The epitome of poor taste

If you’re concerned about getting the September 11th blues next month, not to worry. The government that brought you freedom fries and the freedom tower will cheer you up with the “America Supports You Freedom Walk”! There’ll be country music and hoe downs and line dancing. Nothing like remembering our dead with a stroll and a little Willie Nelson.

I thought “The Three Represents” was the most awkward phrase in history. But then someone dreamed up the self-parodying and supremely clumsy “America Supports You Freedom Walk.” Catchy, isn’t it?

No, I’m really not making this up.

The Pentagon would hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing today.

“This year the Department of Defence will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk,” Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of “the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation”.

The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on September 11, 2001, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.

Word of the event startled some observers.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said John Pike, who has been a defence analyst in Washington for 25 years and runs

The news also reignited debate and anger over linking September 11 with the war in Iraq.

“That piece of it is disturbing since we all know now there was no connection,” said Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq veteran who heads Operation Truth, an anti-administration military booster.

Rieckhoff suggested the event was an ill-conceived publicity stunt.

“I think it’s clear that their public opinion polls are in the toilet,” he said.

Rumsfeld’s march had some relatives of September 11 victims fuming.

“How about telling Mr Rumsfeld to leave the memories of September 11 victims to the families?” said Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband in the attacks.

Administration supporters insisted Rumsfeld was right to link Iraq and September 11, and hold the rally.

“We are at war,” said Representative Pete King, (Republican, New York). “It’s essential that we support our troops.”

He also said attacking Iraq was necessary after September 11.

“You do not defeat al-Qaeda until you stabilise the Middle East, and that’s not possible as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.”

Repeat it often enough and people will believe it. We did not go to war to oust Saddam or make anyone free, but to protect us from the mushroom cloud of WMDs. But we all know that. And we all feel so much safer now that the tired old dictator is in jail; it was worth 2,000 American lives and 40,000 civilians.

Ever-sardonic James Wolcott offers his take on the Freedom Walk, and as always, he doesn’t disappoint.

Rumsfeld was disappointed that famed documentarian Leni Riefensthahl will be unable to film the event for posterity because, well, she’s dead. But he’s pleased as punch (“you bet!”) that he’ll be able to duet with Clint Black as they perform Rumsfeld’s original honkytonk composition “It Takes Big Feet to Fill Big Boots (and I’m in the High Teens, Baby).”

…Also, Rumsfeld says this year’s event will “initiate” the America Supports You Mill Around on the Mall commemorative.

Does that mean this madman intends it to be an annual travesty of the tragedy of 9/11? Whose crackpot idea was this, his, Karen Hughes’? Will Bush himself be in attendance, pumped after his five weeks of brush-clearing in Crawford, Texas?

Get your cowboy boots ready. It’s gonna be a different kind of September 11 this year, a day for kickin’ and struttin’ and plain old relaxin’. I can hardly wait.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

I just read about this on Salon’s War Room. I’d like to say that I can’t believe it. But I can…

August 10, 2005 @ 11:42 am | Comment

For some reason I thought of Sean Hannity when I read this. He’s put on C&W-style concerts in the tri-state area, called “Freedom Alliance”. Funds go to a scholarship fund to benefit children of fallen soldiers. Probably some Hannity fan in the Pentagon figured he’d do one better and came up with this monster.

August 10, 2005 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

What am I gonna do? I don’t even have a date for the Sister Kissing contest!
(Note to self: Make sure you get the hell out of town that weekend….)

August 10, 2005 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

Will Cindy Sheehan be invited?

August 10, 2005 @ 1:34 pm | Comment

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. I think Americans by in large won’t be suckered again by BushCo. Has Humpty-Dumpty now fallen off the wall?

August 10, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Damn, I hope so, Pete. My prediction: They will have to cancel this grotesquely ill-conceived insult to the victims of 911. It is simply over the top, and it is a gift to administration critics like Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins, not to mention bloggers like Kos and Atrios. What was in their “minds”? Do they have a death wish?

August 10, 2005 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

Two words: “Recruiting” and “Tool”. With the emphasis on the “Tool”.

I really don’t think the DOD needs to be in the business of entertainment. But this seems to be a trend:

Call your agent.

August 10, 2005 @ 10:08 pm | Comment

With respect Richard, that rave-holocaust video is the “epitome of bad taste”.
Oh yeah, and that guy who spends his free time under the pit beneath a non-flush, ‘long drop’ public toilet….
Thanks for bringing that up. Geddit? Bringing up?

August 10, 2005 @ 10:28 pm | Comment

BOB HERBERT in today’s NYTimes has another great expose on Bush’s contempt for all the sacrifice in Iraq carried out on his intitiative. Adds another damning indictment next to Dowd’s.

August 11, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment


There are any number of reasons to find the upcoming “America Supports You Freedom Walk” disconcerting. This is an event, organized by Rumsfeld’s Defense Department, which will honor the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with a “freedom walk” from the Pentagon’s parking lot, past Arlington National Cemetery, to the reflecting pool on the National Mall. The event will culminate with a concert by country-music artist Clint Black, who, presumably, will play “I Raq and Roll.”

Some have said that this is ham-fisted nationalism gone awry. Others have noted the distastefulness of exploiting the attacks like this. Salon mentioned the less-than-subtle effort to connect 9/11 to Iraq. James Wolcott noted that the whole thing sounds “like a bad charity fundraising walkathon through the park.”

But here’s the part that caught my attention: to participate in the “Freedom Walk,” you’ll need to register with the Department of Defense.

“Participants are encouraged to arrive at the Pentagon South parking lot between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. for screening to avoid long lines. The first 1,000 to arrive for screening at the Pentagon on September 11, will receive the official America Supports You campaign lapel pin.”

And while I’m certain it’s a handsome lapel pin, what, exactly, does “screening” mean?

Indeed, the event’s organizers (Rumsfeld’s Defense Department) have set up an online registration form that explains, “The Freedom Walk is free and open to anyone who registers…. You MUST have your registration number to check-in!”

That’s right, in order to participate in a government-sponsored “Freedom Walk” on public streets past public monuments, from one outdoor public landmark to another, you have to give your name address, phone number, and email address to the Pentagon.

Perhaps, you’re thinking, there are security concerns. Maybe, but that’s not a good reason to “screen” people who want to participate in this walk. DC hosts elaborate 4th of July festivities, with thousands of people going to the exact same places this walk will go, but no one is screened or forced to register. For that matter, people can watch a presidential inauguration and/or inaugural parade in DC just by showing up.

But before commemorating 9/11 and walking to a Clint Black concert, the Pentagon has a few questions for you.

I don’t live in DC anymore, but it’d be fascinating to be on hand to see who gets “screened out” before the event. What if, by chance, someone shows up with a “No Blood for Oil” bumper sticker? Or worse, t-shirt?

Exactly how “free” will our “freedom walk” be?

August 11, 2005 @ 8:40 am | Comment

Very interesting. I just went there and they require your address, and you have to register before 10 am September 9. No “walk-in” walkers allowed, receipt required or you’re not allowed in. I bet they require government-issued ID at the site as well.
I guess they basically want a full business day to check out your name/address against an SS/IRS/whatever database, and you get the airport treatment if you’re address doesn’t match. Hell, you probably get the airport treatment even if the address *does* match.

August 11, 2005 @ 11:08 am | Comment

The American Friends Service Committee has launched a campaign calling for the Washington Post to withdraw its sponsorship of the Freedom Walk.

More info at

August 15, 2005 @ 5:50 am | Comment

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