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Terrorism:  "Good" vs. "Evil"

Another response to Terrorism:  "Good" vs. "Evil":

>> I can think of no negotiation with these people other than to tell them that they must give up the criminals they harbor or we will take them and their supporters ourselves. <<

Which supporters, I'll continue to ask? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? The CIA?

As for negotiations: For starters, Bush could've negotiated whether to publicize the so-called evidence against Bin Laden. Many of us would like to see that evidence ourselves. He also could've negotiated to whom and how the Taliban might've surrendered Bin Laden.

As the article on a possible trial stated, there are many unanswered questions. When Bush said he wanted to bring Bin Laden to justice, what did that mean, exactly? If I were the Taliban and had the world's most popular Muslim in my hands, I doubt I'd turn him over without knowing exactly what the US had in store for him. If we can understand why the US won't turn Henry Kissinger over to the Hague for a war crimes trial, we can understand the Taliban's position also.

>> The leader of the Taliban (whose regime is nearly if not more oppressive a regime as was the Nazi's, just not as technologically advanced- thank God) is a man who is proud of never having read a book other than the Koran <<

Ironically, Bush is proud of not having read much besides the Bible.

>> Can one negotiate with such a medieval (or perhaps more accurately, stone age) barbarian? I think not. <<

I think so. Anyway, we basically didn't try. Not trying is an irrational response to a rational situation. We went to war because of our lust for revenge, not because we gave diplomacy a fair chance and it failed the task.

>> One presents choices to these people, who, whether you like it or not and for whatever reasons, are our sworn mortal enemies, and let the chips fall where they may. <<

I'll repeat that Condoleezza Rice made it clear peace was never an option. So the Taliban's choice was to give up Bin Laden and get bombed, or not to give up Bin Laden and get bombed. Not much of a choice, I'd say. If we were going to bomb the Taliban, they acted rationally by "choosing" war and at least gaining honor and support throughout the Islamic world.

>> What would you expect to get as a return from them regarding negotiation beyond presenting our position and letting them choose. <<

Come on! We and they could've negotiated all sorts of things. A dismantling of the terrorist camps. A restructuring of the government. Did you really expect a country divided into numerous factions to summarily negotiate its own dissolution in 26 days? That's a matter for months and even years of diplomacy, not days.

>> We've done so, their reponse has been "No" so where does one go from there? <<

I would've applied more political and economic pressure. It would've succeeded eventually just like it succeeded against the Soviet Union or South Africa. I'll ask you what I've asked others: What part of "justice" required it to be accomplished in 26 days rather than 26 weeks or 26 months?

Bombing = no good?
>> You know my opinion on a massive retaliatory strike, like bombing from afar—it would do absolutely no good and will do a whole lot of harm. <<

We're beginning to see the harm now. It was wholly predictable, which is why many people predicted it. As I've asked before, how many dead women, children, and dogs will it take before this "just" war becomes unjust?

>> Frankly, we can take our time in responding to this horror (and the horror of the Taliban governement) and when we do respond, let it be in whatever fashion is appropriate and suits us best. <<

We could've taken our time seeking justice, not revenge.

>> The urgency of retribution is completely emotional and will lead us to mistakes we really need to avoid. <<

You're telling me? I've advocated a go-slow-and-think-first approach more than anyone.

>> I should think with all the spec ops elite soldiers available to the civilized world, we could slit the throats of every Taliban male within a few weeks after starting. <<

I think you're underestimating the Taliban's capabilities. Even so, that might've been a better option than an all-out war against Afghanistan. Too bad Bush didn't put it on the table for discussion. Instead he went directly to a massive bombing campaign.

But I'm sorry: I'm still not saying the Taliban are "evil" and deserve to have their throats cut. Harboring terrorists isn't the same as being a terrorist oneself. But it is the same as what dozens of other countries have done. Are you advocating that we invade Iran or Iraq next? Why or why not? They also have harbored or supported Bin Laden or related terrorists.

As for the Taliban's treatment of women, it's horrible, but a lot of things are horrible. Genocide in Rwanda was horrible, as is the continuing practice of genital mutilation. Slave labor and political executions in China are horrible. Massacres of East Timorians demanding independence were horrible. Mugabe's reign of oppression and terror in Zimbabwe is horrible.

Do we invade all these countries because they've done horrible things? If not, then what's our justification for invading Afghanistan? Horror at human rights violations has never been a guiding US policy before (except maybe during the Carter administration). Doesn't this require a little more thought before invading Afghanistan because a handful of people inside its borders hurt us?

>> A traditional massive invasion by Western troops would be a ghastly mistake and is simply not really necessary. <<

I'd say you were right. Unfortunately, your nuanced special ops operation wasn't on the table any more than diplomatic negotiations were. The only choice on the table was the revenge-oriented bombing Afghanistan into the Stone Age.

Given the real-world choices on the table—bombing or not—peace advocates advocated the latter. I'd say events have proved them right so far. The war option is leading us precisely into the predicted quagmire. Too bad we didn't try the peace option first.


Another response to correspondent
>> when some yahoo's in a pickup (whom I'd never seen before with the flag attached to the rain gutter on the roof of course) yelled something to us about "America's for us, go home" or some other such foolishness as they sped by around a corner. <<

They yelled something similar at author Sherman Alexie. I'm "glad" to hear these incidents aren't apocryphal—that they're really happening.

