March 10, 2003, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines remarked, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with ya’ll. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Maines make this comment during a concert in London, England just before performing the song “Travelin Soldier.” Maines comments were in response to the build-up to the Iraq war, which would commence only ten days after Maines statements.
In December of 2002, when the Dixie Chicks’ released "Travlin' Soldier" it quickly became #1 on the Billboard charts for “Country Songs.” It was the Dixie Chicks sixth number one single. It would also be their last. Maines comments to the London audience that March night would reverberate all the way back to America, and U.S. populous was not amused. One week after the comments hit the mainstream U.S. media, their song dropped to #43 on the charts. By week two, the song was nonexistent in the top 100. Ultimately, the Dixie Chicks would face financial devastation as a result of by the push back to Maines comments as many Americans felt like Maines was “Un-American” to speak poorly of the U.S. President.
Make no mistake; the Dixie Chicks were not the only people to voice their concerns about the U.S. led war in Iraq. Less than two months before the concert in London, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin stated, “we believe that military intervention would be the worst solution.” Of course, in response to France’s objections to the war, the U.S. government took the next logical step. March 11, 2003, Rep. Bob Ney and Rep. Walter Jones, directed three House cafeterias to change their menus and rename French Fries and French toast, “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom toast.” In total, 54 sovereign nations, a Pope, and Nelson Mandela are just a few of the ones who objected to the war.
In light of staunch opposition from around the globe, the Bush administration vehemently claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and said that Saddam Hussain posed a significant threat to the United States. It was only 18 months’ since the United States had suffered the loss 2,996 innocent people’s lives on September 11, 2001, as a result of the Arab terrorist group Al Qaeda. In March of 2003, according to a Pew survey, 73% of Americans supported the war in Iraq. Even though no claims of Iraqi involvement with 9/11 were ever made, Americans weren’t willing to take the risk of losing a single another American life. If going to war with Iraq could keep America safe, then by Jove war it has to be!
Eight years after the start of the Iraq war, the U.S. military officially withdrew its forces from Iraq. By then, 4,816 U.S. service members had lost their lives, 32,249 U.S. soldiers were wounded, and additional 47,541 U.S. personnel were injured, suffered from diseases or some form medical ailment as a direct result of the war. The total cost of the war to the U.S. economy has been estimated to be $3 to $6 trillion dollars.
The death total of Iraqi civilian’s number between 100,000 to 600,000 individuals, depending on which source you would like to believe.
Thanks largely as a result of the power vacuum and instability created by the Iraq War and subsequent abrupt withdrawal, the immeasurably violent terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS came into power. By 2014, ISIS controlled 30,100 SQ miles of Iraqi and Syrian territory. Their control included Fallujah and the second most populated city in Iraq, Mosul. All in all, ISIS-held control of over 2.8 to 8 million Iraqi and Syrian civilians. So far, over 18,800 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives i because of ISIS. Millions more have had to flee their homes as refugees.
Embolden by their success, in 2014 ISIS would claim it was planning on taking their form of violent, oppressive and ultra-orthodox view of Islam to the whole world. Their terrorist cells and network would pop-up and wreak havoc or death throughout the world, through a series of precision terrorist attacks.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that no weapons of mass destruction have ever found by U.S. or coalition forces in Iraq. Which, maybe the Iraqi government somehow snuck them out of Iraq before the invasion. However, if we were so sure WMDs were there, we probably should have also seen them moving out as well. Additionally, there was the report published by The Center for Public Integrity that alleged that from 2001 to 2003, the Bush Administration made a total of 935 false statements about Iraq’s threat to U.S. Then in December 2008, outgoing President George W. Bush said, during an interview with ABC News, “The biggest regret of all during my presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq.”
By 2008, 68% of Americans disapproved of the war in Iraq and felt it wasn’t worth fighting according to various polls. By 2014, that number had rose to 78% of Americans who disapproved of going to war with Iraq in 2003. A far cry from that initial 73% back in 2003.
