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The Daily Diatribe
October 1-15, 2001

Charitable Response of Americans to WTC Attack: Generous, or Simply Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?

October 15, 2001

Americans have sent nearly $900,000,000 to the various funds set up to help victims of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks.  The universal acclaim we have afforded ourselves for generosity, however, may not be so well-deserved.

First of all, there are 105 million households in the United States.  So the average donation per household is less than $9.  That doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice, does it?

Second, there may be no sacrifice being made at all.  The New York Times reports that contributions to small charities throughout the nation have drastically declined in the weeks since September 11.  For example:

  • the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Cleveland used to average $2500 a day in donations.  Now they get $370
  • the Washington, D.C. annual AIDS walk raised one-third of the amount it did last year
  • an agency that runs three shelters for the homeless in Houston reports donations down 35%

As a result, organizations and programs such as these across the nation are being forced to lay off staff and turn down people seeking assistance.

This is at a time when layoffs and other economic disruptions from the terrorist attacks have actually increased the number of Americans requesting help from these smaller charities.

So while sending money to aid the September 11 victims is admirable, let's not pat ourselves on the back too quickly.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is nothing to be proud of.

Enough With Hollow "Regrets" for Civilian Casualties: Help the Victims

October 14, 2001

When U.S. bombs or missiles fail to reach their intended military targets, and instead go astray and kill and injure civilians and destroy civilian property, the U.S. government invariably issues its "regrets."

In such circumstances, we've killed or injured people we say we didn't mean to kill and injure, and indeed whom we had no right to kill and injure.  The victims are usually impoverished citizens of Third World countries.

As the richest nation on earth, we can and must back up our verbal "Sorry about that" with concrete steps to assist the victims or their survivors.

First:  The next-of-kin of civilians killed should receive a monetary payment from us in an amount customary in that area for accidental deaths.

Second: Injured civilians should be cared for at our expense locally.  If adequate medical care is not available in that area, we should airlift the injured parties to a location where such care can be received.

Third: If a family's breadwinner is killed or disabled, we should provide income support for the survivors until they can establish an alternate means of receiving a viable income.

Fourth: Destroyed property, whether houses, businesses, or public civilian facilities like schools or hospitals, should be rebuilt at our expense.

Let's do the right thing.

Let's act honorably.

Let's make substantive amends to those innocent men, women and children we accidentally injure or kill.

Civilian Deaths from U.S. Attacks Are Increasing: Bomb from Lower Altitudes!

October 13, 2001

Confirmed reports of civilians being killed by U.S. bombs are increasing:

  • Four Afghan civilians who worked for a U.N.-supported mine-clearing program were killed by an errant U.S. bomb or missile.  The apparent target was a radio tower nearby, which had not been used for the last decade
  • An FA-18 fighter-bomber from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea mistakenly dropped a 2000 lb. bomb on a residential neighborhood in Kabul.  Preliminary reports said four people were killed and eight wounded.  The target was a military helicopter at the Kabul airport, one mile away.  Another report indicated that the bomb missed its target by a mile because a targeting coordinate was entered incorrectly into the bomb's satellite navigation system.
  • American bombers hit a village in the hills of eastern Afghanistan, with dozens of civilians apparently killed.  The assumed target was a guerrilla training camp nearby that villagers said had been closed for several years.

Even the mainstream U.S. press has noted that these episodes

are especially troublesome for Washington, which has tried to convey the message that its attacks against the Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regime that shelters it are not aimed at the Afghan people or the Islamic world.

The people being killed, or more accurately, the survivors of such mistaken attacks, are apparently not going to distinguish between deaths from accidents and deaths from deliberate attacks.  As The New York Times reports:

Maulvi Abdullah Haijazi, an elder from a nearby village, had come to assist. "These people don't support the Taliban," he said. "They always say the Taliban are doing this or that and they don't like it.

"But now they will all fight the Americans. We pray to Allah that we have American soldiers to kill. These bombs from the sky we cannot fight."

This assessment is echoed by a commander in the Northern Alliance, a U.S. ally, referring to the bombing of the houses in Kabul:

Haji Qadir, a commander in the Northern Alliance in the southern part of Afghanistan... said the incident had undercut support for the American war effort among the Afghan people. "If the American infantry comes, I think the people will be against them," he said in a telephone interview from Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has bragged that it now owns the skies over Afghanistan.  Maybe the time has come to stop high-altitude bombing near civilians and have the pilots venture lower so they can see what they are bombing, and thus ensure they only hit military targets.

