September 02, 2004

Liberators or Occupiers?

In Zell Miller's speech at the Republican National Convention last night, he made these remarks:

"Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators...No one should dare to even think about being the commander in chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home."
First, I have to say that for people in the National Guard, who signed up to be "Defenders of freedom at home," they are none to happy to find themselves being used as "Liberators abroad" instead. It's shameful that the armed forces swooped into Iraq with guns blazing, and promptly left the duties of policing the country in the hands of the inexperienced, under-funded National Guard.

Imagine that Fox's Rupert Murdoch purchased the Super Bowl in mid-broadcast, only to declare that he was shutting it down effective immediately, and everyone had to vacate the stadium. "And if you have any complaints, please talk to my Public Relations team," announces Murdoch, gesturing to a nervous-looking group of four part-time PR reps. Murdoch himself quickly exits the premises under heavy guard, leaving the reps to deal with an angry mob of 40,000 angry football fans. Now imagine that the stadium is in the desert, the doors have been locked from the inside, and every third fan has a gun, and you are starting to realize what the National Guard stationed in Iraq must feel like.

Now back to the liberators vs. occupiers point. I won't deny the men and women who are stationed overseas the justification for what they are doing. One effect that military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have had IS liberation from some form of oppression, granted. However, the core purpose of these actions was nothing as lofty as freedom.

We went into Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda to defend our country from further attacks. Unfortunately, the groups were so entrenched and accepted into the population that we had no choice but do some civil and social re-engineering to rid the areas of terrorist supporters. Liberation was just a convenient side-effect that was agreeable to our goals.

The invasion of Iraq was a bit more hazy. First, the rationale was a weak link to Al Qaeda operatives and supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction. When that idea fell through, it became "Operation Iraqi Freedom" under the new idea that we were going in under the guise of liberators.

Unfortunately, there was this earlier stint that we Christians did in the middle east, called The Crusades. Well, they're still a bit sore about that whole attempted "reclaiming the Holy Land" thing. (It didn't help when some soldiers started flying the American flag over some buildings.) To counter this mistrust, we have had our leaders playing down any imperialist interests that we have in staying in the country, including calling for other countries to staff the peace-keeping forces. However, this call has gone largely ignored, just as other nations' requests to hold off the Iraqi invasion was ignored by America.

So are we Liberators or Occupiers? The answer is both, but not as much of either as we'd like.

We're less welcome as liberators than the Bush Administration promised that we would be. Make no mistake, thousands of people are happy to be free of a dictator and have basic amenities like electricity and running water. However, some who used to be in power, and others who want to be in power now, would like to say "Thank you America, we'll take it from here, goodbye."

As occupiers, we have posted troops in the country to keep order, specifically, our kind of order. Our government is trying to subtly change the country so that terrorism cannot thrive, but their culture is so vastly different than our own that this is no easy task. All we have to work with is experience of what works for us, namely Democracy, but we have to moderate our policies and yield to their culture. As the British did for India (before they were forced out), The Bush Administration apparently desires to "civilize" Iraq and Afghanistan, clean them up a bit and turn them into countries that you wouldn't mind having over for dinner.

In conclusion, we cannot declare our soldiers liberators or occupiers. Zell Miller is taking cheap shot with this comment, because no one will take anything away from the troops themselves. Like employees of a large corporation, individual soldiers act only on the instructions of their leaders, so it is the policies of these leaders that determines our role. In November, the people will have a chance to vote for the leader whose policies are most like our own, and that will ultimately determine which role we take.

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