Tuesday, June 28, 2005

When Should We Abandon Freedom?

In the long course of struggles, it is not without precedent that humankind begins to dispair over the cost of the struggle; the pain of loss and sacrifice, the uncertainty of the outcome. One has cause to wonder if the course we have set, the cause we have supported cannot be won. In every heart, the darkness comes and tries to wipe away the memory, the reason for which we started this course.

In the ever changing tides of ideas and the bombardment of rhetoric, the original idea becomes murky and it seems that it would be so much easier to give up or turn back. It is at this time that we must take stock of all that we have done, how far we have come, the price we have paid and where we are going. In all the struggles of mankind, the battle of ideas has always been the most difficult to sustain. The prize for this battle is intangible unlike wars for land or wealth or power where the prize is a known quantity that can be touched or used upon it's conquest.

The battle for freedom and democracy has never been easy, nor simple because, as an idea, it has continued to evolve and expand over time, space and philosophy. It is not a single object or goal, but complicated and multifaceted. It cannot be held by a single man, but must be held and used by many in order for it to be realized. Yet, as long as one man holds this idea in his mind, it survives and comes again into the consciousness of mankind and the struggle begins again.

Of all things that man could fight for, this one thing can make men go beyond their endurance, can make men take one more step, give one more ounce of sweat and blood. No prize was ever so great or so valued before in the history of man that could turn the weakest of society into the strongest. Land, wealth and power turn to dust and are blown away, yet this thing remains. Its value is beyond compare. No travel to the stars, in oceans deep, in skies of blue, across unchartered lands can compare to the adventure. No gold nor silver nor diamonds nor anything else we hold of value could buy it for us. It has always been bought with the most precious of commodities: blood, sweat and tears.

And the adventure never ends, nor the struggle as we have been warned by those who know that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Throughout the history of this struggle, the idea of freedom has expanded. When once it was simple freedom from a tyrannical government, it became the struggle to free other men, once less valued even in free societies. The struggle to expand the blanket of freedom for all has left the borders of individual states and countries and became the idea that inspires men and women around the globe. In some places, where tyranny has reigned for decades and centuries, the idea of freedom refuses to die. It soldiers on, even in the darkest of prisons, in the last breath of dying men, the hope in the eyes of children and the dream of those yet unborn.

We who live under the blanket of security provided by our own freedom and bought with the blood of liberty's patriots long before us cannot always remember the cost, the uncertainty, the price. It is easy to believe that such men only thought of themselves and their own struggle, never intending or fore seeing that we should continue to fight or to ensure it for others. How easy it is to forget the words they said. How easy it is to forget for whom they struggled. If these men had been so selfish with their ideas, their strength, their blood, surely they would never have survived to create this nation. They would have perished under the weight and we would not exist as we do today.

We have struggled mightily in its defense and we have struggled often to expand it. We have fought for it at home, we have fought for it on distant shores and we the free have been the fire in the torch of liberty for millions.

Who among us then holds this thing so cheap, so selfishly that we would draw a line in the sand and say, "This is as far as I go?"

Would that they had been so weak of heart at Valley Forge or Bunker Hill, who then would we be? If they had abandoned Fort McHenry, what song would we sing? At the bloody ground of Gettysburg, should we have said the price was too much, who would be the slave? If men had not crawled over inches of bloody sand to the battlements at the top of Normandy, what world would we live in?

When have we become so complacent, so greedy, so selfish that we have put a limit on what we will pay for this freedom? When did we decide that freedom can only belong to some, to those we know and not to the many? When did we determine that we owe nothing to others and that they must stand or perish for their own freedom alone?

As we stand on gilded shores and look out upon the world, have we become so jaded that we can see our brothers, just there over the horizon, struggling and dying and remain unmoved by their cries?

