“…Attention! College Republicans and Others Who Are Supporting Bush’s Policy in Iraq. We Are At War – College Can Wait!… Enlist Today!”
Picking up a copy of the September 2 issue of the Maroon-News, I discovered the above as part of a full-page ad. Apparently conceived and paid for by a group calling itself “Colgate Chickenhawks,” this satiric attack is regrettably more cynical than funny. Clearly meant to taunt all who believe that the United States must not withdraw from Iraq before a stable government is in place, it fails to recognize the realities of the world we live in.
Let us leave history to sort out the motives behind the Whitehouse’s willingness to commit US troops to remove Saddam Hussein – the fact is we are there. Having already removed a demonstrably corrupt and brutal regime, we are now attempting to provide a climate in which some form of representative democracy can take root in Iraq.
Standing with us are the majority of the Iraqis, who, though they come late to the concept of fighting for one’s freedom, are slowly evolving into a formidable force. Standing against us are foreign fighters and former Baathists, led by a Jordanian national named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi pledges allegiance to al Qaida and world terrorism. We are up against brigands who, not unlike the Mafia, use violent actions to rule by fear. They are morally indefensible. Attempting to justify their actions, al-Zarqawi elects to misread the Quran, effectively allowing his followers to target innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, for wholesale slaughter.
Irrespective of your feelings towards former Secretary of State Colin Powell, his point is well taken: Having broken Iraq apart, we have a moral obligation to fix it. It is clear that an American withdrawal from Iraq would not stop the violence either there or here. We are dealing with a worldwide terror network whose members cheered the attacks on the World Trade Center, both in 1993 and on 9/11. Do you “Chickenhawks” honestly believe that the United States can withdraw from Iraq before a representative government is in place without being perceived as a weakening global power? Do you believe that the terrorist attacks would cease?
The American experiment is little more than 200 years old. The men who had the courage to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the ideal of an open society risked everything so that their heirs – including you and I – might enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution. Such sacrifice is rare in the history of humankind. In fact, unless each generation is willing to renew its commitment to share the burden of freedom, it will vanish from the earth.
The truth is that the young men and women enrolled in Colgate today are among the best and brightest America has ever known. If you choose to ignore the responsibility that goes along with the incredible gifts of freedom and self-determination that you were lucky enough to be born into, America will eventually fail. No great civilization can outlive apathy, greed and self-interest.
For decades, American foreign policy has been driven by economic self-interest, prompting our support of dictators like Saddam instead of fostering democracy. Regardless of how we became entangled in the current debacle, the conflict in Iraq offers us a meaningful opportunity for change, provided we have the moral resolve to stay the course. Does this mean we as a nation should attempt to solve injustices everywhere through military intervention? Absolutely not. But a democratic Iraq does offer a precedent for further change, a small step in the right direction.
I am a registered Independent. I believe America was misled into Vietnam, but chose not to evade the draft. My son, who graduated from Colgate in 1998, now serves as an Arabic analyst with the 3rd Infantry north of Baghdad because he believes he can, in some small way, positively influence the course of history. I ask you to look within yourselves. What kind of a world do you wish to live in? Is that world achievable if you leave the difficult tasks to someone else? Irrespective of whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, know that your first obligation is to stay in school because this nation needs a military that is, above all, intelligent. But once you graduate, I urge you to consider volunteering. Don’t just make noise. Make a difference.