YES!: HOLY WAR NO!
is precisely the problem. In an ideal world, the US would
go in, get Osama, and get the h*ll out. For even a pacifist
will have to admit that future acts of terrorism, such as
the 9/11 atrocity, must be deterred and justice must be
served. The 6,000-plus victims of the 9/11 attacks must be
avenged, and that's what the American people want: vengeance
exacted from the perpetrators, not the military occupation
of Afghanistan, not the equivalent of a new cold war, not
a holy war against Islam and its nearly one-billion adherents
the public supports is not a new Crusade but an American police
action designed to get the culprits of an appalling crime.
A whopping 90
percent of the American public supports US military strikes
in Afghanistan because this is how the initial attacks have
been characterized by the administration. The US is not even
openly claiming, at this point, that it wants to overthrow
the Taliban and set up a new government. Over the last few
days they've been distancing themselves from the Northern
Alliance, at least in public, and at yesterday's [10/08/01]
daily briefing for reporters, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer
once again reiterated official US disinterest in determining
the future government of Afghanistan. He declared several
times that we are not in the business of "nation-building"
over there. All of which may argue the case for a short stay.
But there are other ominous indications that General Clark
may yet get his "open-ended" war. Will the American
public support that? Let's hope we never get to find out
US missiles rained down on Afghanistan, the
chilling voice of Osama bin Laden, carried by Aljazeera
television in Qatar, rang out over Western airwaves, directly
addressing Americans as well as his fellow Muslims: "America,"
he said, "is full of fear from its north to its south,"
and Americans "will never feel safe until we and the
Palestinians feel safe."
greatest buildings are destroyed," he hissed, agreeing
with Jerry Falwell that "here is America struck by God
Almighty," and adding that "America is tasting now
only a copy of what we have tasted." In my view, the
video comes very close to an open admission of responsibility
for the 9/11 attacks, although I admit the evidence is inconclusive.
key here is that he explicitly threatened new atrocities,
wrapping his monstrous pseudo-confession in the rhetoric of
vengeance, in effect saying: now you feel our pain.
He claims the right of retaliation when he says "Our
Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more 80 years,
of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood
spilled, its sanctities desecrated." In this first fusillade
in the propaganda war, bin Laden used all the weapons at his
disposal. "A million innocent children are dying at this
time as we speak," he said, "killed in Iraq without
any guilt." Some years ago, an American reporter, Leslie
Stahl, brought this issue up to then US secretary of state
Stahl: "We have heard that a half million children have
died (as a result of sanctions against Iraq). I mean, that
is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is
the price worth it?"
Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the
price, we think the price is worth it."
~ Sixty Minutes, May 12, 1996
win a "war on terrorism," the US is going to have
to come up with a different answer than the one offered by
VOICE OF EVIL
tanks rampage across Palestine," continued bin Laden,
his soft voice and gentle eyes a bizarre counterpoint to the
unrelenting harshness of his message. The voice of pure evil,
as smooth as a pearl one that contains within it a grain
of truth: Israeli tanks barrel into "Ramallah, Rafah
and Beit Jala and many
other parts of the land of Islam, and we do not hear anyone
raising his voice or reacting. But when the sword fell upon
America after 80 years, hypocrisy raised its head up high
bemoaning those killers who toyed with the blood, honor and
sanctities of Muslims." Here he is speaking directly
to the Arab "street," while also taunting his Western
enemies: he scores points with the former by not only pointing
out the hypocrisy of the West, but also in personally holding
wonder Colin Powell is putting pressure on the Qatari authorities
to close down Aljazeera TV, ironically one of the few freewheeling
and uncensored media outlets in the Arab world. The Bush administration
knows how very effective this line of argument is in the Middle
East: the appeal of bin Laden's message goes way beyond the
ultra-fundamentalist faction of Islam represented by the Taliban.
reaches all the way into Bosnia, where US troops are stationed
and where an extensive nest of terrorists has been uncovered,
operating (until very recently) under the protection of elements
in the US-supported Islamist government. Of course, since
we can't threaten to invade Bosnia having already done so
it is hard to imagine what the consequences of this will
be for the present government. How many times have we been
told that the Muslims of Europe were "moderates"
whose brand of Islam had been rendered entirely harmless and
even benevolent? Then what were these "moderate"
Bosnian Muslims doing handing out Bosnian passports by the
dozen to Al Qaeda operatives?
OUR FOREIGN POLICY
W. Bush has declared war on terrorism, but cannot win without
making a major turn in US foreign policy. If the Bush administration
is now engaged in an effort to win over Muslim hearts and
minds, then a wide-ranging review of US policy perspectives
in the Middle East is in order. Unconditional support not
only for Israel but for the decadent and tottering Saudi regime
everything must be put on the table. While we're
at it, we might on the strength of the evidence gathered
so far suspend indefinitely all aid to the Bosnian government.
PROGRAM FOR NONINTERVENTIONISTS
is not too late to oppose this war, in spite of the overwhelming
support US policy presently enjoys. Now that the war has begun,
advocates of a noninterventionist foreign policy must seek
to limit its scope as much as possible, descrying each
escalation as it occurs, while arguing more generally that
it will have the exact opposite of its intended consequences.
