By Contributor on June 29, 2007

By Camilo Mejía, June 14, 2007

This Independence Day, we should rethink our concept of patriotism.

Is it patriotic to support a war that our president launched on false premises and that has turned into a disaster?

Or is it patriotic to oppose that war?

I had to face this question while in uniform.

Back in 2003, when I fought in Iraq, my infantry unit was going out on combat missions without bulletproof vests and without basic radio equipment. For a while, we even had to suspend patrols because we didn’t have enough water to hydrate ourselves.

After 10 months of deployment and five months of combat without a purpose, I made the agonizing decision not to return to the war. A few months later, I publicly denounced the war and vowed that I would no longer fight in it.

That got me a 12-month sentence in a U.S. Army jail, demotion to the lowest rank and a bad-conduct discharge from the service.

I have no regrets.

Today, our young men and women in the military still find themselves in the role of occupiers, in a war that to this very day remains unjustified, a war that seems to be helping only U.S. companies like Halliburton that have profited from it.

The red glare and the bombs bursting in air that we salute in song this July 4 may have an entirely different meaning to our soldiers in Iraq who see the explosions all around them.

Some Americans back home believe they are being patriotic, believe they are supporting the troops, when they back President Bush and his conduct of this war.

But patriotism must mean something loftier than just assenting to the occupant of the Oval Office.

And supporting the troops must mean something other than turning them into sitting ducks, with no prospect of success at the end.

I submit that being patriotic means opposing this war.

I submit that supporting the troops means urging Congress to cut off any funds for this war that are not earmarked for bringing those troops home -- starting now.

Let us show our independence, this July 4, from narrow-minded interpretations of patriotism.


Camilo Mejía was the first combat veteran of the Iraq war to publicly denounce the war as illegal and refuse further participation in it. He is the author of “Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejía” (The New Press, 2007). He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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