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Disclaimer and Fair Use Notice: Many articles on this web site are written by independent individuals or organizations. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal of America and its affiliates. They are put here for interest and reference only. More details
 

I Had Become A – Liberal?

By Diane Rejman

(The shock of learning some painful truths changed my life, and I could never return to complacency.  Life was simpler when I wasn’t paying attention.)

I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the world.  I have an MBA in International Management, and had read a newspaper daily for years.  When I went on vacation, I had the newspapers held for me.  Once, when I took a 28 day trip, I read them all when I returned. 

In 2002, I wasn’t working.  I had plenty of time to explore and read articles the internet.  I also watched cable news.  I’m not sure if I was reading the San Jose or San Francisco newspaper when I started to see huge conflicts between stories in the US media, and articles I read on the internet from around the world.

By February, 2003, the Afghanistan war had been going on for too long already.  The odor of another war was spreading.  The US media was full of justifications for an invasion of Iraq.  The internet was full of international articles invalidating the “proof” that my government was providing the US media.  It was trying to convince us it would be fine (and oh so necessary!) to destroy an ancient civilization and its people.  Chemicals and bacteria and nukes, oh my!

“Weapons of Mass Destruction.” WMDs.  When have so few words been used so often to bring unwarranted fear to so many?  A fear created to convince them to go along with whatever decisions their government might make in their name.  A fear that would keep them from asking questions, or being rational. 

But the evidence didn’t look like “proof” to me.  For example, how was it that BEFORE we invaded Iraq, I knew the Niger uranium document was forged, but my government didn’t know until several months into the war?  (There might have been more than one document, but I only remember seeing at least one.)  This is the document my government used to “prove” that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium for use in nuclear weapons.   I’ll tell you how I knew.  Somebody had scanned the document onto a website.  This same website pointed out many flaws with it, such as the people whose names were on the document didn’t exist, or didn’t work for the government, and their titles were bogus. 

Really.  Have you ever received e-mails from a “very important person” in Niger who was in need of financial assistance in order to transfer a million dollars to their account.  But they needed your help, and $10,000 to make it happen.  And then you’d split the million?  Did you ever send them the money?  I had probably received a dozen e-mails like this by then.  I had learned to not trust anything from that country, so even a forged nuclear document seemed reasonable.

I saw this Niger uranium document on-line and believed it was phony.  But I kept hearing my government “leaders” use it as an excuse to explain why we needed to invade Iraq. 

And then there were the satellite photos of a truck in Iraq that was moving WMDs from one location to another.  Yeah, right – these were convincing….  This “proof” included a before and after shot of a building taken from a hundred miles up.  In one picture there was a truck parked next to the building.  In the next picture the truck was gone.  Oh my God!  WMDs!  I think they learned later it was carrying milk or something.  Really – there was NO WAY of knowing what was inside it, but my government was using the photos as “proof.”

And what about the “mobile WMD labs.”  This “proof” included a hand drawn diagram of the inside of something that looked like an ice cream truck or a van.   I found it very odd this evidence didn’t include even one photograph.  When I’m in the right mood, I’ll grab a napkin and ask whoever I’m with if they want to see the inside of a mobile WMD lab.  They usually look at me funny, so I go ahead and start drawing something.  It doesn’t matter what.  I’ve never had to finish.  People realize that no matter what I draw, it would be as accurate as the hand-drawn “proof” that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

My government invaded Iraq in my name – a country that did nothing to us.  How could this be?  This is when I really started to pay attention.  This is when I first noticed the gullibility of the American public.  My government had somehow brainwashed a huge number of Americans into believing that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind the 9/11 attacks.  Odd – I had always heard this was the work of Osama bin Laden.  Odd that the international news sources said that Osama and Saddam hated each other.  This made sense to me.  They seemed like two completely different kinds of people.  Saddam ran a secular government.  Osama is a dedicated Muslim. 

Besides, none of the hijackers were from Iraq.  Most of them held passports from Saudi Arabia.  Why weren’t we invading that country?  It appeared that my government was pulling off a most amazingly successful propaganda campaign.  How could this be possible?

I was so confused.  I searched and searched the web.  I found English language newspapers from all over the world – South Africa, Egypt, Australia, Europe, and maybe even one or two from an Asian country.  I really don’t remember how many I found.  I only remember that paper after paper were telling the opposite of what I was reading in my local American newspaper, and what was being reported on American tv.