We should critically support those in this administration
who believe American war aims must be narrowly focused
on the elimination of the 9/11 terrorists. Secretary of State
Colin Powell was been a force for restraint in the prelude
to this war, and has come under heavy fire from the warmongers
for it: but the moment the US response went into full military
mode, Powell lost control and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld took the helm. Now the hawks have the ball and who
can doubt they will head for the goal line? Aside from that,
this war has its own dangerous dynamic, one that could very
quickly give new and deadly meaning to that old Vietnam-era
the President has alluded to the postwar reconstruction of
Afghanistan as comparable to the rebuilding and occupation
of Japan and Germany. Of course, US soldiers are still
occupying Germany and Japan, and the question is: will
they be occupying Afghanistan 60 years after an American "victory."
That would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed, one that recalls the
statement of old King
Pyrrhus: "One more 'victory' such as this and we
argument is simple: it cannot be in America's interest to
take on the entire Muslim world. Such a mad course of action
is neither necessary nor possible. That the Bush administration
agrees with this perspective is underscored by the Powellian
strategy of building a broad coalition including Arab countries
an effort which so enraged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon that he grotesquely likened it to Munich! Naturally,
the Israelis are pursuing their own national interest, which
puts Israel first, and one reason many Americans admire Sharon
is that he does this so doggedly and unrelentingly. On the
other hand, it is no less admirable when an American President
and his secretary of state pursue an "America first"
policy, and one only wishes that some of our more aggressive
warhawks understood this.
worst case scenario is a world war, pitting the US and Israel
against the world's Muslims, and a good deal of the rest.
Yet that is the war that is coming, unless the warhawks are
stopped in their tracks. Justice, yes: a new Middle
East war no, no, a thousand times no! That must be
the new battle-cry of the noninterventionist movement as we
face an uncertain and increasingly frightening future. Speaking
am listening, as I write, to a television news report of the
second verified anthrax case discovered in Florida at
the offices of the company that publishes the National
Enquirer, the Sun, and other supermarket tabloids.
The office is located quite near where one of the hijackers
trained for his last deadly flight. I first heard about the
anthrax threat on Free
Republic, the famed news-and-comment site, where a few
stories from local media were posted several days ago, and
mentioned it in a column written last Friday and posted
Monday. It took the mainstream news media until yesterday,
really, to come up to speed on this one, and I can't help
but think that they held the news back. Not only because they
didn't want to panic the public, but also because they didn't
want to believe it themselves. Are we now living in a world
where we don't want to go to the corner store on account of
adds a nightmarish dimension to America's "new war,"
and gives us a clue as to what's so new about it. For this
is clearly not another Nintendo war, to be viewed through
opera glasses by the chattering classes and the public at
large. What could go down in history as the Anthrax War will
fought on American soil, as well as in the wilds of Afghanistan.
After all, the first blow was struck here, and, officials
are telling us, it will not be the last.
At this point, the public may begin to catch on to the kind
of war they're signing up for: the response could be wildly
contradictory and potentially violent. The anger directed
at Middle Eastern or "suspicious"-looking people
already reaching a disturbing level could erupt in a burst
of violence, and then we would see some real "ethnic
cleansing." President Bush, to his great credit, immediately
drew attention to the danger of violence directed at Arab-Americans,
and met with several of their leaders. Hopefully, this presidential
sentiment will translate into action when it comes time to
protect them against ignorant vengeful mobs.
PRICE OF EMPIRE
same anger, while motivating a "nuke 'em" mentality,
could also seek out and find other targets: government agencies,
law enforcement, Bill Clinton, and politicians in general.
Our foreign policy may come in for some hard questions as
people begin to think, in between bouts of anger and hysteria
after each new attack: is this the way we want to live and
for what? The price of Empire are we willing to pay it?
My guess is: no. Taking your gas mask to work every
day may not be much of a burden, but wearing it on the subway
is bound to get old, fast.
are at a critical stage, in which the debate inside the Bush
administration between "hawks" and "doves"
on vital importance. In support of the former, a number
of conspiracy theories are now being bruited about linking
9/11 with various states: Iraq is the number one target of
these theorists, although Syria and even Saudi Arabia figure
prominently. The meeting of an alleged Iraqi agent with one
of the 9/11 plotters is cited but never sourced and these
same publicists often mistakenly postulate some ideological
affinity between Saddam and Osama. This fails to take into
account OBL's own words, in his post-9/11 message. The world,
he said, is divided into two camps: believers and unbelievers.
In Al Qaeda's view, the secular Saddam is little better than
an atheist. Perhaps this explains their offer to defend Kuwait
and Saudi Arabia against Iraq during the Gulf war.
the heels of the anthrax scare comes the announcement
by UN representative John Negroponte that "We may
find that our self-defense requires further actions with respect
to other organizations and other states." Negroponte's
letter to the Security Council reiterates that the United
States "has obtained clear and compelling information
that the al-Qaeda organization, which is supported by the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan, had a central role in the attacks,"
adding "there is still much we do not know. Our inquiry
is in its early stages." As Matt Drudge would put it:
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