No Freedom or Independence Without Peace

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Where exactly
are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? You know, the ones that
justified a pre-emptive attack by United States forces on a country
that hasn't attacked or threatened us.

No one talks
much about them any more. Granted, Marines might be uncovering MWDs
as we speak, and it would surprise no one, myself included, if Iraq's
totalitarian regime had a few of the types of weapons that the United
States and its allies have at least one time or another stockpiled
in military warehouses.

If the Iraqi
regime really was such a threat to the United States and the world
because of its elusive chemical and biological weapons caches, why
didn't the regime use those weapons when it had nothing to lose?

No wonder that,
without missing a beat, American war planners and their "Iraq
and roll" cheerleaders on 24/7 news channels already are on
to other justifications for the war, emphasizing that the real purpose
for bombing, maiming and killing people in a country far from U.S.
soil is to bring them democracy and freedom.

You know, like
the freedoms we have in California ? the freedom to hand over more
than 50 percent of your income to the government to dispense with
as it pleases, the freedom to build anything you want on our property
provided you first get 17 government agencies to agree to the project,
the freedom to run your business exactly the way the state labor
department thinks you ought to run it.

Perhaps that's
too cynical. But, the safety of our own freedoms is worth mulling
as Americans prepare to install free and democratic societies on
other parts of the world. As the founders understood, the first
way to promote freedom abroad is to secure it at home. Why not be
a beacon of liberty, but the protector only of our own liberties?

The problem
is that America is doing a pitiful job protecting its freedoms here
at home. Perhaps a little war will keep the conservatives from noticing.
Every proposal in Congress and state Legislatures is pushing in
the big-government direction, the president's shrinking proposal
for a piddling amount of tax cuts notwithstanding. Here in California,
we witness a never-ending attempt to increase taxes, restrict private
gun ownership, expand the size of government bureaucracies and police
forces, and restrict property rights and personal rights.

Give it another
decade at this rate, and … well, I shudder to think about it.
Yet the same conservatives who rightly berated President Clinton's
attempts to turn America into Amerika, have launched no criticisms
as a Republican president tries the same thing. They are too busy
whooping it up over a foreign war to notice.

All their pretenses
of limited government have gone down the toilet. Following last
week, when faux-populist Bill O'Reilly gave me my 15 minutes of
fame by attacking me on his radio and TV show for my criticism of
the war, and the idea that we should all stop criticizing it when
soldiers are in harm's way, I've been inundated with emails from
supposed conservatives who make frighteningly totalitarian arguments.

Americans must
not only give up our right to speak out, but we must open our wallets
and support any cost to free the Iraqi people. Notice how quickly
blind supporters of the government follow the propaganda line? They
were right there when the administration was bleating about weapons
of mass destruction, and are right there when the policy has shifted
to the supposed freeing of the Iraqi people.

To oppose this
assault on our tax dollars, or to oppose the Patriot Act and other
terrorism-related assaults on our liberties, is downright unAmerican,
I've been told. I'm a coward, some have said, with one writer expressing
his willingness to "prove it."

I heard some
analyst on one of the nonstop radio or TV news shows admitting that
the private sector might "even" have a role in the rebuilding
of Iraq. Imagine that. This is what passes for conservatism today
? shutting up and doing what the government tells you, accepting
the undermining of our freedoms with a happy face, denouncing free
speech as traitorous, believing that the government, as opposed
to the private sector, is the key to building a functioning society.

Well, as my
Register column next week explains, John Quincy Adams had a response
for those who insist that America should go across the world looking
for monsters to destroy.

"She well
knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own were
they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve
herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest
and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume
the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims
of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force …."

That's what
has happened. War supporters are so enamored of using force abroad
that they don't see a problem with using it at home. But, as Adams
noted, "[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her
march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield; but
the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace."

I'd like to
remind the neoconservative war mongers that the first two words
on that shield are dependent on the last one.

17, 2003

Greenhut (send him mail)
is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County
Register in Santa Ana, Calif.

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