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A Few Voices of Reason

Continuing the analysis of the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on America....

Tuesday's explosions were not an hour old before terror pundits such as Anthony Cordesman, Wesley Clark, Robert Gates and Lawrence Eagleburger were saying that these attacks had been possible "because America is a democracy," adding that now some democratic perquisites might have to be abandoned? What might this mean? Increased domestic snooping by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies? Ethnic profiling? A national ID card system?

Tuesday did not offer a flattering exhibition of America's leaders. President Bush gave a timid and stilted initial reaction in Sarasota, Fla., then disappeared for an hour before resurfacing in at a base in Barksdale, La., where he gave another flaccid address with every appearance of being on tranquilizers. He was then flown to a bunker in Nebraska, before someone finally had the wit to suggest that the best place for the U.S. president at time of national emergency is the Oval Office.

One certain beneficiary of the attacks is Israel. Polls had been showing popular dislike here for Israel's recent tactics, which may have been the motivation for Colin Powell's few bleats of reproof to Israel. We will be hearing no such bleats in the weeks to come, as Israel's leaders advise the U.S. how exactly to deal with Muslims.

"Freedom," said Bush in Sarasota, "was attacked this morning by a faceless coward." That properly represents the stupidity and blindness of almost all of Tuesday's mainstream political commentary. By contrast, the commentary on economic consequences was informative and sophisticated. Worst hit: the insurance industry. Likely outfall in the short term: higher energy prices, a further drop in global stock markets. Bush will have no trouble in raiding the famous lock-box, using Social Security trust funds to give more money to the Defense Department.

Three planes are successfully steered into three of America's most conspicuous buildings and America's response will be to put more money in missile defense as a way of bolstering the economy.

Alexander Cockburn, "The Next Casualty: Bill of Rights?" LA Times, 9/13/01

Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, Boyle said today: "According to the facts in the public record so far, this was not an act of war and NATO Article 5 does not apply. President Bush has automatically escalated this national tragedy into something it is not in order to justify a massive military attack abroad and an apparent crackdown on civil liberties at home. We see shades of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which the Johnson administration used to provide dubious legal cover for massive escalation of the Vietnam War."

Institute for Public Accuracy, quoting Francis Boyle, 9/13/01

Editor of The Progressive magazine, Rothschild said today: "President Bush said that America was targeted 'because we embrace freedom.' Not knowing with any certainty who the attackers were, it's hard to speculate on their motives. But many groups in the Third World have grievances that are more specific than the ones Bush mentioned.... The Pearl Harbor analogy has frightening connotations. Two months after Japan's surprise attack, the U.S. government rounded up Japanese Americans into internment camps. Now it seems highly improbable that Arab Americans or Muslim Americans will be rounded up, but what does seem quite possible is that the media's obsessive focus on a non-differentiated Islamic fundamentalism — mixed in with nativist sentiment that is always on the shelf — will create a cocktail of hate crimes."

Institute for Public Accuracy, quoting Matt Rothschild, 9/13/01

Professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, Cole said today: "In the past we have responded to acts of terrorism by clamping down on basic civil liberties, by anti-immigrant actions, and by engaging in unjustified and widespread guilt by association."

Institute for Public Accuracy, quoting David Cole, 9/13/01

Addressing the nation, President Bush said, "Freedom and democracy are under attack." Agreed. As such, it will be the duty of everyone to defend every single one of our rights and liberties.

Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, What It Means to Be Human, 9/14/01

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Amnesty International today reiterated its deepest sympathy for the victims of the heinous attacks in the USA and called upon the leaders of governments and community groups around the world to ensure respect for human rights in their wake.

Amid growing evidence of a backlash and attacks against Muslim and Middle Eastern community groups around the world, Amnesty International stressed that efforts to bring the perpetrators of these atrocities to justice must be characterised by the highest respect for human rights.

"The violent attacks suffered by the USA represent the gravest violation of the most basic of human rights. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. But in seeking justice for the victims of this terrible crime, the world must exercise the highest respect for the rights of all individuals. International solidarity with the victims is not about seeking revenge but about cooperating within the rule of law in bringing those responsible to justice. Scapegoating individuals or communities will achieve nothing."

