Freedom’s Just Another Word

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Civil Rights, Iraq War, Women's Issues

Last October Atlanta Journal-Constitution political cartoonist Mike Luckovich drew the word Why? made up of the names of 2,000 troops killed in Iraq. In response, a 17-year-0ld named Danielle Ansley used the names of the dead to render the word Freedom.

Naturally, righties find Danielle’s illustration inspirational and clever, while Lukovich is dismissed as a “moonbat.” So good with words, those righties.

I don’t want to be too hard on a 17-year-old, but I do hope eventually the child learns to think, and not just regurjitate. Not to sound like Tom Cruise, but freedom is too glib. The word has been just about stripped of all meaning and has become little more than a tribal totem, waved about by the likes of Michelle Malkin, an apologist for racially motivated imprisonment. Yeah, that’s freedom for you.

First off, the idea that any American should die deposing a dictator who was no threat to the U.S. is problematic of itself. There were no WMDs; there was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Our soldiers were sent to Iraq thinking they were defending America, and they were not. They were sent to fulfill some cockamamie political theory dreamed up by a pack of over-educated twits at the Project for a New American Century.

Second, whether the people of Iraq, right now, really are more free than they were before the invasion is debatable. Some Iraqis, certainly, are more free. There is more freedom to openly practice Shiia Islam, for example, which is fine. But this Christmas Iraqi Christians were afraid to go to church.

In spite of token rhetoric about women’s rights in the provisional constitution, women are less free than they were when Saddam Hussein was in power. They are less free to walk the streets without a veil. They are less free to marry as they choose. They are less free even to leave their homes. President Bush likes to brag that the invasion closed Saddam Hussein rape rooms; he doesn’t add that the lack of security leaves women more vulnerable to rape and kidnap than they were before. But I guess it doesn’t count if women aren’t raped in “rape rooms,” and the perpetrators are not agents of the state, but just thugs.

In any event, perhaps Danielle Ansley would like to explore the deeper meaning of the word freedom by living as a woman in Iraq (outside the Green Zone) for a while. If she survives, she might learn something about the gap between rhetoric and reality.

As Riverbend wrote,

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.

The bald, hard, bare-assed fact is that the deaths of 2,178 American soldiers (as of today) haven’t brought any measurable amount of freedom to anyone on the planet, except perhaps for the small cadre of men who are getting wealthy from wholesale corruption and war profiteering. In this country, the Bush Administration hides behind the “war on terror” to chip away at the civil liberties preserved in the Bill of Rights. In Iraq, it seems to me that one jackboot is replacing another. I don’t blame American soldiers for this, since most of the oppression right now seems to be Iraqi against Iraqi. One can, however, blame the flaming fools in Washington who sent U.S. soldiers to invade Iraq with next to no plans for post-invasion security.

But what about democracy? What about elections? The fact of the matter is that democracy and freedom are not the same thing. A country can be democratic and still oppress its people; the United States before the Civil War, when millions were enslaved, comes to mind. For that matter, the United States after the Civil War also comes to mind. A majoritarian republic allows the majority to oppress minorities any way it likes. The independent and sovereign Iraq now struggling to be born might technically be a “free” country, but if women must hide behind drapes and veils to avoid being murdered without compunction, then by no definition of the word are they free. Freedom takes more than democratic government; it takes a nation and society committed to the civil liberties of all.

It may be that in the fullness of time Iraq will become a truly free country. And it may have been that in the same fullness of time Iraq would have achieved that happy status without our “help.” We’ll never know what might have been.

But what we can see unfold before our eyes is the appropriation of the word freedom to mean “policies of the Bush Administration.” Perhaps the next word Danielle Ansley should learn is Orwellian.

Update: See also Kathy at Liberty Street.

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9 Comments

  1. Jay Diamond  •  Dec 31, 2005 @10:20 pm

    In the Orwellian lingo of the Ayn Rand Cult that defines the Republican Party and today’s warped USA, “Freedom” means “Economic Freedom” which expresses their conviction that mere voters do not have a legitimate right to modify the prerogatives of any individual private property interest be it via zoning laws, community or workplace health and safety standards, or the taxing (“confiscation” in their lingo) of private assets, for Any public purpose with the exception of weaponry.

    The stark irony here is, of course, that their heroine, Ayn Rand, was just as firm in her strident Atheism as she was in her strident Capitalism; in fact, she insisted that Athiesm was the very Basis of Capitalism.

    But they don’t tell THAT to the Rubes.

  2. Swami  •  Jan 1, 2006 @12:19 am

    I was 17 once…and boy was my head full of starry-eyed patriotic bullshit. I gobbled up every line of shit that was feed to me that the “communists” were out to destroy me and the American way of life. Now I find it difficult to digest the bullshit that the “terrorists” are out to destroy me and the American way of life. I think what’s happened between now and than is that I’ve learned to think for myself. And I’ve come to understand only as recently as 2001 what Samuel Johnson meant in his statement…”Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

    God bless America!….and a happy new year

  3. justme  •  Jan 1, 2006 @5:14 am

    I have 2 fast points,, Freedom was perhaps the wrong word.From what I understand the new constitution in Iraq makes ISLAM THE RELIGION OF STATE.That means, basically that no laws can be passed that contradicts the established laws of ISLAM.I can hardly imagine how that is a good thing for women in Iraq, much less something you would call freedom.

    My second point is one I hope someone will pass on to Danielle, as well as a majority of our country who do not seem to understand the contract we have with our troops. Their duty is not to protect You or I ..Or the great leader Bush , nor our beautiful country, or the “freedom” we hold so dear and before we send them off to fight the LEAST we can do to support them is to know why their duty. This is the oath our WONDERFUL troops take,This is what they offer to do….

    I,___________,do solemnly swear(or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United states against all enemies, foreign and domestic,That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the uniform code of military justice.So help me God.

    Tell me again how Iraq or saddam, no matter how awful, was a threat to our constitution?? When we go to war and ask our troops to die , this is the reason they have agreed to do so..If someone asks why the answer should not be freedom,, it should be CONSTITUTION… I hope we don’t lose enough troops to spell that ..Happy new Year

  4. Invigilator  •  Jan 1, 2006 @7:59 am

    We ought to invade Ubekistan. And Turkmenistan! They will greet us with flowers, or mushrooms, or something.

  5. Invigilator  •  Jan 1, 2006 @8:00 am

    oops, forgot the z: Uzbekistan

  6. Elayne Riggs  •  Jan 1, 2006 @9:29 am

    I think every thinking person ought to demand that any politician who uses (and overuses) the word “freedom” be made to supply a definition of that word on the spot.

  7. Raenelle  •  Jan 1, 2006 @10:49 am

    Someone should send Danielle a copy of “Full Metal Jacket.” To paraphrase Animal: Freedom’s just a word. If I’m going to put my balls on the line for a word, the word is poontang.

  8. Rick  •  Jan 2, 2006 @9:19 am

    Moonbat. Sounds like a word some straight would use around 1920 or1930…

  9. emilio  •  Jan 2, 2006 @10:34 am

    When I started reading this, I felt like “what is the point?” I have been ranting against the stupidity of what we are doing forever it seems like. The stupidity continues and we are so far in that no clear path out exists. In fact I have been saying from the begining of this adminstration that their plan is to do as much damage to freedom as fast as possible and they continue to succeed, beyond their wildest dreams. However, I do find solice in reading other comments that overlap with my concerns. thanks

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