If the U.S. continues to cause civilian deaths in an effort to keep our military pilots out of harm's way, that course of action could well cause us to lose some of our moral high ground in this conflict in the eyes of much of the world.

It would certainly do so in my eyes.

October 12, 2001     10:05 p.m. --  The absolute necessity of getting rid of the Taliban is confirmed by details revealed in Newsday of horrible massacres of civilians committed by Taliban soldiers over the past few years.  The information comes from a confidential U.N. report based on eyewitness accounts and visits to mass graves:

  • every mass killing was ordered or approved by either the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, or the Ministry of Defense
  • eyewitnesses confirm radio conversations between Omar and the teams of Taliban troops conducting the killings
  • massacres were highly organized, and presided over by senior commanders
  • victims were usually lined up, their hands tied behind their backs, and then shot and dumped in mass graves
  • some victims were tortured, others beaten to death
  • in one particularly horrific instance, a young boy was skinned alive

The manner in which these mass killings was conducted brings to mind massacres by military troops and right-wing death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980's.  During that time, unfortunately, the U.S. was supporting the governments which were committing these atrocities.

It will be a welcome change to see our government now in the position of putting a stop to such type of atrocities by removing the Taliban from power.

But one big caution: members of the Northern Alliance have also committed massacres during the many years of civil war in Afghanistan.  So any help the U.S. gives the Northern Alliance must be accompanied by stringent oversight to ensure that this time, we stay on the side fighting against, not committing, such massacres.

October 11, 2001     10:55 p.m. --  If the Bush administration means what it says and doesn't want to kill civilians in its bombing, then why doesn't it stick with purely military targets -- military airfields, barracks, troops, tanks, artillery -- that are not located right next to civilians?

The vast majority of targets seem to have been precisely such purely military ones, and for that I commend the Bush administration.

So why does it insist on also hitting targets right next to civilians? 

Four Afghan civilians who worked for a U.N.-supported mine-clearing program were killed by an errant U.S. bomb or missile:

The group's officials said they thought that the intended target was a radio tower in an adjacent building. The antenna belonged to a station that had been defunct for the last decade, they said.

"The totally innocent have been killed for no reason," the local supervisor, a man who uses the single name Usman, said, speaking by telephone from Kabul. "We know we have four dead, but the bodies are so torn apart we don't know who is who."

So it seems like it was an irrelevant target that was being aimed at.  Wouldn't that bomb or missile have been better utilized by being directed toward tanks or Taliban troops?

Surely the amount of additional damage we can do to the Taliban and Al Qaeda by including these few additional targets near civilians is far outweighed by the certainty that many civilians will be killed by bombs and missiles -- including the "smart" ones -- that will go off course. 

Even if the Bush administration is not particularly concerned in a moral sense about those civilians being killed, our attempts to build a broad coalition and to win the hearts and minds of the "Arab street" are seriously undermined by any civilian deaths.

The Taliban have claimed that hundreds of civilians have been killed, including in a mosque that was hit.  These reports have not been confirmed. 

I fervently hope that like many of the things the Taliban claim, these reports prove false.

[more on the absolute necessity of avoiding civilian casualties]

October 10, 2001     10:45 p.m. --  U.S. interference in the upcoming Nicaraguan presidential elections continues unabated.

On October 4, Nicaragua's Foreign Minister, Francisco Aguirre, met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell  in Washington, D.C.  The meeting also included  Congressman Cass Ballenger (R-NC).  The State Department then issued a statement which read in part:

The United States will respect the result of a free and fair election that expresses the will of the Nicaraguan people.  However, we continue to have grave reservations about the FSLN's history of trampling civil liberties, violating human rights, seizing people's property without compensation, destroying the economy, and ties to supporters of terrorism.

On October 7, State Department spokeswoman Eliza Koch claimed that the Sandinistas have maintained contact with Iraq, Libya, the leftist FARC rebels in Colombia and the ETA separatist movement in Spain.

Then on October 9, another blast at the Sandinistas came from John Keane, Director of the Office of Central American Affairs at the State Department, who said at a conference at the University of Pittsburgh that:

It would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge that the possibility of the election of a Sandinista government is disconcerting to the US government... How can we believe that the FSLN has changed?"

