Go back 12 years and 11 months. It is September 11, 2001, and the country is still reeling from the attacks from al Qaeda the day before. When President Bush addresses the American people and the world, he says that those responsible must pay. But this time, something is different. He does not say that al Qaeda operates in Afghanistan—he says that al Qaeda operates within the United States.
The United States military begins its campaign tracking down and capturing and killing terrorist group militants. Many other nations join the fight too. The government claims to be making headway, but at the same time call for more time and resources. The war drags on for years and years, costing taxpayers over one trillion dollars.
Families are routinely woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of their door being broken down and soldiers rushing in. The soldiers search room to room looking for people. They point their rifles in the faces of the residents even if it is a young child or a 75-year-old woman. They bring some to a central room and they expel others outside. In the midst of the terror and chaos, many of the men are blindfolded, tied, and made it kneel for hours on the hard floor with the cold metal of the barrel of an M16 jabbing in the back of their necks. The “lucky” ones are taken away and sent to prison where they sit in cells for made-up accusations. The unlucky ones are executed.
In addition to this, many other citizens are victims of missiles and bombs that miss their targets or are mistakenly targeted and dispatched. Still more citizens are gunned down at the many checkpoints that exist because they were driving suspiciously. In reality they looked suspicious because they weren’t sure what to do when they someone ahead was shining lights and waving them down. Throughout the war with al Qaeda, more than 174,000 American citizens die a violent death at the hands of the US military. Many, many more die through indirect causes of the war.
Would the United States government be justified in waging this war? Would and should such a campaign be tolerated by the American people or by anyone? What if the government officials said that this was the only way to eliminate terrorism? Would you believe them?
This scenario I laid out is what has been happening and continues to happen overseas where the United States is engaged in war against terrorist groups. As of February 2014, at least 174,000 civilians have died violent deaths from the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Unfortunately, too many people turn a blind eye to the suffering that these innocent people suffer, but how much differently would these people think if they actually had to deal with the death and destruction of the war? What if it were their families and themselves being hit with missiles from drones?
If Americans would not want to live in such conditions and not have their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness routinely trampled on, why do many of them not seem to care about the condition of the innocent foreign people in American warzones? Do they not have the same rights as Americans? Are they not human?
The Preamble of the Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders at least understood that “all men are created equal,” so according to them it would not be permissible to treat one group of people without the same dignity and respect that the American people rightfully expect for themselves.
If we as a human people are going to move forward, we need to start truly seeing each others as equals regardless of some imaginary lines drawn throughout the world. A poor man in Iraq has the same rights and dignity as a rich man in New York City and it is time to start treating people that way. We may be comfortable living in America, but real people suffer the costs of war.
Own yourself and ask if the battle you are fighting is really your own or the government’s.