Calling for calm in the days and weeks ahead, Amnesty International said, "it is important for us all to see that hatred does not become the order of the day; that fear does not become an excuse for the violation of rights and that we all remember our common humanity. We must be compassionate in our support for the victims, determined in our search for justice and vigilant about the rights of all people."

Addressing the USA, Amnesty International asked the authorities to set a leading example by ensuring adequate protection for individuals and communities in the USA and by maintaining the highest standards in their search for the perpetrators of the attacks, including not detaining or arresting individuals solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

International Secretariat of Amnesty International, news release, 9/14/01

Our system requires that legal means be used to achieve legal ends. We decide those means and those ends within the general confines of the Constitution.

Osama bin Laden is not a threat to the nation. He is a threat to innocent citizens just as any other violent criminal. Our greatest danger from terrorism is not the act itself but our response to it.

Jonathan Turley, "Cries of 'War' Stumble Over the Law," LA Times, 9/13/01

Dear Mr. President, Please don't send a military response. The terrorists can respond, and back and forth it goes.

Barrett Meister, 4th grade, St. Matthew's Parish School, published in the LA Times, 9/18/01

Many Americans want vengeance. But that is also terrorism, under a different name. Hopefully, our government will act forcefully but without vengeance to neutralize those who attack us, not to reenact our tragedy in another country.

Julius "Jay" Wachtel, letter, LA Times, 9/17/01

I am troubled by our rush toward war. So many of our leaders rattle their sabers, lusting for revenge. This is not a country that has attacked us, it is a terrorist organization. They want us to attack them to show the world how horrible we can be. There is no doubt that those responsible should be held accountable. But should we level a nation just to get one man? I am terribly afraid that our president only understands vengeance. Let's get off the bandwagon and call off the dogs of war.

Mark Andresen, letter, LA Times, 9/14/01

Because of the terrorism attack, there will probably be a war. The consequences of war will be to blow up the biggest cities. L.A. is one of them. I live in Los Angeles, and that's why I'm scared.

Melanie Balboa, 5th grade, Oxnard Street School, published in the LA Times, 9/18/01

As "Bin Laden Tops List of Suspects" (Sept. 12) points out, early speculation has been dead wrong in the past. It is important that we hit back at the right people. If it was not really Bin Laden and the U.S. bombs and kills civilians in Afghanistan, for example, maybe we're not much better than they are. We could also give these terrorist creeps what they seem to most desperately want: a "holy war" between the U.S. and most of the Islamic world.

Mark McIntyre, letter, LA Times, 9/14/01

In the face of such unspeakable horror we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity's problems.

Statement of Pope John Paul II, 9/12/01

Let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our action today so that it does not spiral out of control....This is a very complex issue. Military action is a one-dimensional reaction to a multidimensional problem.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), voting alone against the resolution to grant President Bush authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against terrorism, 9/14/01

In light of the terrorist attacks on the United States, it is apparent that the planned missile defense shield ("Star Wars") for the United States will be useless. There would be millions of dollars wasted on a system that cannot possibly defend the U.S.

We need instead to reexamine our foreign policy throughout the world to try to stop making enemies, and try to help the oppressed peoples of the world who are fodder for the likes of the extremists who have the power to bring the U.S. to a standstill.

Richard H. Smith, letter, LA Times, 9/12/01

When is someone going to admit that the terrorists have already won, immobilizing the world's greatest democracy and that much of what we are doing as a nation is simply stomping our feet in frustration?

Sorry to break the news to the flag-waving kids on the overpasses and to the media and politicians leading them on, but terrorism is here to stay.

Robert Scheer, Destined to Shadowbox With the Devil, LA Times, 9/18/01

Trying to stop terrorism is like trying to stop crime. When we can eradicate crime, we can eradicate terrorism.

Marvin Landfield, letter, LA Times, 9/14/01

The waiting game
Once the initial shock was over, the rest of the war began. The first phase was waiting for the Bush administration to move its chess pieces into position while pretending to seek a nonviolent solution to the crisis. The following is a log of miscellaneous comments from me and others charting the war's course:

>> Maybe now courtesy, humility, respect, caring, and the compassion for our fellow mankind will replace selfish pursuits. <<

Judging by the calls for annihilating countries and the hate crimes plaguing Arab Americans, I'm guessing not.