While many expected these attempts to link the Sandinistas with terrorists would reduce Ortega's support, the latest Oct 10 poll shows Ortega with 39.2% and his main opponent with 36.8%.  The margin of error was 2.3%.  This is virtually unchanged from two weeks ago, so at least for now, thankfully, the U.S. attempts to defeat Ortega seem not to be working.

[for more on U.S. interference in the Nicaraguan presidential elections, see this]

October 9, 2001     10:45 p.m. --  It gets more and more outrageous!

In addition to the problems discussed yesterday concerning the U.S. "humanitarian" food drops over Afghanistan, there must be added the lethal danger of landmines.

Afghanistan has been called "the world's biggest minefield," its countryside littered with over ten million land mines.


Afghanistan remains one of the most mine and UXO [unexploded ordnance] affected countries in the world.

According to the United Nations Mine Action Program for Afghanistan... landmines and UXO contaminate 724 million square meters of land...

In the year 2000, an average of about eighty-eight casualties per month were attributed to landmines and unexploded ordnance... in Afghanistan.

And according to an aid worker in Afghanistan:

The food packets were mainly dropped in the central highlands and along the Pakistan border, both areas with suspected mines. We have to ask if the Americans are aware of the situation on the ground."

Are we again failing to think before we rush in to "help" people?

Why don't we take the experts' advice, as noted yesterday:

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's director, said all aid should be channeled through the UN "to be seen as impartial and separate from military action. Trucking of food is cheaper and is tried and tested. Air drops are risky, random, expensive, and likely to meet only a fraction of the need. Aid workers would be put in a difficult position if food aid came to be viewed as part of a military effort". [source]

Hopefully, our food aid efforts will get on the right track very soon.  If not, that program will be exposed as a shallow and cruel propaganda vehicle designed to unjustifiably credit us for being concerned about the starving people in Afghanistan.

October 8, 2001
     10:45 p.m.
--  The Bush administration is going all out to emphasize how only "military" targets are being bombed, and that we are helping feed the Afghan people, with whom, we are reminded ad nauseam, we have no quarrel.

It is very disturbing that more than 36 hours after the bombing started, I still haven't been able to find any clear information in the mass media about exactly what things were bombed.  More specifically, are we calling electrical plants "military" and destroying these, like we did in Iraq?  What about targets inside major cities?  Are we hitting those, with the almost certainty that nearby civilians will be killed?

Why are such things not being disclosed??  Surely the Taliban know what targets were hit.  Why does our government think we deserve to know less than the Taliban?  Didn't we find out the results of bombing missions much more quickly during the 1991 Persian Gulf War?

Regarding our supposedly "humanitarian" food drops, I also have a disquieting feeling, based on three main concerns, which I found admirably detailed in this article:

  • with millions at risk, the 37,500 rations dropped so far are virtually meaningless
  • the military air strikes will make the refugee flow vastly increase, thus increasing the need for food, while at the same time the military actions will disrupt feeding programs already in place
  • aid workers could be put at risk since the food aid, being dropped while the bombing is occurring, could be considered by Taliban officials part of a military propaganda effort to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people and turn them against the Taliban

In sum:

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's director, said all aid should be channeled through the UN "to be seen as impartial and separate from military action. Trucking of food is cheaper and is tried and tested. Air drops are risky, random, expensive, and likely to meet only a fraction of the need. Aid workers would be put in a difficult position if food aid came to be viewed as part of a military effort".

I pray that we find out civilian casualties are non-existent, and that all hungry people are being fed. 

A little voice inside me suggests I not get my hopes up on either account.

