denoted as "Patriot Day" anywhere other than on a GOP calendar.

BrooklynRider
August 12th, 2005, 10:01 AM
It would probably be more symbolic if they had every march backward from the Pentagon to the Chimpanzee Cage at the National Zoo.

MidtownGuy
August 13th, 2005, 02:14 AM
BrooklynRider you REALLY cracked me up with that one!
cheers,
I needed it after a long night at work.

lofter1
September 12th, 2005, 09:11 AM
This got hardly any press coverage on Sunday ...

Arlington Hosts Somber 9 / 11 Remembrances

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

September 11, 2005
Filed at 10:10 p.m. ET

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Sept-11-Washington.html?pagewanted=print

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Under a sky as cloudless blue as four years ago, throngs of people on Sunday sang ''God Bless America'' outside the Pentagon and marched in remembrance of the terrorist attacks and in tribute to troops fighting abroad.
Several thousand people joined in the ''America Supports You Freedom Walk,'' a demonstration organized by the Defense Department that mixed commemoration of the Sept. 11 anniversary with a call to honor those in the armed forces.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld spoke somberly of the stakes in the fight against on terrorism during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery before the walk.

''Today, history is being written by the valiant men and women of America's armed forces and by determined citizens who will do all they can to win this test of wills -- for that is what it is -- to keep our children from experiencing the heartbreak and terror of Sept. 11,'' Rumsfeld said.

His voice breaking, Rumsfeld noted that the children of some of the 184 victims killed inside the Pentagon and aboard hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 on Sept. 11 were in his audience.

''They will likely want to know why this terrible thing happened,'' he said. ''It's hard for free people to comprehend the mix of extremism and hatred that leads terrorists to murder innocent men, women and children. But perhaps we can tell them this: Throughout human history there have been those who seek power through fear and mass murder but eventually all of them -- every one -- has fallen.''

In a city more accustomed to protests against government policy, the crowds gathered in praise of soldiers. For many participants, support of President Bush's policy in Iraq (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iraq/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) was a strong subtext of the day.

Security was tight, and participation in the walk was limited to those who registered before the weekend.

Marchers were not allowed to carry signs. The crowd included a small group of anti-war protesters, who kept their criticism muted and walked respectfully with the others.

Mark Burlingame, 54, of Lancaster, Pa., whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of the jetliner that hit the Pentagon, said: ''I'm here to show support for our military and represent 9/11 families in support of the military's effort to crush the scourge of terrorism in the world.''

Monica Penski, 25, of Lafayette, Ind., came to voice opposition to the war in Iraq. ''I just don't want to see more loss of human life,'' she said. Her T-shirt was scrawled with the words: ''Violence is not the path to peace.''

Marchers observed a moment of silence outside the Pentagon and softly sang ''God Bless America'' before filing past the now-rebuilt wing of the Defense Department headquarters that was breached by the jet. People saw one old brick embedded in the new construction, charred black from the burning jet fuel and etched with the date of the attack.

Marchers made their way toward the National Mall, site of an afternoon concert by country singer Clint Black.

Gordon England (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/unitedkingdom/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), the acting deputy defense secretary, noted the crystal clear day in remarks outside the Pentagon. ''But I also remember four years ago was a beautiful day,'' he said, ''and of course it turned into a very dark and fateful day for the world.''

Bush observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., timed with the first hijacked plane's impact at the World Trade Center, in a ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

------

Associated Press writer Sharon Theimer contributed to this report.

lofter1
September 12th, 2005, 09:28 AM
Maybe this is why no one covered it...

What if you threw a wargasm and nobody came?

by John in DC - 9/11/2005 10:05:00 PM

http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/09/what-if-you-threw-wargasm-and-nobody.html

Now, I don't want to claim that the Pentagon's September 11 wargasm party they threw today, to try to help Bush's sagging approval ratings, was a complete bust, but...

Joe in DC and I decided to hit the fete and see exactly how many hundreds of thousands of patriotic Amurikans joined in the by-registration-only "sterile" event (they had the entire event, from the Pentagon to the mall (a few miles away), fenced in for safety or something).

