What Are We Fighting For?

Over the last four years, the message sent by neoconservatives to the rest of the nation has been clear: Get behind the Bush administration’s “war on terror” or be prepared to face the consequences. But when the grieving mother of a fallen U.S. soldier tops the neoconservative most wanted list of treasonous, terrorist-sympathizing, America-haters, you know something’s up.

To paraphrase the Bard, “Methinks the neocons doth protest too much.”Perhaps their violent outbursts against criticism of the war in Iraq are nothing more than feeble attempts to draw attention away from their blatant hypocrisy.

For a glimpse of this hypocrisy, look at what congressional Republicans had to say about sending American troops to the Balkans a few short years ago. Then Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Fla.) spoke out against Bill Clinton’s proposal: “It is not within our power to solve all the world’s problems,” she remarked. She also said that she “could never look into the eyes of a mother or father or spouse or child of a soldier killed in Bosnia and say that American interests in Bosnia were worth their sacrifice.”

Fowler’s colleague, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), also weighed in, saying, “People in my district want to know the exit strategy. Getting answers from the administration is part of our job.” Other Republicans joined the protest. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said that troop deployment was “poorly considered and unlikely to achieve our desired ends,” and Majority Whip Tom Delay said it was “just another bad idea in a foreign policy without a focus.”

The amazing thing is that none of these people were criticized for being unpatriotic or anti-American. Their support for U.S. troops remained unquestioned, and they certainly weren’t accused of lending aid and comfort to the enemy. My, how times have changed.

David Frum, former Bush speechwriter and clown prince of neoconservatism, attacked those on the anti-war right in a hit piece entitled Unpatriotic Conservatives: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.” In other words, speaking out against a Republican war waged by a Republican president makes you a traitor.

And that continues to be the neocon modus operandi. In an effort to silence any and all opposition to the so-called “war on terror” (or, if you prefer the updated nomenclature, the “global struggle against violent extremism“), they have resorted to name-calling, ad hominem attacks and all-out smear campaigns. But what else would we expect? The neocons are desperate because their cakewalk of a war has turned into the proverbial quagmire.

It has been two-and-a-half years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, and what do we have to show for it? Nearly 2,000 American soldiers are dead. Almost 14,000 have been wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed (and that’s about as close to a real estimate as we’ll get since the U.S. government isn’t concerned with determining the extent of “collateral damage”). Thousands more Iraqis, including a sizeable chunk of Iraq’s Christian population, have been displaced. Terrorist bombings are a daily occurrence, and the proposed Iraqi constitution promises a system of government based on Islamic law.

Otherwise, Iraq is the veritable democratic paradise President Bush promised it would be. Yet one cannot help but wonder why we went over there in the first place.

Oh, that’s right. Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was prepared to use them – possibly through his nonexistent network of al-Qaeda connections – against the United States.

Unfortunately for the war party, every reason articulated by the administration as justification for waging a preemptive, undeclared, unconstitutional war against a sovereign nation has been proven false. Still, they forge ahead, unable to admit their mistakes.

President Bush, having run out of excuses, now thinks we should continue fighting if for no other reason than to legitimize the sacrifice made by those who have already given their lives. In a recent speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention, he said, “We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive … and win the war on terror.”

But what about combating the evils that threaten liberty here at home? Let’s forget for a moment that the war in Iraq was based entirely on lies. Even if everything the Bush administration has been saying is true, why should that excuse conservatives from addressing the domestic problem of a federal government that is growing bigger, more expensive and more intrusive by the minute?

Contrary to popular belief, tyranny isn’t limited to Third World dictatorships. While Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney are deciding when and where to strike next, the freedoms of U.S. citizens are being eroded.

We have the PATRIOT Act which makes every American a potential terrorist suspect. Campaign Finance Reform is crushing freedom of speech. Washington bureaucrats want your children to undergo mandatory mental health screenings. Thanks to the Real ID Act, we will all be forced to carry national ID cards. The Bush administration talks about fighting terrorists “over there,” but has done nothing to secure our borders over here. You’d think that the neocons would at least feign interest in fighting to maintain the same liberties here at home they claim to be fighting for everywhere else in the world.

And yet the single defining issue that continues to separate the patriotic from the unpatriotic is the so-called “war on terror.” I just have one question: If winning the “war on terror” means losing our freedom, then what exactly are we fighting for?