The worldwide outpouring of support for Barack Obama brings to mind the worldwide outpouring of support for the American people after 9/11. That post-9/11 support didn’t last for long. It disappeared with George W. Bush’s war on terrorism, invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, torture and sex abuse of detainees, kidnappings and renditions, attacks on civil liberties, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, indefinite detentions, criminal and civil immunity for criminal acts, and all the rest.
One sad part about all this is that all too many conservatives actually believe that all this has been the sunlight of “freedom” for the last 8 years. We’re at war against the terrorists and the Muslims, conservatives have repeatedly told us, and sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice freedom to preserve freedom.
Anyway, who cares about those stupid, silly civil liberties, right? They’re just constitutional technicalities designed to let guilty people go free, right? The war on terrorism enabled government officials to finally free themselves of those silly, pesky, quaint, outmoded constitutional technicalities. We don’t need those stupid Miranda warnings. We just need to torture people into confessing their crimes. That’s what Gitmo and those tribunals were all about.
Through it all, conservatives could not understand why the tremendous outpouring of sympathy for the American people after 9/11 had not only disappeared but actually turned into disgust. Conservatives were blinded to the fact that foreigners have always looked to the United States for guidance and leadership in the area of freedom and values. The principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights have long stood as inspirations for people all over the world. The world become disillusioned and disgusted when Bush and his conservative cohorts began sacrificing and abandoning those principles, especially with respect to their treatment of foreigners.
The disgust turned to anger and rage when Bush and the conservatives employed military responses to 9/11, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than pursue the criminal-justice methods that U.S. officials had employed after the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. What appalled the world was the indifference to the lives and limbs of foreigners. War is hell, U.S. officials responded. Collateral damage is regretted, they said, even as they killed and injured an ever-growing number of Afghanis and Iraqis.
Just this week, U.S. airstrikes have killed 40 more people and injured 28 others with an attack on another wedding party in Afghanistan, including women and children. (What is it about Afghan wedding parties that seem to attract U.S. bombs and missiles?) U.S. officials have issued the standard regrets, explaining for the umpteenth time that this is one of the horrible costs of war. The following day, U.S. airstrikes killed another 7 civilians. There will surely be more expressions of regret and explanations that war is hell.
And the beat goes on. More military strikes, more people killed and injured, more anger and rage, more attempts to oust the occupier, more military strikes, and on and on and on.
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that Afghan officials helped insurgents ambush U.S. forces last July, resulting in the deaths of nine U.S. soldiers and in twenty-seven others being injured. Presumably the officials don’t like their country being occupied by foreign forces any more than the insurgents do.
How about just ordering the U.S. military out of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, forcing it to just leave people alone? If Barack Obama wants real change, that’s the order he should issue on assuming the presidency. Isn’t 8 years of death, maiming, destruction, and loss of liberty enough?
Will Obama bring about a change in direction? Who knows? There are conflicting signs. He wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, which is good, but he wants to shift them to Afghanistan, which is bad. He has spoken favorably of civil liberties but voted to grant immunity for the illegal spying conducted by U.S. telecoms. He has said he’ll close Guantanamo but has remained silent on the CIA’s secret prisons overseas.
Ultimately, the future direction of our nation lies with the American people, not with Barack Obama and his liberal cohorts. When the principles of liberty and republic once again become of foremost importance to the American people — when Americans are no longer willing to trade freedom for safety — when Americans decide enough is enough and demand that the U.S. military and the CIA be reined in and prevented from doing any more harm to foreigners — when Americans demand a restoration of their rights and freedoms — when Americans demand federal compliance with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, public officials will cower and obey. That will be the day when the world will truly stand in awe of the United States. That will be the day when free men everywhere will have something to truly celebrate.