You're being way more rational about this war than most Americans. Most Americans are using the attacks as an excuse to vent their latent feelings of racism and xenophobia as well as misogyny and homophobia (remember "faggot Arab" said to the Choctaw woman). We can talk all we want about how much the Taliban supported Bin Laden, whether Saddam Hussein is the real mastermind behind the attacks, etc. But America just wants to thump its chest, pulverize some brown-skinned foreigners, and declare itself no. 1 again.

If the battle is between "good" and "evil," the evil resides in all of us. Anyone who thinks war is the first or best option is joining the side of evil, as far as I'm concerned. You may think you're taking a different position from the yahoos in the truck, but they're braying that "we stand united" against "evil." Isn't that basically your position too?

Bush is trying not to stoke a clash of civilizations, but it's a question of perceptions, not reality. And the perceptions aren't under his control. Not only do Muslims see us bombing Red Cross warehouses, children, and dogs, but they hear yahoos calling for nuking Islamic countries or sending "foreigners" home—just like the fellows in your truck.

As I see it, you're either a yahoo in a truck calling for death and destruction, or you're a peacenik calling for measured action to bring the terrorists to justice without stoking an eye-for-eye race war. If that's the choice, I know which side I'm on. How about you?


More evidence against war
First, evidence that the Taliban is willing and able to negotiate when the circumstances demand it. The idea that they're fanatics incapable of discoursing rationally is stereotypical nonsense.

And evidence that the Taliban is a complex body whose original goals were hijacked by outsiders. That doesn't excuse the Taliban's crimes, but it puts the lie to the Bush propaganda that they (like Al Qaeda) are a singleminded pack of terrorists.

From the LA Times, 11/25/01:

Pushtun Leaders Hold Talks on Peaceful Surrender of Kandahar


QUETTA, Pakistan — A senior member of the Taliban government consulted with Afghan community leaders here Saturday in what was described as part of a broad-based initiative to negotiate the surrender of the Taliban's spiritual capital of Kandahar.

The Taliban representative, who declined to be identified by name, was interviewed shortly after his arrival from Afghanistan at the home of a prominent Afghan in Quetta.

He said efforts to surrender the city without a fight had been launched at a secret meeting Monday in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. About 65 prominent Pushtun figures—including Soviet-era commanders, southern tribal elders and more than 20 disillusioned Taliban members—attended the session, he said. The official said the participants had decided that it was time to surrender the city because the entire Taliban movement had been taken over by a series of corrosive outside forces—the international drug mafia, international terrorists, the puritanical Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam and Pakistan intelligence.

"These four groups hijacked our movement," said the official, whose anonymity was required because he is still a member of the Taliban government. He also said he would be detained by Pakistani authorities if his mission were known.

Also, evidence of exactly the kind of negotiations and aid that could've prevented the 9/11 attacks and could prevent similar attacks in the future. A key problem was that the US refused to take the problems seriously—refused to clean up the mess it helped create.

If the US had made the 1999 negotiations a higher priority, had insisted on a solution acceptable to all, the outcome might've been different. After 30 years of stonewalling, this approach is showing signs of working in Israel also. Diplomacy works, violence doesn't.

From the LA Times, 11/25/01:

Hopping on U.N. Special Envoy's Bandwagon

Diplomacy: Back in the job he had quit in frustration, Lakhdar Brahimi is leading global effort for post-Taliban Afghan government.


UNITED NATIONS — The last time Lakhdar Brahimi had the job of special envoy to Afghanistan, he quit in disgust.

Nobody cared enough about Afghanistan, despite his steady stream of reports about Taliban massacres of Shiite villagers, the point-blank killings by state gunmen of foreign diplomats and U.N. emissaries, and the rising danger to relief efforts posed by Osama bin Laden's network.

And all those problems were set against a dire and volatile backdrop of draconian civil liberties restrictions, raging guerrilla warfare, famine and earthquakes. The Security Council had authorized him to promote dialogue among rebel factions and between the opposition and the Taliban, but all sides brazenly broke pledges to cease fighting during their initial discussions. And there were no guarantees that wealthy nations would deliver the huge humanitarian aid package needed to undergird reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The Taliban was openly rebuffing U.N. demands that it surrender Bin Laden, under pain of sanctions—proof to many that the world body was wielding neither a sufficiently enticing carrot nor a convincingly threatening stick.

So on Oct. 20, 1999, after two years of dead-end diplomacy, the famously calm and cautious Algerian diplomat shocked his U.N. associates by announcing his resignation as Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy.

Afghanistan is "a sad, sad country," Brahimi said with uncharacteristic emotion. Its biggest neighbors—Iran and Pakistan—were making a dangerous situation worse, he said. But if neither the warring factions there nor the world community was committed to confronting the crisis, he was wasting his time, he said.

"It was a stunning moment," said a close U.N. colleague here, requesting anonymity. "You don't hear U.N. diplomats at that level speaking like that."

Those medieval monsters (11/27/01)
After a news report, "Massacres by Taliban confirmed," about Taliban prisoners who rebelled against their Northern Alliance captors and killed them before they themselves were killed:

>> Negotiate with these medieval monsters? <<

We negotiated with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. Are the Taliban any worse?

>> If this [report] is true, I think not. <<

I think so. I think you try legitimate, sincere negotiations with any foreign power before bombing its country into smithereens.

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