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COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

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* * *

HALF WRONG OR HALF RIGHT?  

Subject: Cornell Forum Statement: A Response
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 22:48:03 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod
portsidemod@yahoo.com
Reply-To: portside@yahoogroups.com
To: ps portside@yahoogroups.com

Re: Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace Statement

Why is this being posted now, except to show that those who drafted it were dead wrong on about half of their assessments?

Carl Davidson, Chicago

My comments are in parenthesis below:

The Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace Official Group Statement: November 25, 2001

* * *

The Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace, a group of faculty and graduate students, offers the following statement, dated November 25, 2001, in response to the events of September 11 and since. For further information on the CFJP, please see our website.

We oppose war as a response to the events of September 11.

1. We oppose the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. It violates basic human rights, and has brought about and will continue to bring about grievous consequences in Afghanistan, the United States, and throughout the world.

(No, the Taliban and al-Qaeda violated basic human rights. The US helped to overthrow them an pull together a more representative regime where human Rights might have a chance)

1.1 We assert our support for the prosecution of individuals responsible for the September 11 attacks

(Individuals are not the main point. The organization must be destroyed)

but we insist on due process and transparency of procedure

(procedures can't be completely transparent without giving up your sources to the enemy who is still active)

under international law and through an international body such as the International Criminal Court, or a special tribunal set up by the U.N.

(There is precedent for this in the ongoing trial of Slobodan Milosevic.)

If international law as it stands is unable to deal with international terrorism, then effective measures against such violence must begin with appropriate legislation and the building of the necessary international institutions. The principles of justice and due legal procedure do not stand abrogated because of the international nature of this case.

1.2 If we agree that those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks belong to an international terrorist network, then we cannot ignore the fact that the sine qua non of such networks is their decentralization. Such networks are global in character and membership and do not act under the authority of any one state.

(This ignores the symbiotic relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The network is decentralized, but many resources, training facilities, funds, leadership were centralized in Afghanistan)

Moreover, prior to September 11, only three states recognized the Taliban as the lawful government of Afghanistan; since that date, two of the three have withdrawn their recognition.

We therefore conclude that the United States bombing of Afghanistan is based on a false premise: that the Afghani state and people are reducible to the Taliban.

(You can turn this around to be their false premise: the bombing of the Taliban and al-Qaeda is reducible to bombing the entire people of Afghanistan)

The death of innocent Afghanis, many of them women and children, who have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda and who may in fact be themselves critical of the Taliban regime, is thus ethically unacceptable.

(This turns on intention and measure taken to restrict harm to noncombatants, which the authors have just ignored above)

Given these facts, the unremitting bombing of Afghanistan by the U.S., the deaths of civilians through its admitted use of cluster bombs, and the simultaneous use of inadequate and dangerous food drops as a propaganda weapon will only serve to increase anger against the United States,

(Can this be shown in Afghanistan? Seems people are relatively friendly To the US and quite hostile to bin Laden's people)

not only among Muslims, but throughout the world. No degree of media censorship and number of public relations exercises can mask these facts.

(Doesn't seem to be turning out that way, especially given the latest video footage of Osama's bragging to his buddies)

1.3 Citizens of Afghanistan have, without a doubt, suffered tremendously under the Taliban regime. They have in fact been suffering ever since the proxy war between the U.S. and Soviet Union was launched on their soil, and through the many years of civil war since. Women in particular have suffered under the Taliban, and yet it is ostensibly in their interest, largely, that this war has been justified.

The suffering of women, children and men in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban under no circumstances justifies the sort of vigilante military campaign that the U.S. is currently pursuing.

(Vigilantes? Give me a break.  Plus the suffering of women seems to have eased a bit by most accounts)

Civilian deaths are increasing as a direct result of bombing, but owing to the U.S. demand that Pakistan close its borders with Afghanistan, the keeping back of aid convoys, and the approach of winter, the number of people at risk of death by starvation has increased from 3 million to 7.5 million. Prior to the "war on terrorism? international relief agencies were capable of keeping the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan at a level of stasis. Particularly since the U.S. military action, under orders from the U.S. government, these agencies and their aid convoys have been kept back from the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

(These aid convoys are flowing now; it was the Taliban that sabotaged the UN Programs, not only recently, but for years)

As the inevitable civilian casualties mount, the United States squanders the good will and sympathy that the world extended in the wake of 9/11, which is so vital to the international diplomatic cooperation needed to fight terrorism.

