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Facing the Enemy Within
16 October 2001
It's been a busy week. Civilian casualties pile up in Afghanistan, a refugee/starvation crisis looms, Pakistan (and its nuclear weapons) destabilize as the coalition-partner government/media pronounce the air strikes a major success. Massive antiwar protests take place internationally (as many as 200 dead from this weekend's protest in Nigeria) while leaders insist their citizens are united behind the war cause, and pass oppressive legislation to keep them that way. Anthrax letters make the rounds in the US as people stock up on staples and worry if they're next to be laid off. Is it just me or is this whole thing getting really crazy?
Voices of antagonism seem to rule the media. In what can only be
as a bad case of "Noam Envy," conservative columnist David
been cranking out seething essays all but blaming MIT professor
respected intellectual Noam Chomsky for the September 11
Chomsky the "ayatollah of anti-American hate"
Brings to mind Bush Jr. threatening "you are either with us or with the terrorists," which doesn't leave those interested in peace with much option. So, probably much to Horowitz's chagrin, this weekend huge antiwar protests took place in over 100 cities internationally (http://pax.prot est.net/Peace/october13th.html) - 20,000 marchers in London alone. And thumbing its nose at the intransigent US (which not only withholds crucial payments but also violates international law and the United Nations Charter with the air strikes), the Nobel Committee awarded the United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan with this year's peace prize.
It's hard to make sense of it all, and a recent Newsweek poll (http://www.msnbc .com/news/639000.asp) shows that people are confused. While most Americans reportedly saw US policies in the Middle East as a primary factor in the September 11 terrorist attacks, the respondents were divided regarding whether those policies should actually be changed. An international Gallup poll ( http://www.gallup-international.com/terrorismpoll_figures.htm) showed much different results. A full 32 out of 35 countries (the US, Israel and India in opposition) favored a criminal justice response, rather than military action, in response to the terrorist attack on America. The numbers were clear: 67%-88% in NATO/Western countries and 83%-94% in Latin America favoring a non-military approach. Surprisingly, 30% of US respondents also supported this option even though US corporate media consistently ignores it. Meanwhile, a US Commander-in-Chief with minimal international experience and armed with foreign policy written by a major weapons manufacturer representative (Bruce Jackson of Lockheed Martin) plans his "crusade." As Bush Jr. sends young soldiers off to the treacherous hills of Afghanistan to fight a war with no exit - let alone entrance - strategy, it's interesting to note that his own military service consisted solely of a stint in the Texas Air National Guard.
As a North American, my heart goes out to the soldiers entering this war because I fear many will be killed, for no good reason. My heart also goes out to the Afghan civilians who will lose their lives, for no good reason. Reports of Afghanis crossing the border into Pakistan only to join the jihad against the US because they are incensed about the bombing of their country, don't say much for the logic of our current policy. So what are sane options? No one can deny that the horrific WTC attack must be punished, and the perpetrators brought to justice. It's just doubtful whether blowing up random sites with unclear links to Sept. 11, and thereby enraging and alienating the Muslim world is the way to do it. A limited, specified military response perhaps; but that's different from a diffuse, all-encompassing badly-defined crusade.
It's clear that US transportation infrastructure, such as airport and Amtrak security, must be properly funded (significant that the fast food industry lured a lot of airport security personnel away even before the attacks - seems that flipping burgers offered better benefits than screening for weapons). The vulnerability of our nuclear facilities, not to mention the likelihood of nuclear weapons and scientific expertise being smuggled out of Russia should be top priority for the US Department of Energy; the necessity to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and decentralize our energy infrastructure is obvious. We must also be wary of those in our midst who would capitalize on the current crisis to ram through their own destructive agenda - US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, for one.
US foreign policy must be reviewed, not only regarding today's counterinsurgent landscape, but also to prevent a new generation of terrorists from being created. The Palestine/Israel question, Iraqi sanctions, and support of corrupt and violent regimes must be addressed, not because this is what the terrorists have demanded but because it should have been done a long time ago. We need to look at the fact that on the same day that 6,000 innocent souls lost their lives in the WTC attack, another 24,000 starved to death - as happens every single day. People with no hope embrace desperate measures. And why is it that the State Department still supports the sale of weapons capable of bringing down airplanes and helicopters to private individuals abroad? We must put the safety of those willing to lay their lives on the line ahead of corporate profit. We should avoid entering Faustian pacts with countries engaging in their own terrorist activities - Putin's invasion of Chechnya, for example.
We should acknowledge that the "international community" and NATO are not the same thing. How ironic that many of those accused of being "anti-global" before are the very ones calling for a truly global, as opposed to unilateral, response to this tragedy. And that means going through internationally recognized governing bodies, such as the UN. The fate of Afghanistan, and indeed the whole region, after this bombing campaign will define the safety of the planet; as such it will require sustained and clearly-targeted support on an international scale, and that might as well start now.
It's hard not to recall former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright's infamous response years back when asked about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of the US sanctions: "We think the price is worth it." Now in these crazy times, we need to get past the name-calling and look at the actions of our governments ... and question if the ultimate price to be paid really is worth it.