I joined the military after September 11th, 2001 out of a desire to protect our country. I believed the President and his cabinet members when they claimed that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to the United States, and then was shocked to learn that Congress, the American public, and the international community had to one degree or another been deceived or frightened into supporting the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. After examining statements made by numerous journalists and public officials with firsthand information on these matters, I came to the conclusion that the Iraq war was not only irresponsible but illegal and immoral, and that it set an incredibly dangerous precedent in terms of international relations. It effectively sent the message that the United States government reserves the right to violate international law as it sees fit, whether or not a particular state or nonstate actor presents an imminent threat to its national security.
By invading and occupying Iraq without proper legal justification, the Bush administration has severely eroded the rule of law, creating a disincentive for other countries to adhere to the same rules the United States has broken. I firmly believe that the current diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Iran can be partially attributed to this. What incentive does the Iranian government, surrounded on all sides by a hostile force and labeled part of an "axis of evil", have to cooperate with a country bound by no law but that which it arbitrarily decides is appropriate for a superpower to abide by? Similarly, the erosion of diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States is a further consequence of the Bush administration's disregard for laws governing international affairs. However imperfect and in need of improvement, these laws help prevent and mitigate conflict between nations and are critical to peace and stability in the world. We undermine them at our own peril.
Not only harming our relations with the international community, through deception and brazen disregard for the rule of law the Bush administration has done great harm to our democracy and must be held accountable by Congress if we wish to restore vitality to our political system. The disinformation campaign waged against Congress to secure its support for the invasion of Iraq was a clear violation of the Constitution, considering that Article 1 Section 8 grants to the Legislative, not the Executive Branch, the power to declare hostilities. In order for it to do so responsibly it naturally follows that it must be accurately and honestly informed through independent intelligence assessments, untainted by political interference. If this remains unchallenged, future Executives will push further until Congress serves merely to maintain the illusion of democratic representation.
What led me to openly dissent against the occupation of Iraq and call for the impeachment of the Vice President was not only the fact that we invaded on false premises, but that the invasion was also motivated by imperialist objectives. I believe that most Bush administration officials wanted a more representative government for the Iraqi people, but their overriding priority was and is de facto control over Iraq's energy resources. It may be justifiable to overthrow a government because it has suddenly cut off vital energy supplies to your country, but this was far from the case with Iraq. The rationale in this case was to put in place a more dependent, pliable government. So long as the Iraqi government remains dependent on American security forces and financing, American businessmen backed by State Department officials will retain a strong position from which to negotiate a controlling influence over Iraq's oil industry, and therefore its economy, and therefore its government. Iraq may retain the facade of national sovereignty but will be under the de facto control of the United States government via American multinational oil corporations and financial institutions, the International Monetary Fund in particular.
Not only is this supremely immoral and a betrayal of America's revolutionary principles, it is also highly unpragmatic and almost certain to fail. Such a weak and acquiescent Iraqi government will continue to be viewed by the Iraqi people as illegitimate. It is clear that as long as we remain in Iraq, attempting to prop up a corrupt and thoroughly compromised government, assassinations, sectarian violence, and attacks against American troops will continue indefinitely. For these reasons I believe American forces should be withdrawn as soon as is practically possible.
It is not an easy thing for any military member to dissent against their own government, particularly in time of war. Yet we took an oath to defend the Constitution. Under our Constitution no one is above the law- not even the President. I believe it is our duty as citizens and as military members to speak out publicly, within the bounds of pertinent laws and regulations, against the grave abuses of power which have been committed by Bush administration officials in the name of security and freedom. Our government has had to make many difficult decisions since September 11th, 2001, in the effort to protect our country against an enemy which is deliberately using our laws and political system against us. Acknowledging this, it cannot be allowed to disregard the system of checks and balances established by our country's Founders in order to preserve democratic accountability. If the Constitution is not upheld in these challenging times we will not have security or liberty- only fear and terror.
Ultimately, if we want to see a peaceful conclusion to the "Global War on Terror", which is in fact a continuation of decades of covert wars, we must be willing as a nation to engage in some self-reflection. My sense of historical perspective after September 11th was a very simplistic one: we were attacked without provocation by a vicious enemy. What I have since come to understand is that reality is much more nuanced, and that this array of conflicts we are faced with in the Middle East has been festering for nearly 60 years as a consequence of short-sighted decision-making. It cannot be solely attributed to Muslim extremism- not when our country's foreign policies are criticized all over the world, including throughout much of South America and even among our closest allies in Europe. We must ask ourselves whether we wish to uphold our values of liberty and equality under the law, or to become the British empire and make a mockery of our own Declaration of Independence. It is often painful to reflect upon the past, but I profoundly believe it is necessary to the future of our democracy that we do so. We must begin to examine America through the eyes of others before we can begin to understand ourselves. As the revered ancient warrior Sun Tzu wrote, "Know thy enemy, know thyself. A thousand battles, a thousand victories."