Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Letter to the paper - July 4, 2003

July 4, 2003

It seemed strange on Independence Day to see the paper criticizing a Spanish family now suing the US military for the assassination of their son, who was also the editor's colleague. Since there was no fighting in the area at the time, a single shell fired at the hotel, which the shooter and everyone else in the army knew to be occupied by journalists, was plainly a message to the independent press. But then the Spanish family, like the rest of the world, saw the tape, which the "independent" press here suppressed.

On Independence Day an independent press should resent seeing its colleagues shelled and killed to shut them up. Instead of arguing that reporters are fair game because in a war zone, you might argue that the press has a right to be there, and that we have a right to their witness, so that as citizens we might know what our government is up to. You would have written differently, I think, if one of Saddam Hussein's tanks had fired upon the press in the same way.

The truth told by independent journalists is not the enemy, and neither are they. Had America listened, we would not be reading in the papers now what can no longer be hidden - that the occupation is turning increasingly ugly, the Iraqis increasingly resentful and the American troops increasingly cruel in response. This is how it went for Israel in South Lebanon 20 years ago in its own wanton aggression. Was I an enemy because I warned months ago in these pages that this would happen to us?

I reflect today that by abhorring independence in any nation but its own, and by loathing independent thought in its own citizens, this nation has made its Independence Day altogether hollow. To love freedom is to want others to have it, not to want to dominate the world in order to do what we want and to make sure that no one pays us back for our evil.

I learn from Jesus and the prophets that success in the end is to those who love truth and get wisdom, not to those who love deception and clothe themselves in violence. God calls His servants to independence from the lies our neighbors love, and from those we love ourselves, through dependence on God's word. Such independence demands self-denial for the sake of truth, not imperial domination of others, and so America cannot celebrate this true independence today.

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