Patriotism vs. terrorism

The reaction of the public to Osama bin Laden’s death could only be described as a celebration. The flag wearing, fanatical patriots who swarmed the streets to celebrate this supposed American victory in the war on terror left quite an impression on me.

Similarly, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks were marked by media coverage of the numerous memorials, ceremonies and testimonials of suffering. As a nation, the American people came together to form a united front against foreign enemies and vowed to stand strong against the threat of terrorism.

This weekend’s drone attack that killed high ranking al-Qaida mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki again triggered my feelings of discontent.

As I watched these events unfold on the national stage, something bothered me. Such fervent feelings of patriotism and blood-lust for Islamic-militants at the forefront of our political consciousness poses a problem to me, and I can’t help but wonder if we are really better off as a nation after a decade of the war on terror.

All too often it seems the foreign policy of the United States, or any world power for that matter, is hypocritical at best. Actions such as the invasion of Iraq and other U.S. operations in the Middle East are cloaked in patriotic and nationalistic rhetoric to justify the taking of human life.

While I do not deny the murderous wrongdoing of terrorists such as bin Laden, who are we to define terrorism when we ourselves have been the cause of so much pain and suffering for innocent civilians overseas? Are we not the purveyors of terror in their eyes?

I understand that foreign policy will be formulated in the best interest of the state, and I appreciate all of the geopolitical factors that must be taken into consideration, yet our enthusiasm for spilling blood abroad in the name of patriotism does not seem right. As a leader in the free world, can’t we hold ourselves to higher standards?

In response to the death of al-Awlaki, President Obama justified American actions by stating, “He repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda.” The reason cited by the U.S. government to justify his death, the advancement of a murderous agenda, is the very crime committed by the United States.

Controversy over al-Awlaki’s death, however, has not centered on this discussion directly. Mainstream media outlets are instead fixated on whether his death was warranted given the fact that he was a U.S. citizen. The issues with this are abundant, the least of which is the framing of the question, which implies that a U.S. citizen should have extended human rights exclusionary to others. The discourse on this matter is in keeping with traditional nationalistic rhetoric, which begins to dehumanize those of different nations.

It is this underlying assumption that allows us to support a war on terror that has killed more innocent civilians overseas than Americans killed on 9/11 and terrorist militants combined. When cast in this light, it seems American foreign policy has come to resemble the very thing we despise most.

What have we become, when as the leaders of the free world we are prepared and willing to disregard morals and embrace hypocritical policy to win a political war?

I am not a radical Muslim sympathizer prepared to disregard acts of terrorism committed against us, but rather a patriotic citizen concerned with the moral direction of our foreign policy.