Common Sense & An Open Mind

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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Archive for April, 2011

Where do you stand on our war policy?

Posted by Free to Think on April 22, 2011

I often complain about the inconsistencies of politicians, who claim to stand for one thing, but once in office do something else.

We as American citizens need to stop settling for leaders who don’t live up to their word.  We need to be equal opportunity critics, supporting and reproving politicians based on their actions, regardless of whose “team” they’re on.

We also need to be sure that we remain clear on exactly where we stand. And once we know our convictions, based upon thoughtful consideration of both sides of an argument, we must not allow our viewpoints to be hijacked and subtly warped into something convenient for propaganda.

For instance, depending upon a group’s agenda, some will have you believe that if you don’t support the ever expanding welfare system then you don’t care about the poor. Others will try to convince you that if you don’t support our troops being in 1,000 bases across the world, then you don’t care about a strong military defense. Are those accurate assessments, or are they misinterpreted simplifications? If we don’t take the time to think these things through, we can become unsure ourselves.

Has the public opinion of war simply rolled with the emotional tide in the past decade? Can you remember where you stood on America’s war policies in 2003? 2006? 2008? And where do you stand today?

Let’s remember 2002: in the year following the 9/11 attacks, there was a huge surge in patriotism. Most people I know, liberals and conservatives alike, were out for blood and jumping on the war bandwagon. Even Hillary Clinton was convinced that ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was necessary to defend our country (Barack Obama had yet to take office.) I received little consensus when I argued that there was zero correlation between Hussein and 9/11, and that this war would embroil us in a mess that will make our Vietnam fiasco pale in comparison.

I loved my country, but well before the United States was attacked in 2001, I had been part of a contingent concerned about how America “protected its vital interests” in the oil-rich Middle East. I feared that our legacy of promoting coups against democratically elected Arab leaders, supplying arms to military groups who were our friends one day and our enemies the next, inducing wars to punish adversaries, forming alliances with repressive tyrants and propping up cruel dictators would come back to haunt us. But to suggest that the U.S’s heavy-handed involvement in the Mideast had helped us become the target of fanatical terrorist groups was nothing short of treason in this sensitive, post-9/11 climate.

When George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, media stories or editorials criticizing the war were strikingly few. My street was filled with American flags and cars with ‘Support our Troops’ bumper stickers.

By the middle of 2003, revelations had emerged that our government relied on “flawed information” to rush into war, and that claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” were completely false. Despite these damning facts, dissent for the war was nearly entirely limited to liberals. Exactly one Republican senator spoke out against President Bush: Ron Paul. I finally felt fairly comfortable that my tires wouldn’t be slashed if I put a ‘yellow ribbon’ magnet, in the shape of a question mark that reads “Question War” on my car.

Fast forward to 2006: though still deeply embroiled in the war, politicians on both sides of the aisle are now talking about “exit strategies.” When I receive several messages from friends about a “Wear Red on Fridays to Show Support of the Troops” movement, I am prompted to send the email below:

“Dear friends,

Recently, I received one of those multiply-forwarded emails that had me scrolling past a half-mile of recipients. Maybe you have seen it:

‘Many Americans, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that we support our troops… Let’s get the word out so every red-blooded American will wear something red every Friday…a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers.
IF YOU AGREE — THEN SEND THIS ON.
IF YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS — THEN HIT THE DELETE BUTTON.
WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE, ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE!!’

Hmm…Well, I do care, very much. But despite the play on my guilt, patriotism and rah-rah team spirit, I will not pass that message on.

Here is the problem I have, and I know I’m not alone. I deeply respect any person who is willing to spend their life, and risk their life, in the armed forces. I know these men and women serve because of an altruistic desire to protect this country and we should commend them. My heart bleeds for the families of every fallen soldier.

My concern is that a “wear red” campaign can easily be interpreted to mean you’re supporting the fact that our troops are currently serving in Iraq. This is the same reason why I’ve refused to have a “support our troops” bumper sticker on my car. Yes, yes, you can argue that the bumper stickers show respect for the heroism of our brave soldiers and is not the same as supporting the war, but the fact is that these are unclear symbols.

You may feel that declining to wear a red shirt on Fridays means you’re unappreciative to our men and women in uniform. But once our means of communications becomes vague or misleading, we’ve lost our ability to express ourselves. It’s true, “we live in the land of the free, only because of the brave.” I myself will consider making a red t-shirt that says, “Bring home our brave soldiers so they will be of able body and spirit to defend our beloved country against true threats.” That’s a pretty specific message.

Why aren’t others who feel like me displaying their beliefs as readily as those ‘Troop Supporters?’ Where are your bumper stickers that say “these courageous men and women were duped into serving in an unjust war with flawed information”?