[more on the food drops: the land mine danger]

October 7, 2001     10:25 p.m. --  Please evaluate the following scenario:

  • February, 2001: a 33 year-old French citizen of Moroccan descent, Zacarias Moussaoui, enters the United States
  • March-May: Moussaoui receives 57 hours of flying lessons from an Oklahoma flight school, but leaves without enough training to receive a pilot's license
  • May: Moussaoui contacts a Minnesota flying academy about training on a jet simulator.  He says he wants to become familiar with big jets and their cockpits
  • August 13: Moussaoui's $8,300 training course begins. He is only interested in learning how to make turns in the large commercial aircraft, and shows no interest in learning how to take off or land.  He also asks about flying over New York air space.
  • shortly thereafter: an alarmed instructor from the flight school contacts the Minneapolis office of the FBI to report Moussaoui's suspicious behavior
  • August 17: Moussaoui is arrested on immigration charges and  his computer seized.  He immediately and consistently thereafter refuses to cooperate with law enforcement officials.
  • sometime between August 17-27: The FBI issues a "trace," requesting information on Moussaoui from friendly foreign governments.
  • August 27: in response to that request, a French intelligence agency warns the FBI that Moussaoui has "Islamic extremist beliefs," has connections to an Algerian terrorist group, and may have traveled to Afghanistan.
  • shortly thereafter: FBI agents from the Minneapolis office ask their Washington, D.C. headquarters to seek a special warrant, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to search Moussaoui's computer and telephone records
  • later: top FBI and Department of Justice officials turn down the request
  • again: the Minneapolis agents try another route legal route to gain access to Moussaoui's computer and telephone records, but are again rebuffed
  • sometime before September 11: a counter-terrorism panel, including among its members officials from the FBI and the CIA, is "unable to determine" whether Moussaoui is a threat
    [The New York Times, October 6, 2001; Newsweek online report]

If I had submitted the above scenario as a screenplay, it would have been laughed at as unbelievable. 

First is the stupidity of Moussaoui in making it obvious from the outset that he had no interest in landings and takeoffs. 

Second is the repeated lack of putting two and two together by the various groups of higher-level officials involved.

Officials now believe that Moussaoui was meant to be the fifth hijacker on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.  Only Flight 93 had a four-man hijacking team, instead of the five hijackers who were on each of the other three flights.

One would assume that once suspicion was focused on him, Moussaoui was dropped from the terrorists' plans and they decided to go ahead with only four hijackers on Flight 93.

Concerning the investigators, one official stated: “The question being asked here is if they put two and two together, they could have gotten a lot more information about the guy—if not stopped the hijacking.”

A good possibility, don't you think?

October 6, 2001     10:15 p.m. --  If a recent tragedy in India is any indication, things are going to become amazingly convoluted given the disparate nature of our allies in the global anti-terrorism coalition.

Earlier this week a terrorist bomb blast killed 38 people in a state assembly in India.

The group blamed by India for the attack is based in Pakistan.

In a eulogy for the victims, the chief minister of the state where the attack took place called for reprisal attacks on Pakistan:

The time has come to wage a war against Pakistan and to bomb the militant training camps there. 

We are running out of patience.

"Bomb the militant training camps."  "Running out of patience."

Who does that sound like?!

Will the United States, at the same time it is using Pakistani airfields to attack Afghanistan, also have to bomb terrorist training camps in Pakistan itself?

What if India decides to bomb those training camps in Pakistan at the very moment while the U.S. is attacking Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan?  Could the U.S. with a straight face tell India not to protect itself in the same way the U.S. is protecting itself?

Or will the U.S. pressure Pakistan to shut down those camps?  But how can the U.S. do that? -- Pakistan would consider such a step to be the U.S. siding with India in the border dispute between Pakistan and India.

In a final conjecture: the U.S. is putting intense pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to stop the violence and get back to the negotiating table.  If the Arab world were to see progress in that dispute, the reasoning goes, this would dampen any violent reactions in the Arab street against U.S. attacks on Afghanistan or other Muslim nations.

Analogously, perhaps the U.S. will apply heavy pressure on all parties in the India-Pakistan dispute to cease any violence at this delicate time.

Of course, the problem here, as with the Israeli-Palestinian situation, is that while the U.S. has great influence with the state parties, it has no influence at all on the most extreme non-governmental perpetrators of the terrorist violence.  And those most extreme terrorist groups, in both regions, would welcome as a secondary result of their bloody attacks, in addition to the primary goals for which the attacks are undertaken, the throwing of a damaging or even fatal monkey wrench into the global anti-terror coalition.

Multiply these difficulties presented by India and Pakistan by the number of other members of the anti-terror coalition who also have disputes between and among themselves, and the three-dimensional chess nature of the entire enterprise becomes woefully apparent.

Only the uncertain days ahead will reveal how this global coalition will or will not hang together.

October 5, 2001
     10:55 p.m.
--  This is a proposal to lend some definitional clarity to the use of the word "terrorist."

Currently, the term "terrorist" is applied to the use of force most often on the basis of whether the speaker agrees with the goal of the violence.  Hence the expression "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Alternatively, or sometimes even in conjunction with the foregoing, some people condemn any violence by a non-governmental entity -- whatever the target -- as terrorism, and approvingly label any action by a sovereign country's military forces  -- again, whatever the target -- as "military strikes" or the like. 

In determining whether an act is "terrorist" or not, it would be more useful to eliminate subjective evaluations of the goals of the violence, and instead, utilize two other factors -- the expected result of the violence, and the nature of the actor -- to then distinguish among four different types of acts involving the application of force:

Expected result of the violence: Let's define a "terrorist" action as the use of violence where one would reasonably expect harm to innocent civilians.  This is to be distinguished from a "military" action, where the use of violence is not reasonably expected to harm innocent civilians.

Nature of the actor: A "state" action would be one conducted by a sovereign government.  A "guerrilla" action will be one conducted by a non-governmental entity.

Four different types of violent acts: Hence, we can have both state military actions and state terrorist actions.  Likewise, there can be both guerrilla military actions and guerrilla terrorist actions.

Under these definitional guidelines, if a country sends its bombers to destroy the water system or other civilian infrastructure of another nation, this would be a state act of terrorism, because harm to civilians would reasonably be expected to result.  On the other hand, if a country sends its bombers to attack military airfields of its enemy, that would be a state military action.

Similarly: if a group fighting to overthrow a government or end an occupation by a foreign power sends a suicide bomber to blow up a civilian pizzeria, this would be a guerrilla act of terrorism.  In contrast, if such a group sends a small boat filled with explosives to blow up a military vessel, that would be a guerrilla military action.

While these definitional results may stick in the craw of some, the value is that the killing of innocents will be condemned equally no matter who does it, and for however allegedly wonderful the ends sought.

Some may correctly point out that even striking a military airfield may kill some civilians who happen to be on the base, and that is true.  But similarly, a guerrilla group blowing up a military vessel may also kill some civilians who happen to be on board.  As with all definitions, a bit of common sense has to be applied.

And again, since no subjective evaluations of the validity of often complex socio-political goals are involved in applying these definitions, the level at which likely or actual harm to civilians would trigger the "terrorist" label can be applied evenly to both governmental and non-governmental actors.

Moreover, by not allowing the use of the term "terrorist" to be used as an "argument-closed" condemnation of guerrilla military actions, those discussing the situation will be forced to debate the merits or not of the goals of the guerrillas, not hide behind an inappropriate labeling of the guerrilla's tactics.

At the same time, guerrilla forces committing atrocities against civilians will be appropriately labeled "terrorists" and would not be able to deny being terrorists because of the alleged validity of their goals.

All in all, then, these suggested definitions would tend to force the parties involved to focus on avoiding harm to civilians, and to deal with the real issues at stake in their disputes -- two results I hope most people would welcome.

October 4, 2001
     10:30 p.m.
--  Most people are familiar with television commentator Ann Coulter's controversial statement in her column that "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Coulter claims that she wasn't speaking of all Muslims:

Coulter says her line about "convert them to Christianity" has been misconstrued and was aimed at those celebrating the attacks. "I wasn't talking about Muslims generally," she says. "I was talking about the crazed homicidal maniacs dancing in the streets."
[The Washington Post, October 2, 2001]

Let's look at the full context in which she made her infamous declaration:

Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
[Town Hall, September 14, 2001]

A fair reading could be that Coulter wasn't explicitly referring to all Muslims, but that the "they" referred back to those in the streets of Arab nations who were celebrating the World Trade Center attacks. 

Even so, of course, her statement is still outrageous.

And while Coulter can maybe get away with parsing her own text here, I wonder if any commentators on this brouhaha have taken what she said in her column together with what she said on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect September 25:

Ann: What's different about Germany than here, but I think is more similar to Japan and ought to be the model, is that Germany at least had a wealth of civilization prior to the Third Reich and it had a respect for human life, something that was not as noticeable in Japan. And one of the things General MacArthur did, he considered converting the emperor to Christianity. Decided not to because he thought there would be a fight between Catholics and Presbyterians. But General MacArthur called in thousands of Christian missionaries. He distributed thousands of Bibles. It wasn't as much of a success story as the Christian missionaries were in Korea after the Korean War, but you know how it was a success story? They have unprecedented religious freedom there, something that is absent in every Muslim country. In fact --
[Transcript of Politically Incorrect, September 25, 2001, emphasis added]

So this shows Coulter would like to apply her conversion concept to entire countries, such as she believes was done in Japan.