If any Americans want to give up their gas-guzzling SUVs to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, or vote for tax increases to pay for increased security and intelligence, let them speak up now. So far, I'd say selfishness still holds the upper hand.

Rob, e-mail, 9/19/01

Afghanistan's Taliban clerical leaders are meeting to discuss the fate of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden (Sept. 19). If they decide not to turn him over to the U.S., our country likely would retaliate against them, which would put a whole new meaning to the term "clerical error."

Kenneth L. Zimmerman, letter, LA Times, 9/20/01

Since President Bush has proclaimed that we want Bin Laden "dead or alive," perhaps the U.S. government should include the requisite "reward."

A bounty of, say, $500 million for the head of Bin Laden sounds like a bargain considering the projected cost of this posse.

Don Danielson, letter, LA Times, 9/20/01

Has anyone investigated the connection between the terrorists in Florida and the 2000 election debacle?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 9/23/01

In this new kind of war, isn't it time to consider new kinds of weapons? The Taliban has a great weakness, its inability to provide the basics of life to the people of Afghanistan. As refugees stream toward the borders of Afghanistan, the countries that are now at war against the terrorists harbored by the Taliban have powerful weapons at their disposal: food, shelter, clothing and medicine.

The greatest lesson in recent history is the long-lasting good done by the Marshall Plan. Again and again, the experts tell us conventional weapons are useless in the terrain of Afghanistan. Let's put a great lesson of history to work. Use the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of a decent, humane people: food, shelter, clothing and medicine.

Don Mac Brown, letter, LA Times, 9/28/01

These people scream hate and violence at Americans, telling us we're evil and inhuman. They attack our homes and workplaces as we flee in fear. They demand that we leave their homeland or die a horrible death.

These people are terrorizing us, which makes them terrorists by definition. Why hasn't Dubya added these terrorists to his list of targets and vowed to rid the world of them? Is it because most of them are white, Anglo-Saxon "patriots" who are terrorizing their fellow (Arab) Americans?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 9/29/01

For this new war, I think we should emulate some of our past warlike strategies. I see all Americans wearing "Whip Terrorism Now" buttons, and signs urging us to "Just Say No to Terrorism." I believe these steps will pretty much solve the problem.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 9/29/01

>> [Bush] will never be blamed for fostering it, Robert, even though we both know he has been itching for a war! <<

People have criticized Bush for various aspects of the crisis already—such as calling for a "crusade" against "evil." Wait till Americans find out he's ending the worldwide war against terror after taking out Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (my prediction) rather than conducting a long, indefinite campaign. They'll wonder what happened to all the talk of eradicating terrorism permanently, and Bush's approval rating will plummet just like his daddy's did.

Meanwhile, the pre-terrorism criticism will reassert itself as soon as Bush starts addressing the issues. Already Democrats have indicated they're not going to cave in on matters like drilling in the Arctic. Bush will be lucky to come out of this crisis even, no better or worse than he started.

Rob, e-mail, 10/4/01

Reader Tim Hodge says no one wants war and no one wants to hurt innocent Afghans. Actually, quite a few people, from Times readers to our national leaders, have demanded war and threatened to kill mass quantities of innocents. For instance, on CNN Henry Kissinger said "the people who did it must have the same end as the people who attacked Pearl Harbor."

In case Hodge hasn't cracked a history book, WW II ended when the US incinerated civilians in Tokyo (and Dresden) and vaporized civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet Kissinger is calling for the "same end" for terrorists. Since the terrorists are spread among the Afghan people, good luck fire-bombing or nuking them and not hurting any civilians.

It's the unthinking rush to kill that the peace protesters are protesting, not the goal of bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "War is a contagion." Some of us don't want to catch the disease.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/4/01

The Bush administration is doing a fine job of putting political and economic pressure on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Dubya's actions prove what many protesters have been saying: that military strikes against the terrorists may not be necessary. So what's the problem with giving peace a chance?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/4/01

Now that we've raised a million or so dollars for each of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, how about a charity drive for the land-mine victims, refugees, and orphans of Afghanistan?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/5/01

Reader Ross Barnett states that our first priority is "to reduce and eventually stop opportunities for appalling acts like those committed Sept. 11." I don't know who authorized Barnett to speak for other Americans, but it wasn't me. Having spoken to many Americans since the attacks, I'd say our top priorities include preventing unnecessary deaths, alleviating social injustice, and protecting human rights worldwide. Curtailing terrorism barely breaks the top 10.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/7/01

David Diestel says he has a simple question for us pacifists: How many innocent civilians must terrorists kill before we'll go to war? I have a counter-question for him: How many innocent civilians must soldiers kill before we'll end the war? When Diestel can answer my question, he'll also have the answer to his.

