The following speech was delivered at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska.
In remembering why we have come to support our troops today, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on something most of us never think about: our extraordinary luck in being Americans. We are, in a sense, lottery winners. There are something like 6.3 billion human beings currently living on the planet. Assuming that most of us were born sometime in the last half century, this works out to a roughly 1-in-20 chance of being born in the United States of America.
There are plenty of other places in the world inhabited by people less fortunate than us. There are the rice fields of Cambodia, the barren deathlands of Rwanda, that giant prison camp known as Iraq. There are places that have freedom, and exercise it in being silly: France, for example.
It should not surprise us that some individuals choose to denigrate their nation, for there are ungrateful people all over the world. It does not astonish me, likewise, that many people are profoundly grateful for our freedoms: everyone here is a testament to that. What does sometimes astonish me is that so many people are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others. We are here today to celebrate them.
I would like to take note of an old American ideal: peace and freedom. Let's start with the first one. All of us hope for peace in the world. We talk of peace. We strive for it. We have world organizations devoted to pursuing peace. But when those organizations fail to talk out differences between nations, to stop murderous dictators, we do not simply paper over failed resolutions with further resolutions. Allowing far-off megalomaniacal dictators to possess weapons that can kill millions of Americans should simply never be an option. Weapons inspectors can only carry us so far. And when we decide that this is true, why, we simply have to resort to a different kind of inspectors. We have about 200,000 of them in Iraq right now. And they are doing a bang-up job.
Winston Churchill once wrote, years after the fact, regarding Adolf Hitler's serial violations of treaties his nation had agreed to. Like many today with Saddam Hussein, the world community was mostly willing to allow Hitler to break these treaties, rather than risk a war. The League of Nations condemned Hitler for breaking agreements, but as Churchill noted: "...how vain was all their voting without the readiness of any single Power or any group of Powers to contemplate the use of FORCE, even in the last resort!"
Note that Hitler had not yet attacked anybody: he was simply breaking treaties. Churchill thought this was bad enough to morally justify a preemptive attack, even though Britain had not been directly assaulted. Does any of this sound familiar? Churchill was right then, and we are right today. The risk of inaction is simply too high.
So sometimes we have to fight a nasty war to gain a better peace. Now that peace has been covered, let's consider freedom - and the lack of it. I recently heard an Iraqi expatriate call up a radio station in Seattle and berate a "peace activist" for five minutes over her stance. This gentleman told the "peace activist," in no uncertain terms, that he supported an attack on Iraq, even though his own family might be killed in an assault. Likewise, I recently read a news item in which another "peace activist" returned from Iraq, having had his "eyes opened." He was sitting in an Iraqi cab, telling the cabdriver of how horrible a war would be, when the cabbie's eyes narrowed and he launched into a harangue over how atrocious Saddam's government was and how everybody was praying and hoping for an American invasion. Another "peace activist" has returned from Iraq with stories of how Iraqis told him they would literally commit suicide if the American troops did not come in soon. Many people in the "peace movement" say that a war would be immoral because it would cost human lives. But when you've read accounts, as I have, of Iraqi dissidents being murdered by slowly lowering them feet-first into plastic shredders, you begin to realize just how silly this objection usually is. Saddam has killed over one million people. Any operation we undergo will pale in comparison. And we will be giving Iraqis access to the second half of our ideal: freedom, to go along with their newfound peace.
It is often claimed that America is only pursuing its own national interests. For some reason, many people consider this an overpowering objection. I respond: It is absolutely true that America is pursuing its national interests, and I for one welcome it! America pursuing its own national interests led to the disarmament of Adolf Hitler, a stable post World War II world, democratic governments around the globe, the downfall and collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Kuwait, and more. We err if we think that America can only win when other nations lose. If this is American national interest, then let's have more of it!
While covering a recent antiwar forum in my capacity as a Wayne Stater reporter, I heard a professor here at WSC rail off a number of antiwar signs she had seen at a recent rally. There is a website - www.protestwarrior.com - that works to "give a little back" to these antiwar protestors, and makes fun of their protest signs. Just for kicks, I'd like to read a few examples of satirical protest signs I've seen in recent weeks:
-- "Except for ending slavery, fascism, Nazism, and Communism - War has never solved anything!"
-- "Iraq is French for Hollywood."
-- "Saddam Only Kills His Own People - It's None of Our Business!"
-- "Hollywood Activism -- Now That's Entertainment!"
-- "Hey France: Shut the hell up -- we'll save civilization!" (Funny - that's not the first time we've had to say that to the French!)
You get the point. It isn't enough just to mouth empty antiwar platitudes: democracy comes with a price tag. Right now, the nature of possible chemical and biological attacks puts all of us on the frontlines of a war. There is an advance troop of our citizens now advancing on Baghdad who have chosen to take the lead for us, and they will soon liberate the nation of Iraq from a vicious dictator. We gather today to say to them, along with William Shakespeare, that if it is a sin to covet honor, then they are the most offending souls alive. And to thank them. For our protection. For a peace we all hope will soon arrive. And for our freedom.
Matt Murphy is a senior at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. He is pursuing a major in history with a minor in journalism.