"Love is worth fighting for." That's how Lt. Dan Choi ended his remarks this weekend about his journey from West Point to Iraq to discharge under the continuing Pentagon policy of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). It really made me think about this deeply flawed policy I have opposed privately over the years. Because, as Lt. Choi distilled it so well, love is worth fighting for.
He is one of only eight people in his graduating class at West Point who majored in Arabic, and so his story also brought home to me the gap between the rhetoric about the "global war on terror" (GWOT) and the reality, in a particular way. Since I left the government over four years ago, I have been speaking out about misplaced priorities involving terrorism, civil liberties, and human rights.
One of the things I've tried to highlight is how little of the anti-terrorism budget is going to Arabic linguists and traditional predicate-based investigations and how much is going to big budgets for high-tech and private contractors. Things like, electronic spying on Americans in the U.S. by the NSA and the lucrative business of electronic surveillance. (On September 11, 2001, the FBI had a serious backlog in translating Arabic communications that had been lawfully intercepted under foreign intelligence wiretaps based on warrants issued in the U.S.) And, things like the secret infiltration of peaceful meetings, of American Quakers and Catholics opposed to the war in Iraq, by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) and also by the Pentagon. As I've said, these issues are really about who we are as a country.
The fact is that having Arabic linguists like Lt. Choi is essential to U.S. security following the attacks of 9/11 by al Qaeda (AQ) operatives from Saudi Arabia. And, while the Bush Administration's claims of a joint plot by Saddam Hussein and AQ have been thoroughly discredited, AQ has capitalized on the folly and tragedy of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Lt. Choi described his efforts there in the midst of the insurgency and civil war as including speaking passionately in Arabic to imams to urge peace. That bears repeating. To urge peace. Given the challenge America faces, I think we need Americans who are Arabic linguists, especially ones who urge peace.
As you know, there's been a lot of U.S. government propaganda surrounding terrorism and the invasion of Iraq, as the Center for Media and Democracy has written about especially in our books Weapons of Mass Deception and The Best War Ever. In my view, one major element of the propaganda is the constant spin about what the U.S. is fighting for. The word most used, in my observation, is "freedom." And, yet national security policies have eroded that very thing, while enriching corporate war marketeers, as Jeremy Scahill has documented so eloquently.
Freedom. It includes freedom of conscience, to oppose an unjust war that was sold on lies. It includes the freedom to speak to and email the friends and family you love, free from secret government surveillance unless you've done something wrong. It includes the freedom to vote and have your vote counted. It includes the freedom of Lt. Choi to say "I am gay" and not be fired. It includes the freedom to love the man or woman who loves you, gay or straight.
Love IS worth fighting for. The fight for freedom at home requires organizations and people devoted to truth and human rights to speak up. As the new Executive Director of CMD, I am proud to lend my voice to this fight. We have many battles ahead against spin and for better policies on a range of issues that affect the lives of ordinary Americans, including health care, the economy, the environment, security, and human rights. Or, as America's founding fathers put it succinctly, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Love of life. Love for liberty. Love for our planet. Love for our beloved. Love is worth fighting for. Thanks for that reminder, Lt. Choi!