Diestel is right...that was a simple question. If he has any tough questions for us pacifists, I hope he'll write again.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/7/01

Reader Tom Puckett criticizes peace activists for protesting war, saying, "The last time I looked, our government had launched not a war but a global police hunt." Yes, but that comes after President Bush and others called repeatedly for a worldwide war, even a crusade, against terrorism. Bush has pulled back from his first overblown war cries precisely because the peace-loving people of the world denounced him for it.

Far from disparaging peace activists, Puckett should thank them for bringing about a result he apparently approves of. And in only two weeks, too. The peaceniks deserve a pat on the back for making restraint, coalition-building, and humanitarian concerns into primary components of this war.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/7/01

[Correction:  Our government launched a war in Afghanistan and a global police hunt elsewhere. Both are working, but the former has killed thousands of civilians and the latter hasn't.]

Rob, 12/14/01

Initial reactions to the "war," phase two
On Sunday, October 7, 2001, "President" Bush launched his undeclared war against Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, evildoers, enemies of freedom and democracy, and the US Constitution. The commentary continues:

How can President Bush have the audacity to ask "God [to] continue to bless America" when he launched attacks on Afghanistan on Sunday—Christians' holy day of observance? The message he sent to the world was this: "I don't give a damn about Christianity either."

Jonathan Chase, letter, LA Times, 10/8/01

So far I must congratulate President Bush. He's following the script laid out by antiwar activists. Namely, exhaust all political and economic approaches before committing yourself to war. If you must act militarily, use narrowly targeted strikes, not sweeping blitzkriegs. Bush has even called for a Palestinian state. If I didn't know better, I'd say he has finally shut down the America-firsters in his administration and is listening to the world's people.

Rob Schmidt, letter, LA Times, 10/8/01

With the beginning of large-scale military operations against Afghanistan on Sunday, terrorists around the globe are probably rejoicing as we take the bait, as we endorse their fundamental premise: Violence is the way to effect change. But they are one step ahead of us, because they understand that each violent act escalates the scale of the next.

Osama bin Laden's power resulted in large part as a reaction to the devastation we inflicted in the Gulf War. But we don't make that connection. Someone has to break the cycle, but apparently it won't be us. When the Bush administrations are long gone, I shudder to think of the rubble to which their wars will have reduced our world. But let our children and grandchildren worry about that one.

Robert N. Treuhaft, letter, LA Times, 10/8/01

This is a test. If President Bush is such a consensus builder, then let him do his best to lead this country's populace to join others throughout the world to build and help maintain world consensus and action against terrorism and the "industries" (drugs, guns and armies for hire) that propagate it. That would be an accomplishment.

Drop food, clothes, medicine and books—not bombs. Send in at the appropriate time doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers—not soldiers. Destroy hate by ministering to real needs that keep countries full of people in thrall to demigods. Validate with positive action and moral leadership the concept and the reality of diverse cultures united in common cause to lift up and support the brotherhood of man in a world made small by the technological revolution.

Perhaps it's appropriate that Bin Laden lives in a cave. The rest of us don't have to join him. We have already ventured to reach for the stars. We must not stop now.

Marjorie Creswell Walsleben, letter, LA Times, 10/8/01

Re "An Eternal War of Mind-Sets," Opinion, Oct. 7: Neal Gabler suggests that we can "measure this [war] in centuries." I would propose that the U.S. has much more influence over terrorism than he thinks. The already committed terrorists such as Bin Laden will not change their minds, regardless of our actions. But the vast numbers of disaffected and desperate youths from which they draw both their cover and their recruits are the ones we should be aiming at. Searching for ways to make the world more equitable and reexamining some U.S. policies that may be fanning the flames for these masses—these are our real "weapons" in the quest for a safe and peaceful world for our children and grandchildren.

