EMAIL PAGE EIGHT
COLUMN SIXTY-FOUR, OCTOBER 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
PLEASE, NOT VENGEANCE, BUT COMPASSION
FW: ...And Peace
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2001 13:47:45 -0700
From: "VENIRE" <VENIRE@znet.com>
Angles Times, 9-23-01
-- How can we possibly turn from the heartbreaking images of last week's
disaster, and the emotions evoked in us, to thinking calmly about terrorism and
what to do about it?
and sickened as I was by what happened, I was again horrified and sickened by
the statements of our national political leaders as they appeared on television
and spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment. We are at war, they said.
And I thought: They have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history
of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a
hundred years of terrorism and counterterrorism, of violence met with violence
in an unending cycle of stupidity.
can all feel a terrible anger at those who killed thousands of innocent people
in the insane belief it would help their cause. But what do we do with that
anger? Do we react with panic, strike out violently and blindly just to show how
tough we are? "We shall make no distinction," the President
proclaimed, between terrorists and countries that harbor terrorists." Will
we now bomb Afghanistan, and inevitably kill innocent people? It is in the
nature of bombing (and I say this as a former Air Force bombardier) to be
indiscriminate, to "make no distinction." Will we then be committing
terrorism in order to "send a message" to terrorists?
hear politicians and military people saying there will be regrettable but
necessary "collateral damage." They used that same term in describing
the deaths of civilians in U.S. bombings of various countries, whether Iraq or
Panama or Yugoslavia.
Timothy J. McVeigh defended his bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma
City, leaving 168 people dead, he too used the term "collateral
damage," remembering no doubt, how it was used in the Persian Gulf War,
where he served. My "Webster's Collegiate Dictionary" defines
"collateral" as "accompanying or related, but secondary or
subordinate." Both McVeigh and the leaders of our government have
considered the toll of human life secondary to whatever else was destroyed, and
McVeigh was executed, the Boston Herald ran a huge headline that read "It's
Over." But we know now how wrong that was. It was not over. And it will not
be over until we stop concentrating on punishment and retaliation and think
calmly and intelligently about what to do about terrorism.
can be useful, and there is a history of terrorism and reactions to it. We have
answered terrorist acts with force again and again. It is the old way of
thinking, the old way of acting. It has never worked.
President Reagan bombed Libya after a terrorist action in a discotheque in
Germany. The bombs were never intended to strike "the actual
terrorists:" Indeed, it was never clear who the terrorists were. But the
bombs did kill a number of people, including Moammar Kadafi's adopted 3-year-old
daughter. Former President Clinton, after the bombings of the U.S. embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania, sent 75 cruise missiles (each a weapon of mass destruction)
to hit a presumed training camp in Afghanistan and what was described as a
chemical weapons manufacturing plant in the Sudan. It turned out that the
factory in the Sudan was not that at all, but a pharmaceutical plant, and that
its destruction deprived huge numbers of Sudanese of medicines they needed.
claim, in all of these bombings was that we had to "send a message" to
terrorists. And then comes this horror in New York and Washington. Isn't it
clear by now that sending "a message" to terrorists through violence
doesn't work, that it only leads to more terrorism? And isn't it the terrorists
themselves who explain their awful deeds by saying they need to send a message
to the world?
we learned anything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
bombs planted by Palestinians bring air attacks and tanks by the Israeli
government. That has been going on for years. It doesn't work. And innocent
people die on both sides.
need new ways of thinking. We need to think about the resentment all over the
world felt by people who have been the victims of American military action. In
Vietnam, where we carried out terrorizing bombing attacks, using napalm and
cluster bombs, on peasant villages. In Latin America, where we supported
should remind ourselves that the awful scenes of death and suffering we are now
witnessing on our television screens have been endured by people in other parts
of the world for a long time, and often as a result of our nation's policies. We
can now imagine their fear, because of the fear we are all experiencing for
ourselves and our children. We need to understand how some of those people will
go beyond fear and anger to acts of terrorism.
own fear will remain until we begin to think differently about what constitutes
real security. A $300 billion dollar military budget has not given us security.
Military bases all over the world, our warships on every ocean, have not given
us security. Land mines, a "national missile defense shield," will not
give us security. We need to rethink our position in the world. We need to stop
sending weapons to countries that oppress other people or their own people.
need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the
politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a
war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a
we can tend to immediate security needs. Let's take some of the billions
allocated for "missile defense," totally useless against terrorist
attacks such as this one, and pay the security people at airports decent wages,
give them intensive training, hire marshals to be on every flight. But
ultimately, there is no certain security against the unpredictable.
we can find Bin Laden, if he was indeed the perpetrator of last week's tragedy,
and punish him. But that will not end terrorism so long as the pent-up
grievances of decades, felt in so many countries of the Third World, remain
cannot be secure so long as we use our national wealth, for guns, planes, bombs
and nuclear weapons to maintain our position as a military superpower. We should
use that wealth instead to deal with poverty and sickness in other parts of the
world where desperation breeds resentment. We need to become an economic and
at home, our true security cannot come from putting the nation on a war footing,
with the accompanying threats to civil liberties that this brings. It can only
come from using our resources to make us the model of a good society, prosperous
and peacemaking, with free, universal medical care, education and housing,
guaranteed decent wages and a clean environment for all.
We should take our example not from our military and political leaders shouting "retaliate" and "war" but from the doctors and nurses and medical students and firemen and policemen who have been saving lives in the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are not vengeance but compassion, not violence but healing. ##
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