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Terrorism a Matter of Perspective

16 November 2001

What a wonderful country we have in America. We have achieved greatness and amassed tremendous power. America is the heart of democracy and I am proud to be an American.

Prior to Sept. 11, life in America was idyllic and we took for granted that it would always be that way. One of the best things about the America of my youth is that the nation educated its populace. It expected its citizens to challenge the country to greatness, as it did during the civil rights era, which made America better.

While many think it strange that terrorism has reached America's shores, this is not the first time terrorism has struck this nation; it's merely the first time everybody has suffered from it. African-Americans have experienced the terrorism of racism and the effects of America's terrorists, the Ku Klux Klan.

It wasn't just the Klan. Pictures taken during the civil rights protests show sheriffs beating and dogs biting civil rights protesters. This surely was government-sponsored terrorism.

As I have watched the propaganda films showing the public executions and hangings in Afghanistan, I don't see how they differ from the hangings of many innocent black men by the Klan or the capital punishment we now inflict on criminals in the United States. The Taliban says they have executed only 42 people since they took control of Afghanistan five years ago. How does that compare with the number of executions in Texas during that time?

The United States has 13 agencies that deal with terrorism; they have 13 different definitions of what terrorism is. America isn't the only place that has trouble defining terrorism. The United Nations has been unable to reach agreement on a resolution against terrorism because the 189 nations that belong to that body can't agree on the definition of terrorist. People thought it absurd when the Reuters news service refused to call Osama bin Laden a terrorist. Reuters, which is based in London, has said, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Many of the world's leaders have been terrorists. Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are perfect examples.

One of the differences between communist Russia and the United States was that the United States once had an independent, curious press. Today the press is lazy, taking orders from the government.

The government is feeding us footage of all the positive things it has accomplished in the war on terrorism. We are not seeing the people who have been slaughtered in Afghanistan or the nursing homes and other places accidentally bombed by our "smart bombs." We are not seeing the anti-American demonstrations taking place all over the world.

And while we pledge allegiance and wave the flag we are being blindly transformed into a controlled society. Protesters in Atlanta last week shouted as they picketed, "CNN: half the story, all the time."

CBS' aging Dan Rather sits comfortably at his desk in New York covering a war fought 6,750 miles away. He says he's ready to go to the front ... but one has to wonder why he isn't there already. He covered the Vietnam war when he was younger. In his youth he would have pressured the network to let him go.

NBC's Tom Brokaw is stuck in the World War II era. This era was wonderful to the white men and women who fought a war and received their appropriate honors. But this was a totally segregated war that overlooked the accomplishments of a whole race of Americans. Brokaw's World War II memories were horror stories to many.

Geraldo Rivera has the curiosity of a journalist. He knows you can't cover a war accurately from behind a desk. Rivera has left to cover the Afghanistan war for the Fox network.

Imagine a democracy where the press didn't give you the enemy's side of the story. The Middle East and much of Europe are getting all of Al-Jazeera's coverage and much of ours.

Sadly, other parts of the world today have a freer, more balanced coverage of this war on terrorism ... or is it a war on Afghanistan?

Many are nervous and fear that dissent is considered unpatriotic. Communist nations and dictatorships such as the Taliban's have not allowed dissent.

As I listened to LBJ's presidential tapes, I learned that this president sent young men to their deaths in Vietnam knowing full well we couldn't win that war. I felt vindicated for my opposition to that war. History has proved that America's greatness is a result of thoughtful dissent, an informed, intelligent society and a free, inquisitive press.

Barbara Robinson.
Published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1997 - 2001.

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