Kitty Kroger, letter, LA Times, 10/8/01

More comments on the "war"

Hudson T. Patten says the question we should be asking is whether Islam is a "peace-loving" religion. Why would we ask that question first, since a better question is whether Christianity is a peace-loving religion. After all, there are more Christians in the world, and they've killed more people in the name of God than Muslims have.

What could be a better example of the West's Christian principles than launching a war on Sunday, the Christian sabbath? Did Bush order the first airstrikes while sitting in church Sunday morning?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/8/01

Noah Graham wonders why pundits are calling for the US to reassess its foreign policies now but didn't call for the US to reassess its domestic policies after the McVeigh bombing. The answer is rather simple. America's foreign policies have been wrongheaded recently and most of the world has told us so.

In contrast, America's domestic policies were on target when McVeigh tried to launch his "second revolution." Most Americans believed in their government and didn't think it was abridging their freedoms. They wanted programs like welfare and gun control, the kind of "big government" McVeigh opposed.

To put it simply, our domestic policies had popular support then and our foreign policies don't have popular support now. That's the key difference.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/8/01

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has admitted President Bush never considered any option other than war. In other words, Bush's demands that the Taliban turn over Bin Laden and close the terrorist camps were a pretext, a sham. Whether the Taliban complied or not, Bush intended to go to war from the beginning.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/9/01

One thing seems to be missing from the Times's coverage of the war: an estimated death toll. The number of casualties is arguably the most important factor in determining this war's validity. With our government's proven desire to glorify success and cover up failure, reporting on this issue is essential.

A box reporting the casualties estimated by the Pentagon, the Taliban, and third parties would be appropriate. If any party refused to provide numbers, the Times could report the refusal. Interview beggars and orphans, if necessary, but please give us some idea of how many people are dying.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/12/01

Has anyone noticed how masterfully Bush is lowering America's expectations? With no hint of how nakedly his position has changed, Bush has shifted us from a general war against worldwide terrorism to a specific war against Al Qaeda that will last maybe a month, maybe "a year or two."

Bush Jr. certainly has learned how to spin a war from his Poppy. Like Bush Sr. did in the Gulf War, look for Dubya to declare "victory" in six to 12 months, whether he's accomplished his goals or not, and bring the troops home.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/12/01

The Times reported—on page 26, below the fold—that the Bush administration may urge Israel to recognize a Palestinian state with a shared Jerusalem as part of the plan. And that wasn't significant enough to make the first half of the main section? What does it take for peace-oriented news to break through the war coverage?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/12/01

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations (Oct. 13) presents a singular opportunity to the U.S in the war against terrorism: to switch our strategy and wholeheartedly commit our efforts, both diplomatic and military, primarily through the U.N. With anti-American protests steadily rising throughout the Muslim world—not all of which are groundless—such a move could pay immediate political dividends.

The present threat highlights the bankruptcy of go-it-alone strategies and the need to heed all voices in the community of nations, particularly those of the non-Western nations. The Nobel citation said it well: "[Annan] has made it clear that sovereignty cannot be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations."

The Rev. Richard W. Gillett, Minister for Social Justice, Episcopal Diocese of L.A., letter, LA Times, 10/17/01

Let me see if I understand. The terrorists were cowardly because they refused to negotiate with us and instead attacked people from afar without warning. We're brave because we refuse to negotiate with them and instead attack people from afar without warning. Does that about sum it up?

Some say it takes more courage to turn the other cheek, avoid a fight, walk away. But then, some people have read the Bible's New Testament and understood its meaning. Sadly, that group doesn't include George W. Bush.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/17/01

Let me be the first to make a prediction. Some or all of the anthrax attacks will prove to be the work of America's homegrown anti-government, anti-abortion terrorists. You know, the same people who blow up buildings, attack Arab Americans, and shoot liberal activists who disagree with them.

You read it here first.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/17/01

Let's see: Bush won't negotiate with the Taliban because that would make him look weak and hurt his ratings. Bush hasn't sent in the ground troops because that would upset Americans and hurt his ratings. Like Bush Sr. and Clinton, Dubya has undertaken the perfect war: Blow up the scurrying little ants and their tinker-toys from afar without risking American lives.