During the 2016 Presidential campaigns, President Trump said, “the war in Iraq led to instability in the Middle East that gave rise to the Islamic State. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but one thing about him, he killed terrorists. Now Iraq is a harbor for terrorism.” Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was repeatedly condemned by Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders, and later President Trump for her 2002 Senate vote in support of the Iraq war. Clinton’s only defense to her initial support of the war was to say, “My bad. I was wrong.” Essentially, now fourteen years after the start of the war, it is the political kiss of death to have once been supportive of the Iraqi invasion.
So what is the point of all of this? Well, fourteen years and five days later, we now know that the crux of what, Natalie Maines said was indeed true. Sure, one can still argue the semantics of Maines told that London crowd. However, her overall message, arguably, has proven to be accurate.
At least on a level of moral introspection, we as a society have to consider, was the harsh backlash that the Dixie Chicks received as a result of their objection to the Iraq war warranted? Sure, you didn’t have to agree with what she said at the time. However, in the end, did the Dixie Chicks deserve the treatment they received because of their opposition to President Bush and the Iraq War?
In the end of the day, I think country music legend, Merle Haggard summed up the treatment of the Dixie Chicks best when he said, “I don't even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.”
It is almost inarguable that what Haggard said was 100% correct. Dissenting from the government’s opinion isn’t “Un-American” at all. In fact, it is one of the most American things one can do. In reality the moment, we the people, became rabid critics of what Maines said, we all collectively became more closely resembling Saddam Hussein’s Iraq than America. Sure, under Saddam, Maines might have been executed. However, in America, we have a propensity to execute individuals character publically.
Incredibly, this isn’t something that is new to Americans at all. Some of the most famous Americans in all of history were once considered dissenters of the majority or political views of the time.
“His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world.” No, that wasn’t something said on Fox News about President Obama. Rather that was printed in 1861 by Salem Advocate about President Abraham Lincoln. The Advocate was Lincoln’s hometown newspaper.
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” was the pious ejaculation of a man who beheld a flood of happiness rushing in upon mankind. If ever there was a time which would license the reiteration of this exclamation, that time is now arrived; for the man who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country is this day reduced to a level with his fellow-citizens, and is no longer possessed of power to multiply evils upon the United States.” That quote was published by Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of his famous namesake. The person Bache was referencing was none other than the first President of the United States, George Washington.
“The Negroes in this country own more refrigerators, and more automobiles, than they do in any other country. They are better fed, they are better clothed, they have better houses here than in any other country in the world.” That little gem of a quote was Sen. Strom Thurmond’s response to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” In fact, a 1966 nationwide Gallup poll found that only 33% of Americans had positive feelings of Dr. King.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that Natalie Maines or the Dixie Chicks will ever have the significant impact that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr. had on America. However, the point is that only history that decides who the great leaders are in civilizations. Often, the greatest of those leaders are most hated individuals in societies. What it also means that we as a human race are constantly evolving in our cultural views.
The question is how do we as a society, living in the moment, determine if our supporting beliefs and opinions will end up being a historical disaster or an archival success? Well, what did every single historical figure who faced scrutiny in their lifetime have in common? Ultimately, the greatest heroes of in our history, going as far back as you would like, to Moses, Jesus, Joan of Arc, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr, all fought for freedom from oppression. They all fought not to exclude but rather include. Some fought solely with the goal in mind to end fighting.
In some way, they all supported the freedoms of human beings. Sure, none of them had to contend with the internet, TV news, or social media. However, they all had to deal with some degree of scrutiny by the majority of the populous or the government in power.
In the end, they all ended up being correct. They all ended up, fighting the fight, dealing with the ridicule, suffering the stress, all for the belief in people. They all believed in something more powerful and more significant than even themselves. They believed in a simple goodness that exists within the ability for people to get along as human beings. We all now, respect and admire them for that. However, never forget that in their time, they had to endure many hardships, motivated by the status quo and entrenched emotions.
The legacy that heroes of humanity have left us is hope and belief that good always prevails. Our obligation now is to try to ensure that we raise the next legacy of heroes. And in the end, imagine where the country would be now if Lincoln never had to fight a civil war to abolish slavery. Or if Dr. King never had to stand tall against 77% of Americans thought negatively of him. Imagine, where we could be if we stopped continuously choosing to fear others, instead of to love others. Just imagine…