Another response to Terrorism: "Good" vs. "Evil":
On the morning of 9/11, soon after I heard of the attacks on America, I wrote the following letter to the LA Times:
Correspondent Tom responded as follows:
>> OK, I'll bite. How long did it take you to come to the conclusion this was GW's fault? And why? <<
Only a few seconds. Pretty amazing, eh? Did I set a record?
How long did it take you?
>> And why? <<
It should be obvious by now. If it isn't, I'll quote from my website:
From the LA Times, 5/8/01:
"I think there's a sock-back for the unilateralism and the allergies to treaties that this administration is developing," said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "People are concerned about several unilateral moves the United States has taken recently."
The list of such acts is long and growing. The latest was President Bush's speech last week on missile defense. After promising to consult with allies before he took any major step, he instead signaled his intention to withdraw the United States from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty—and only this week dispatched teams around the world to explain the move and the administration's plans for an alternative approach to defense.
Since our recent moves have earned near-universal opprobrium from other nations, would it be fair to call America the world's No. 1 rogue state?
The US is supporting Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank, bombing innocent civilians in Iraq, and propping up undemocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia. Now comes Bush*, who has taken the longstanding problem of American arrogance and made it that much worse. To put it another way, Bush* and America have been the big bully kicking sand in the face of relative weaklings.
That doesn't mean the deadly response is valid. If the 98-lb. weakling turns around and mows down everyone on the beach, that's morally unacceptable. I've condemned violence more than most so-called Christians have, and I condemn it unequivocally now.
But we can understand the roots of violence without condoning it. A few people may be born psychotic or "evil," but most are fighting for a cause. We may not agree with the cause, but we'd better try to grasp it.
Killing people for no reason?
I heard one commentator—it may have been Bill O'Reilly on the right-wing Fox Network—ask an "expert" if he knew of any other terrorists who commit suicide. The expert said no. He forgot about the Tamilese "Tigers" in Sri Lanka who have blown themselves (and others) up. Further back there were the Japanese kamikaze pilots. And soldiers of all stripes, including Americans, have gone on suicide missions. D-Day was one huge suicide mission for thousands of Allied soldiers.
Anyone who thinks terrorists want to take over the world or bathe us in "evil" is a blithering idiot. Fact is, many of them want the US to stop acting like a colonial imperialist and start acting like a responsible world leader. That means respecting other people's viewpoints, such as the near-unanimous opinion (again) that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians.
"...[S]o much greed, so much cynicism, so much hypocrisy, so much individualistic values." Osama bin Laden condemning the US? No, Oscar Arias Sanchez, 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner, as quoted in the LA Times, 2/20/00.
Islamic fundamentalists have called us "Satan" and burned the American flag...and so have Americans, metaphorically speaking. "The white people are all thieves and liars," said Spotted Tail (Brule Sioux), c. 1880. Was he a nutcase too, or did he have some reason for hating American imperialism—then known by the term "Manifest Destiny"?
Many Indians sympathize with the Palestinian cause. Are Indians and Palestinians both killers, thugs, and savages? Or might they have a point worth listening to...if we actually stayed and listened, rather than withdrawing and retreating?
It's pretty damn simple if you think about. Islam and even Islamic fundamentalists have been around for about 1,400 years. The fundamentalists didn't start attacking other countries until about 30 years ago. What's changed in that time? America's role as the world leader.
If we keep kicking sand in people's faces, don't be surprised if they kick back. If we start shooting them, don't be surprised if they shoot back. As I've said many times, not everyone wants to be a selfish, stupid, uncaring American.
And if you want a solution to this cycle of violence, look to your Bible. I think Jesus had all the answers on that score. We'll see if the people who quote the Bible and sing "God bless America" actually do as Jesus commands. Judging by the frenzied war cries, I'm guessing not.
Turnabout is fair play
I then asked Tom how he responded:
Since you're a lawyer who believes in the rule of law, a libertarian who believes in limited government, and a Christian who believes in God's words...I assume you want to nuke Afghanistan into the Stone Age? Regardless of whether Osama bin Laden is there or even whether he's guilty?
Do let me know your response to the attack.
>> Nuking Afghanistan into the stone age would be a redundancy. I would be satisfied with killing the pigfuckers responsible. <<
Saying you wouldn't bomb Afghanistan into the Stone Age because it's already in the Stone Age is a clever but nonresponsive answer. Try again.
