The following essay is a response from me to a conservative from a non-political board who opined that it's not civil rights activists like myself who are true patriots, but rather it's the soldiers who are currently out there fighting the "war on terror," and that we actually owe all of our freedom to them.
Dude, I agree that this country has a constitution. The reason people like me protest so much is because we fully realize that the U.S. is very capable of becoming a police state if not for orgs like the ACLU and other groups of social activists who are deeply concerned that this government stays true to the ideals it is supposed to represent. Are you aware that anyone simply accused of being a terrorist or "enemy combatant" are held indefinitely without due process in special prisons? That during the Bush administration they were often subject to waterboarding, sleep deprivation, freezing, and other types of "enhanced interrogation" methods that are against the Geneva Conventions? That they are tried in military tribunals rather than criminal courts? That they are totally denied habeas corpus, and denied other basic rights as outlined in the Constitution? These rules are supposed to apply to everyone, including people who are arrested by U.S. authorities. The U.S. government is fond of creating separate classes of people to whom the democratic ideals we are supposed to hold dear do not apply to.
Instead of praising soldiers you should be praising all the civil rights activists and orgs like the ACLU for fighting hard to keep the U.S. from putting all political dissidents into concentration camps or secret prisons where we would be denied all of our constitutional rights. We have always had to fight to make sure that the U.S. government and legal system honors our democratic rights. Soldiers simply follow the orders of the U.S. government's officials. And this includes orders that go squarely against the principles embodied by the Constitution. In contrast, civil rights activists do not follow the orders of the government and they work towards keeping the government as true as possible to its principles.
The following is in regards to the same conservative gentleman's statements that if not for the soldiers doing what they are doing right now, we may now be living under a radical Islamic dictatorship, and that we should thank our lucky stars for living in the U.S. and not one of the Islamic theocracies in the Middle East.
I have never supported a radical Islamic government, thank you very much. I am totally against the concept of theocracies in general. I would support our soldiers if they were truly defending us against an attempt by a radical Islamist nation to invade us. But self-defense is not what those soldiers are being used for in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East now. They were initially used to invade a sovereign nation that was virtually defenseless and had nothing to do with 9/11 for reasons of gaining control over its oil supplies and providing lucrative reconstruction contracts for big business in America (have you ever heard of Haliburton?).
Further, the U.S. government is very good friends with some of those radical Islamist states, including one of the worst of them all, Saudi Arabia. A large number of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. None of them were Iraqis. The U.S. government is quite friendly with any radical Islamist theocracy as long as its capitalists and government officials play business according to the U.S.'s rules. In exchange, the U.S. props the regime up and turns a blind eye towards the way women and children are treated in that nation. I wouldn't want to see any of those Islamic theocracies develop a nuclear weapon, but then again I don't like the idea of any nation having nuclear weapons, including the U.S. and its favorite client state, Israel.
Further, the U.S. doesn't have to invade and take over any national government to combat terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic that is not limited to any one national government. It should be treated as a law enforcement problem, not as a military problem. The main purpose of the "war on terror" is to take the place of the Cold War as a never-ending war that justifies an ever-increasing amount of tax dollars being spent on the Pentagon for an extremely bloated military, continued profits for munitions companies like Raytheon, and for continued war contracts with other big companies, such as General Electric. And it also serves as a frequent reason for denying us civil liberties domestically. Whenever there is a war of any sort declared, we get something like the USA Patriot Act. This is why the government wants a never-ending war. Obama is benefiting from this as much as Bush and Cheney were.
That is what our soldiers are being used for in the Middle East right now, and it has nothing to do with self-defense of this nation. A large proportion of those "terrorists" they are fighting are actually nationalist insurgents who restrict their attacks to military targets and do not want an invading army in their country. Doing what the U.S. government is now doing with its soldiers simply increases the number of both angry insurgents and actual terrorists who hate America and see us as imperialist murderers when our drone planes and other weaponry strike civilian targets.
The bottom line is this: soldiers do not fight to keep the U.S. government as true to its ideals as possible. They simply follow the orders of the government, obediently and without question, no matter what they are ordered to do. If they do otherwise, they will receive a court martial and be thrown in a military prison and be subject to completely different rules than our civilian prisons. They are not allowed to disobey the orders of a superior officer no matter how repugnant or anti-constitutional. War is expected to be a dirty business. It's civil rights activists who spend less time killing and more time fighting to keep the government accountable when it breaches the ideals that America is supposed to represent to both its own citizens and to the world.
IMO, it's not soldiers who are the ultimate patriots, but rather the people who work in orgs like the ACLU and who write for progressive forums like Salon.com.