2. We find the curtailment of civil rights and the checks on government guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the name of national security unacceptable. We note that the U.S. has launched a military campaign in the name of freedom and democracy while undermining these at home. Patriotism, redefined as the unquestioning acceptance and support of the government's every action, is assuming the status of a loyalty test.

2.1 We denounce the "USA PATRIOT Act of 2001? H.R. 3162 and all similar attempts to limit our democratic freedoms. A democracy rests on checks and balances, such as the Bill of Rights, which are built into the system. These ensure that the state will not overstep its bounds and become authoritarian or totalitarian. The right to information regarding the government's actions is crucial in a democratic state. The right to express dissent from the official or majority position is the sine qua non of a democratic polity and not a mark of treason or sedition.

We are extremely concerned by the far-reaching nature of the most recent anti-terrorist bill (H.R. 3162), and George W. Bush's decree of November 13 instituting secret military tribunals. Provisions that widen the power of intelligence agencies, institute detention without charge or trial, and increase surveillance of ordinary citizens smack of totalitarianism and we oppose them in the name of democracy.

(I agree on defending liberties, but isn't it also true that the government has to make a determined, escalated effort to uncover and stop terrorist Cells in the U.S. Should we stop the increased searches and security at airports?)

3. We view with deep concern the current state of domestic affairs. Two matters need immediate and sustained attention:

3.1 We deplore the use of racial profiling, a highly discriminatory and racist practice. It contravenes all standards of ethical practice, and is clearly a violation of the Bill of Rights.

3.2 There has to date been no coordinated, large-scale attempt to provide financial aid to the families of the workers who died in the World Trade Center.

(This is bizarre. Substantial checks are already being mailed)

Instead, while corporations such as Boeing and the major airlines have laid off thousands of employees, the airline industry and insurance companies have been given comprehensive financial aid by the federal government, and the corporate sector in general has been given major tax breaks. It is reprehensible that American workers should be the ones to suffer in the name of an economic crisis when corporations are being awarded vast sums of money as bailouts and tax breaks.

(In most cases, yes. But workers lose their jobs when airlines go bankrupt, too)

We propose the following firm and decisive actions to stop the spread of terror:

4. The perpetrators of the September 11th attacks must be brought to justice through appropriate international diplomatic and legal channels.

(Who is supposed to arrest them and with what armed force? Remember, these Guys are still out there trying to do more harm. It's not like you can sit around and wait for some body that doesn't yet exist to come into being)

4.1 If the U.S. has compelling evidence to support the charges against Osama bin Laden, it should present such to an international body such as the United Nations or the World Court, or ask for a special tribunal to be set up for this purpose and present its case there. A request for extradition and trial should follow the precedents established by Spain's filing regarding Augusto Pinochet, the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, and indeed the Nuremberg trials.

(Again, are we supposed to wait passively and suffer more attacks while this Machinery is being oiled up? The subtext is that there is no present danger)

The United States is not a global vigilante, but rather a member of the world community; as such it has an obligation to be principled in its actions.

4.2 We support the creation of a standing International Criminal Court in which criminals such as those allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks would be tried.

Towards this end, the U.S. must immediately ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The existence of such a standing court is the only legal and principled solution to the imperative of bringing to justice international criminals such as those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

(My quarrel here is with the word "only?)

The adoption by this body of a universally agreed-upon definition of terrorism must be a first step, so as to preclude its ad hoc and opportunistic deployment by particular states against opposition party members, movements for national self-determination, and other legitimate dissenters.

4.3 Meanwhile, the U.S. must make every attempt to adhere to the rules and covenants of international law and the treaties to which it is party. We urge that the U.S. follow the recommendations of such non-partisan groups as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

4.4 Effective counters to terrorism require patience, long-term planning, and institution-building. Any such program has to be, by definition, international, and will require the support and cooperation of a majority of states in the world community. Broad-based legitimacy, achieved through consensual, open, and transparent processes of diplomacy, is crucial to halting terrorism.

