Bombs have been dropped, troops have invaded. Without doubt, we are at war. The question remaining is whether or not these events will make a change for the better or for the worse.

The situation in Iraq has the potential to showcase the United States’ true commitment to the principles of tolerance, understanding, equality and freedom. However, we must first lead by example.

Since September 11, there has been an assault on Muslims and Arabs in this country – by violent individuals attacking people and mosques and by the government infringing on their rights. In the last two weeks, the violence has escalated again, but you don’t hear about it on the front page. Nor do you see headlines about the unknown numbers of people who have been subjected to secretive proceedings, undetermined lengths of detainment and other government sanctioned assaults on human dignity.

For some reason, these types of headlines aren’t considered appropriate while we are fighting a war supposedly for the freedom of the Iraqi people.

Instead, our headlines scream of the indecencies the Iraqi people have had to endure under the Hussein regime. We hear of the atrocious ways Iraq has ignored the Geneva Convention, but we don’t hear about the United States’ blatant dismissal of the same document in regards to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Obviously, the Iraqi regime has committed terrible acts against its own people and these people need to have an advocate – but what about the people here? Why is it that Americans protest the war in Iraq, but don’t equally fight for the rights of those being abused within U.S. borders?Before the United States, as a nation, can begin to export the freedoms we profess, we must practice them.

The first step is to passionately practice our right to free speech by working to protect the rights of people here at home. There needs to be a movement just as loud, dedicated and vocal as the anti-war movement aimed at securing the rights and freedoms of those in this country. We can show the government what Americans really value – freedom.

Forcing the government to safeguard domestic rights sends a clear message to the international community that U.S. citizens will not stand by and let our ideals be paid lip service by an administration that limits our freedoms in the name of false security. We need to make a forceful demand for the securing of rights here, which will in turn demonstrate our conviction to protect rights internationally.

If Americans don’t stand up for the rights of the oppressed and imprisoned here, why should anyone believe we will treat the Iraqis any better?

Miller can be reached at amiller@campustimes.org.



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