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Tuesday, April 08, 2003
"defending our freedom"?
The term "freedom" is thrown around a lot in the United States. I believe this stems from the fact that "freedom" is generally understood as a positive quality in this country in and of itself and because the word has no concrete meaning in terms of policy decisions and thus is open to whatever interpretation a person's own politics give it.
The current stage of Uncle Sam's longstanding war with Iraq has given even greater currency to "freedom." Searches on Google News show it is regularly being said the U.S. military is "defending freedom," "defending our freedom," "protecting freedom" and "protecting our freedom" with its actions in Iraq. The Department of Defense even says that the military is "defending our freedom" in its form to send thanks to members of the military. Although he doesn't use these phrases, this argument was best summed up by Victor Davis Hanson of the National Review in an April 1 piece entitled "The American Way of War":
Americans always prefer to see brave young men fighting for ideals than pampered critics for a few minutes vomiting in public in San Francisco or staging die-ins on the pavement in Washington — before driving home to resume their comfortable lives only made possible by those sleeping now in the sands of Iraq.The message is clear. "Freedom" in Iraq is not the sole issue as the lives of normal Americans -which is to say the "freedom" that they enjoy- is being protected and defended by the U.S. military in Iraq.
Does this make any sense?
Obviously "freedom" would be an issue if Saddam Hussein's government had the power, either by itself and when working with others, prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom to take over at least part of the U.S. and install a more repressive government, but it didn't and nobody claimed that it did. The U.S. was going to stay free of Saddam's control so that argument is out the window.
It is reasonable to think taking over Iraq decreases the likelihood of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and that such attacks could lead to legistlation that further curtails "freedom." The two main problems with this argument is that it trusts the George W. Bush Administration to work indirectly to prevent the passage of such legislation when Team Bush is in fact firmly in favor of such legislation and it assumes that repressive legislation is a given if there are additional terrorist attacks -the possibility of which is hardly eliminated by the U.S. taking over Iraq.
A variant on the previous argument is that taking over Iraq reduces the risk of terrorist attacks and that increases the American public's "freedom from fear," which of course was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms." This is the strongest of the arguments for saying that the U.S. military is "defending our freedom" in Iraq and yet I have a hard time taking it seriously, and not just because I suspect that taking over Iraq will create as many new dangers for the U.S. as eliminates. The U.S. is a culture where fear runs rampant hence the popularity of gated communities and private security firms despite a crime rate that is still relatively low compared to say a decade ago. Many, if not most, people in this country are so likely to give into fear that they were willing to accept the argument that Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction meant Iraq was automatically a threat to the U.S. that needed to be dealt with despite a lack of evidence that Iraq has tried to attack the U.S. since at least 1993. Getting rid of the Iraqi "threat" won't ease fears as the Bush Administration's plan appears to be to start talking about the "threat" posed by Syria or some other country once Iraq is considered under control. If people in the U.S. want "freedom from fear," at the very least they are going to have to stop supporting the Bush Administration's plans as the White House's goal is to have us living in fear.
None of the arguments for saying that the U.S. military is "defending our freedom" make sense but there is little doubt that the phrase will continue to be used to describe various stages of Bush's "war on terror." It sounds good and supports the individual stages of this war with no conceivable happy ending. And that apparently is enough for a phrase to become part of popular rhetoric.
After reading the three articles that Barbara Flaska links to here, I have strong doubts that humanity deserves to survive.
I bet somebody has already argued that pesticide should be considered a WMD.
UPDATE: I just found a message from TopOffers in my inbox with the subject line reading, "Show Your Patriotism...Support our Troops!" The body of the message includes an image you can here. 2:35 p.m. 04/08/03