Drumbeats Of War And The Voices Of Reason|
Dotty LeMieux, Green Dog Democrats
"When will they ever learn,
Oh, when will they Ever learn."
Where Have All the Flowers Gone, American Folk Song of the 1960's
Not yet apparently. On September 11, 2001, two hijacked airplanes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another collided with one wing of the Pentagon, while yet another nose-dived to earth outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Penn's Woods, home of the Quakers. Thousands are presumed dead.
Reaction, at first cautious, soon turned to pinning blame on "the usual suspects," Osama bin Laden and his band of merry terrorists. This may well be the case. And if so, those responsible must be located and brought to justice. But is it War, as our President and his advisors are now repeating at every opportunity?
War, it appears, has a fluid definition. As does who, or what, we are at war with. World War I was the "War to End All Wars." Well, it wasn't. Then World War II was the "Good War." The Vietnam War wasn't a war at all. And look at all the destruction wreaked in that "skirmish" or "police action" or "undeclared war." Then we have the ever popular War on Drugs, a War that only this year handed the much-vilified Taliban $43,000,000 to wipe out the poppy crop. And now the Taliban is implicated as one of those who may "harbor" terrorism. Is terrorism War? If so, what are the trainers of terrorists? It is a well known (although not oft repeated by the mainstream media) fact that Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the tragic events of Tuesday, was trained in terror tactics by the CIA. Then, we were arming Afghani rebels to fight the Soviets.
"War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing." Song lyrics say it as well as anything. Anybody remember the War on Poverty? When did we lose that War?
George Bush has vowed to hunt down those responsible and "those who harbor them." Osama bin Laden hangs out in Afghanistan, sometimes Pakistan. Is the President of the United States and leader of the Free World saying that these war torn and distressed countries have declared a full out War on the United States? And that we will mete out retaliation in kind upon them? There have been immediate and numerous comparisons to Pearl Harbor. But Japan was a great nation, already at war with the world, when they bombed us into it. A war that spanned continents and involved the most sophisticated of military and technological weaponry of the time. A War of Nations, not suicide hijackers with knives.
And is our Government saying that this "War" will take the form of an eye for an eye, a life for a life? That we will retaliate against Madman bin Laden (if he was responsible, big IF, still) for his attack on the seats of World Trade and Military might by killing thousands of innocent people in two Middle-eastern underdeveloped countries? Is that what the American people want?
Some have suggested Saddam Hussein or even the Saudis may have had a hand in it. God (or Allah) knows United States is not beloved in the Arab world, and with good reason. Our support for Israel has caused untold suffering in Palestine. Our bombs over Baghdad coupled with years of sanctions have destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq, killing thousands of children through lack of clean water and other necessities to sustain life.
When America retaliates, it does so with a vengeance that not even the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalist can imagine. These guys did the most destruction they could with box cutting knives and hijacked airplanes. This is not the sophisticated war machine of the Japanese of World War Two. It is hard to imagine any State, any government asking for the type of retaliation this country is capable of. It is hard, therefore, to consider this War, in any traditional sense of the word.
If we retaliate in kind, are we not perpetuating the type of terrorist violence that we witnessed in Tuesday's attacks? Whoever it was that did this terrible thing causing such a terrible loss of life was no doubt retaliating for the real or perceived acts of our own country on them or their fellows in the Arab world. (If indeed Middle-Eastern terrorists are the ones responsible. The evidence is not in as I write this. Remember Oklahoma.) Retaliation begets retaliation. When will it end? How many wrongs make a right? How many attacks can deter determined religious fundamentalists. There will always be the few with knives capable of unleashing terror. But the consequences of a full out assault by the most powerful nation in the world are terrible to contemplate.
America may have to make war on itself for its own complicity, and ultimately, no matter what form this retaliation takes, this War will be felt here, in the form of backlash against Arab-Americans, erosion of civil liberties, and the kind of mass hysteria and jingoistic rhetoric that, sadly, seems to accompany all such clashes. Tune into the talk shows. "Nuke ‘em!" shouts one (Who? George Bush's To Do list: "Friday: Declare war on ____________.")
There are voices of reason. The callers to the local Pacifica Station. A woman with a Perspective on the local NPR affiliate reminding us of the fifties and fallout shelters eating up the family's college budget. Were we safer then? And will an allocation of billions for retaliation make us safer now? I doubt it. In front of the city hall in a small west coast town people gather in overnight vigil. They are urging peace. They are calling for caution. They are calling on our nation's and the world's leaders to take some time to get at the root of the violence, even if some of the roots go deep into our own complicity in the ongoing trouble in the Middle-East and other places around the Globe where America has staked a claim.
Go with caution, Mr. Bush. It's time America lived up to its potential for moral as well as military leadership. It's time the leaders listened to the quiet but determined voices of reason, which will not be stilled by the drumbeats of War.