Not long ago, as we sat comfortable and supposedly secure in our land and freedom, we were attacked. Thousands of our citizens died. "Why?" people still ask themselves when the answer is clear. It was not for some petty plaint, nor long grievance, nor suppression of others, but simply because free people, free ideas and free markets came in contact with despotic, tyrannical and stagnant ideas in a culture that had not moved significantly from its fuedal state in centuries.

From there comes an ideology so dark that it could conspire to take the lives of innocents without blinking an eye, its creators laughing as they sipped tea and watched it on television. We saw in the land that they occupied what they meant for the people they claimed to be fighting for, they meant slavery and tyranny. They meant the subjugation of women, the illiteracy and usary of children, the death of men who did not agree with them by arbitrary and extra judicial executions, without the rule of law except the law of their own power.

And they claimed to be fighting for freedom for their people.

In what world is that freedom? In what definition of murder and degredation does the word "freedom" appear? Those who claim that these men have any such worthy idea must not know freedom or must hold their very own freedom cheap and without meaning.

In countries around the region, this very ideology has permeated the culture and created a base of people willing to die for such a dark cause. There are those that claim that this cause has equal footing with the cause of freedom. Again, I say, do they hold their freedom, their very lives so cheaply?

There in Iraq, freedom took its first tentative steps the day the statue came down. The metaphor for tyranny was beaten soundly and in short order the real tyrant was captured hiding in a hole as many tyrants throughout history have ended. In that country we saw another dark idea, another oppressor who had no concept of liberty or freedom, but knew how to kill, how to oppress and how to terrorize. For three decades the complacency of the free world allowed this tyrant to exist. We gazed askance at his actions and thought nothing of them, far away as the place and the people seemed.

But we woke to a new day where "far away" was not far enough and greedy tyrants could and would make alliances with other dark forces to ensure their power and maintain their hold. People say that there was no reason or the reason to go was wrong. But, when our soldiers rolled into that land, we found prisons with women, children and old men. We found torture chambers. We found mass graves. We found golden palaces in a land destroyed by greed where the people lived in fear and disappeared for as little as not showing deference to a poster of the "great leader".

Some say this was not enough justification, but if it is not, then what in this world is worth fighting for? Some said that children flew kites and people drank coffee in the cafes, yet not far away behind closed doors, below the ground they played on, men screamed in agony as their hands were removed, their bodies beaten and starved, their very minds destroyed.

Not long after came the second war of Iraq. The war of ideas as those who remained from that evil regime struggled to regain power and they accepted into their midst the very darkness that had destroyed our buildings and killed our people. This same darkness set to work on the people of Iraq with a vengence for daring to believe, to dream of the idea of freedom and democracy.

There we have seen every privation that can be dealt to humans as they indescriminately kill men, women and children without regard to their age, race or creed. With vicious disregard and with only one desire, to gain power, to destroy anything that opposes their ideas, to destroy the dream of millions, they explode vehicles, place bombs on roadways where all travel, they imprison, torture and behead people for doing nothing more than trying to make a living much less believing in that simple idea, freedom, which we hold so dear and which these people have grasped on to as their lifeline.

In the midst of this, there are those who ask when we will leave. There are those that demand that we should leave now. They ask for a time table on which we will abandon the Iraqis.

I ask, "When should we abandon freedom?"

When, in history, should we have said that we are only willing to give this amount of time and no more to the cause of freedom? Was the time to abandon freedom at Valley Forge? Was the time to abandon freedom at Vicksburg or Spottsylvania? Was it in the trenches near Ardenne? Should we have abandoned it at Dieppe or Corregidor? In the mud of Inchon?

Was it already too costly in the ashes of the towers, the Pentagon or the plane in a Pennsylvania field?

We can count the times we abandoned freedom to the calls that it was costing us too much, that it was not our fight. Even from those places, still the people we abandoned looked to us, looked to the torch of freedom and reached for it. Coming from Viet Nam and Cuba in boats that should not float, but did by some miracle. The East Germans who died crossing "no man's land" to reach the other side. The Shia in Iraq who died by the thousands and escaped to refugee camps. Rwandans, Sudanese, South American, Chinese who still smuggle aboard boats to come to the dream that is freedom.

