Religious freedom, minority rights and every matter involving the respect and dignity that democracy is about are always vigorously represented at all the forums of the University. After having spent 15 months deployed in combat with the U.S. Army in Baghdad, Iraq, I have grown to appreciate our freedoms as never before.
As a student, I studied the Arab world. It pained me very much to realize that while freedom and democracy were causes the United States championed in every part of the world, the Arab people were left out.
The Cold War, oil and I guess the cruel end to World War I all conspired to allow tyrant after tyrant to prevent the Arab people from reaching their true potential.
This is why I feel our cause today in Iraq is a truly noble one that good people should feel proud of and need to remain firmly committed to. Our enemies are trying to wear us down. I saw that countless times with my own eyes, but I can see too that if we succeed, great good will come of our mission there.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the Four Freedoms in the lead-up to World War II, which he said defines the United States to the world and will make our cause a common one with all freedom-loving people. I think that today we have another Four Freedoms to champion.
The Arab world’s brutal dictatorships fear freedom, and so they are fighting back in every way to defeat our cause. Notice, though, that the primary victims are the Iraqi people.
Most people forget that even the lead anti-United States and anti-United Nations terrorist, Abu-musab al Zarqawi, first bombed the Jordanian Embassy before hitting the U.N. compound in Baghdad last year.
I was there, one of the first responding units each time, helping with the rescue and recovery, and so knowing our enemies in Baghdad was something I learned very well.
The enemies of freedom throughout the Arab world are terrified the Arab people themselves will become emboldened and confident in their rights and liberties.
This is, therefore, a cause that we are completely committed to, because the cause of freedom and democracy is what defines us as a nation.
The Four Freedoms we must push in the Arab world are, first, the liberation and empowerment of women. Second is religious freedom. Third is intellectual freedom. Finally, the fourth is freedom and respect of minority groups.
If these Four Freedoms succeed in the Arab world, a great good will be accomplished.
The plight of women is a sorry tale all over the Arab world. Saudi Arabia is the most extreme, but each of the regimes keeps women from reaching their full potential. This means that right away, half of the population is taken out of the equation.
Religious freedom is only talked about to manipulate us and to justify the repression that is cloaked by the regimes.
Likewise, intellectual freedom is tragically wanting. The greatest intellects of the Arab world have had to flee. Now you find that the best of them live and do their work in London, Paris and New York. Until this exile is ended, the Arab world will never prosper.
The crux of all this is the plight of minority groups all throughout the Arab lands. There are countless numbers of them, and they represent the one thing that the dictatorships must always most fiercely repress and intimidate. Until the Arab world feels confident that it can weather the challenges of minorities, it will never be healthy and able to prosper.
So these are the Four Freedoms I see that the United States can justly pursue. I believe we are laying the foundations for this in Baghdad, and that if we stick it out in the mission there, we will see these freedoms advance more and more all over the region.
This is a truly noble cause and one which we can be very proud of. The Europeans betrayed the Arabs after World War I. Many times they have seen the best and brightest of their societies disappear and flee. That must stop. We can make common cause with all Arabs who want to see their civilization prosper and reach its full potential.
“Enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom,” Roosevelt said. “We will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators against our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression.”
Notice that the primary victims of the terrorism and insurgency are the Iraqi people and their efforts to have democracy.
Therefore, if we are to be true to our own foundations, we should and must remain committed to seeing the success of our mission in Iraq.
Spc. Joe Roche is a University alumnus currently stationed in Germany after 15 months in Afghanistan and Iraq. Please send comments to [email protected]