Well, Joe and I arrived there at 2, just off of the Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Memorial, and here's what we saw:

http://americablog.blogspot.com/march1.jpg

A whole lot of nothing.

So we walked closer.

http://americablog.blogspot.com/tables.jpg

And we saw young kids putting away tables, or something, in an empty field. Ok. So we walked a bit farther (further?)

http://americablog.blogspot.com/march2.jpg

And there we saw a nice empty stage and a handfuls of empty chairs. Joe and I found this a bit odd, since the event began at the Pentagon, where they had some ceremony, and then folks had to walk to the Mall, a good couple of miles. How did they all get here, party, and leave so quickly? Not to mention, there wasn't a speck of litter on the ground - either these people were uncommonly neat, or there weren't that many of them. Nor was the "sterile" party area very large.

I went up to some guy on the soundstage and asked him when this all began. He told me 11am, as soon as people started arriving. How many were there, I asked him. 15,000 to 18,000, he told me. Yeah, right. The Washington Post says "thousands" and another story online simply says "droves."

I've seen a lot of marches on the mall in my 20+ years in Washington, but I've never seen one where 15,000 people arrive between 11am and noon, and are all gone, and everything's cleaned up, two hours later.

Methinks the Freedom March, Patriot Party, or whatever, was a bit of a bust. Clearly Bush didn't get the September 11 war-fest he wanted. And my suspicion is that after Katrina, and all the criticism of every other event the president ran to instead of focusing on Katrina, the White House wrote this thing off.

And good riddance.

Can we now move past September 11, finally?

lofter1
September 12th, 2005, 09:32 AM
More "coverage" ...

Was the Pentagon's party a bust?

http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/index.html

What if you held an "America Supports You Freedom Walk" and nobody came?

That's the question John Aravosis is asking over at AMERICAblog (http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/09/what-if-you-threw-wargasm-and-nobody.html), and it sure seems like a fair one. The Pentagon marked the fourth anniversary of 9/11 Sunday with a 1.7 mile walk to Washington and a county-western extravaganza on the National Mall, but damn if the crowd turn-out wasn't a little, you know, light.

How light? Who knows? Aravosis has posted some photos taken a couple of hours after the event, and it looks like pretty much no one had been there. We've scanned through the wire photos, and we haven't come across any of those sea-of-humanity shots you get from most Washington marches. In Salon (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/09/11/DOD_march/index.html), Mark Benjamin says that "thousands" turned out for the Pentagon's event, although one press spokesman made what seems like the improbable -- but still unimpressive -- claim that 17,000 were on hand. The Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/metro/20050912-122023-8870r_page2.htm) says "as many as 10,000" turned out. The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/12/nyregion/12walk.html) says that about 15,000 people pre-registered for the walk -- as the Pentagon required them to do -- but both the Times and the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/11/AR2005091100508.html) note that the Pentagon didn't release an estimate of the number of people who actually showed up. (We signed up just to keep an eye on the fun but found other ways to spend out Sunday.) Knight Ridder (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/12619840.htm) says that "thousands" participated but noted that "many in the crowd were government employees holding department signs." The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-anniversary12sep12,1,5931983.story?ctrack=1&cset=true) says that "officials estimated that the event drew about 10,000 people." But at another point in its story, the Times characterized the turnout as "several thousand."

All of which is French for "not very many." A big Washington rally draws hundreds of thousands of people: The "Million Man March" (http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/transcripts/2003/jan/030120.siegel.html) did 10 years ago, and the "March for Women's Lives" (http://www.aclusc.org/Page/Clipping/WashPost/040426.Barr.html) did last spring. Hundreds of thousands turn out for a presidential inauguration.

An antiwar protest (http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/transcripts/2003/jan/030120.siegel.html) on the National Mall in January 2003 drew at least 30,000 and maybe many, many more. That was back when a majority of Americans still approved of the way George W. Bush was handling things in Iraq. In a Newsweek Poll (http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm) released this weekend, 60 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq; only 36 percent say they approve. That's not to say that those 60 percent don't support the troops. They just might have a better way of showing it than turning out for a Pentagon-sponsored celebration built around a link between the war and 9/11 that simply doesn't exist.