The ubiquitous “support” bumper stickers play upon our national guilt from 40 years ago, when the frustration of the Vietnam War was taken out on the poor enlisted guy. Today we will bend over backwards not to make that mistake again, but how many other lessons from that war have gotten lost?

Do you think I’m sounding un-American? Soft on terrorism?  Unpatriotic?

Then let me share this with you: this summer I visited Germany with my family, and went to the World War II Museum in Nuremberg. There we saw very frank interview videos of German people who had lived during the war: decent, Christian people, who remembered being swept up in the glory of the Nazi movement, gladly enlisting in the army and sending their children to Nazi Youth programs, looking the other way while their neighbors were carted away. Only years later did they cry in shame, feeling used and betrayed by their government. To me, the scariest thing in the museum was not the photos of the mass graves or the crematoriums. It was a huge photograph of Hitler walking through a throng of supporters, all of them with their arms raised in an enthusiastic “heil.” These people with swastikas proudly on their arms were sweet little girls in braids, mothers in their kerchiefs, and old, wise-looking men.”

History has proven that people can get caught up in just about anything in the name of duty, patriotism or the belief that their cause is “rightous.”  When everyone is lining the street with enthusiasm, when no one is speaking out against injustice, how can we believe that they’re all wrong?

Do we recall that just eight short years ago, in order to invade Iraq, George W. Bush was compelled to convince Congress that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were an imminent threat to our security? In 2011 Obama simply claimed that Libya is our humanitarian responsibility. He never even attempted to seek permission from Congress before launching weapons. That’s a pretty chilling leap.

Where are the anti-war protestors? Another lesson we were supposed to take from Vietnam is that we should stay out of “good, just” wars that don’t involve us. We have little control what happens on foreign soil. Hussein is certainly no good guy, but it’s possible that whoever takes over could be much, much worse.

Does the deployment of troops in Libya worry you? Would it have worried you more had Obama had lost the presidential election and President McCain was saying the same words and taking the same action?

We still have 47,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, while we entangle ourselves in Libya’s mess. Do you objectively feel that Obama’s foreign policy is the best course of action to preserve this country?  Do you think our Defense department should be doing anything other than defending our nation against true foreign threats? If not, why not speak out loudly and clearly?

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New administration, new wars

Posted by Free to Think on April 4, 2011

On March 17, President Obama announced that he was sending United States troops to Libya to help oust leader Moammar Gadhafi.

I was preparing an article on this subject when I discovered that Joe Biden and Barack Obama have already eloquently voiced my opinion on this new “mission.” So I will let them do the talking:

As this 2007 video shows, in the expert opinion of a group of constitutional scholars headed by ranking Senate Judiciary member and constitutional law professor Joe Biden, launching an attack against another nation without congressional approval is cause for a President’s impeachment.

But let’s ignore for a moment that this war was initiated unconstitutionally. Is it moral, justified, in the best interest of our nation?

In this powerful video, presidential candidate Barack Obama explains clearly that the U.S. should never rush into war without establishing long-term commitment, how much it would cost and what it would mean to rebuild. He questioned America’s ability to stabilize a volatile Middle Eastern country and prevent it from splintering into factions.

Ending military involvement in the Middle East was one of the focal points of Obama’s campaign. But last week President Obama said that it was America’s “responsibility” to intervene in Libya.

Though no one can condone Qaddafi’s ruthlessness, is it America’s place to invade and police foreign civil wars?  One might point out that Qaddafi doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of the world’s worst dictators. But Libya does have a lot more oil beneath it than say Zimbabwe or Burma, where we have not chosen to invade. Coincidence?

In 2007, Obama expressed concern to the Senate that meddling in Iraq would lead to greater Al Quaida recruitment. But as Chief Executive, Obama doesn’t seem worried that anger towards this latest American intervention could create more terrorists throughout the Islamic world.

America’s leaders are sending a loud, clear message that the U.S. feels it is its prerogative to initiate foreign “regime change” whenever it sees fit. This gives countries such as Iran and Syria no incentive to negotiate with the West on terrorism or nuclear arms.

Qaddafi is a brutal dictator. He is a former terrorist who has plotted against the United States. But he has more recently cooperated in counter-terrorist activities like information-sharing and halting the development of “unconventional weapons.” Now we must wonder whether Qaddafi will retaliate against America’s unprovoked attack by reverting to terrorism again.

Finally, with tens of thousands of troops spread thin in over 1,100 overseas bases and a nation on the brink of a government shutdown at home, is this endeavor the best use of American resources?

As someone famously said in 2008, “It’s time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreements that lie at the heart of someone else’s civil war. America, it’s time to start bringing our troops home.” I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mr. Obama.

Posted in Detrimental policies, Iraq, Libya, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »