|A fourth of July post
||[Jul. 4th, 2006|10:34 pm]
A few days ago, I had an interesting exchange with a person who claimed that the accusation that the United States had used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon was false. I was pretty impressed, because the military has admitted it was true... it had been reported, but not well publicized, earlier.
I later learned what he meant. He meant that it was okay to use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon. It wasn't, after all, a chemical weapon.
It's the Fourth of July, the day America declared independence from the British crown. It's a wonderful day, but I celebrate it somewhat differently. Even more important than the birth of the nation is the fruition of an idea, that each and every person was important, that individuals mattered, that people were not the property of the king, or the government, or the law... the government, the law, and the power belonged to the people. I once said that I was proud to hear that, during the Revolutionary War, the fledgling nation's military ended up providing human treatment for captives, despite instances of cruel treatment by the British. It shows that they were truly interested in individual, every day people. The claim that people had an inborn right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was not simply a set of pretty words they threw together to justify separation from Britain. They truly believed in the principle... even if they did fumble its execution with women, slaves, and even non-property owners.
We've extended that idea, though we're still not there. We won't be until we, as a nation, understand that every single person is valuable, that every single individual life matters. We won't be there while someone can, with a straight face, argue that the use of white phosphorus on a human being is acceptable, when other options exist, simply because it is not a weapon banned by treaty. Just as King George III had no special rights because he was the king, so too are Americans not privileged simply by being Americans.
If our soldiers were attacked with white phosphorus, we'd be angry and horrified... we should be equally angry and horrified if it is used by our soldiers against others.
Just as we should be angry and horrified if our military imprisons people, without showing justification, and utterly appalled if torture is used by our soldiers, or by our "other government agencies".
Because everyone matters; everyone is important; everyone is endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.