Bush should name this phase of the war "Righteous Revenge." Killing with bombs and missiles is the feel-good solution for God-blessed Americans.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/17/01

Any moment now, I expect Jerry Falwell to tell us God is mailing anthrax in envelopes to punish liberal politicians, media, and family planning centers for their sins.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/18/01

I sure feel good that we're bombing the bejeezus out of Afghanistan. How about you? Who really cares that we haven't come close to flushing Bin Laden out? We're getting even by killing towelheads, and that's what counts.

Really, this war has been perfect so far. The enemy is half way around the world, already reduced to rubble, and no one cares about it. It's like a shooting gallery for our out-of-practice troops...a live-action video game. (The "liberal" media is helping by ignoring the human cost and make it sound like bombs vs. buildings.)

If Afghanistan didn't exist, Bush would've had to invent it—like the "war" against Albania in Wag the Dog. No risk, no casualties, no political cost...Dubya has topped his Poppy's war. He's the man, for now.

Rob, e-mail, 10/18/01

Let's see: It's okay for the US government to kill people in Afghanistan only marginally related to the criminal Bin Laden, but it was a moral abomination for the US government to kill people in Waco only marginally related to the criminal Koresh. Does that about sum up your position?

And let's see: When Clinton helped alleged terrorists obtain power in Kosovo, that was a moral crime. But when Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. et al. helped alleged terrorists obtain power in various countries, that was okay. Does that about sum up your position?

Like Bill Bennett, you must believe it's better to have hypocritical morals than no morals at all. Because your positions reek with hypocrisy.

Rob, e-mail to "libertarian" correspondent, 10/18/01

>> Make sure your congressmen know that we are very willing to fight the war, but our liberties must stand in memorial to the victims. <<

Something like 2/3 of Americans favor curtailing our civil rights, including the media's right of access to the war. I suspect our soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and rescue workers would vote to limit our freedom in even greater numbers. They may defend our lives, but the people who protest do more to defend our liberty.

Rob, e-mail to military correspondent, 10/20/01

I hope no one calls the first American casualties a "tragedy." A tragedy is a senseless act of God. These dead people were a senseless act of Bush.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/20/01

>> Afghanistan has a clear choice — give up bin Laden to US jurisdiction (or the jurisdiction of a UN tribunal) or face retaliation. <<

That's exactly what Afghanistan did not have: a clear choice. Bush refused to "negotiate" (i.e., say) whom the Taliban was supposed to turn Bin Laden over to. He also pretty much ruled out turning Bin Laden over to a third party such as the UN.

Most "civilized" countries won't extradite criminals to the US when the criminals might face the death penalty, and this is no different. Since Bush refused to "negotiate" the conditions of Bin Laden's surrender, it's not surprising the Taliban refused to consign him to an unknown fate. Especially since Bush made clear, in word and deed, that he was going to attack the Taliban no matter what they did.

Clear? Clear as mud, maybe. From declaring a general war against terrorism to targeting Bin Laden and Al Qaeda specifically, Bush has been anything but clear. I wouldn't take his crusade-threatening, flip-flopping rhetoric seriously either if I were his opponent.

Rob, e-mail, 10/20/01

>> Back in World War I, Moslem Turks killed 1.5 million Christian Armenians. <<

Maybe they should've sung "God Bless Armenia" and waved Armenian flags.

Maybe God was on vacation that year.

Twenty-five years later, Christian Germans killed six million Jews. Funny how God and Allah both seem to want people dead.

Rob, e-mail, 10/20/01

>> If Falwell and Robertson think what happened is punishment from who they worship, it's not God these guys are worshiping. <<

God is all things to all people. That's the problem with God.

Rob, e-mail, 10/20/01

God bless Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, America, and the rest of the world.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/22/01

I strongly object to your publishing silly letters like Jerome Greenblatt's. He says we're fighting to defend what's "right" and that requires censorship. If the Bill of Rights isn't right enough for Greenblatt, maybe he should move to Afghanistan, where no free press exists to expose the foibles of war. Or the foibles of Greenblatt.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/22/01

Re "Monsters of the Imagination," editorial, Oct. 21: "But on Sept. 11 we saw in disbelief, live on TV, more sudden death than on any other day in American history." What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Oh, I forgot. That's Japanese history.

Lawrence Berk, letter, LA Times, 10/24/01

>> Boeing is getting in line early for panic spending by the US Govt. <<

Most industries have gotten in the same line. So much for their belief in capitalism. They believe in making money but not losing it, clearly.

When it comes to losing money, they're socialists. Which makes them hypocrites as well.

Rob, e-mail, 10/24/01

I haven't taken a position on the not-uncommon claims that Bush* has pursued war against Afghanistan to secure Central Asia for US oil interests.

Personally, I don't think he's smart enough to manipulate world events like that. After all, this is the doofus who brays "tax cuts," "missile defense," and "Arctic drilling" as the one-size solutions that fit all. Doesn't matter whether we're in boom times or bust, at peace or at war, he's chanting his mantra. Pull his string and this plastic toy utters the same phrases over and over.

Clearly, this is someone who can't come up with complex plans or thoughts. He's stretched his brain to the limit by casting Bin Laden in comic-book terms—a la his Bible or Dr. Seuss books. If the terrorists had killed three or 30 instead of 3,000, Bush would still be talking about a crusade against evil.

This is the guy who can't pass an environmental regulation without supporting arsenic in the water. Who can't name a historic landmark without picking a Superfund site. I'm confident Bush* doesn't have a subtle, Machiavellian scheme to win the war for oil. Like Reagan, he simply isn't that intelligent.

Let it never be said I won't defend our "president" when he deserves it!

*Elected by the Supreme Court, not by the voters.

Rob, e-mail, 10/25/01

The idea that we may invade other countries to root out terrorism is one of the saddest jokes perpetuated on the American public. But I'm sure it's helping Bush's* ratings, which may explain why he perpetuates the joke. If he revealed how limited this war will have to be, even the warmongers would start to question his "leadership." That would doom Bush's* war faster than any terrorist response.

As I read the international community, it won't tolerate a long war against Afghanistan and it won't tolerate a war anywhere else. The world sanctioned the liberation of Kuwait and it sanctioned the elimination of Al Qaeda. I'm guessing that's all it'll sanction. If Bush*/America tries anything more than that, it'll become the victimizer, not the victim.

Remember, you read it here first.

*Not the legitimate president.

Rob, e-mail, 10/25/01

We've learned that West Germany harbored Bin Laden's terrorists for years. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also harbored Hitler's Nazis for years. The pattern is clear, so what are we for? Let's teach these terror-loving Germans a lesson!

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/25/01

>> Then again, so far, we haven't declared war on anybody specific, either. That's very likely to change soon, of course. <<

We don't need to declare a war to fight one. We can just drop bombs until everyone evil either dies or surrenders.

Rob, e-mail, 10/29/01

Not only is Bush reducing women and children to bloody pulp, he's even blown up some dogs. I hope they were "evil" dogs who got what they deserved.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 10/29/01

>> But what if a passenger could have taken out a terrorist before he brought one of the plane home to roost into the WTC? <<

Who was stopping the passengers? Are you afraid of a guy with a box-cutter? Give me my briefcase and I'll take him on, especially if my life is in danger. A blanket over his head, a purse around his knife-arm, and he's down. Threat over.

Rob, e-mail, 10/29/01

>> Hearing these right-wingers on the radio makes me wonder just what we're fighting for as they think that anything besides kicking some already wasted Afghanistani ass is UNAMERICAN. <<

That's what we're fighting for, all right: the right to kick somebody's butt. Blowing up the Taliban does little or nothing to further the cause of justice. It does little or nothing to bring Osama bin Laden to ground. It does little or nothing to stop terrorist attacks. (The next wave of terrorists may have been in Germany and the US for years.) But it sure makes us feel good about ourselves.

>> These kind of remarks go against every fiber of my being and are against what this country is supposedly based upon. <<

They're against what the country is supposedly based on, but in accord with what the country is actually based on.

Rob, e-mail, 10/30/01

>> Any news on the Star Wars initiative to make the world safe or is that another obvious black hole to throw cash into? <<

Bush is pushing his missile defense system as much as ever. Ten thousand commentators have pointed out how useless it'll be against terrorist attacks.

