The president has declared war – not on any nation, but on terror itself. I am wary. His language is broad and aggressive. He has suggested that the United States will take action, not just toward the countries that terrorists come from, but also against any country that aids or harbors those who engage in terror.
I understand his anger. I felt it too as I watched men and women plunging to their deaths as they leapt from the windows of the World Trade Center. Knowing how fearful and desperate they must have been saddens me to my core. And back then, as the members of Congress joined hands on the steps of the capitol, I sang with them and hoped that the president would act in defense of our country.
But the pride I felt when he did take a stand against those who wreaked such havoc on our citizens has faded in recent days. Now, many accuse the president of using our nation’s tragedy to justify usurping powers from other branches of government. With the passing of the Patriot Act, many Americans, including me, feel less safe and less secure. Now, TSA agents view us with suspicion and X-ray machines reveal more about us than we are comfortable sharing. Individuals with disabilities and the elderly seem to be affected the most, with some being forced to remove diapers and others being accused of non-compliance, simply because their disabilities make compliance difficult. Sometimes, the war on terror seems like a war on us.
There have been moments of glory. When the president first sent troops in, there were heartening stories of our men and women freeing captives who had been buried and left to die in an underground prison. And, to be sure, we did put an end to a regime that was guilty of tremendously ugly human rights abuses. Yet what we replace it with matters.
Entry 2: Not long ago, news broke of a disheartening incident involving Americans. In Abu Ghraib, a prison in which Saddam Hussein used to carry out acts of torture, Americans have begun to do much the same. Pictures have been published showing our soldiers leading naked captives around on dog leashes. Humiliation and cruelty seem to have been a common occurrence. This makes my heart heavy. I wonder if our War on Terror has been worth anything at all. If we employ cruelty and terrorize others, is it really terror and evil that we stand agains. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting. Perhaps this is just one incident in many and the net effect of our actions is good. How can we tell? Lives are lost each day on both sides. My neighbor’s youngest son was one of our lost and it hurts me to see her pain. No doubt, there are mothers in Iraq and Afghanistan who have the same look of anguish in their eyes. Is their suffering worth it? Is our need to say we stand against terror worth the pain of families here and abroad?
Sometimes, I think it is. When I hear friends say that there are people in the world who just can’t handle democracy and many not deserve to live in a world of democratic values, I believe more in the president’s message. When he speaks of human rights and of freedom, his words resonate strongly with me. Freedom and human rights are values worth fighting for. Our country has declared so time and time again, from the Revolution, to the Civil War, to the present. And if these are really what we hope to protect, then I am for it. Yet I still have misgivings about the president’s motives and the way in which the government has been so quick to restrict our rights. I worry most, however, about whether we are truly freeing others, or merely replacing one regime of oppression with another. If we are doing the latter, how long will it be before the anger of those we fight against boils over and another act of terror leaves more of our innocent dead?