The true poverty of my nation is revealed to me in its rejoicing in the assassination of a suspected terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. While I don’t doubt for a second that he was a dangerous person and quite possibly really was the “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, we never proved it. He got no trial. Giving criminals, and suspected criminals, the benefit of a trial is the hallmark of my nation’s imagined superiority over all other nations. We have a bloated sense of pride that we are a nation of just and fair laws and that freedom is protected through these laws. While Osama may have had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, there is a man being held in Guantanamo Bay who actually claims to have masterminded the attacks himself. I think it’s suspicious that at first Osama claimed not to have been responsible for the attacks but apparently said that if he had, he would not hesitate to claim it. It wasn’t until at least a year later that those tapes were released in which he took credit for 9/11, sort of.
Here’s what bothers the shit out of me: many people have taken credit for crimes they did not commit. Many criminals have denied any responsibility for crimes that it was then proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they DID commit. A confession, or a semi-confession (having just read his “admission” I have to say it was pretty questionable) is not proof. Burden of proof is on the accusers and the proper place to make a case is in a court of law.
I believe that all human beings, no matter how evil they may be, deserve a fair trial. Period. I am hearing people say that we are right to have killed Osama in our secret ambush because ten years ago he resisted arrest. Resisting arrest is a) not proof of guilt (you really think we were ever going to give Osama a fair trial? And you think he didn’t know that?) and b) does not give us the right to kill the person resisting unless that person is attempting to kill the arresting officers. Which, maybe he was. I am sure this is what is being fed to the masses right now. I no longer believe much of what our government tells us, especially not what is piped through our outrageously biased media.
The big question I have is: what about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? This dude actually claims he is the mastermind. Yet he languishes without a trial in a prison that should have been shut down years ago because we are TORTURING PEOPLE IN IT. (Something I consider to be un-American). He’s not dead. We didn’t kill him without proof. What are we waiting for? If we’re so eager to hang Osama’s head on the gate of American hell, why are the American people not also clamoring for this other man to be killed? I do know from the reports I read that he will not go through a trial here in the US. He will be tried by the military in Guantanamo. President Obama trusts them to give him a fair trial. Really? I find that ridiculous. If anyone wanted any person possibly connected with the 9/11 attacks to have fair trial they would be tried here in the US. Where we can all see what’s going on. They still might not have a fair trial, what with all the Islam hatred here, but at least they would have a better chance at one if it’s conducted in public.
Meanwhile, we are fighting three wars. Three wars we can’t afford. We can’t afford to fight wars for any reason. We are a bankrupt nation. All us little people are feeling the bite pretty seriously. Our wars are plunging us deeper and deeper into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
We assassinated a man yesterday to appease the American need for revenge. People are cheering and hootin’ and hollerin’ and partying their assess off for such a triumph. I will not rejoice in anyone’s death, least of all a person accused and killed without a fair trial, without any trial at all. Everyone is happy because they hold Osama responsible for the civilian deaths of 3,000 people. But we’re responsible, both directly and indirectly for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi civilians:
By entering into war with Iraq under the dubious (false) claim that we had to protect our country against non-existent weapons of mass destruction (remember- that was a scandal- most Americans have long since forgotten) we have become complicit in escalating a war that wasn’t ours to fight. We’ve killed many of those Iraqi civilians (the Iraq body count only includes the women, children, and non-combatant men who have been killed both by us as well as by the opposition) If we had never entered that war that shocking number would be much smaller, and we wouldn’t have any responsibility for it.
Here’s how many US soldiers have died in this war:
We have lost very little in comparison. And as far as just the Iraq war is concerned, we have lost no civilians to it. Unless you include the original 3,000 who died in the twin towers attack, though a friend has pointed out to me that our reason for going to war on Iraq was not related to the attack on 9/11. Ask how many Americans connect them in their minds?
When will we consider this war “won”? Do we have an actual concrete achievable directive that doesn’t involve “when we put someone in power that we can use as a puppet”? How many more Iraqi civilians need to die for us to feel “safe” enough to leave? How many more need to die before we feel our work is done? Every second we’re there, every second the number of Iraqi civilian deaths goes up we are creating fresh enemies. Every second we stay there we are making ourselves, our whole country (as well as those of our allies) less and less safe.
I call that a hell of a lot of wasted lives. Just because most of them are Arabs and Islamic does not make their lives worth less than American lives. They are paying very heavily and we have that blood on our hands. What are we going to do to make amends to those hundred thousand non-combatants? How will we apologize for our part in that slaughter of human lives and the oppression we’ve been imposing on their living people.
