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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 4, 2006

COMMENTARY
USA: Born in war and a war of words

 •  The Declaration of Independence

By Richard Benedetto

A visitor looked at a copy of the Constitution of the United States, set between the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, during a preview of the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum April 6 in Chicago.

Associated Press

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The Fourth of July is the day we set aside each year to celebrate our freedom, hard won with the sacrifice of many young lives in a bloody war with Great Britain.

In the ensuing 230 years, this nation, whether one thinks it was right or wrong, has sent its sons and daughters to war in the name of freedom many more times. Their deaths are grim reminders that freedom is not free.

Last week, President Bush stood up in the orchid-bedecked White House dining room. He toasted Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, leader of a country we were at war with more than 60 years ago in one of those fights for freedom. Today the two nations are solid friends and allies in another war for freedom in Iraq.

"Japan and America share a common belief in the power of freedom to bring hope to millions who have not known it," Bush said. "And we share a common commitment to meet the challenges of our time and lay the foundations of peace for generations to come."

Debate about the worth of the war in Iraq, now more that three years old, rages in this country as we celebrate the 230th anniversary of our declaration of independence from what was then the tyrannical rule of the British crown.

Polls show that a majority of Americans, after early support, now say it was a mistake to invade Iraq.

Many are disturbed by the deaths of more than 2,500 American troops.

Others believe that the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on the war could be better used to solve pressing problems such as healthcare and education, at home.

And still others don't buy the argument made by Bush and allies such as Koizumi that a free Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq and make the United States and the rest of the Free World more safe and secure.

Moreover, civil libertarians argue that the way Bush is prosecuting the war executing secret wiretaps, tracking phone-call records and monitoring bank accounts makes us less free.

And there has been a lot of open debate about whether our treatment and interrogation of prisoners have been humane. We even went to court all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the trial rights of a suspected war criminal being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo.

All of which should underscore the great freedom we do enjoy in this country not only the freedom to pursue our dreams, but also the freedom to disagree with our government and its policies and speak out and take action.

Without saying who is right and who is wrong, we are just as free to oppose the war in Iraq as we are to question the patriotism of those who speak out against it.

Legislation in a democratic society is often messy and chaotic in the making, but our voices are reflected through our elected representatives. And if we don't like the way they reflect our voices, we are free to go to the polls on the next Election Day and vote them out.

Indeed, this is all pretty basic stuff. We learned it in elementary school. Some might call it corny. That doesn't make it any less true.

A recent Zogby Interactive poll found that just 48 percent of those surveyed say that they specifically mark the Fourth of July as a time to celebrate America's independence.

Another 33 percent say they see the holiday as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Six percent see it as just a day off.

But the fact remains we are free to celebrate any way we want. Hopefully, we will take some time to reflect on that this Fourth of July.

Richard Benedetto is a columnist for Gannett News Service.