It's a universal human quality to cling to being "In the right" and "on God's side." Everybody wants to feel good about themselves and their country. This explains the popularity of George Bush. After being challenged by the 9/11 attacks, he told us we were a great country, innocent and on God's side, and rallied us together to fight back righteously to make the world safe for democracy.
That put us on a noble quest and has made it difficult for us to see our shortcomings. We've shunned those who dared to question our policies as unpatriotic. We've overlooked lies, repression and loss of liberty in our fearful support of the revenge for 9/11.
There has been a lot of talk about the need for courage in fighting for liberty. I agree. It's time now for us to take a hard look at our actions and ourselves in order to preserve liberty and American values. If we don't remove the log from our own eye, we can't see clearly enough to reform other countries corrupt governments or conquer terrorism.
Since it's so hard to be critical of ourselves, let's try to anticipate our reactions if other countries acted as we do, as a test of the integrity of our actions.
Let's look at the problem of our preemptive war policy. We invaded a nation preemptively based on the premise that they were developing weapons of mass destruction. It turns out that there were none. We invaded that same country a decade earlier when they really did have biological and chemical weapons and they didn't use them. We did it because they had waged an aggressive war on another country. Now we have sunk to their level.
Is it OK now for China to invade Taiwan? The whole Arab world to invade Israel? Or for any of a variety of little countries to conquer their neighbors based on the imagined idea that a threat is possible? If America considers itself a beacon of light for the world, we need to be a true example.
Apologists for that war insist that deposing Saddam was still righteous because he was a tyrant and despot. What they forget was that the USA helped put Saddam in power and directly supported him during the years of his greatest killings. Don Rumsfeld met with him to propose a pipeline for Bechtel after he had already used chemical weapons against his own people.
Worse yet, to shore up support for our war on terrorism, we have empowered and supported more kings and dictators in our quest to spread democracy. Pakistan used to be a democratic country before Musharraf toppled the elected leader. He doesn't enjoy popular support, his government directly supported the Taliban and financed 9/11 hijackers, and Pakistan clearly developed WMDs.
Most of those hijackers came from Saudi Arabia where we support repressive kings who don't have the support of their people. The royal family has also been implicated in supporting the 9/11 hijackers. What would US citizens do if a foreign power empowered a monarchy in the US?
Yet we supported a coup recently against the democratically elected leader of Venezuela.
So we make friends with the guilty, undemocratic regimes and attack democratic regimes where it suits our interests. How can the world see us as other than greedy imperialists looking after our money rather than beacons of democracy? Haven't we already seen that the unpopular puppet leaders that we support are eventually deposed leaving us with a populace utterly resentful of the US? Iran is one example.
Iraq will probably be another as we will never allow the Shia majority to have the government they desire.
In fact Osama bin Laden, the Taliban leader Mohammed Omar, and Saddam Hussein are the most recent incarnations of former "employees" turned against us. Do we have a terrorism problem or a human resource problem?
At home, the government used 9/11 as an excuse for secret arrests and detentions, expanded powers for secret police, and are moving forward with secret tribunals and secret executions. We have plans for extensive surveillance on the whole American public and widely expanded police powers. If the terrorists are enemies of freedom, it appears they are winning, as we are giving up our freedom out of fear of insecurity.
How can the United States expect other countries to embrace principles of law, due process, and justice when we throw them away at the first sign of trouble? The countries we expect to respect human rights are far more insecure and beleaguered than the United States. If we don't courageously stick by our values of justice, fairness, and due process, they could be lost to the world.
To rally support for this unending war, we have abandoned the great hope for world cooperation in the form of the United Nations and resorted to bribing and bullying weaker country to stand with us. Ask yourself, how loyal are you to the ones who have bullied you in life?
In developing new nukes and WMDs ourselves, aren't we setting the bad example? Are our neo-cons the moral equivalent of those Islamic fundamentalists we are fighting, who believe the ends justify the means no matter how many innocent people die in wars fought on God's side?
Let's clean up our own house and act with integrity before we go wild on a course of world domination. There is a price to be paid for freedom. Let's pay it even if it makes us more vulnerable to terrorism. Let's have the courage to act in concert with other nations, stand up for civil rights and liberties at home and abroad, and insist on truth and integrity in our government's actions and policies.
When the rest of the world sees that we are acting fairly with integrity, there will be far less reason for anyone to attack us.
The author is a freelance writer living in the High Sierra who can be reached at email@example.com