I ask again, "When should we abandon freedom?"

Every time we abandoned freedom, the cost was not just the payment in blood we paid later to retrieve it, but in the chipping away at the idea of freedom itself. And, if it is not our burden to bear, not our price to pay for living this dream, then whose is it?

Today, the price of abandoning freedom is as high as it has ever been. There in the Land of Two Rivers, the forces of darkness are arrayed against freedom. Should they succeed in driving us from this place, from this cause, the price that will be paid is dear, indeed. Not only will it be the blood of the Iraqis, but it will mean that the darkness of tyranny and false ideologies gains a strong foot hold in a land with resources a position from which they can attack the world of freedom at will.

In short, should we abandon freedom there, forsake those who have looked to us for several years, our own freedom will be diminished, our own security will be endangered. It is without a doubt that abandoning Iraq today means that the enemy will gain a victory and be strengthened.

So, when should we abandon freedom? Would we be so willing to toss away our own with such callousness? Are we willing to gain a moment of peace for years of tyranny for our Iraqi brothers? Are we willing to bargain for a second of calm for a future when we and our children will have to face a much greater foe?

When should we abandon freedom?

Update: Brendan Miniter echos my thoughts
Update II: John at Castle Arrggh! links and provides much needed grammatical correction.

9 comments:

FbL said...

Bravo! Bravo!

DaKruser said...

WOW!!! KAT!!!
That is HELLASHUS ORATORY!! Send it to every member of Congress, the President, the Prime Minister, Kofi Anon, the French, the Germans, the Italians, EVERYONE.
When you decide to run for office and win, let me be the first to congratulate you for the vision you hold.

Gadfly said...

At first I thought you might be trivializing the idea of freedom, as so many people do, so much of the time.

I apologize.

You understand.

Brava, grazie

Bravo

Brava

Roberto said...

If we can send a joke around the world in just a few minutes....Let´s see how long it will take to circulate this?

Thanks again Kat.

Barb said...

Most excellent, Kat! The battle for Freedom should never end - and we should never give an inch.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Even if we did abandon it, we'd only have to go back to retaliate for the inevitable terrorist strike that would originate from there as it becomes what Afghanistan was under the Taliban.

Might as well finish the job right rather than have to go back in later.

Tom said...

Well stated, as always! And speaking of freedom, I thought the president hit a home run with his speech tonight.

When Bush is on, he's on. When he's off, like in the first debate with Kerry, he's off.

Speaking of which, did you read Kerry's op-ed in the NYT today? Heaven help us if he'd been elected....

DaKruser said...

WOW, if the President was 'On' last night, then I am stupified that he wasn't laughed off stage in the Kerry debate. Tom, come on, He should have just read Kat's posting and I would have jumped up and down and cheered. Instead he fell back on the old lines..."We can do anything...the military is the best in the world..." yada yada. I KNOW those things. I dont' need my President to tell me. Basically, he stated that policy will continue as per norm. I'm not going to tell you what the "End-state" will be. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. So do I. I remember. I remember all the men and women who have given their lives. I remember when we were welcomed into Baghdad with smiles and thumbs up. I remember alot. He didn't need to tell me what I remember. I wanted him to give me a vision of the future beyond his state of the nation address and every photo-op since 9/11. He didn't, and the Jihadis are celebrating today.
Before the bombs start getting tossed at me for a MULTITUDE of sins I have just committed, Kerry's Op=Ed piece suked as bad as Bush's speech. Neither one of them have a clue. Kat!! APPLY FOR A JOB AS A SPEECH WRITER. DO THE COUNTRY A FAVOR!!!!!!!

Emmunah said...

I didn't realize how much great oratory matted until I read your words. I wish that was the speect that Bush gave last nigt. I did not expect everyone to agree with me that the US desparetly needs you as a speech writer..but they are correct. MozelTov!