Why we fight? I’m not really sure anymoreNote: Some of the content of this column may disturb some readers.
“Freedom. Wherever there is injustice, America has not hesitated to intervene. That is what makes us such a great nation,” said Senator McCain.
I was watching CNN while I ate dinner Sunday night. I caught the tail end of Pastor Rick Warren’s faith summit with Senators McCain and Obama. Then I watched some of 60 Minutes. I saw Katie Couric’s report on Valerie Plame, and Anderson Cooper’s piece on the war in the Congo. The juxtaposition of several facts, quotes and truths from these three features left me puzzled about where we are as a country, where we are as people, and how we even got here.
I like Rick Warren. As sickeningly unbearable as I find the motivational/self-help genre, I have to admit to reading and enjoying “The Purpose Driven Life” in an airport one day.
Warren, the best-selling author, evangelical pastor and founder of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church in the suburbs of Southern California, invited Obama and McCain to speak with him and his members in front of a nationally televised audience.
What I like about Warren is his drive and compassion in focusing on non-traditional evangelical causes: namely poverty and the environment. Where as many prominent evangelical leaders give lip service to social justice and stewardship of the planet while spewing fire-and-brimstone over gay marriage and abortion rights, Warren has largely passed over the divisive issues and preached an agenda of taking care of the Earth and helping those less fortunate than us, whatever their beliefs, race or orientation may be. As a Christian, he is a big subscriber to the Biblical passage where it is revealed that those with great gifts bear a greater responsibility.
So anyway, McCain says we fight for freedom wherever there is injustice. Yay America! Sounds good on the surface.
Then I flip to Katie Couric, interviewing Valerie Plame. We are reminded how President Bush announced in his State of the Union that he had evidence that Saddam was attempting to purchase nuclear materials from Niger. He later sent Colin Powell to the UN with the same statement (read: bag of lies).
When former Ambassador Joe Wilson revealed that Bush’s “evidence” was actually a forged document - that our premise for war was fraudulent a few things happened rather quickly.
First, the White House admitted that the inclusion of the 16 words regarding the nuclear materials evidence in the State of the Union “did not meet the standard for a presidential speech” whatever the hell that means.
Second, Vice President Dick Cheney plotted a revengeful course of action against Wilson an underhanded smear campaign that outed Wilson’s undercover CIA spy wife Valerie Plame and resulted in the indictment of four senior White House staffers and the conviction of Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby (whose sentence was later commuted by Bush the same man who swore that he would fire anyone who had leaked information on Plame).
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald later said that Libby’s refusal to talk with prosecutors gummed up the rest of the investigation, but that a “dark cloud” hung over the Vice President and the White House.
In the next segment of 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper reported from the Congo. Did you know that the Congo has been in a state of civil war for over a decade? Did you know that over five million people have died in said war? Did you know that this war in the Congo is larger and deadlier than all the wars America has participated in since WWII combined? Did you know that 90 percent of the casualties are civilians?
In fact, it has gotten so bad in the Congo that rape is now the preferred tool of warfare. Killing people just wasn’t getting the point across, so now, groups of armed rebels enter cities, beat the men and boys into submission, and then force them to watch as they rape the women of the village. Usually, the horror ends with the soldiers asking the men to choose between raping their own relatives or getting hacked to death with a machete.
I know this is graphic, but this is really happening. It happens every day. Doctors Without Borders estimated as many as 10,000 rapes per day in this conflict zone. The doctor interviewed on CNN said he’s dealt with victims as young as three and as old as 75.
See, the soldiers rape the women because they know it completely rips the fabric of the villagers’ society. After the rape, the women are shunned by their surviving family and friends, either out of shame or fear of contraction of HIV. Often, these victims carry the seed of their attacker, which the soldiers see as a continuation of their faction and their intimidation. It is the ultimate injustice, the complete opposite of freedom
So the old soldier says America will fight wherever there is injustice, wherever freedom is at risk. The pastor says those with great gifts must bear greater responsibility. The President says ‘to hell with all that freedom and injustice crap, let’s just cook up some evidence and go fight wherever we damn well please and if anyone gets in the way, we’ll go for their family and make them pay’. The prosecutor says there is a dark cloud over our elected leadership. The journalists and doctors report from a place where a number equal to the entire population of our state has been murdered while we fight a political war based on verifiable lies.
Warren is right. We have a great gift. We have power, we have intelligence. We have elections. We have freedom of press, freedom of speech. But we’ve abused our power, we’ve neglected our responsibility. While there may not be too much oil or strategic benefit to a military presence in inland Africa, it certainly reveals the morally bankrupt state our country finds itself in when millions of innocents are raped and murdered in poor corners of the world while we do nothing.
And even worse than ignoring the genocide is the fact that our leaders still have the temerity to look into a camera and say that America will fight injustice, wherever that may be. Just as long as that injustice fits into our political agenda of the moment, that is.
Meanwhile, innocents die, women are raped, and the rest of the world’s collective stomach churns at our arrogance and hypocrisy.