You told me what you wouldn't do. Now tell me what you, a good Christian follower of Jesus, would do.
>> NOW, what is YOUR response? Remind us all about how America brought this on itself by its past treatment of Native Americans and how it walked out of the UN Conference on Racism and Zionist Pigs? <<
Haven't I responded enough with my letters to the editor and my long postings at Terrorism: "Good" vs. "Evil".
The question is what I'd do if I were in Dubya's position. I'd prefer to use sanctions and other forms of pressure first. If that didn't work, I'd prefer to hunt down the terrorists and bring them to justice—a word everyone keeps using but few seem to understand. I'd give them a trial and suitable punishment if they were found guilty. As usual, I'd mostly be indifferent whether they were executed or given life in prison.
If that solution didn't work after an extended try, I'd support narrowly targeted military operations with as few civilian casualties as possible. But a large-scale war? Annihilation of whole countries? No freakin' way.
Since I'm not Bush*, thankfully, I'm doing basically what you said. I'm reminding people of our past genocide and our present tolerance of racism, global warming, AIDS, land mines, child labor, etc., etc.
The PEACE PARTY position
PRC Anti-War Statement
(1) Actively speak out against the irrational and racist scape-goating of Muslim, Arab, and Arab American people.
(2) Oppose any and all military retaliations initiated by the U.S. government or its allies. We must uphold the dignity and human rights of civilian populations by denouncing the indiscriminate use of force against targets where destruction of civilian life and social infrastructure (e.g. hospitals, roads, sewers, etc.) is sure and certain.
(3) Defend our civil rights and liberties against any infringements on these rights by the U.S. government in the wake of this attack. We must uphold and promote the inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all peoples.
(4) Endeavor to understand the roots of international violence and struggle to work for peace with social justice.
(5) Make your voice heard by joining with others in collective action to promote peace and justice.
This statement pretty much reflects my position, as far as it goes. I think it's geared more toward establishing long-term peace than addressing the specific crimes of fundamentalist terrorism. So I'll add a couple of points:
(6) Apply relentless political and economic pressure against the Al Qaeda network and anyone who supports it until the terrorists surrender or are surrendered. Carry out covert missions against Al Qaeda and other terrorist cells and nests beyond government control. Intensify joint activities with world bodies to reduce or freeze terrorist activity everywhere.
7) Start signing and enforcing the treaties designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Vigorously pursue a nonviolent solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the deadly sanctions against Iraq. Commence long-term talks with Islam to neutralize the forces fostering terrorism and bring the countries into the Western fold.
As the historical record shows, this diplomatic approach should succeed better than violence usually does. Since it's peaceful, it's consistent with the antiwar statement. It will root out the criminals but won't create enmity and another generation of terrorists among Muslims.
The only exception to this forceful but peaceful plan is that I'd consider military reprisals after we've exhausted other options. If they prove necessary, such reprisals should be limited and targeted as much as possible. We may want to consider targeted covert attacks, even assassinations, as a more palatable alternative to war. If diplomacy and limited military action fail to root out the terrorists, then and only then would I consider an all-out assault.
Since we've barely given the peaceful option a chance, I see no reason to rush to limited or unlimited military action. Since I'm rational rather than irrational, I don't feel the need for revenge. I certainly don't feel we must have a resolution before the dust settles.
This is pretty much my position in all international conflicts. Whether it's Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, or genocide in Rwanda, I say negotiate first. If that doesn't work—as it didn't in the first two cases—we should consider military intervention. As for Rwanda, we didn't intervene militarily or diplomatically, as far as I can tell. So much for our much-touted moral leadership and love of life and liberty.
Tom finally responds...sort of (10/24/01)
>> You told me what you wouldn't do. Now tell me what you, a good Christian follower of Jesus, would do. <<
>> I told you. I'd kill whoever was responsible. <<
The people directly responsible are already dead. We don't know for sure if Osama Bin Laden was indirectly responsible—if he planned the attack. If he did, we don't know if he planned it himself, or with the help of confederates.
And where exactly do you draw the line of "responsibility"? Are the Taliban responsible for harboring the terrorists? Is Pakistan responsible for supporting them? Is Saudi Arabia responsible for funding them? Is the CIA responsible for training them? Is the United States responsible for its arrogant policies that have fueled hatred around the world?
