BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Let us now praise common sense. Once again a president was about to plunge us into the darkest waters of foreign policy where the ruling principle becomes: “When in doubt, bomb someone.” Strategists in the White House, militarists in the think tanks, the powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, and arm-chair warriors of all stripes -- neo-conservatives and liberal humanitarians alike -- were all telling Barack Obama to strike Syria, no matter the absence of any law or treaty to justify it, no matter the chaos to follow. Do it, they said, to show you can, or what’s a super power for?

But they hadn’t reckoned on public opinion. The people said no! Not this time. Not after more than ten years of soldiers coming home broken in body, screaming nightmares in their brains, their families devastated. Not when our politics is an egregious fraud, unable to accomplish anything except enable the rich, while everyday people struggle to make ends meet. Jeannette Baskin, who lives on Staten Island not far from the Statue of Liberty, who describes herself as neither Republican nor Democrat, told the New York Times: “We invest all this money in foreign countries and fixing their problems, and this country is falling apart.”

Don’t think these people callous -- those pictures of children gassed in Syria sicken them. But there are limits to military power when religious rivalries and secular passions come armed with blowtorches. A retired educator named Alice Ridinger in Hanover, Pennsylvania, spoke for multitudes when she also told the Times that while she finds the use of chemical weapons “terrible.” She fears the deeper involvement that could follow a military strike. “I don’t think that would be the end of it,” she said. Truth is, no one knows what would happen once the missiles fly. Not the White House or Pentagon; not the CIA or NSA; not even the all-seeing oracles of cable television, the editorial writers of The Wall Street Journal, or the seers of such influential publications as The Economist – hawkish now on Syria despite having been wrong on Iraq.

In time, the White House, Congress, and the punditry could all be grateful to a suddenly attentive and stubborn public. They may have been spared a folly, thanks to this collective common sense that became so palpable it was a force in its own right. Now politics and diplomacy have a chance. Perhaps only a slight chance -- the “Washington Post” reports that the CIA has just begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria -- deepening America's stake in the civil war. But we can’t know if politics and diplomacy work unless we give them a try. Meanwhile, give a cheer for common sense.

Bill Moyers Essay: Let Us Now Praise Common Sense

On this week’s Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers says that the White House, Congress and the punditry of the Beltway may ultimately be grateful to a public that weighed in on a potential military strike in Syria – that the collective common sense of everyday people became a force so powerful it could not be ignored.

Producer: Julia Conley. Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais. Associate Producer: Danielle Varga.

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  • Anonymous

    An entire generation of the middle class has been indoctrinated to view chunks of the world’s population as something less than human, and honestly can’t regard them with any measure of empathy. They view the poor as something equal to pigeons or rabbits, not human beings. Cities actually post, “Do Not Feed The Homeless” signs, and even liberals don’t grasp how demeaning and socially-destructive this is. It’s so easy to embrace this dangerous philosophy, whether called Aryan supremacy by Nazi Germany or American “exceptionalism”. Mass murder by bombing foreign countries is viewed much as people view wiping out an ant hill.

  • Lisabelle

    I wonder what Bill Moyers thinks of Electronic Cigarettes? American Cancer, Lung and Heart, Big Pharmaceutical and Tobacco who care more about profits than the health of people. I have been “vaping” instead of smoking since May 2010. I ride a bicycle uphills, and my breathing replaced my wheezing?

  • Lisabelle

    On the subject above, people are tired of paying taxes when it turns out they are paying for more than that!

  • catonine

    After years of refusing to rein in Syria, Putin throws Obama a lifeline, go figure! This is not diplomacy, it’s a game of chess!

  • Willie Niall

    Hell yeah! We weighed in so as to stop their criminal & insane behavior. Puppident Obama may one day thsnk us. I thank all who raised a voice. Merci Beaucoup!

  • Tupak Huehuecoyotl

    Redlines and Red Nations – GENOCIDE and TERRACIDE

    It was called the MOTHER of All BOMBS – MOAB Massive
    Ordnance Air Burst (MOAB), a massive explosive device – the largest ever
    produced, specifically designed to kill and maim over a wide area. The MOAB was
    partly responsible for the 3,000-plus civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Now we have forgotten her, now we are
    focused on her bastards the Chemical Weapons Arsenal in Syria, without even
    commenting on the fact that Egypt (1.23 billion dollars in military aid from
    the US per year) HAS NEITHER ACCEDED NOR RATIFIED the Chemical Weapons
    Convention (CWC) now being negotiated in the aftermath of the USE of Chemical
    Weapons in Syria.

    NOW we have forgotten her, now we don’t even ask what effect
    does the Mother of All Bombs and her bastards have on the ecosystems of Mother
    Earth, on what was once called a Fertile Crescent of Civilization and cradle of
    Humanity. We haven’t heard of what is being done to HEAL the watersheds of the
    Euphrates, the Tigris, or the Nile.
    Instead we are fixated on the power politics of the State Players, and
    the agents of the Wars of Petropolis.
    We don’t ask what is the effect of chemical weaponry on our Mother Earth
    (depleted uranium munitions) and we don’t DEMAND that these CRIMES against
    Humanity and the Rights of Mother Earth be addressed as International War
    Crimes of Genocide and TERRACIDE.

  • Leslie

    Willie. I think he probably thanked us the minute we began to call and write.

  • Leslie

    Putin is dangerous. He does things for his own agenda and no one else’s.

  • Leslie

    We are so lucky to have Mr. Moyers. More of us should listen to him,

  • Anonymous

    ..evidently it takes 60%, as opposed to the 50% against the Iraq snipe hunt.

