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Five Reasons Why America Should Not Be at
9 October 2001
ALONG with hundreds of other Houstonians, I have been passing
holding signs, attending rallies and speaking out against American
intervention in the Middle East and South Asia. Now that the
begun, I will be joining millions of Americans in a nationwide call for
the Bush administration to recognize the peril of war in those
regions and to
refrain from a wider commitment. While this is not a majority
yet -- it is one that needs to be heard and discussed at the outset
A war against Afghanistan or other neighboring states poses great
and may not achieve the ends that the United States has
ending terrorist attacks against American, Israeli, European or
targets. It may alienate allies, create new enemies and prompt a
cycle of violence. While all of us demand that those responsible for
attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., be brought to justice
and we all
want to effectively end terrorism, we believe, as Secretary of State
Powell has argued, that the United States could accomplish these
through working with other nations according to international laws
More specifically, there are five reasons to be deeply concerned
American military intervention in this new conflict.
· First, this intervention will inevitably lead to untold numbers of
civilian deaths. This "war" is directed principally against a network
terrorists, perhaps numbering between 10,000 and 20,000 and
over 30 different countries. American and other troops will not be
attacking military targets per se but will be trying to dislodge
terrorists from hundreds of locations, many in areas that are heavily
Cruise and Tomahawk missiles being used, there is no way that
terrorists will be surgically targeted. Much has been made lately
the values and behavior of civilized societies, but it must be clear
civilized nations do not indiscriminately kill innocents and then call
"collateral damage." How would we react, for instance, if the police
to apprehend a drug trafficker by bombing the neighborhood in
lived and caused the deaths of scores of innocent people in that
· Next, this intervention will almost certainly destabilize the
Middle East and South Asia, leading to a wider conflict and
allied governments to come under siege from forces in their own
Already, radical Islamic elements have shown their opposition to an
American role in this conflict in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Leaders in
and Uzbekistan have opposed or tried to temper U.S. intervention.
Pakistan, the government publicly announced that supporting the
States was the "lesser of evils" and has already had to quash
in Islamabad. With the United States already suspect in the region
of the continuing embargo against Iraq and support of Israel, this
will only lead to more distrust and recrimination, and will likely
internal movements against any government perceived to be loyal
· Third, we must recognize that this war will be fought
disproportionately by working-class whites, African-Americans,
Mexican-Americans and other minorities. As Martin Luther King Jr.
out during the Vietnam era, the United States was taking young
underprivileged areas "and sending them 8,000 miles away to
liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest
and East Harlem." In the same way, we have a racial and class
America today that will be exacerbated in wartime. The loyalty of
whites, blacks and Chicanos cannot be questioned, but their
cannot be exploited to make them more likely to fight and take
in any future war.
· Then, we must be aware that a wide war will cause serious
problems at home. Even before Sept. 11, the government's budget
had disappeared, and since then spending has increased greatly.
billion already committed to new defense and anti-terrorism
larger amounts sure to come, $15 billion appropriated to bail out
airline industry, and the government's stated goal of using taxpayer
to cover losses suffered by the insurance industry, government
are sure to return and grow. Such conditions -- a stagnant, cold
overheating with new spending and possibly a capital gains tax cut -
create an economic storm, which surely will affect all of us.
· Finally, this war, as such conflicts historically do, will lead to
an attack on civil liberties and "suspect" groups at home. One
expect another Red Scare or the internment of minority groups to
concerned about new proposals to give the government more
restrict immigration, tap phones, read e-mails or conduct
Under the umbrella of "anti-terrorism" all of us, young or old, male
female, black or white, conservative, moderate or liberal, will be at
to lose some of our liberty, have our freedom constricted, and have
actions examined and questioned more closely.
All of us were affected by the unspeakably horrible acts of Sept.
no one wants to see terrorist attacks like that occur again.
Unfortunately, a heavy military response by the United States and
its allies may provoke
more aggression and more terrorism. International law and global
discussions offer less peril and may lead to the creation of a
international system. We weep and remain shocked by the attacks
York and Washington, and our hearts go out to all those affected,
but our grief
is not a cry for war.
Associate Professor of History, University of Houston.
Published in the Houston Chronicle.
Index page on Response to attacks in