Opinion

Without citizen vigilance, our fragile democracy will succumb

By Roger DeRoos

Love of country compels me to write. 

We enter the sixth year since the United States, under the presidency of George W. Bush and with the majority support of Congress (Washington's Patty Murray and Rick Larsen excepted), launched an unprovoked, preemptive and illegal attack upon the independent nation of Iraq.

The justification for the invasion given by President Bush and other administration officials was that Iraq possessed and was developing weapons of mass destruction, although the international weapons inspectors in Iraq had no evidence to support this assertion. 

We were told that Iraq posed an imminent and urgent threat to the United States. The administration further claimed that Iraq and al-Qaeda terrorists were cooperating. Remember the fear-raising statement, “We do not want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”? Both justifications were exposed as lies.

The subsequent reasons offered for the Iraq war and occupation have twisted and turned over the years in brazen attempts to rationalize our self-appointed position of moral superiority that we narcisstically accept is reserved for the United States. Our current justifications are that we removed a brutal dictator and we are bringing Western-style democracy to the Middle East.

Consider the cost-benefit of the removal of President Saddam Hussein: the dead, wounded, mentally impaired, heartbreak and fear; the death squads, suicide bombers, murders, hatred, torture, religious intolerance and genocide; the failed infrastructure; and a land polluted with radioactive depleted uranium and unexploded munitions that will continue to kill and maim for years to come, and with no end in sight. Also, there is the waste of trillions of dollars that could have done so much good. 

The unstated contradiction in our policy is that we routinely deal with brutal dictators in China, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Colombia, to mention but a few. This historical and contemporary cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy was enunciated eloquently by President Lyndon Johnson who is reported to have said, “Yes, he is a SOB, but he is our SOB.

We must look in the mirror and accept the words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us” — not our government, but us. 

Contrary to our rhetoric, we are not a peaceful country. Our military budget exceeds that of all other nations combined.  There are 192 countries in the world and the United States has a military presence in 135. The possible war with Iran and the ongoing occupation of Iraq continue the long historical pattern of government lies that led Presidents Kennedy and Johnson into a war with Vietnam, President Reagan to attack Grenada, and former President Bush to send our military into Panama. 

If we continue to elect and then fail to hold accountable officials who ignore the Constitution, abuse the Bill of Rights, and willfully disregard international law and the sovereignty of nations, our fragile democracy will succumb due to a lack of citizen vigilance and action.

— Roger deRoos is a retired biology professor. He lives on San Juan Island.

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