  • Patricia James

    I am not so sure that I want to take these events at face value. I am acutely aware of the volume of information to which the public and media are not privy. I am also aware that the skill of diplomats, our leaders and their support staff had a highly complex and dangerous situation facing them. All I can say is that so far, for whatever reason and regardless of who did or said what, I have hope that this situation will be resolved appropriately through the UN and that Mr. Putin has put himself in a position where the spotlight is now on him and how Russia votes in the Security Council on this issue. This is a stunning change for Mr. Putin. I will continue to monitor the progress of this issue closely and communicate with my elected representatives in Congress, but I am cautiously optimistic about the outcome all the time.

  • Neal Camp

    If sense is so common why don’t more people have it?

  • Anonymous

    The Military/Industrial (bankster) Complex does things for its’ own agenda and no one else’s

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps Putin is getting tired of playing these dangerous game as well.

  • Anonymous

    I have no idea why the government didn’t stop the manufacture and sale of those things years ago. They have known for over 70 years that those things cause cancer, instead we had to listen Philip Morris tell us that they havene’t “proved” b.s.

  • Anonymous

    “myth” is so much nicer than saying “damn lies”!

  • Anonymous

    I have been feeling the same thing. In Vietnam the derogatory terms abounded. In the mid-east, the “collateral damage” was accepted without thought.
    On the day of the Boston bombing where 4 people died, the country went nuts. I read on the same day that the US dropped bombs and one was reported to have hit a wedding party where 30 innocent people died. The military’s response was that one of the bombs was unaccounted for.
    I found that appalling and ignorant beyond belief! In my own mind I have re-written history where Custer and Andrew Jackson are like American versions of Hitler.
    Since WWII, we have almost always been in constant wars, at US instigation. Wars for corporate profit need to end right now.

  • Anonymous

    Obama in the US and Cameron in the UK so far have dodged what might have been the worst foreign policy call since … *their predecessors!*

    At first I was going to refer to the distant past, when Anthony Eden tried to out-Winston the memory of Churchill and brought his special brand of angsty crazy to the Middle East.

    But heck … Bush, Clinton, Blair, Bush, Obama, Cameron, … when it comes to foreign policy we truly have been cursed with quite the most frighteningly incompetent leadership in the last 20 years.

    Which makes this latest drawback feel like a most uncommon victory indeed. I hope you are right, Bill, and sense continues to prevail for a spell. The world needs a decent break from “leadership”. It is time to hear the voice of its own a little more and to this end I hope Ban Ki-Moon does not lose the opportunity to raise the profile of his beleagured organisation. For all its problems, the United Nations still represents the will of the 90% more honestly than its self-appointed Western sheriffs.

  • Lisabelle

    The posts above lead me to one conclusion, and that’s scary. Having one conclusion. That the money generators i.e. BIG GOV., BIG PHARM, and BIG TOBACCO, are a ferocious cash nawing cow with an insatiable appetite. We, being vapers and alternatives nicotine users, who now are large enough in numbers per capita, to have generated incomes, products, sales figures with growth potential… we are in their myopic money eyes as tonights dinner kill. No matter how much our revolution is saving lives, leading the way in removing 400 years of karmic mis-use of tobacco by smoking it. We know, we centralize and advertise how good it feels to stop smoking. We are not buying their products, (BT, BG, and BP and the Health Agencies taboot). Available without perscription, to any age that can get their hands on them cigarettes, poisonous, who cares, gigantically profittable taxed products to fund the humanitarian early childhood educations that wouldn’t be funded otherwise, this makes social issues, the unimportant issues as compared to war mongering. Humanitarianism is not a stock you can buy, this truth of itself is meaningless it isn’t of immediate interest here in a money driven world. Humanitarian interests are fine when they don’t make a dime! Depressing sometimes, if I want to put a bandaid on the pain of all this, there is always the personal freedom to believe in something above and beyond, where there is truth, justice and peace The powers that be workings of this world are dominated by the “Prince of the World”! Amen it’s Sunday afterall.

  • Griffo Yger

    Our common sense did not do anything. It was Russia’s firm position and peace plan that stopped the Tomahawks.

  • Joseph Crews

    Sorry,Eileen, but you are wrong. Obama is was not and is not patiently waiting for Congress to take a vote: Obama is still rattling his WAR sabres, even as peace negotiations begin. The credit for halting the rush to war belongs with the American people, who drew a red line in the sand, boxing Obama into his jingoistic corner.

  • Anonymous

    A nation and a people founded on common sense, or so we at least used to tell ourselves that this was our exceptionalism. With the removal of Summers from the Fed nomination, this stand down from more senseless war (at least for the 99%) and the reveal of just how corrupt the NSA and security state and Wall Street have become, can it be that a rebirth of America from below is finally underway?


    I disagree with Mr Moyers this time. Mr Assad cannot be allowed to get away with gassing people. It is cruel and inhuman. He must be punished if only to warn the likes of Iran and North Korea that they cannot expect to get away with such carnage

  • Julia Conaway Bondanella

    I am not convinced it was common sense that created opposition to the war, at least among Republicans. The hidden agendas are not clear. I have long been against war, but I am a progressive.

  • Anonymous

    Should we turn a blind eye to war crimes, specifically
    crimes against humanity?
    Those who urge that we use diplomacy and the ICC
    to extract Bashar al-Assad must be aware that
    Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese war criminal for whom
    there is an arrest warrant, issued by the ICC, is still
    at large, years afterwards.
    What, if anything, are we willing to defend, other
    than corporate interests?

  • joanne Lindsley

    How do I get a printed copy of Mr. Moyers essays? He speaks the truth with good, logical common sense. But I have no way to down load his speech’s.