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18 Aug, 2010 06:47

Americans renouncing citizenship on the rise

America may be known as the land of opportunity, but for an increasing number of people it is an offer they are not willing to take.

Last year alone an estimated 700 people renounced their US citizenship – three times as many as the year before.

Ken O'Keefe grew up an American in a nation that he believed was the greatest in the world, a bastion of freedom and democracy. In order to protect those ideals, he joined the Marine Corps, and went to fight for his country in the Gulf War. That was when the American dream became a nightmare.

“I was punished for speaking out about something that my superiors were doing, and my life became extremely difficult,” O’Keefe told RT. “And upon my return with a different perspective, I started to look at American history and politics, and realized that my whole life I had been lied to. I believed in those ideals, I believed in them, and when I found out that those ideals weren't really the way America was presenting itself in the rest of the world, it became clear to me at some point that I would renounce my citizenship.”

And renounce it he did – O'Keefe applied to the State Department to stop being American, claimed political asylum in Holland, and burned his US passport. O'Keefe knows that not everyone will agree with what he has done; some maintain that he could have exerted more pressure from inside the system. However they choose to do it, Middle East commentator Alan Hart says Americans must do something.

“I have a love-hate relationship with America,” Hart said. “On one level, Americans are the most uninformed, misinformed, most gullible people in the face of God’s earth. That's the bad news. Deep down they are also the most idealistic. So I say, and Americans didn't mind me saying it, that if they were properly informed about the causes and effects of things in the Middle East, they could become engaged to make their democracy work.”

It hasn't always been this way. At the end of the Second World War, the US was leading the world both economically and morally.

According to Carol Turner from the Stop the War Coalition, it has steadily eroded that goodwill.

“Because it is failing to give that ethical lead now, it is increasingly forced back onto using its military power to impose its will,” Turner claimed.

Ken O'Keefe is committed to changing the situation. Since giving up his US citizenship, he has made it his mission to oppose US military action wherever he can. He also was onboard one of the Gaza-bound aid ships raided by Israeli commandos in May. Following that, he was branded a terrorist by Israel.

For Ken O'Keefe, now an Irish citizen, giving up his nationality wasn’t an easy decision. And he insists it wasn't one borne out of hatred.

“I realized at a certain point that citizenship was a social contract, and I didn't agree to the terms of the contract,” O’Keefe stated. “Among the obligations – you have rights and you have obligations – and among those obligations is paying taxes, and those taxes are being used to commit mass murder, and I don't agree to that. A lot of people misinterpret renouncing citizenship for hating America, and that is absolutely not the case at all. I have a deep love for the American people and I wish that the ideal of America could become a reality.”

Until that dream becomes a reality, O'Keefe, and others like him, will be staying away from the land of the free and the home of the brave.