Losing America

A friend walked away the other day, fed up he said with my position on the war in Iraq.

It’s not the first time war has ruined a friendship. I doubt it will be the last.

War brings out the best and worst in people. It stirs emotions as few other issues can – as it should. Any action that involves death of human beings should, and must, be discussed at length.

While I value and cherish friendships, I value and cherish my county more. Only my love for my wife and family transcends my love of country. And I do love my country. I have served her more than once over the years. I have done things in her name that violated every law, rule and belief I learned as a child. I go through each day with aches, pains, a limp and some missing body parts because I loved my country and served her when she asked.

But love in this case cannot, and must not, be blind. It must be tough love – supportive yet cognizant of faults. It must be a love proven by a willingness to stand up and challenge, to say “hold on here, something’s not right.”

Something’s not right in America: Hasn’t been for a long time; won’t be again unless we prove our love for our country by taking the tough, necessary changes to save her from herself.

America has changed a lot since the terrorist attacks four years ago. Too much of that change has been for the worst. But the seeds of those changes were planted long before the World Trade Center and Pentagon erupted into flames.

For an all-too-brief time it appeared 9/11 might bring this nation back together. We rallied around a President who launched a necessary war in Afghanistan to track down those responsible for the attacks.

But the illusion of unity quickly died, trampled by the stampede of opportunists who exploited the tragedy for political gain. What had been a slow march towards totalitarianism became a mad dash into a police state ruled by a despotic, power-mad President aided by a gang of right-wing thugs in Congress.

In reality, the 9/11 attacks only deepened divisions that already existed. The attacks emboldened desires to weaken the Constitution, expand the invasive role of government and impose extremist political agendas on a shell-shocked nation.

Terrorists brought down a lot more than two skyscrapers in New York City. They brought down the fragile foundations that have supported this unlikely, but nervous, republic for more than two hundred years. They brought down the façade of civility that masked a nation beset by internal strife, wracked by political demagoguery and blinded by an arrogant belief in its own superiority.

We all-but-abandoned the unfinished battle in Afghanistan to divert resources and attention to the invasion of Iraq – a nation, our President said, that posed an imminent threat to us, possessed weapons of mass destruction and had worked in league with Osama and his buddies to plot the 9/11 attacks.  Too few raised questions about the justifications and strategy before the war. Only after more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – mostly women and children – and American soldiers died did we learn that the war was based on lies and our President simply used 9/11 to launch a war he had planned since taking office eight months before the terrorist attacks.

Before the war, Pope John Paul II warned Bush that an invasion of Iraq would be viewed by the Vatican as a “criminal act.” That Pope, God rest his soul, had the guts to call the war what it is – a criminal act perpetuated by a President who, as a growing number of news outlets now report, may be out of control.

When people die as a result of a criminal act, it is murder. When 150,000 Iraqi civilians die as a direct result of American military action, it is mass murder. We have killed many civilians in a war that never should have happened and, sadly, many more civilians will die at the hands of a terrorist network that flourishes in the environment we created by our actions.

I love my country but love in this case means having to say you’re sorry and doing whatever you can to stop the madness that rules our society. America is in trouble and headed in the wrong direction. Recent polls show that most Americans agree.

Because of my beliefs, I lost a friend. Such loss hurts but I will recover.

None of us, however, can afford to lose America. We can never recover from the loss of a country.