Excerpts: “Well, you know, most of the time when I encounter Rumsfeld on the news, etc, it’s like talking to the white rabbit . . . . We are an unmotivated, cowering people. We will say, ‘Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you,’ but teachers are dying in the streets in Mexico from the federales. Do you think teachers would be dying in the streets in Peoria?”
David Swanson: ED Asner, it’s terrific to talk to you.
Ed Asner: Back atcha.
David Swanson: I would like to thank you first of all for having recorded a public-service announcement for a group I work with called After Downing Street. We have dozens of them now, but yours was the first and got going and we really appreciated that.
Ed Asner: Thank you.
David Swanson: I want to talk to you about this play, “A Nation Deceived”, in which a country prosecutor prosecutes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for…
Ed Asner: Country lawyer, not prosecutor.
David Swanson: Excuse me, a country lawyer. He serves as prosecutor, does he not in this case?
Ed Asner: Well, he is the plaintiff, and becomes the prosecutor in the trial. I don’t know how realistically possible that is, but for the sake of drama, we employ that technique here. The author is a prominent attorney out of Colorado who has won some phenomenal cases against the government and achieving greater freedom so, he has to know what he’s talking about, Craig Barnes.
David Swanson: Yes, I interviewed Craig, and he seems to be quite a brilliant playwright as well as an attorney. I’m sure your schedule is packed; what made you take time to do this particular play?
Ed Asner: Well I think it’s a very effective piece in assembling…. I mean for six years now we been watching the crimes of this administration heap up, and most people are just swamped I think, in hearing they did this now, they did that now, but to see a drama, which in a short piece of an evening, in 2 to 3 hours, they hear amassed in the courtroom the crimes of this administration, particularly in terms of the war and what brought us into it. I think it serves a very useful purpose of education, and awakening for those who may have gone to sleep at the 15th crime that may have been committed along the way.
David Swanson: I agree; it gets to be overwhelming. Now, you have done public readings or performances of this already, is that right? Can you tell me where you’ve done it and how it’s been received?
Ed Asner: I don’t remember the name of the particular theater, but we did it in Santa Fe, and the Veterans for Peace were the arrangers at that time and we performed it two nights and that made a DVD for circulation to churches and whoever wanted to see it subsequently.
David Swanson: And that should soon be available for purchase at anationdeceived.com, is that right?
Ed Asner: I guess so yes.
David Swanson: … so Craig informs me (laughing).
Ed Asner: Yes, I see.
David Swanson: The evidence in this play and the crimes committed are so depressing and overwhelming as you say, but the play has such humor in it, at least when you read the script, you know, I’m laughing out loud….you know there’s a scene where your character is questioning rather hostilely your own witness, this congresswoman, who voted for the war, saying she was deceived…
Ed Asner: Yes…..
David Swanson: …..and talking about Rumsfeld’s absurd statements about the absence of evidence and the evidence of absence and then there’s too much evidence of absence, and how do you keep from breaking up laughing while you’re performing this?
Ed Asner: Well, you know, most of the time when I encounter Rumsfeld on the news, etc, it’s like talking to the white rabbit….
David Swanson: Yes.
Ed Asner: …and I let the, well I want to call it…the zaniness, let it sit out there and stand by itself without showing the shock or the humor; let the audience be amazed and dazzled by the idiocy of it all and the consternation it creates, than have me spell it out for them.
David Swanson: And does the audience laugh quite a bit during this?
Ed Asner: No, so far they seem to have been just quite absorbed….
David Swanson: Huh!!
Ed Asner: …in what’s going on up there.
David Swanson: Do they find it enjoyable to finally see these criminals on trial, or are they depressed by the whole thing?
Ed Asner: Well, it’s hard to see in such a strong dose the gaping wound in the gut of your country.
David Swanson Yes, I wonder if people sometimes want very much not to see it, and that the crimes are so blatant and so obvious and the evidence is public knowledge so that playwrights can take it and use it and yet we all talk about whether we need investigations and so forth and even in this play there’s a new smoking gun piece of evidence at the end. Why do you think when we have the proud confessions to so many crimes and impeachable offenses and so much hard evidence that is cited in this play, why do we still sort of talk about what we might find out if we had investigations?
