Mr. President, I write today with a heavy heart after listening closely to your State of the Union speech. As a first-generation American of Arab and Muslim descent, I feel peculiarly qualified to express not just my thoughts…but my feelings about your speech.
On my office wall hangs a framed reproduction of The Declaration of Independence. In fact, every office I have ever sat in had this same framed reproduction, cut from the July 4th issue of The Chicago Tribune in 1976; the two hundredth anniversary of our nation’s independence.
It has been these stirring words and ideals that have animated my heart and soul ever since I first read the words. Freedom and the inalienable rights of Man are not just words for me; they are the very reason for living.
In your speech, you spoke about war with Iraq. You spoke the words of freedom, but somehow they seemed…false. Why? Freedom is not a thing bestowed to a people as a gift from Uncle Sam. The “gift” is even more awkward when it comes wrapped with an invasion force of 250,000 US soldiers, carpet-bombing and missiles raining from the sky. You cannot give the Iraqi people their freedom at the barrel of an American gun. The Iraqi people must earn their own freedom if it is to be worth more than words.
Our freedom was not a gift from France, but earned through the toils of those early Americans, and paid for by successive generations that have ensured my right to address my President as I do now.
You say that the Iraqi people deserve freedom and who can deny any this dream? But no freedom deserved is without a price. But whose price? Is Iraqi freedom more precious than Palestinian freedom? Is Iraqi freedom more precious than those suffering from our own allies in the region?
Is the price of Iraqi freedom worth a single American parent, grieving for his or her son, sent to Baghdad to do for the Iraqi people what they do not do for themselves? The answer Mr. President is a resounding NO. I suggested that your rhetoric seemed…false. Again, you might ask; Why?
Your rhetoric of freedom rings false because you cannot speak of freedom on Tuesday, and support the brutal Occupation of Palestine on Wednesday. You cannot speak of freedom on Tuesday, and support dictatorial monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Wednesday. And of course, you should not speak of freedom on Tuesday while giving “Most Favored Nations” trading agreements with slave labor countries like China on Wednesday. There are more examples, but the point is made.
Freedom is a principle. Selectively applied, they are no longer principles but thinly veiled rationalizations for domestic consumption. Your selective application of freedom is what makes your words hollow and ultimately devoid of the spirit to which it is aimed. You have taken the words that Thomas Jefferson dreamed so beautifully and crafted them into sound bites for news headlines. You have stripped them of their meaning…their soul…by selective application, intended to gain support for a crusade.
As an American of Arab and Muslim descent, the hollowness of those words is haunting. I know that when Saddam was a US ally in the eighties, Kurds were slaughtered without our Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld raising their voice. Kurds were slaughtered by our ally, Turkey, as we looked away. Freedom did not ring from the Washington steps then, and freedom is not the goal of your policy now.
One million Iranians were slaughtered by Saddam Hussein, then as an American ally, utilizing American-made weapons. Our country did more than look away, but supported his military adventure. This is what I know, so your words condemning Saddam’s aggression against Iran were equally false….rhetoric used for an American people who do not devote the time to sift through the fog of Middle East politics.
It is true that I follow the Middle East more closely than my neighbors in the suburbs of Chicago. But there are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world who also follow what happens in Jerusalem and the rest of the Middle East. The list of dictators in Muslim countries who get active US support in suppressing and denying freedom to its people is long indeed. Muslim people feel the shackles of CIA-trained forces helping to maintain the thrones of power. Every Muslim therefore feels the hollowness of your rhetoric.
Israel has weapons of mass destruction, but you, Mr. President, and successive presidents before you, spoke not of these weapons. Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 and again in 1967, and presently practices a form of Occupation unknown since the time of Hitler, yet your silence only underscores the hypocrisy.
Mr. President, how can I tell you the depth of distrust the chasm between your rhetoric of Tuesday night and the reality outlined above creates in the hearts of 1.4 billion Muslims? These contradictions cannot be swept away easily.
Your new crusade against Baghdad harkens back to another time, to another era. Your crusade against Iraq is felt to be exactly what the word implies. As you rally our nation to join this crusade, the heaviness of heart for what this means saddens me, because I know that the words of Jefferson may be used, but his ideals are not to be found.