5. In light of current events, the U.S. government and citizenry must re-examine the nation's foreign policy, particularly its history in the last half-century of intervention in the affairs of sovereign states everywhere in the world.

5.1 The Palestinians have suffered great injustice over many years. The United States and the international community must recognize their right to form a state, entirely sovereign, not interrupted by hundreds of armed fortress settlements, and with all the external help necessary to realize the potential for a thriving economy.

5.2 In return, Palestinians must accept and diplomatically recognize the state of Israel, and both states must accept United Nations peacekeeping troops both on the border, and in an internationalized Jerusalem, indefinitely. Justice demands an end to imperialism, colonialism, and oppression, and a just peace would do much to rehabilitate the reputation of the United States in the Middle East.

6. Regarding Afghanistan, the best course of action is that proposed by groups such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): the demilitarization of Afghan society by the actual disarming of all warring factions, and the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force for some years until a semblance of normalcy returns to the life of ordinary people.

(And just who is going to disarm all the warring factions? RAWA? As for the UN force, it's already on the way)

6.1 The U.S. must not under any circumstances repeat its mistake, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, of playing the role of king-maker. Orchestrating a coup by throwing its weight behind any particular faction, be it the Northern Alliance or any other which does not have the support of the Afghan people, is a prescription for continued violence and injustice.

(This is what is already going on, or it begs the question)

6.2 All Afghan refugees relegated for years to camps across Pakistan and Iran can be rehabilitated in Afghanistan. Humanitarian organizations and relief agencies can continue their commendable work, and other non-governmental organizations can be encouraged to provide free education to all children, as well as vocational training and further schooling for all young adults.

6.3 It is imperative that the Afghani people be allowed to rebuild their shattered economy and society; only then can they begin the crucial work of nation-building that includes choosing their own representative government, perhaps under the protection of a U.N. peacekeeping force. There is no alternative to this in Afghanistan or elsewhere; as a democratic country we cannot deprive other peoples of the right to govern themselves as they choose.

7. Regarding the United States domestic situation and policies, we urge a rapid, equitable, and effective response to racism and to the suspension of civil liberties.

(Civil liberties have been threatened, but not suspended)

7.1 The U.S. must immediately stop the use of racial profiling by its various agencies, and by private actors (e.g. airlines, either of their own accord or at the behest of other passengers, off-loading or denying boarding privileges to passengers because they look "Arab? or "Muslim?). There have already been far too many incidents of hate crimes and harassment directed against U.S. citizens of Arab or South Asian descent, as well as against persons mistaken for such. A democratic state has an obligation to protect all its citizens equally, as well as prevent and punish unlawful behavior. Prosecution and deterrence are already overdue in relation to 9/11-related hate crimes.

7.2 The U.S. must immediately repeal the draconian piece of legislation called the USA PATRIOT Act (H.R. 3162). Periods of crisis and how they are dealt with are precisely what distinguish democratic from totalitarian states. "National Security? cannot be used as an excuse to deprive citizens of their fundamental rights.

8. The money diverted from a military campaign could be far more effectively channeled into concrete action to protect U.S. citizens against such threats.

8.1 The government should establish protocols for monitoring the release of harmful agents in densely populated regions and in public buildings.

8.2 The government must provide equal access to adequate and effective prophylactic, diagnostic, and healing procedures for citizens affected or threatened by chemical or biological attacks, without respect to power, privilege, or public visibility. The cavalier treatment of postal workers, many of them people of color, has been a disgrace.

Medication must be distributed and administered through reliable health-care professionals to ensure equality of coverage as well as reduce the chances of over-medication. Government commitment to ensuring access to medication should exceed its devotion to maintaining drug corporation profits.  

9. In conclusion: We would agree that our proposals for dealing with the current situation are wide-ranging, and in some cases not at all continuous with current and former United States foreign and domestic policy. The point, precisely, is that behind the corpses and the grief following on the attacks of September 11, there lies the possibility of the United States making new and better relations with the world community. We understand our moral and political responsibility as the bringing about of those changes.  ##

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