I spent at least a couple of weeks on this research.  And then one day – zap! – like a bolt of lightning, I saw the truth.  In one moment, all of this conflicting information gelled into a reality I didn’t want to see or believe.  My government “leaders” didn’t care about the truth, and didn’t care about the damage an invasion would bring to a country and a people who did nothing to us.  AND – they were manufacturing the case to justify this.  I cried.  For a good part of a couple of weeks, I cried.  I didn’t really understand what had happened.  I remember being scared.  I was alone.  I found one friend who understood what happened.  I lost three friends.  All three got offended at the fact I didn’t think we should go to war and kill innocent people.  I was especially weirded out over this loss because they were my most devout church-going Christian friends.

I was very lucky to be living in Palo Alto, CA at the time.  This city and the entire San Francisco Bay area is full of people and organizations that fight for peace and justice.  It’s full of people who understand the truth I had just felt the pain of realizing.

I attended my first peace rally in downtown Palo Alto.  I laughed my ass off when I heard the Raging Grannies (http://www.peninsularaginggrannies.org/Home.html)  sing about my newly discovered truth, and many other disturbing issues.  They use hilarious lyrics sung to familiar tunes.  They handed out lyric sheets, and we all sang along.  I had started to find a community I never knew existed. 

This is the event where I first learned about Veterans for Peace (www.veteransforpeace.org) .  Two men, an Army and a Navy veteran, were staffing a table.  As an Army veteran, I felt an immediate connection.  They were selling t-shirts, but I had no cash.  I was given the t-shirt and an address of where to send the money.  I had never heard of such a thing!  I bought a black t-shirt with the simple message “Veterans for Peace” on it.

I proudly wore that t-shirt the next day.  I thought, “Isn’t it cool that I am a veteran, and I want peace?”  I visited a museum where I volunteered as a docent.  This is when I learned how unbelievably na´ve I was.  I had studied and read so much about global cultures and international financial markets.  But I had never studied politics.  My crash course was about to begin.

Two docents were in the break room when I arrived.  The first was a man who had served in WWII.  I had recently written a short biography about him for the museum’s newsletter.  He and I had a very good rapport.  He grumbled when he saw my t-shirt.  “Damn liberals!  If they only knew the truth about what is going on Iraq.  If I had some black paint, I’d throw it on you!  Errrrrgr….”  At first I thought he was kidding.  But then, by the look on his face, I realized he meant it.  I freaked out a bit.

And then the other docent joined the conversation.  He was a Vietnam veteran who I also thought I got along with.  “Damn liberals!  If our country is ever invaded, I’m going to kill all the liberals first.”  Within maybe 30 seconds, I had been called a liberal by one man, and learned the other wanted to kill liberals.  My logical brain led me to believe he wanted to kill me.  My soul was shocked.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  I was shaking when I got home.  Although the Vietnam veteran didn’t specifically spew his venom at me, as far as I was concerned, he had threatened my life.   I had known this man for a couple of years.  What had I become to cause this man to want to kill me?

Yes – I was that politically na´ve, I had to go on the internet and educate myself on what a liberal is.  I also had to think about  what is the opposite of a liberal.

I don’t think I was ever a conservative, but it was true - yes – I had most certainly become a liberal.

Several months later, the truth about the forged Niger documents came out in the mainstream US media.  Over the next few years, more and more of the original “proof” became disproved in public.  And then I realized, too many people didn’t seem to care.  Too many people were like I was before my awakening.  It’s all just too difficult to believe. 

My life had changed.  I couldn’t go back.  My education was just beginning.  Five and a half years later, I’ve never felt more human or more in touch with the world.  But it often seems the more I learn, the more confused I get.  One of the first lessons I learned?  Being a liberal isn’t easy.  After all, as far as I know, nobody had ever wanted to kill me until I became one.

Diane Rejman is a lifetime member of Veterans for Peace, and is a counselor for the GI Rights Hotline (girights.org).  She served in the US Army from 1977-80.  She holds a MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and has been listed in Who's Who in America.  She also spent 10 years helping to build the Apache attack helicopter.   She can be reached at: yespeaceispossible@yahoo.com.