American nationalism — the support of American interests with disregard for the detrimental effects on other nations — has grown widespread and fervent in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The rhetoric following the Twin Towers’ collapse carried significant weight toward any opposition to war as a response.
“This nation is now at war. And in such an environment, domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity, a choosing of sides,” said Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic.
When the House of Representatives voted on the “Post-911 Use of Force Act,” Rep. Barbara J. Lee D-Calif. was the only one to vote in opposition.
“Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslim, Southeast Asians and any other people because of their race, religion or ethnicity…As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore,” said Lee.
This attack on the United States was one of the few instances in American history that an attack took place on American soil.
Despite Lee’s heeding, America launched a war in both Afghanistan and Iraq without considerable debate; Congress passed Bush’s Patriot Act, further eroding American freedoms and President Obama renewed the act in 2011.
A 2012 study from Brown University estimated between 152,280 to 192,550 civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan due to military combat; indirect deaths due to “malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure and environmental degradation” push the number of war-related civilian deaths to 965,000.
Yet, a 2013 Gallup Poll found that 67 percent of Americans were satisfied with the nation’s security from terrorism, despite the recent release of a Department of Justice memo on Monday, Feb. 4, defending the killing of Americans linked to al-Qa-da in Yemen has brought up a much needed debate.
How can the American people tolerate a conflict with no identifiable enemy, with no definite war-zone boundaries?
The Afghanistan war-zone is almost 3,000 miles from the border of Yemen where the Obama administration carried out the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both of whom were American citizens with ties to al-Qaida and allegedly plotting against the United States.
The Bush Administration and Obama Administration have carried out drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq.
The New America Foundation’s report stated that of the 350 drone strikes carried out between 2004 and 2013 in Pakistan alone, an estimated 1,956 to 3,284 people were killed, “of which 1,526 [to] 2,649 were reported to be militants.”
These numbers are alarming when one thinks about national security. American drone strikes are an imperfect science that is further corrupted by deficient intelligence. Killing civilians in countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and, recently, areas in North Africa further alienates foreign nationals.
The American military is killing innocent men, women and children abroad.
Our government has become “the evil we deplore,” and has killed more civilians in the war on terror than were lost in the Sept. 11 attacks.
These acts of unjust violence are further polarizing those who do not align themselves with radical Islam, pushing them further towards Islamic terrorists.
President Obama cannot justify his drone strikes in the name of the war on terror if he claims “the inherent right of the United States to national self-defense” against an enemy “who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the United States.”
The term “imminent threat” implies the U.S. government knows these individuals have planned and are close to facilitating an attack against the United States, yet this is not often the case.
With so many civilians dying, Americans have to ask themselves if killing innocent civilians as well as al-Qaida members makes America a safer place, or if we are planting the seeds of future conflicts that will arise in the Middle East or North Africa.
During wartime, a strong sense of nationalism has caused our country to make tragic mistakes in the past — the American-Japanese internment camps in American during World War II come to mind.
Do not fall prey to the pitfalls of nationalism: voice dissent. Our government is only as credible as the people who advocate for its just practices.
Editor’s Note: This column is a part of a month-long series discussing human identity and how it pertains to conflicts within and between cultures.