10 years ago this month I resigned from the United States Marine Corps as a captain after thirteen years of service, receiving an honorable discharge.
I believed the civilian leaders of the military would never risk my men by sending them into battle without thoroughly investigating – and reinvestigating – the intelligence, ensuring that our cause was just and that we knew what we were doing.
I believed that after Vietnam the generals would stand up to the civilian leadership when it was so blatantly in error.
I believed my commander-in-chief would be up front with the nation about a purpose as grave and consequential as war.
I believed my nation would never, ever torture.
I believed that whatever our disagreements, all Americans shared the values contained in the First Amendment of our constitution, the same constitution we service members had sworn to defend with our lives.
I believed that religion had no place in our politics and government and the press would fervently do its duty asking the tough questions of our leaders we, the women and men in uniform, could not. After all, this is what we were willing to die to protect.
I believed that whatever our disagreements, all Americans shared the values contained in the Fourth Amendment, that citizens would never tolerate the government’s intrusion into our homes and private conversations by illegally wiretapping our communications.
I believed I lived in a nation of brave souls who valued individual freedom – the concept we brought to fruition on a scale never before seen – over tyranny in the name of homeland security.
I believed that if the USA ever had a President who violated these beliefs, we would impeach him or her. At the very least, we would vote that person out of office at the earliest opportunity.
I work in downtown Manhattan. Every day I see what was “Ground Zero” – now a construction site – and am filled with despair, not only for the many deaths that occurred that day but also for the death of the nation I once believed in.
In 2000 I voted for John McCain for President in the republican primary. I believed that as a former military man and POW, he understood my beliefs even more strongly than I did.
I was wrong. At some point in the last thirty-five years John McCain lost his way.
Since 9/11, one-by-one John McCain has violated many of the beliefs I expressed above by supporting the George Bush administration’s assault on our liberties. A once honorable man has been corrupted by his ambition to be President, no matter what former “principles” he must sacrifice to reach that ultimate goal.
Barak Obama may not have the experience to be President but over 18,000,000 of my countrymen and women believe that he has. That’s how democracy works. And now Barak Obama is our last, best hope to resurrect this nation, a land I love so much that I was willing to sacrifice my life to protect its values.
With this posting I’ve broken my personal vow not write about politics. (I’ve also come out of a blog hiatus into which I will quickly and gladly retreat.) I believe this election is the most important at least since 1932. And as an optimist, I believe that we will do the right thing.
God help us if we don’t.
Washington DC photographs by Andrew W. M. Beierle