Ed Asner: Well, when you talk about investigations, then you talk about resulting in actual criminal assessment and prosecution. I’ll give you a very good example. Whether you believe in conspiracy theories of 911 or not, is it not fantastic that after a supposedly bipartisan sanctioned commission met, and examined 911, that still not one person has been demoted or defrocked or decapitated in punishment for the routine miscarriage of duties in protecting the government on that day, and protecting the people?
David Swanson: Yes, it’s obscene. It’s a “Heck of a job Brownie” with Katrina. It’s obscene, and now we’re hearing, well maybe they’ll attack Iran next, and in this play, there is this notion that maybe they can bring the people around to the side of the defendants, the president, vice president, secretary of defense, by attacking another country, and yet my impression in reality is that Americans don’t want to attack Iran, and doing so would not……
Ed Asner: All right, let’s take a flight of fancy here. Suppose in their wildest deliberations, to save their last two years, if the election does not go well for them, that to maintain their hold on power they can’t stage another 911, can’t thereby threaten Americans with he terrorist threat “they’re at the door, they’re at the door”, so instead they cook up, “let’s go into Iran, let’s bomb the shit out of Iran”, and they do it, and there are enough officers and pilots and ships willing to carry out these commands and they nuclear bomb the hell out of Iran. What will the American people do then? Who will lead them to say, “You must leave, get out of office immediately. We are ceasing all war. We will stop this right now.” Do you think that would happen?
David Swanson: If it doesn’t, I don’t know where we’ll be.
Ed Asner: We are an unmotivated, cowering people. We will say, “Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you”, but teachers are dying in the streets in Mexico from the federales. Do you think teachers would be dying in the streets in….
David Swanson: Washington, DC? No.
Ed Asner: ….Peoria?
David Swanson: Not yet, and I don’t know what it’ll take.
Ed Asner: I know not yet, and there may never be a yet….I mean, look at the farce that was perpetrated on habeas corpus. John McCain, 3 great Republican soldiers, politicians, were facing down the president on habeas corpus, and what happened in the end? They all caved. They all said no, now it’s okay. They put some dimples in it or something, but the removal of habeas corpus was accepted…….
David Swanson: It’s done.
Ed Asner: …. by them, and became the law of the land.
David Swanson: Yes, as with torture.
Ed Asner: As with torture.
David Swanson: If these elections are stolen next week and if that evidence is clear…
Ed Asner: Yeah, what do you think the American people will do then?
David Swanson: I don’t know. I’m holding out some hope that maybe that will be what finally gets people to act like citizens. I don’t know.
Ed Asner: Well I would be glad to become part of a mob protesting on any major thoroughfare in this country if….I wouldn’t lead it, but I’ll certainly become a part of it.
David Swanson: Well I tell you, we’re going to be at the White House taking all the signatures on this “Don’t attack Iran” petition, you know, Cindy Sheehan and others in the peace movement, and we’ll be protesting war, but if the elections are stolen, we’ll be protesting that, and I’m hoping it wont be a small crowd, but as you say, Americans are a little behind Mexicans in these things.
Ed Asner: So if those elections are stolen, who are you going to complain to?
David Swanson: Well we’re going to need a country lawyer I guess (laughing).
Ed Asner: I guess.
David Swanson: You know, the other thing that’s funny in this play is that these defenders of Bush and Cheney and Rummy bring out this idea that “well it’s okay to do all of these things. It’s okay to lie if it’s not under oath.” Does that idea come out of the Clinton thing where they went after him for something that nobody would have cared about except that it was under oath……
Ed Asner: Yeah….
David Swanson: Because they went after Nixon for lying to the public and Bush has lied to congress and the public and he’s lied to congress in formal, written statements. Do people now believe that you can only impeach someone if they lied under oath?
Ed Asner: You know, I don’t know the fine legality there. I know that’s how they got Scooter Libby, but why.. there’s nobody else being charged with a crime, so I guess you’re right.
