October 23, 2017

Wave that flag: Opposing war is patriotic

Almost every issue is polarizing in today’s political environment. Hot-button issues such as gender neutral bathrooms, political correctness and whether or not to salute the flag bore me. Yet many Americans are more interested in these issues and are oblivious and apathetic to the death and destruction our foreign policy unleashes on the world.

We are told our government is protecting our freedoms and spreading democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The idea the United States is a nation that can enforce moral norms by punishing human rights violators is hypocritical if you look at our support of countless dictators.

We used two atomic bombs in Japan, napalm in Korea, Agent Orange in Vietnam and depleted uranium in Iraq. We funded radical jihadists during Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan that morphed into the Taliban and al Qaeda. The U.S. worked with drug cartels to finance covert wars in Latin America. The CIA sponsored coups and interfered in the politics of nations all over the Earth.

It is also a myth that military action in foreign lands is keeping us safe. It is actually doing the opposite. We are destabilizing large portions of the world and inspiring a new generation of enemies to hate us because of our foreign policy. It embarrasses me to be an American every time I see a politician spewing out lies to justify our aggression overseas.

Growing up in a small town in the 1990’s, I did not give politics or foreign policy much thought. The main thing I can remember was the coverage of Bill Clinton’s affair with an intern, which seemed rather ridiculous even at the time.

I was 18 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened in New York City and Washington D.C. I was in shock and disbelief that the U.S. could get attacked in this way. Little did I know at the time, this was an event that would permanently change the trajectory of our country.

After this, I started following the news and wanted to get revenge against Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. I originally supported George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Afghanistan. While U.S. Navy Seals would kill Bin Laden in Pakistan a decade after 9/11, we foolishly have kept fighting in Afghanistan to the present day.

I felt something was wrong when Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials used 9/11 as an opportunity to start a war of choice in Iraq. Starting from Bush’s Axis of Evil speech, the focus went from Bin Laden to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The U.S. went on a dark path of perpetual warfare, domestic surveillance and bloated national security budgets.

Opposing the Iraq War was very unpopular early on, especially in the conservative area I lived in at the time. I can remember being accused of supporting the dictator Hussein and not wanting to keep America safe by those who disagreed with me.

The Iraq War cost the U.S. three trillion dollars, according to the National Priorities Project. Our soldiers paid a great price and over a million Iraqis died. The dictator we once backed was gone, but Iraq turned into a failed state and terrorist haven.

I had high hopes for Barack Obama in 2008 when he campaigned against the war in Iraq. While he dialed back troop levels, he ended up bombing more countries than Bush. He also presided over the bombing and regime change in Libya, and normalized drone warfare.

Now, living in an urban area, I found many liberals abandoned their previous anti-war positions by the time of the 2016 election. Donald Trump campaigned against the Iraq and Libyan wars on his way to the GOP nomination, and positioned himself as less hawkish than Hillary Clinton in the general election.

As president, Trump has taken us in an even worse direction and soon discovered bombing other nations can win you media praise. Trump media critics such as Fareed Zakaria and Brian Williams were gushing over the new President after he launched cruise missiles at a Syrian government target.

Most Democrats have been silent on Trump expanding several wars, using the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan and provocations with North Korea. Instead they have used extremely militaristic rhetoric to attack Russia, who they blame for their election loss. Unfortunately, Trump has backed away from his pledge to improve relations with Russia because of this controversy.

Besides the moral argument against killing millions of strangers around the globe, the U.S. simply cannot afford to play policeman of the world anymore. CNBC reported our national debt just passed $20 trillion. It is a disgrace we cannot afford health care, education and infrastructure in our own country, but we can afford trillions of dollars for war. Patriotism is not about blindly supporting your government, it is about questioning it when it is wrong.

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