My Turn: America's freedom is historically owed to many dissenting voices

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2003

In response to Jody Liliedahl's letter of April 18, I would like to voice a few concerns. First off, being anti-Bush is not anti-American. Having an opinion that killing thousands of innocent people is wrong is not anti-American either. America is all about expressing opinions.

Liliedahl's elementary opinions questioning the integrity or responsibility of Syria and France are somewhat misguided, since our history is marked with controversial and anti-humanitarian actions. Saddam Hussein held a position of authority with U.S. approval for many years. During the Iraq-Iran war, while supplying weapons to both sides, America helped Saddam increase his power base and supplied him with various military weapons, including helicopters, which he used to spray chemical agents upon Kurdish civilians in 1988.

Perhaps Liliedahl, upon investigating U.S. foreign policy since 1945, would be astonished to find out how many Saddam-like ogres we have sponsored and taught at the School of the Americas, a CIA training camp located in Georgia. Past graduates include but are not limited to, Manual Noriega; Hugo Banzer, the Bolivian dictator responsible for the assassination of an archbishop, a bishop, six Jesuit priests, four American churchwomen, and many other dissenters of his regime. We have helped to prop up the government of the shah of Iran, supported the Marcos' regime in the Philippines, and instigated the overthrow of the Chilean government in the early 1970s. The list of evil doings is longer and much bloodier than I have written here. The story prior to WWII is no different, especially if you add the attempted genocide of American Natives throughout our history. Let us not forget that the American government helped finance fundamentalist Islamic regimes to fight the Russians in Afghanistan as early as 1979, and we know now the results of that financial and military commitment.

These atrocities have fallen under Republican and Democratic administrations. Both sides of our two-party systems are at fault. So when Liliedahl states, "when will the anti-American and anti-Bush crowd ever own the blood on our hands ..." I have to cringe a little because it is not the anti-Bush crowd who should be addressed, but the less-informed members of our society who choose to form their opinions based on corporate news reports, which in effect are as reliable as state-sponsored news reports. From a historical perspective, a case could and should be made to hold our politicians responsible for the aggressive and destructive course they have led us in.

One last item in Liliedahl's article that I feel needs addressing is the statement, "one hundred and twenty some odd precious and heroic American lives were given in much agony halfway around the world to protect our freedom ..." The list of altruistic wars is very short. In the past 50 years no campaign the U.S. has fought has had anything to do with our freedoms. Killing thousands of Koreans, Vietnamese, Libyans, Panamanians, Grenadines, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, El Salvadorians and Iraqis, has not increased the freedom of the American people. On the contrary, just prior to this current invasion, with the introduction of the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Bill, we have lost precious rights.

We owe our freedom to people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless other Americans who, in spite of overwhelming opposition, have stood up for their beliefs. Where was the military and para-military then? Beating black people across our nation? Shooting college students at Kent State? Breaking the labor movement of working people? Look at our history, it is all there.

I do not blame our soldiers for their actions; the rights for which every soldier fights are given up on the day of their enlistment. I do blame our leaders, who with their thirst for power and relentless drive for dominance of the world's raw materials have led us into a campaign of murder and destruction. As our leaders and the corporate media continue to allow fear and revenge to drive our popular culture, we can expect more events like Sept. 11. The power of democracy lies in the people's ability to change leadership. We must speak up.

Kenn Magowan of Juneau is a youth counselor and a former Marine.

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