Some 85 years ago, after World War I, the United States attempted to produce an Arab democracy: A modern Arab state from the Turkish border to Morocco on the Atlantic coast. This hope of President Woodrow Wilson and our military failed when the U.S. Senate voted against joining the League of Nations and Wilson suffered a stroke.

As American influence in the Middle East disappeared, the British and French, urged on by their greed for oil, began dividing up the Middle East. They drew boundaries with no consideration to ethnic or linguistic differences. They carved new “nations” from the old Ottoman Empire and installed their own puppet governments. Out of this mess evolved the tragic events of the 2003 pre-emptive American invasion.

Noting this brief history of the Western powers in the Middle East demands serious concern by all citizens. The unusual policies from Washington the last five years require examination. A commitment to peace and justice has apparently been put on the sidelines. Truth, ethics and accountability do not seem to be taken seriously anymore.

America is the nation that for more than a century has led the way in initiating international organizations. Our heritage has been one of honesty and openness. Just as Jesus said we will have the poor with us always, so will the world always have dictators and those who prefer secrecy and duplicity.

It is America’s place to set an example, ascribe to a higher plain, not to re-make the world in our image. The reason people want to come here is simple: a freer and better life. A place where they can think for themselves and not be ruled by authoritarian religious autocrats or state demigods. The reason many people hate us is because of our policies, not our people or way of life.

In our democracy, all the people have a right to know what the government is doing. Public servants are elected to office with the people’s best interest at heart. What kind of a democracy is it when the leader travels around the country, allowing only his followers to attend his speeches?

What has pre-emptive war to do with American values? What good are congressmen and senators if they are more interested in getting re-elected than taking a courageous stand for truth and justice?

Agreements such as the Geneva Conventions are a part of the American soul. If we lower our standards (such as allowing torture) we become no better than the military leaders of Burma or many African and Asian states.

A charming satire that has entertained audiences since 1773 is Goldsmith’s play “She Stoops to Conquer.” In it a young lady poses as a serving girl to win the heart of a young gentleman too shy to court ladies of his own class.

The story is filled with delightful deceits, hilarious turns of plot, all meant to entertain.

Anyone who “stoops to conquer” in today’s real world–by pre-emptive war and torture–goes against America’s heritage.

In the play the satire was fun, in the world we live in, such “stooping to conquer” is dangerous and tragic.

Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in the Brownwood, Texas.

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