David Swanson: …because it seems that they didn’t go after Nixon for tax fraud, even though he broke the law, because that wasn’t an impeachable offense, but they did go after him for lying to the public, even though it wasn’t a crime, because it was an impeachable offense. It was a threat to our democracy.
Ed Asner: What exactly was it? What did he say? You know, it’s been so far in the past and I was so eager to have him gotten, I don’t know under what……there were 18 minutes missing on the tape…what was…I guess there were statements, which said well we’ve got to pay them this money, we’ve got to get it taken care of, the money from Creep was it? Again, it’s now in the past and is no longer in my mind…
David Swanson: It was mostly cover-up. It was miles from being as significant as this case, where the president lied about the most important matter possible, a war. You know, and the article of impeachment about the bombing of Cambodia was not approved by the judiciary committee, so they didn’t touch on war.
Ed Asner: So I think what he essentially was facing was a revolt among the Republicans themselves, and, of course, there were more Democrats around in those days.
David Swanson: Right.
Ed Asner: …and they were wielding more control, and there was a different supreme court.
David Swanson: You know, I like this play so much because it focuses on the war rather than just the spying or the detentions or just this endless list of possible articles of impeachment, but I was surprised that it proved…you know, this play lays out strong evidence as you can that the reasons put forth for the war were lies. It wasn’t the weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t the ties to 911, but then in the course of the script, this play makes a very decisive case that we have to not just show that those were lies, but also prove what the real reason was, as we prove it was about oil, although we’ve also earlier in the first scene proved that it was about getting votes, and if we get to impeachment in the House, are we gong to have to do that? That seems almost as difficult, you know, as proving evidence of absence or whatever Rummy might call it, I mean, wont it be enough to prove that they lied without proving what they were really all about?
Ed Asner: Don’t the vast majority of American people think they’ve lied already?
David Swanson: Oh yes.
Ed Asner: So I don’t think we have to pursue proving they lied, because the suspicion of the majority of the people. I think what could happen, what might happen is, with Democrats in power, and investigative possibilities, that they will carry on these investigations, which will take too God-damned long, of course…
David Swanson: Yes.
Ed Asner: …but that out of it, people will begin to sweat and in sweating and then covering their asses, they may bring up crimes that we have not heard about.
David Swanson: Well, we are going to be working nonstop the minute this election is over, through the holidays into next year on impeachment, and it sounds like you’re more than willing to be speaking for that cause as well.
Ed Asner: Well, yeah, I just want them to go away, and I don’t want this kind of crime to be so easily perpetrated on the blind electorate.
David Swanson: A lot of people are afraid to speak out this way about these things. Why are you not? You are a working actor, you have to have employment.
Ed Asner: Well, nobody has denied me employment. I’m more concerned about a blacklist I got the other day of companies who refuse to advertise on Air America.
David Swanson: Right.
Ed Asner: The list is mind-boggling, and we would probably starve to death and bleed to death and walk to death if we observe the blacklist in return on those companies, because it’s across the board.
David Swanson: There are even departments of the federal government in there. So it’s our own money.
Ed Asner: Yeah.
David Swanson: Yeah.
Ed Asner: I don’t know in this great land of ours why there isn’t some form of law that these individuals can be sued on the grounds of restraint of trade.
David Swanson: I don’t know.
Ed Asner: There must be a means of making that point, I mean, they will simply say “we don’t believe it’s a good enough venue to advertise on”, I’m sure that will be their answer, but a good country lawyer would be able to prove that they advertise in even lesser venues.
David Swanson Clearly, yes. Maybe you can get Craig working on that one.
Ed Asner: Well, that’s the one I’ll bring up to him. I’ll bring it up.
David Swanson: Well, it’s a wonderful play and I’m looking very much forward to seeing the DVD version, having only read the script.
Ed Asner: Well, I hope we deliver what you enjoyed on paper.
David Swanson: I am sure that you do, and I would encourage everybody to go and get a copy of it at www.anationdeceived.com