BrooklynRider
September 12th, 2005, 09:40 AM
Looks like some of the folks counting people at the event might have beenthe same folks counting votes for George W. Bush in Florida and Ohio. 1+1=20

TLOZ Link5
September 12th, 2005, 03:14 PM
I actually forgot that this was going on.

BrooklynRider
September 12th, 2005, 05:51 PM
Maybe it was a march of the ghosts of innocent people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that case it was hundreds of thousands of marchers, only we couldn't see them.

bobby fletcher
September 12th, 2005, 07:51 PM
Maybe it was a march of the ghosts of innocent people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that case it was hundreds of thousands of marchers, only we couldn't see them.

Hey guys, just want to chime in about the September 24th anti-war rally. You all need to show up so Limbaugh wouldn't make the same "nobody came" claim.

http://answer.pephost.org/site/News2?abbr=ANS_&page=NewsArticle&id=6493

lofter1
September 15th, 2005, 06:19 PM
Armies of the Right


The President’s approval rating had dropped to a
disastrous 39 percent. But on Sept. 11, several thousand
people were marching to the Pentagon under the banner
“America Supports You.”

Tom Scocca groped his way through their world.

By Tom Scocca
http://www.observer.com/politics_observatory.asp


I have no moral standing. That was my problem at the America Supports You Freedom Walk on Sept. 11. Also my shoes. They were a problem too, or part of the same problem.

The notepad was O.K. It was stuffed into my back pocket, under the shirttail of my polo shirt, which was under the shirttail of my official America Supports You Freedom Walk T-shirt

I was not planning to pull it out. The Freedom Walk was press-restricted—a “sterile” event, The Washington Post had reported earlier in the week. Only registered marchers were allowed to walk the route.

So I was a registered marcher, mustering with the other marchers in the Pentagon’s south parking lot shortly after 8 a.m. The Department of Defense–backed Freedom Walk Web site had not asked would-be participants to certify what they meant by “supports”—or “America,” or “you.”

That was the way the Freedom Walk worked: The Bush administration happened to be holding a march to support the troops. On Sept. 11. Nobody was saying Saddam Hussein was allied with Al Qaeda. Nobody was saying that without the invasion and overthrow, the next terror attack would have used Iraqi W.M.D. Nobody was saying anything.

But I couldn’t stop looking at everybody else’s feet. I had picked out the most innocuous and all-American sneakers I had, old canvas Jack Purcells. The other Freedom Walkers were wearing modern American athletic shoes, puffy and ergonomic white or gray things, with doodads.

I spotted one pair of suede Pumas in the crowd. My eyes swept upward to see a media hang tag around the Puma-wearer’s neck.

Around my own neck was a Freedom Walk dog tag. The Freedom Walk organizers were not subtle, but they were pointedly bland. Posted at the entrance was a warning that signs and banners were prohibited.

Outside, the President’s job-approval ratings were nose-diving; Bill Kristol would be on Fox News the same morning saying George Bush’s handling of emergency management was “not really serious.” The Post had been shamed out of co-sponsoring the event, on the grounds that a newspaper had no business teaming up with the Defense Department. The Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda had seized the city of Qaim and was flying its own flag.

That was outside. I was inside. Two days before the march, as I’d wondered what to wear, I was suddenly seized by a bad idea and went into the Footaction USA store on Seventh Avenue to ask if they had any Pat Tillman jerseys.

“Who’s he?” the clerk had asked.

Nobody else was wearing a Pat Tillman jersey either. There were a few isolated shirts with sentiments like “These Colors Don’t Run,” but mostly the Freedom Walkers were wearing their Freedom Walk shirts. They plopped down on the parking lot to wait.

