“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.” ~ George W. Bush, September 11, 2001
We have heard it repeated loudly and continuously since 9/11 – the troops are defending our freedoms. This claim is made so often and by so many different segments of society that it has become another meaningless national dictum – like “God Bless America” or “In God We Trust.”
This cliché is actually quite insidious. It is used as a mantra to justify or excuse anything the U.S. military does.
U.S. troops are engaged in unconstitutional, undeclared wars – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. drone strikes killed civilians in Pakistan – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. bombs landed on a wedding party in Afghanistan – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. soldiers murdered Afghan civilians and kept some of their body parts – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. helicopter pilots gunned down Iraqi civilians – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. soldiers killed civilians for sport – but the troops are defending our freedoms. U.S. troops carelessly killed civilians and then covered it up – but the troops are defending our freedoms.
But as I have pointed out many times in my articles on the military, and others like Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation have been arguing for years (see here and here), the troops are doing everything but defending our freedoms. In fact, the more the troops defend our freedoms by bombing, invading, and occupying other countries, the more enemies they make of the United States and the more our freedoms get taken away in the name of “fighting terrorism” or “national security.”
Not in any particular order, and in varying degrees of significance, here are some freedoms I wish the military were defending:
- The freedom to fly without being sexually violated.
- The freedom to purchase a gun without a waiting period.
- The freedom to grow, sell, and smoke marijuana.
- The freedom to sell goods and services for whatever amount a buyer is willing to pay.
- The freedom to make more than six withdrawals from one’s savings account each month.
- The freedom to drink alcohol as a legal, voting adult under twenty-one years of age.
- The freedom to purchase Sudafed over the counter.
- The freedom to gamble without government approval.
- The freedom to deposit more than $10,000 in a bank account without government scrutiny.
- The freedom to not be stopped at a checkpoint and have one’s car searched without a warrant.
- The freedom to sell any good or offer any service on Craigslist.
- The freedom to fill in a “wetland” on one’s own property.
- The freedom to cut someone’s hair for money without a license.
- The freedom to home-brew over 100 gallons of beer per year.
- The freedom to advertise tobacco products on television.
- The freedom to smoke Cuban cigars.
- The freedom to not wear a seatbelt.
- The freedom to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
- The freedom to keep the fruits of one’s labor.
- The freedom of an employer and an employee to negotiate for any wage.
- The freedom to discriminate against anyone for any reason.
- The freedom to videotape the police in public.
- The freedom of businesses to hire and fire whomever they choose.
- The freedom to not be brutalized by the police.
- The freedom to not be arrested for victimless crimes.
- The freedom to sell raw milk.
- The freedom to not have one’s child subject to unnecessary vaccinations.
- The freedom to not have one’s child unjustly taken by Child Protective Services.
- The freedom to not be subject to the Patriot Act.
- The freedom for kids to set up neighborhood lemonade stands.
- The freedom to not have every facet of business and society regulated.
- The freedom to stay in one’s home during a hurricane.
- The freedom to not have our e-mail and phone conversations monitored.
- The freedom to travel to and trade with any country.
- The freedom to be left alone.
Certainly there are hundreds of things that could be added. We no longer live in a free country. We are increasingly living in a police state, a warfare state, and a national security state. Our freedom is not absolute. The only reason the United States is still considered “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is because we are relatively free, with the degree of freedom varying depending on which country America is compared to.
Would I rather live somewhere else? No, I wouldn’t, but that is a ridiculous question. First of all, if the typical German, Italian, Swede, Korean, Australian, or Spaniard were asked if he would rather live somewhere else you would probably get the same answer. And second, although a prisoner would rather live in a clean prison than a dirty prison and a safe prison rather than a violent prison, he would prefer to not be a prisoner in the first place.
I conclude with three brief thoughts. One, I want the military to defend our freedoms. But fighting foreign wars only reduces our freedoms. After all, it is still true that war is the health of the state. Two, if the military is going to defend our freedoms, then we need freedoms to defend. Our freedoms must be restored before the military can defend them. And three, the greatest threat to our freedoms is the U.S. government, not the governments of China, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, or Iran.