A Good Day.
Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2003

Freedom

Today was a good day.

The picture on the left above above was taken at my daughter’s preschool’s model seder this morning. We had one last year, when it was my son’s class who was part of it; next year will be our last, since my daughter will enter the local public school for kindergarten the year after that. The model seders will go on without us, of course; they happened long before we moved here and will continue, I hope, long after I have turned to dust.

What you see in that picture is illegal in Saudi Arabia and barely tolerated, if that, in many of the countries that surround Israel. In fact, you can’t even wear a yarmulke in Saudi Arabia, and Bibles and crosses are confiscated if you try to bring them inside the country. In the decade following the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Middle Eastern nations surrounding her drove out their Jews; the refugees were for the most part, absorbed by Israel, which at least meant that those refugees had an alternative not available to German, Polish, Hungarian, French – European – Jews only ten years before. In France during World War II, the Vichy government voluntarily offered up Jews - French citizens - for transport out of the country to…well, you know where they went. Russia under the Czars and the Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors were quite effective at oppressing and killing Jews.

There has never been a pogrom on United States soil. There has been discrimination and anti-Semitic attacks, to varying degrees, in the history of this country, but the United States is one of the few nations in the world which has never sent its army or police force into Jewish communities for the purpose of driving them out, or worse. And though anti-Semitic attacks are up startlingly (more so, in fact, than bias attacks against Muslims and/or Arabs since 9-11), the vast majority of Jews are still in little or no danger here.

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The young Iraqi girl in the picture on the right above is greeting the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

I know that the United States is far from perfect; I live here. I know that there are intelligent people, whose opinion I respect, who believe that this war was a bad idea and eminently avoidable, that it was fought for evil, selfish reasons. I disagree with this assessment, and truly feel that this war was the least worst option available to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein.

But whatever one’s views on the genesis of this war, I also truly believe that it is indisputable that the Iraqi people are better off - far better off - with the war having been prosecuted than not. This is a regime that built and maintained a prison for children. That tortured thousands upon thousands of its citizens, up to and including gassing them wholesale. That literally shredded human beings. That used innocent civilians as human shields - real human shields, the involuntary kind – in attempting to maintain its grip on Iraq.

I understand that civilians died in this war; without minimizing the fact of individual deaths, it is my considered opinion that what we now know and what we will soon know will demonstrate that far, far more people would have died at the willful hands of Saddam Hussein and his henchman had we not forcibly removed him.

I understand that people claim to want “peace”. However, oppression can be “peace”. Slavery can be “peace”. Mass slaughter of a country’s own citizens can be “peace”. Allowing all of those things in the name of containment or non-aggression can be “peace”.

Today the reign of Saddam Hussein effectively ended. The work is not yet done; the fighting itself is not even over. As someone who has supported the war effort, I feel not a sense of joy but rather relief and resolve. Resolve, mixed with some apprehension, about what will come next in Iraq, and what that will mean for the rest of that neighborhood. I do not want to let the Iraqi people down. I want them to have the same opportunity that Germans and Japanese had, and I am hopeful that they will.

One day, that young girl up there will be able to cast a vote that will help determine who will lead her country. That vote will mean something, because there will be multiple choices on her ballot. She will have the opportunity to better herself through education and hard work. She will have the chance, I hope, to travel to neighboring countries as a free person, not legally consigned to second class status because of her gender or her faith. She will have the chance, I sincerely hope, to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy right now.

Some days, I am reminded of just how good America can be.

Today was a good day.

Posted by mikeski at 11:54 p.m.