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-old 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.