I guess you're like most Americans and don't want to think too deeply about the issues. You'd just prefer to kill someone. You fit the profile of a conservative Christian "patriot" perfectly. (Coincidentally, it's also the profile of an Islamic fanatic and a thuggish gangbanger, but that's another matter.)
In any case, we've already killed innocent people who weren't responsible for the terrorist attacks. For that reason, I guess you'll agree with me that this war is unjust. Jesus would say so and so do I.
Why don't you list everyone you think is responsible for the attacks on America? Then we'll know who to kill and who not to kill. Bush* hasn't been able to come up with one list, since he's gone from threatening one man to pledging to rid the world of "evil." Maybe you can do better.
Once you've defined who's responsible, we'll know for sure when Bush* has overstepped the line and begun committing war crimes. The Hague will want to know this, as will the alliance against terrorism and the American public. Really, the only way this war can continue for long is if Bush* continues to obfuscate who's responsible.
Tom tackles the PRC Anti-War Statement (10/29/01)
>> 1) How about military retaliation against the actual terrorists and the governments that are proven to be aiding them? <<
How about it? Bush* hasn't proved a thing against anyone yet. Which is why it's clear you, he, and most Americans are seeking revenge, not justice. You couldn't care less what the evidence says as long as you're killing someone.
>> We haven't killed anyone indiscriminately YET. <<
We have now. How many dead Afghan children are worth a dead American child? Give me a number so I can gauge exactly how prejudiced you are against brown-skinned "pagans."
>> 2) No scapegoating? Then why are the writers of this piece blaming the attack on America's past foreign policy and history? <<
Because our past foreign policy and history are partly to blame.
>> We haven't done anything that would evem remotely justify mass murder of innocent civilians. <<
Tell it to the 500,000 dead Iraqi children, not me. But I'll continue to state we can understand what motivated the attacks without justifying or excusing or accepting them.
>> You can't negotiate with someone who can't keep his cover stories straight. <<
Bush* said we're fighting a worldwide crusade against evil. Or a limited police action against Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Or whatever. He prepared for war against the Taliban while supposedly engaging in negotiations.
You're right: If I were the Taliban listening to Bush's* double-talk, I wouldn't have trusted him either. As "diplomacy" goes, it was a sham.
>> 4) Healing our communities? Our communities are already healing themselves and helping NYC -- to wit, Angola Penitentiary inmates have donated $11,000 to relief efforts. <<
So you oppose more healing? How "Christian" of you.
>> And they are doing so without any ultra-leftist re-education/sensitivity seminars on how sucky the US has historically been. <<
It's not clear the war—i.e., the present cycle of violence—is "healing" anyone's pain. And the body bags haven't even started coming home yet. We can discuss this point further after the mounting death toll and world pressure force Bush* to abandon his crusade against evil. I sure hope stalemate and dissolution help America "heal" better than the vicarious thrill of bombing does.
>> We have historically imposed violence in places that deserved it. <<
Considering our history of genocide, slavery, and imperialism, that's a pathetic joke. Did the Mexicans deserve the Mexican-American War? How about the Philippines in the Spanish-American war? Did Chile deserve to have its democratic government overthrown? How about Iran?
Nuking Japan saved lives?
>> Nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved between 1-10 million lives -- we didn't have to invade. <<
Spare me the right-wing propaganda. 1) You can't prove how many people would've died in an invasion. 2) Nuking Hiroshima but not Nagasaki might've accomplished the same thing. 3) Detonating both bombs offshore as a warning might've accomplished the same thing.
Nuking the two cities killed 100,000 innocent people who didn't need to die. Period. You can't prove otherwise with anything except rank speculation.
>> The Viet Cong and their Stalinist North Vietnamese pimps had it coming: We failed in that we didn't kill enough of them. <<
So that justified the phone Gulf of Tonkin incident and the 50,000 dead Americans?
Too bad you weren't old enough to go kill the Viet Cong yourself. I'm sure your self-righteous sense of superiority would've made you bulletproof in the steaming jungles.
In reality, we failed because the war was unwinnable. We tried large-scale napalm and biochemical attacks and they only steeled the opposition. The war against terrorism is equally unwinnable, and we're failing at that too.