On a stage, a country-and-western band in Air Force uniform played Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.” Then it played Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”

It was Sept. 11. In a clear blue sky, planes from National Airport—Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport—were rumbling low over the Pentagon, low enough to be once again unpleasant to think about. I lined up with other Freedom Walkers for a mini-tour of the rebuilt crash site, in a long, single-file line. The line had inched forward some 50 yards before I overheard the people behind me wondering what it was they were waiting to see. They had lined up on faith.

In front of me, a couple of young African-American kids ate prepackaged apple slices supplied by McDonald’s, a march sponsor. The crowd was white, but not all-white—not as white as a Republican National Convention, or a Pavement concert, to be fair. A military crowd. Some had buttons or iron-on transfers with photos of dead loved ones: Pentagon victims, war dead.

On its own narrow terms—the only visible terms—it was critic-proof. It was one thing to have seen George Pataki grandstanding about Sept. 11 at the Republican convention, turning the civilian slaughter at the World Trade Center into a brief for the Bush administration. But the Pentagon attack was an attack on the armed forces. On the banks of the Potomac, the military has victims’ rights, from the commander in chief on down: We were attacked, we are fighting back. The mingling of the Iraq dead with the dead of 2001—the scandal in the run-up to the march—is not an issue.

And who am I to disagree? Where was I that day? Where have I been since then? A young Air Force guy, striding backwards, led our group around to the one charred stone preserved in the rebuilt building wall. The jet had first hit right over there, he said, pointing, then short-hopped into the building. The stone looked sooty. No pictures, please.

My wife had been in the Capitol, not the Pentagon. By noon, I had known my family would survive the day. Anthrax struck a little closer; we ended up with Cipro in the medicine cabinet. But nobody cares about anthrax. I recalled it while the President’s men lied and dithered about Hurricane Katrina—how they’d lied and dithered about anthrax, too, blaming it on dirty stream water. I couldn’t think of anything they hadn’t lied and dithered about, these four hideous years.

Bad thoughts, again. I skulked through the crowd. A young man sat on the asphalt, reading The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. How big was the gathering? A few thousand? A minor-league ballpark’s worth. If I’d been up on the press riser, I probably could have done a quick count.

I spotted another MEDIA tag, on a woman in a striped top. She had a familiar expression, familiar because I know how it feels to wear it: the pained, ingratiating look of someone on work-the-crowd-for-quotes duty. I studied her face a moment too long and saw her start to slow and veer my way. Sorry, sorry, no—eyes front, subway face, lock out the peripheral vision.

What would I have possibly said? “Well, ma’am, I’m here because I’m an American citizen, and because I care about Sept. 11, and because I want to know what’s wrong with this country.” The truth, really. I was on the other side of the world when I read about Al Qaeda seizing the town of Qaim, and also about the New Orleans police spokesman who shot himself in the head. Now I was back and what the hell was going on?

A deputy something-or-other of Homeland Security took the stage and gave thanks for the people who wear “the cloth of our nation around the world” and defend our liberties. I had turned on a small digital recorder in my pocket.

“Hooah! Hooah!” someone called out beside me.

The deputy something-or-other then told two stories. The first was about meeting the President the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The President said get, get ready,” he said. “He said get ready, he said this is not gonna be like removing a mole, this is gonna be like removing a cancer, it’s going to take a long time, it’s going to be a hard struggle, he said it will take diplomatic actions, it will take financial, he said, but at the end of the day, the military will have to do their job for our nation to be protected and defended, and of course that’s exactly what the military has been doing these last four years.

“And then he went around the room and the President said, ‘Never forget,’ and he pointed at everyone, he said, ‘Never forget, never forget what happened this day,’ he said, ‘I will never forget, and you can never forget, and the American people can never forget what happened,’ he said, ‘but especially us, because we are charged to protect and defend the United States of America and liberty and freedom,’ he said, and I will never forget, and I remember that from that day, because ever since then, everything I’ve heard the President say has been that resolute, about never forget 9/11 and what that means to America, so I thank all of you for helping us to never forget 9/11.”

What I remembered the President saying on 9/11 was substantially shorter. I remember him saying something like “My fellow Americans,” and then saying “glz blkz zizrp” and staggering backwards away from the podium in a hail of wrong-colored pixels, because he was off in a bunker and somebody couldn’t properly cue up the videotaped message he’d left behind. I remember this very specifically and with horror, but nobody else ever talks about it at all.

