Yuram Weiler / Scoop: New Zealand – 2007-10-07 23:04:46
(October 4, 2007) — Recently, my son graduated from high school and I had the pleasure of being with him for the entire ceremony. The event started off with the requisite singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the US national anthem, and for the first time in my life, I found the courage to sit in protest.
Why? Because I’m deeply disturbed by what the flag of United States has come to symbolize to me personally and to other nations in the international community.
I’m appalled and disgusted by the hypocrisy the United States displays by violating both domestic and international law,  such as by wiretapping without warrants, using torture on prisoners of war and denying a speedy trial to those imprisoned in the name of the “War on Terror,” while lauding itself as the champion of democracy and defender of human rights.
After the “Star Spangled Banner,” the choir sang, “This is My Country.” I had to ask myself, “Is this my country?”
This is a country, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world,  that always seems to find ample resources to invade and occupy other countries or engage in covert operations to destabilize their governments, but fails to find sufficient funds to care for its own people. The US is the only industrialized nation without a national health care system, with the number of uninsured exceeding 45 million and worse than that is the fact that the uninsured are charged more for their health care than those with insurance.
In a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, the US ranked 6th in overall healthcare behind the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Additionally, US citizens pay more than twice as much per capita for their inferior care as do the citizens of health care leader the UK. 
This is a country that sees violence and warfare as solutions-of-choice for conflicts, which can be seen in a recent report by Vision of Humanity, where the US placed among the 25 least peaceful nations, ranking 96 out of 121, with war-torn Iraq at the bottom of the list.
This extremely low peace rating resulted from the United States’ very high level of military spending combined with military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. In addition, the US peace rating was lowered by the fact that it has the highest jailed population out of the 121 nations rated in the report as well as a relatively high homicide rate. 
An Arrogant, Myopic Administration
This is a country headed by an arrogant, myopic administration whose hypocrisy is well illustrated by its “extraordinary rendition” program, in which foreign citizens are kidnapped off the streets of their cities and then sent to other countries for interrogation, where it is well-known that torture will be used.  These nations are compelled to cooperate with the US under the guise of the “War on Terror,” while the Bush administration openly condemns the very same countries for human rights abuses.
This is a country whose administration bleats “Support the Troops” but only allows them two years, which will be increased to 5 years if HR 612 passes, of health care after their discharge.  The undersecretary of personnel and readiness has said that too much money is being spent on veterans’ benefits and that is taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself. 
In some cases, the army can’t supply its soldiers with enough bandages to prevent the wounded from bleeding to death while being transported to medical facilities.  In place of increased health care funding for Veterans, the administration is seeking an additional $142 billion in war funding, a amount almost 4 times the proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
A Policy of Nuclear Hypocrisy
This is a country that still has some 8,000 nuclear warheads,  has failed to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty past its 5 December 2009 expiration  and cooperates with or at least looks the other way while Pakistan, India and Israel develop their nuclear arsenals. None of these nations are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but are afforded special treatment because they are perceived as allies in the US “War on Terror.”
At the same time, the US is threatening Iran, a signatory to the NNPT under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with economic sanctions, covert operations and military force, which may include launching a nuclear strike.
This is a country that first supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, furnished him with VX nerve gas and later accused him of using it against the Kurds.  The US supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons and intelligence throughout his bloody, 8 year war with Iran,  then launched a global war against him after he occupied Kuwait.
The US was complicit in the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children as a result of 12 long years of economic sanctions.  The US then invaded and has occupied Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis  and causing two million refugees  to flee for their lives.
This is a country whose government funnels money through Saudi Arabia and other US satellite states to extremist Sunni groups in a misguided effort to counteract what they perceive as the increasing regional influence of the Shi’a, no doubt used here as a code word for Iran. 
In fact, my son’s graduation ceremony took place on the same day that Bush asserted the right of the Lebanese government to shell Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, in order to rout out members of Fatah al-Islam,  a group of Sunni extremists that may have been funded by the US through the Lebanese ruling coalition as a counter force in opposition to Hezbollah. 
This Is Not My Country Anymore
This is a country that lauds unquestioning patriotism and glorifies military service. The valedictorian did exactly that, beginning her speech by declaring how proud she was to be an American and praising those members of the graduating class who had already enlisted in the US armed forces and were now “proudly and honorably serving their country.”
I thought about those young men and women in my son’s high school class who had already enlisted in the military and wondered what will become of them if they have to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or wherever “War President” Bush is planning the next campaign to fight the “Global Insurgency of Al Qaeda.” 
This is a country that isn’t my country any more. I don’t recognize it at all. It’s been taken over by someone or something else. Frankly, I’m ashamed to be an American. It’s time for all people of good conscience to join forces and take it back.
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