Tuesday, July 04, 2006
  Land of the Greed, Home of the Grave  
  July 4, 2006 means nothing more than another day for the parents of the dead 
children in Iraq. Freedom is just an American word meaning death, destruction 
and corruption. 

   Just days ago the U.S. newspapers were headlining the “barbaric” beheading 
of two American soldiers captured “on patrol”. A few days later we found out 
the soldiers captured were members of a unit that had stalked a fifteen year 
old Iraqi girl to rape her. After the rape, they killed her and her family. 
  Iraqi citizens had reported the crime but the “official report” had listed 
the deaths as killings by “militants”. Only because a soldier of the unit had 
developed a guilty conscience about the rape and killings did the truth emerge.

   The “barbaric” killings now look like retribution against a rogue unit of 
soldiers by an Iraqi people sick and tired of the American bully. The bully 
that had so many reports of soldiers and Marines committing atrocities even the 
gutless and shirking press was beginning to tell the stories.
  Still the American press lacks the outrage of acts by the killers in American 
ranks that it does for the killers of Iraqi or Arabic background. Still the 
stories of children crushed and destroyed by bombs of unseen planes fail to be 
told. Still American “free fire zones” are ignored.

   Noted historian Howard Zinn rightfully suggests we not wave the red, white 
and blue flags of the American flag in pride this year on July 4, 2006. He 
points out the catastrophic results of the disease called nationalism that has 
driven this nation’s destiny. A destiny that seems to be forever one of a 
nation that has wasted more lives, more natural resources and more potential 
than any in the history of the world.
  Fireworks continue at this late hour in my neighborhood. The firecrackers, 
pop bottle rockets and other pyrotechnics that add up to 610 million dollars in 
sales each year continue on without missing a beat while we fail the poorest 
and weakest of the nation.  Jobs, education, healthcare, mental healthcare, 
substance abuse care, clean air, environmental concern, prenatal care, veterans 
benefits and vital human programs go without enough funding while we foolishly 
spend monies on explosive devices for celebration and incineration. 
   500 billion dollars spent on the war in Iraq since 2003 and we have only a 
more sullied reputation to show for the money that could have done so much to 
improve humanity all over the world.
  I see the flag of this nation and I feel shame for our greed and 
over-consumption. I feel shame for the hatred we’ve so rightfully brought upon 
ourselves with the continued swath of death and destruction we’ve brought to so 
many in the name of “freedom”.
  I hear the self-proclaimed patriots say “freedom isn’t free” and I agree. We 
need only to ask the people of Iraq who have paid so heavily for the freedoms 
that we’ve taken with their lives. 

   I hear the patriots say, “America, love it or leave it” and I agree. They 
should either love our country enough to do what’s moral and legal or they 
should leave it to the tyrants and the liars who have already stolen much of 
the freedom that made this country a beacon to the rest of the world.
  The young Americans responsible for the rapes, killings and atrocities 
they’ve committed deserve jail and punishment for what they’ve done. The time 
of saying they were only doing their jobs is over. The time of saying they only 
did their duty is over.  Time has come to accept personal responsibility for 
being part of immoral and illegal actions.

   Americans thinking the atrocities are anomalies by just a few are foolish 
and complicit in those atrocities. Trying to hide behind the flag and 
patriotism is deceptive and self-serving.
  The citizens of America need to stop fooling themselves about the reasons for 
the atrocities by their children in the military. The rotten barrel of apples 
begins and ends with a leadership that has allowed torture and illegal actions 
to become a norm. 

   George W. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, Rove and all the stooges 
of this administration have given the green light to corruption and immorality 
so often it’s little wonder the soldiers and Marines have seen no limits to 
what they should be able to do while allegedly “fighting for freedom”.
   July 4th is not a time of celebration in America. It’s a time of 
humiliation. July 4th isn’t a time for waving the banners of nationalistic 
pride. It’s a time of distress and shame. The only way the American flag should 
fly is inverted to signal a country in distress.
  Peace and justice groups aren’t free of complicity either. At a time outrage 
is necessary and the only proper response, timidity and passivity seems to be 
the reaction. While young American men and women die and kill and innocent 
Iraqi’s die in ever more obscene and senseless ways, peace and justice groups 
spend hours talking about the problem rather than acting on it. 

   Departments of Peace, letters to corrupt politicians, campaigning for 
politicians no different in philosophy than the ruling tyrants and symbolic 
actions lacking the power to be meaningful are simply actions to feel good 
about things but not actions taking a risk of time, talent and energy to truly 
oppose the despots in charge.
  The urgency of a nation rotting from within is lacking in a fog of 
consumerism, self centeredness and apathy. Rather than change we keep 
recreating the wheels of imperialism and nationalism. The same concepts with 
slightly different names are the rule not the exception.
America, America, God shed his light on thee…..nothing but words of a 
delusional nation thinking “their God” somehow favors them for their gluttonous 
and hedonist ways.

Terry Leichner, RN
Vietnam combat veteran
VVAW member 
Denver, CO

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