Then the deputy had a second Sept. 11 story to tell, and this one featured the news media. “A reporter was interviewing, was interviewing a little girl, and it turned out she was 11 years old, and the reporter asked the little girl, he said, ‘What is patriotism? What is patriotism?’ And this little girl said, ‘Patriotism is taking care of America.’ And I thank all of you for your patriotism in taking care of America.”

Afterward, I could not find an interview with such a little girl in Nexis, but not all newspapers go into Nexis, and at any rate the deputy never said the interview was published.

Event staffers had been standing in the crowd holding signs for various government agencies—JUSTICE, INTERIOR—and corporate sponsors, such as LOCKHEED. Employees were supposed to gather around the appropriate signpost.

Around 10, the order came to get moving, and the Freedom Walk began streaming through the gate: Leave the Pentagon and hang a right. I marched out behind the standard of COMMERCE, trailed by HUD and DVA, Veterans Affairs.

It was warm, especially with the extra shirt on. The mood was sunny too. There were backpacks and water bottles—water that people had brought with them, water supplied on site by Subway. The Freedom Walkers were not going to let themselves risk dehydration, even going on a sub-four-mile route.

I dragged my pace a little, to eavesdrop what people were saying. One family reminisced about a hike in the Adirondacks. Some civil servants talked about what it’s like having your pay rate posted in public. I made way for a three-wheeled baby stroller, the kind for joggers with children.

Again, surreptitiously, I flicked on the digital recorder. I had already witnessed everything an ethical and credentialed reporter could witness. I had witnessed all that years ago: Joseph McBlow, 57, of Alexandria, said ….

Afterward, I would mostly hear a heavy SHUSH-SHISH-THUMP, FSSH-THUMP—my own Freedom Walking footsteps, amplified by the acuity of stereo microphones.

Police were spread out along the route—some on foot, some on horseback; some smiling and waving, some in stern event-control posture. A pair of men came up behind me, talking about law enforcement. They were discussing a warning that Oct. 30 had been designated “National Kill a Cop Day” by the dread MS-13 gang. The talk had the besieged, conspiratorial tone of mimeographed police warnings I remembered from elementary school, about how acid pushers were distributing LSD-laced cartoon temporary tattoos on playgrounds to turn kids into desperate acid-junkies. But you can find the bulletin about Kill a Cop Day on the Homeland Security Web site.

Then the older one told the younger one about how back on the home front during Vietnam, his unit had been assigned to defend the colors from protesters. They had intelligence that the demonstrators might try to grab ’em, but not on his unit’s watch.

Up ahead, at one end of the Memorial Bridge, a knot of cameras and boom microphones had formed where the Freedom Walk was turning to cross the Potomac. Wouldn’t you know it, somebody grumbled, it’s probably one protester, see, and all the media wants to talk to him.

As we drew closer, we saw that the cameras were in fact clustering around Donald Rumsfeld. The Defense Secretary then peeled away from the media outpost to join in as one of the marchers, one of us. The Freedom Walkers whooped and applauded, crowding around for handshakes and photos: “Donald Rumsfeld!” “Right there!” “Go up!” “You go up!” “We support you, Don!” “It’s Rumsfeld—right there, the gray hair.” “Yes! Cool beans!”

The Rumsfeld eddy threatened to cut the march in two, as the head of the column continued across the bridge, unaware. Even in a parade, it occurred to me, the man was a crummy tactician. Finally, his bodyguards encouraged people to get a move on again; a staffer on a Segway snapped pictures. We crossed the river, with Donald Rumsfeld.

The real protesters showed up on the other side. There were three of them, holding anti-war signs, behind a fence on the desolate edge of the Mall. There were messages on both sides of the placards, for variety; one had “SHAME ON YOU” on one side and “PRO-WAR IS PRO-TERRORISM” on the other.

“Oh, somebody’s over here doing some political statement,” a woman groaned.