Rob, e-mail, 11/1/01

I read patriotic Americans have sent tons of dog food and thousands of doggie booties to help the rescue dogs at the World Trade Center. I wonder how many dollars patriotic Americans have sent to help Afghanistan's refugees...or America's refugees (its poor, abused, and homeless people).

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 11/1/01

>> So what would you do? <<

Bring Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorists to justice without going to war, if possible. Once Serbia ousted Milosevic from office, we didn't need the military to bring him to justice. And war didn't do anything to remove Saddam Hussein from office. War is an excellent tool for revenge, but a poor tool for justice.

Rob, e-mail, 11/7/01

So far we've pulped lots of Taliban soldiers—soldiers who were guilty of nothing more than loyalty to their government. Have we touched or even inconvenienced a single Taliban leader, Al Qaeda terrorist, or Osama bin Laden? What exactly is this war about: justice, or revenge?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 11/7/01

>> We can get the terrorists without giving up our constitutional protections. <<

We can also give up our constitutional protections without getting the terrorists—as we seem to be doing now.

Rob, e-mail, 11/9/01

Apparently America has won the war on terrorism. Why else would Ashcroft take the time to prolong the suffering of terminally ill people? Oh yeah, I forgot. Like Osama bin Laden, Ashcroft is a religious fundamentalist.

Greg Steinberg, letter, LA Times, 11/9/01

John Balzar asks why Ashcroft chose now to try to cancel the results of Oregon's democratic vote for assisted suicide. I think he knows the answer to his question. Ashcroft is doing it because he can.

Bush came into office pushing an extremist agenda more divisive than anything since Newt Gingrich's Contract on America. Democrats and other patriotic Americans told Bush that his plans to give away America's riches to his fat-cat supporters were dead on arrival. Now, under cover of the war frenzy, this administration is resuming its attack on America.

Aided and abetted by the media, Bush has made it unpatriotic to question the government's actions. With papers like the Times and columnists like Balzar calling for us to stand united, Bush knows he'll never have a better chance to ram through his right-wing legislation. If America goes into debt paying off the Christian-capitalist minority who got him appointed president, well, who cares? We're at war, dammit. Bin Laden has nukes, so let's suspend judgment. Big Brother knows best.

Tax cuts that won't help the economy...oil drilling that won't reduce our energy dependence...a missile defense system that won't stop terrorism: they're baaaack. Add a reduction in civil rights, bailouts for job-cutting corporations, censorship of presidential papers, a renewed program to fund religious institutions, and now Ashcroft's onslaught against the doctor-patient relationship. If Bush gets a chance to further eviscerate environmental regulations, gun control laws, or the right to abortion, look for him to take it.

In short, if the terrorists hadn't offered Bush a target, he would've had to invent one. That's the only way he could've gotten Americans to unite with him, not against him.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 11/10/01

While doing an exemplary job of extolling the virtues of stealth weaponry, the U.S. media have not proved as adept at informing the public about stealth policy, wherein our war against terrorism has cannily evolved into a war against the Taliban.

Michael Balchunas, letter, LA Times, 11/10/01

Bush is still talking about ridding the world of evil. As with his many other statements, people have learned to translate this. When he says "evil," he means "a small group of Afghan terrorists whom he considers evil," not "evil."

Rob, e-mail, 11/13/01

I'm trying to understand today's conservatives, but I'm confused:

If anyone can explain these conundrums, please do.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 11/15/01

The Taliban government falls
The next phase of the war involved mopping up the remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters (most of them fled to fight another day), stabilizing the country, and setting the stage for a new government to emerge.

Officials are talking about charging John Walker, the so-called American Talib, for treason. According to federal statute, it's illegal for anyone owing allegiance to the United States to give "aid or comfort" to its enemies. By that standard, shouldn't Jerry Falwell be the first to go on trial?

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 12/7/01

In a speech at the Norfolk Naval Station last Friday, Bush said "for some reason, only young followers are ushered down this deadly path to paradise while terrorist leaders run into caves to save their own hides." In other news, three American soldiers died in the war Dick Cheney is presiding over from a secret command center hundreds of feet below an East Coast mountain.

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 12/13/01

Lessons learned from the Bin Laden video:

Rob, letter to the LA Times, 12/14/01

Related links
America's exceptional values
Winning through nonviolence
America's cultural mindset

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