Since 9/11 of last year, no one can argue that our world and especially the United States has changed. The feeling of invulnerability, the sense of separation from the rest of the world, and the belief that we were protected in our homeland have all given away to uncertainty, doubt and at times fear. But in no way, has our world changed to any greater degree than its affect on the First Amendment and speech in this country.
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech. Implicit in the freedom of speech and the cornerstone of that right is the freedom or right to question and the freedom and right to disagree. Yet, that freedom to question seems to have given way to the fear of not falling in line. Example, during the House and Senate discussions on whether or not we should attack Iraq: unilaterally, with the support of the United Nations or not at all, our unelected President romped around the country chastising any Representative or Senator who did not want to give him carte blanche to rage war by stating that “they were more concerned with their special interests than they were with national security”. Although some media and newspapers gave short attention to these comments by our President, certainly more needed to be said in disagreement to that statement. One certainly can be a patriot, one certainly can be American, one certainly can be even in the right while disagreeing with the President’s policy.
Yet, those Representatives and Senators made a one day issue out of those statements as they were too scared to stand up for what they believed was right in their speech for fear of what they could be branded. Apparently, now speaking against the President’s policies although not sanctionable in law, seems to be a freedom that too many Americans are willing to give up.
Again, with the freedom of speech comes the freedom to question. We are about to march off to war which may have the net result of killing many Americans, although one death is too many. Yet, the American people have been given no justification for this war. There may in fact be justification. In fact it may be the smartest thing this country could do. But in a democratic society, one that cherishes freedom of speech, one with the best communications apparatuses that have ever existed on the face of the earth, if those justifications exist why have we not been shown them. And, since we have not been shown them where is our media, where are our elected officials and why are the American people not clamoring for details, justification and proof.
No, to ask for these things, might just be perceived as un-American. To ask for these things might just be a sign that we are soft on terrorism. But, if the Vietnam war taught us anything, it is that this country should not march off to war without a full debate of the reasons of why we are going. If history has taught us anything, it is that at these times in our national history, that freedom of speech and debate of that speech is paramount for our long term self-interest.
The other night we were at a dinner party when the subject of attacking Iraq came up. We were amazed that not one person spoke in support of that war, but rather everyone spoke as to their not being disseminated enough information as to make that determination. What became more interesting, is that everyone who spoke said that they did not know anybody who was in favor of our unilateral action against Iraq at this time without more information.
During the Vietnam war we were constantly bombarded by this notion of the silent majority being in favor of that war. The questions need to be asked now, is there a silent majority who are against a unilateral war against Iraq. But, unfortunately, that question does not seem to be asked, because those who normally ask those questions seem to cower away from branded as unpatriotic should they call these things into question.
During the Vietnam war there was a grassroots effort to stop our involvement. It seemed as more and more bodies came home in black bags, the questioning of the war and its legitimacy became more and more to the forefront. It seems that the more that we are able to insulate our troops from harm, i.e. aerial bombardment, smart bombs, lazar guided missiles, jet fighters that never see their opposition while shooting them from the sky, and other technological marvels, the questioning of war seems to be muted. Have we become so shallow as a nation that we view the legitimacy of a war not through right and wrong, good or bad, or when necessity equals justification, but rather the less amount of Americans that are killed in that war the more the war is justified and the converse, the more Americans that are killed the less the war is justified.
This apparent rationale flies in the face of all logic. The easier the war and the easier the victory, might just mean the opposite. It just might mean that the war was unnecessary and the foe was unwarranted. The tougher the war, the more casualties that we endure, might just mean that there was a need for the war and that it is more justified. However, none of these justifications as to whether the war is right or wrong based upon body count makes any sense.
The war should be fought because there was a necessity and a reason for it. A war should not be fought when there is no reason, no justification or other alternatives. To sell the American people on war by convincing them that it will be a cake walk because of our superior technology does nothing to aid or diminish whether or not the war was justified from the outside. The body count justifying the war seems to be an ass backward analysis. Rather, should the war be justified, and is truly in the national best interest then the body count becomes irrelevant. If the war is unjustified, not in the national security or best interest then one body is too much. But until we are given more information by our government through the media and until our elected officials have the courage to ask those tough questions, unfortunately any war with Iraq will be analyzed and justified or analyzed and unjustified simply by our success, failures and body count.
This decision is too important to allow the ends to justify the means. Rather Mr. President, show us and tell us why we need to go to war, convince us that it is in our interest, not only we but the American people will follow you. Not regardless of the body count but in spite of it.