I’m tired. I’m depressed. I have been fighting with myself for two weeks after a close friend expressed terrible disappointment in my revocation of my allegiance to my country. I have thought long and hard about it. She believes it is dishonorable to take my allegiance away. I explained that it is obviously nothing more than me expressing my chagrin and disappointment and disgust in my country, but she felt it was still a dire thing to do. Yet I believe that a country should earn the allegiance of its people through its actions and its merit. I don’t think allegiance is something that should be automatically granted, yet as a citizen born here I never was asked to give it. It is assumed that this is what I owe it for being born here, though I didn’t ask to be born here. Automatic allegiance is what you expect of a Monarchy or a dictatorship. My country is very proud of its status as a just, fair, and Democratic nation – yet nothing it has done in my lifetime has shown itself to be deserving of that pride. In my lifetime we have been war mongers, power grabbers, ignoring both national and international law, doing whatever the fuck we want and then being surprised when the rest of the world retaliates. We have allowed our government to erode our civil liberties, allowed the president to declare war without the agreement of congress (something that is supposed to provide one of those famous “checks and balances” that are in our constitution to prevent rash actions) (thank you G.W. Bush), we have continually robbed the coffers of our already poorly funded public education (and then complained that the public school system is broken) and we have allowed our healthcare industry and other enormous corporate interests to rob this country’s people of basic needs… so what, may I ask, has my country done to deserve my allegiance?
My freedom. Well, I have enjoyed a degree of freedom in my life that people in other countries have not. That is something I don’t actually take for granted, believe it or not, but the cost for that ever diminishing freedom is excessively high and I, for one, can’t afford it. I also can’t stomach the hypocrisy of a nation that claims to be all about human rights and in our own country we make sure people get a fair trial and don’t sit around in prisons without actual charges and supposedly we don’t torture people for confessions… no, when we want to do that we simply keep people offshore where we don’t technically have to abide by US law. It taints us all that Guantanamo Bay is still in operation. If I pledge allegiance to this country then I am complicit in all it does because allegiance is loyalty, it’s a form of solidarity and agreement. It means that all the lies my government tells to convince itself it has a right to invade three middle-eastern countries are also my lies. It means that assasinating suspected terrorists is blood on my head because I am behind my country.
I think in all countries are bound to disappoint from time to time, and pledging allegiance means supporting your country even when you don’t agree with it. No country is perfect. No country is without its heinous war criminals (NO, not even the US), no country is free from humanitarian scandals or from the oppression of other people. Just ask Scottish people how much they love having lost to the English. Scottish people are not English people and England uses them as a testing ground for laws and other fun things. My point is that I’m not naive, I don’t expect my country to be remotely perfect. In fact, I was, for many years, a staunch supporter of the ideals of my country and was able to forgive its many problems and contradictions. The problem is that over time my country has simply continued to rack up its crimes against the world, its crimes of gluttony, power seeking, oppression of other countries, bigotry of non-Christian based countries, its lies are stacked so high we are buried in a tomb of them we can’t crawl out of – and I am simply, finally, not able to sit back and knowingly be complicit in its crimes and its lies.
If my country was a person I would call it a heinous criminal who has perpetrated unforgivable crimes against humanity. I would insist it be charged and given a trial at which all other nations in the world may submit their own evidence. If my country could get a fair trial and then be made to pay for its crimes by being disallowed to fight any wars (as we did to Japan and Germany) then perhaps it could come clean and start fresh, build up some good karma, do some soul searching, and take to heart the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. :
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My country must earn my allegiance, but in the meantime I will live here, (because I have to), and I will endeavor to see the better side of it (probably meaning not engaging in any political reading for a long time) and shut myself away here in my little tower of peace and meditate on what my country could become if it took the pole out of its ass, its head out of the sand, and put its weapons down for good. I doubt very much that my country will even try to become better than it is because it thinks it is doing God’s work and believes itself to be above all other countries- you can’t become better if you already think you’re the best, but I will hold out what scrap of hope I can muster that it still has enough goodness in it to improve and heal.
What I want is peace. What I want is to see an actual effort at disarmament. Our own disarmament. I want to see my country stop spilling other people’s blood and come home, see how we can learn to create power that doesn’t create toxic waste or depend on drilling through, and destroying, other natural resources and landscapes. I want to see people evolve, learn to not care what names other people give “God” or how many they have. I want to see people look for commonalities in experience, learn to appreciate each other’s differences. It isn’t that I believe in a utopia, I most certainly am too much of a pessimist to believe in actual world peace- but I want to see people actually try for it. Because right now we’re not even trying. I want to see my country turn inwards and fix it’s incredible tears and burns deep in its collective consciousness. I want to see people here thrive through our own ingenuity and resources. I want to see my country educate itself, spend time reading some philosophy, learning some real history, learn to use their critical thinking skills. I want my country to rise from its massive ignorance and become what I think we’re capable of becoming as a nation. We won’t do that until we stop spilling blood.
I have some major healing to do of my own now and a really fierce depression to pull myself out of. I will go out and do something in the garden today, plant some food, which I consider a life affirming activity, and while I go and repair my deep disappointments in both my country and myself, I offer you this last thing to read. My friend Blaize posted this on Facebook and it says, more eloquently than I could have, what I really feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden, and it was this post that reminded me of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inspiring and gorgeous words about violence: