US Army Reserve Staff Sergeant. Held a April 27, 2003 news conference in Salt Lake City to pledge to resist Iraq deployment. His scheduled discharge, delayed due to the pending invasion, came through the day before his planned announcement. “The only country we can liberate is our own, by re-claiming our own individual freedom.”
Complete text of SSgt. Sudbury’s press conference announcement:
How do you liberate a country? Do you remove the tyrannical leader? Do you replace him with leaders of your choosing? Do you kill thousands of people who live in the country? Do you send over soldiers to police the people who are still alive? What, really, is liberation? What if many of the people want to be ruled by a tyrant? Does killing him liberate them? I think freedom must include the right to mismanage your own affairs. What if there are people (even if only a few) who really don’t want to be ruled by the people that you put in charge? Are these people liberated by your actions? Have you liberated the thousands of people that you caused to be killed? How about those you’ve merely wounded, or those whose family members you’ve killed? Is this liberation?? I’m still wondering, “How do you liberate a country?”
Given this idea of freedom, I ask again, “How do you liberate a country?” “How do you liberate Iraq?”
First, consider what freedom is… Are you free if you have everything you need? Are you free if no one ever threatens you, imprisons you, or hurts you? In other words, are you free if everyone treats you the way that you want to be treated? That’s a pretty tall order. One which requires making everybody do what you want them to… Good luck. And even if you do succeed in making everyone do what you want them to, are they still free? I think freedom is simpler than that. I think that you are free when fear is not the determining factor in your decisions. Obviously you cannot decide to do everything that you might like to do. There are practical concerns influencing every decision. For instance, you cannot decide to leap up into the air and start flying if you have not yet grown wings. In a similar way, you cannot decide to walk to the store if someone has chained your legs to the wall. There are many impediments to what you might do, and you will not have control over all of them. But I think you have only lost your freedom when you allow your fear to control you. If the school bully orders you to give him your lunch money, you are not free if your fear of being hurt makes you surrender that money. If you want to be on stage more than anything, but you let your fear of ridicule prevent you, you are not free. If you are ordered to kill someone that you do not think should be killed, but you pull the trigger because you are afraid of the punishment for not following orders, you are not free. In contrast, if you refuse to do something that you think is wrong, even though you will be fined, imprisoned, attacked, or even executed, then…..then you are free. You cannot always control what will happen to you, but freedom lies in making decisions the way you want to make them even though the world is pressuring you to do otherwise. Freedom is individual and can be obtained only by the individual who wants freedom more than he wants his own life.
The US Government thinks you do it by killing those who happen to be running the country, by replacing those rulers with new rulers, by restructuring the government of the country into something the American people find more appealing. For some Iraqis this means death, dismemberment, loss of family, loss of stability… For other Iraqis it is not so bad, no one they know was hurt, and they no longer have to deal with a hated ruler. Certainly all Iraqis now have to deal with a foreign government and its military ordering them about. After all this, which Iraqi has been liberated? Which Iraqi is now choosing to live his life the way he wants instead of the way he is told to live it? I maintain that not a single Iraqi has been freed by the US Government’s actions, nor will any Iraqis EVER be freed by them. In fact, I think the goal of the US Government is exactly the opposite. Their goal is to turn all Iraqis into responsible, tax-paying citizens, who do exactly what their US approved government tells them to do.
How is this freedom? How is this liberation? All that has been accomplished is the replacement of a ruler that America did not like with one that it does.
So, once again, “How do you liberate Iraq?” – I think this is the wrong question. If all the law-abiding tax-paying citizens in the US had not given away their freedom and allowed their government to do immoral and imperialistic things abroad, then the people of Iraq would not have had their problems with Saddam and sanctions.
The only country we can liberate is our own, by re-claiming our own individual freedom. Forget liberating a whole country, there are too many people in it and you cannot do right by them all. Consider an easier question first, “How do you liberate an individual?” First of all, you must understand freedom yourself. You must understand that you can be a slave even though there are no visible chains tied to you, and that you can be free even though you sit stretched upon the rack. Do you choose to let someone else tell you how to live your life because you are afraid? Or do you choose to try to live your life as you see fit? Everyone dies. Everyone experiences pain and limitations. You are no exception. The only choice you have is whether you will let fear of these things control you. You cannot control what others do, you sometimes cannot control what they do to you, but you can control yourself. Once you understand this then perhaps you can help liberate another individual. By being an example. There is nothing you can do to make someone be free. Yes, it’s helpful to remove the chains from his neck, but you cannot make him be free. If America was full of people who understood freedom and never tried to control others, they would be a shining beacon to the rest of the people in the world. Oppressed people would see the example and begin to understand freedom themselves. But instead America’s government is going to other countries and imposing its will upon the people there. It has gone to Iraq to remove a tyrant simply to replace him. There is no example of freedom for the people of the world to follow, all they see is a threat. You want to improve the world? Then understand what freedom really means, swear to yourself that you will never try to control another, and then befriend and teach your neighbor. It goes one individual at a time.
The people in Iraq will not be free until they decide they want it and are willing to fight and die for it. If you want to help them in that fight, perhaps you can do some good. Until then, all you can do is become their new master…..yay.