This essay was originally published on Tomdispatch.com.
I have to admit that some of the responses to my recent article “White House Criminal Conspiracy” (published in The Nation and posted at Tomdispatch.com, in which I argued that the Bush Administration should be brought to account in Congress or a court of law for defrauding the American people into war, kept me up at night. No, not the ones that questioned my sanity or sobriety. The letters that have given pause are from people who wholeheartedly agree that the Bush Administration lied about the war. Yet there’s “zero chance,” these writers contend, that a completely Republican-controlled government will ever do anything about it, so it’s pointless to pursue. While lying awake beside my sleeping husband with my dog staring up at me in the dark, I’ve wondered, is that true? Is it futile, or foolish, to act when there is little apparent chance of success?
It was five years ago this month that George W. Bush received his best Christmas gift ever–the presidency–from the United States Supreme Court. And around this time every year, I’ve thought about the night of December 13, 2000, when he made his formal acceptance speech. I remember it well: Bush speaking from the Texas House of Representatives about a bipartisan foreign policy and his plan to reunite the country. It’s not that I was particularly interested in the President or even the election at that point. I wasn’t. I had taken a leave of absence from my job as a federal prosecutor in San Jose and flown 3,000 miles across the country to be with my sister. So I watched the speech while sitting on a portable cot, looking at a hospital TV suspended from the ceiling–and my sister was lying in a bed next to me amid a tangle of tubes. She was dying.
Kathy was 38, a small-town doctor with a 3-year-old son, when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Her prognosis was grim. Statistically, the majority of patients with her diagnosis live for only about six months. But some patients, those represented by a tiny fraction at the far edge of the bell curve, outlive the odds, and Kathy was determined to join that group. So what did she do? Everything. She had a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy; she vomited, lost her hair and her eyebrows. She took drugs that threw her into menopause, steroids that made her face swell up like a balloon and herbs that tasted like dirt. She went to acupuncture, mind-body seminars and Reiki treatments. She endured a cell replacement procedure that kept her isolated for thirty days. In other words, she shot the moon.
By the day of Bush’s speech, Kathy’s organs were failing. Her liver was, by then, so damaged that her doctors were astounded she could even talk coherently. Not only could she talk, but she had a lot to say about Bush’s speech (mainly expressing her irritation that it pre-empted The West Wing). She died three days later, six years after her initial diagnosis.