One of the protesters was hollering, in tense, rigid tones: “HOW MANY HAVE TO DIE TO MAKE YOU FEEL SAFE? HOW MANY HAVE TO DIE TO MAKE YOU FEEL SAFE? HOW MANY HAVE TO DIE TO MAKE YOU FEEL SAFE? HOW MANY HAVE TO DIE TO MAKE YOU FEEL SAFE?”

An African-American man rebuked her. “We’re here to support those who died at the Pentagon,” he said, sharply. “It has nothing to do with the war.”

“IT’S RACIST, THE WAR IS RACIST, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT?” she hollered back.

The ritual unfolded and reiterated, stupid and hostile as ever, the way it would for any protest, any war, any date. “You guys can leave, you guys can leave the country!” “Pathetic losers!” “Get a life!” “Go to another country!”

“HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE TO MAKE YOU FEEL SAFE?”

“Have you heard of the Revolutionary War? People died!”

“DON’T ASSAULT ME! … GET OUT OF MY ****ING FACE, ASSHOLE!”

“Aww!”

“No! No, no! No, no, no, no.” “Rip it down!” “Did you protest Al Qaeda? Have you protested Al Qaeda? Have you protested Al Qaeda?”

A marcher stopped and asked the demonstrators to flip their signs around, so he could snap pictures of the messages on both sides. They obliged, and he thanked them.

Another man veered close to them, accompanied by a child, to deliver the coup de grâce. “This is why America is great,” he said, “because people have different opinions.”

A few hundred yards further along, on the other side, came yet another different opinion, thanks to a delegation from the Rev. Fred Phelps. The Rev. Fred, best known for his GOD HATES FAGS demonstrations, has concluded that terrorism and war are the Lord’s punishment for a sinful nation. To fight is to abet the sin.

Hence the messages, on oversized and neon-colored signs: “GOD HATES FAG ENABLERS …. THANK GOD FOR SEPT. 11 …. THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS …. SEMPER FI FAGS …. THANK GOD FOR IEDs.”
The Rev. Fred Phelps is a nutjob. But his forces were the only voices on the parade route that sounded of smoke and fear and death—that cried apocalypse. “TOE TAGS!” a Phelps-ite girl sneered at the passing Freedom Walkers. “TOOOOOE … TAAAAAGS! … TOOOOOE … TAAAAAGS!”

Or, as a red-white-and-blue sign put it: AMERICA IS DOOMED. And who was there to rebut her?

In the end, the Freedom Walk debouched on the Mall, where the job of putting a moral on the day fell to Clint Black. Donald Rumsfeld offered a few brief remarks, hailing from the stage a contingent of wounded troops from Walter Reed Hospital, and in the next section over, the parents of Sept. 11 victims. “This is the first March for Freedom,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, “and looking at the size of this crowd, I suspect it won’t be the last one.” Presumably, though the Secretary didn’t address the point, we’re not on course to run out of amputees and widows for the future versions.

Then Mr. Rumsfeld yielded the stage to the headliner, in jeans and a black shirt. “Much should be said,” Mr. Black declared, “and if I intended to go into politics I might actually say it.

“But since I don’t wish to,” he added. “I’m going to let the music do much of the talking.”

Mr. Black then explained what his first song was going to say. It was a new number, he said, and “it uses words like ‘heroes’ and ‘good guys.’”

The music began ...“All my life,” Mr. Black sang, “I’ve been a cowboy in my heart.” As promised, the song was straightforward: “It’s good to see the bad guys on the run / While our modern-day heroes show them how the West was won.”

And then, the refrain:

The code of the West was black and white
The good guys and the bad
You would always know who’s wrong or right
By the color of their hat ….

But Mr. Black, it turned out, is a more complicated moral philosopher than that. His next song opened with a declaration that “everything’s not black or white / There’s always something in between.” Intrigued, I flipped on the recorder again, in time to catch the next bit: “Take a look around and find a better man / Upright no matter how he’s faring,” Mr. Black sang. “No matter what kind of shoes he’s wearing.”