Tuesday, 19 June 2007

"Freedom isn't free"

I recently saw an old foe from long ago. It professed ignorance and a modern excuse for war: to fight for freedom. World War II was a fight for freedom against Nazi repression and invasion in Europe and Japanese imperial aggression in the Pacific; the current Iraq war and the 'war' against terrorism are not fights for America's freedom.

"Freedom isn't free" may sound like an interesting statement out of context. But when overlayed in front of a gun or the silhouette of a soldier, it is a statement of the United States' militancy — in spirit, politics, or action — and an unjustified fear of loosing freedoms at the hands of outsiders when the politicians in charge at home are doing a fine job. In the case of my recent encounter of the saying it was in the form of a bumper-sticker.

In the "war on terror", President George W. Bush and his group have proven to be formidable enemies to American civil liberties, not terrorist Osama bin Laden and his cronies. Freedoms have been quashed in the name of fighting international terrorism. Osama is surely a larger direct threat to US security, but Bush's poor policies at home and abroad have in effect made the United States less secure.

"Freedom isn't free" has become a major statement of Bush-supporters and the right wing in America, as well as the population at large in the patriotic wake of 9/11.

Is the US fighting for freedom in Iraq or Afghanistan? No. By detaining innocent and bad men in Gitmo and elsewhere, is America promoting freedom or even helping its own? No. Freedom might not be free, but it's no reason to give up freedoms in a supposed fight to save them. Not only is that self-defeating, it is caving into the same kind of pseudo-patriotism that has allowed this White House to pursue its "war on terror".

The same people who use the phrase "Freedom isn't free" to justify the gross abuse of power by the Bush administration are probably the same people who ultimately believe 'ignorance is bliss'. I guess by the logic of Bush's supporters — yes, he still has plenty — freedom isn't freedom because it isn't free ('How could something by nature free be free?'), and war is peace (Orwell's 1984 = best novel ever, or at least best political novel).

I understand America has many brave servicemen and women who are fighting for causes — just and unjust — putting their lives at stake in the deadly game of war. Looking at the mass military and civilian casualties of the excursions of the GWOT is not a pleasurable activity. But justifying those many deaths with a catchphrase that mixes misguided, post-disaster patriotism with twisted logic, especially considering phrases like "Freedom isn't free" are often used as an attack on those who do not particularly like the president (e.g. "Support our troops" being used by the GOP against those wishing for withdrawal from Iraq, or those opposed to the White House's war policy; fighting terror with terror or fear), is a poor way to honor the deaths of those people. The fight for defending freedom is actually hurting it. "Freedom isn't free" seems like a justification for such a fight, and is used in such a way. War isn't free either.

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