>> And from what I remember nobody put a gun to Sodom Hussein's head and told him to invade Kuwait. <<
That's one of the few wars I considered justified, since I believe we negotiated with Saddam at length before turning to the military option.
>> The civilians who are in the way only have their governments to blame. <<
Yes, that's Osama bin Laden's position. So what's your point? Are you saying you agree with him?
Tom explains why war is justified (11/12/01)
>> 1) Because they started it. <<
A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the "Christian West"—now proudly emblematized by the United States—against the "Islamic East" since the time of the First Crusade, about 1,000 years ago. More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel's dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered "Desert Shield" in 1990, or at any of several points in between.
Had it not been for these evils, the counterattacks of September 11 would never have occurred. And unless "the world is rid of such evil," to lift a line from George Junior, September 11 may well end up looking like a lark.
Ward Churchill, Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
>> 2) They will kill again (mockups of LAX were found with some of bin-Laden's crew) <<
So will we, as we've shown in Afghanistan. But the future tense is inappropriate since we've never stopped killing in Iraq.
By "they," I assume you mean the terrorists who didn't commit suicide. Or do you mean the Taliban soldiers, the people we're killing now? Have any LAX models been found in Taliban buildings, weapons emplacements, or tents?
I guess you didn't understand that the terrorists spent five or so years in Germany and the US preparing their attack. If they're going to attack again, they're already out of Afghanistan. And planning their next strike with impunity.
Oh, I forgot: You warmongers don't need evidence before you start killing people. Monkey see, monkey do. Drop a bomb and hope you hit a terrorist accidentally.
>> 3) This will deter others from trying the same thing. <<
From "Glorious Death: The Kamikaze Impulse" by Robert Fisk. In the LA Times, 9/16/01:
Specifically because of a suicide bomber, the Americans fled Lebanon 17 years earlier. I still remember then-Vice President George Bush visibly moved amid the ruins of the U.S. Marine base in Beirut, where 241 American servicemen had just been slaughtered. "We are not going to let a bunch of insidious terrorist cowards, shake the foreign policy of the United States," he told us. "Foreign policy is not going to be dictated or changed by terror." A few months later, the Marines pulled up sticks and ran away from Lebanon, "redeployed" to their ships offshore.
So many of our politicians provide us only with the same tired promises about hunting down the guilty—British Prime Minister Tony Blair's contribution last week was a pledge to "dismantle the machine of terror." But this misses the point. If the machinery is composed of knives and box-cutters, Mr. Blair is after the wrong target. Just as President Ronald Reagan was in the hours before he ordered the bombing of Libya in 1986. "He can run, but he can't hide," he said of Col. Moammar Kadafi. But Kadafi could hide, and he is still with us.
In the Middle East, Arabs now fear America will strike them without waiting for proof, or act on the most flimsy of evidence. For it is as well to remember how the U.S. responded to the 1983 Marine bombings. The battleship USS New Jersey fired its automobile-sized shells into the Chouf Mountains, killing a couple of Syrian soldiers and erasing half a village. The parade of U.S. naval craft off the American East Coast last week was a ghostly replay of this impotent event.
But to this day, the Americans have never discovered the identity of the man who drove a truck-load of explosives into the Beirut Marine compound.
And from "Unwelcome Lessons of Terror" by Simon Reeve. In the LA Times, 9/16/01:
Military strikes against [Osama bin Laden's terrorists] have failed before. After the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, a shower of American cruise missiles fell on Afghanistan and Sudan. But they achieved little more than a huge lawsuit from an aggrieved Sudanese factory owner. The missiles made America look incompetent and encouraged dozens, if not hundreds, of young militants to join the organization headed by Bin Laden.
...[The terrorists] are members of a loosely knit, "disorganized organization" without a rigid structure, spread through the Balkans, Egypt, Pakistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Algeria and Eritrea. Governments of those countries have been spectacularly unsuccessful at tackling their home-grown terrorists, despite the use of state torture and assassination. It is unlikely the American military can succeed where they have failed.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict alone proves how stupid your assertion is. Let me know as soon as Israel's military strikes deter the Palestinians, okay? Right after that, I'm sure our military strikes will begin deterring Bin Laden.
*Not the elected president, even when we're at "war."
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