Moreover, as the following dialogue, in relevant portions, makes clear, Coulter continues to put her foot in her mouth, with respect to her claims -- begun above -- that Arab countries have never had any "civilization," nor a history of tolerance for other religions:  ("Jerry" is producer/journalist Jerry Nachman, and "Eric" is Eric Braeden, star of "The Young and the Restless."):

Eric: We have to allow the tolerant part of Islam to flourish.  In other words, establish Democratic institutions and
then --

Ann: What tolerant part of Islam?

Eric: Islam has an enormous history.

: Where is that in evidence in the Middle East right now?

Eric: Do you know anything about the history of the Middle East?

Bill: Islam was the most flourishing civilization in the middle ages.  When Western Europeans were shivering and cowering and cast behind --

Ann: Fine, they invented the flying buttress, but they don't have a history of tolerance.  That's the point --

Eric: She's absolutely wrong.  Excuse me. You are wrong.

: Well, then, name --

Eric: Historically, you are wrong.  In all the Muslim countries, they allow Judaism to flourish and Christianity to flourish.

Ann: That's not true.

Eric: That is absolutely true.

: Before --

: In these kinds of countries right now, they don't.  But in most Muslim countries in the past, they have allowed religious freedom.

: The Taliban is an exception, correct?

Eric: That's the problem.

Jerry: Ask any Jew who used to live in Iraq or Syria or Egypt until 20 or 30 years ago.

What's amazing is Coulter's ignorance of history -- of the flourishing, advanced Arab civilization in the past, and of the religious tolerance toward Christianity and Judaism which was its hallmark.

Coulter is not only vicious, but also ignorant.

[I won't even address here Coulter's bloodthirsty analogizing to Germany in World War II to argue that we should carpet-bomb Afghanistan and not be concerned with civilian casualties. On the inappropriateness of this analogy, see Logic of Bombing German Civilian Infrastructure in World War II Not Applicable to bin Laden in Afghanistan.]

October 3, 2001
     10:00 p.m.
--  The United States properly demands that other nations do not support or harbor those who commit or plan acts of terror.

We must practice what we preach.   I refer to the matter of Emmanuel Constant.

Constant was a founder and secretary general of the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). FRAPH members were responsible for human rights atrocities under the military government that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and rape.

Thousands were killed and injured by Constant's group.  A litany of the horrors inflicted by FRAPH makes harrowing reading. 

This is state-sponsored terrorism of a sort different than perpetrated during the World Trade Center attack.  The civilians who were killed at the Twin Towers were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In contrast, the FRAPH atrocities were targeted by the Haitian military dictatorship at specific individuals or communities in order to terrorize them into submission.

FRAPH was reportedly founded with CIA assistance, and Constant was on the CIA payroll.

Emmanuel Constant is now in the United States, and we have repeatedly denied the Haitian government's request to deport him to Haiti.  Such refusal has been the subject of much so far unsuccessful advocacy by human rights groups.

What triggered this commentary was an Associated Press report in The New York Times this week which was, in contrast to the other news concerning terrorists around the world, buried in a small inside story:

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has marked the 10th anniversary of the coup that forced him into exile and called on the United States to extradite a paramilitary leader accused of involvement in the violence that followed.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in Independence Square in the western city [of] Gonaïves on Saturday... Mr. Aristide, in his third term, urged the United States to extradite Emmanuel Constant, who lives in exile in New York.

He was tried in absentia on charges that he had helped to mastermind a 1994 massacre, and was sentenced to life in prison last year...

Mr. Constant led the right-wing Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, which has been accused of using terror to break the spirit of Mr. Aristide's supporters.

So there you have it.  The U.S. is harboring a terrorist who has presided over mass murder and torture.  Let's show we're serious about fighting terrorists.  Hand over Emmanuel Constant!

October 2, 2001     2:00 p.m. --  Who helped put Moammar Khadafy in power in Libya and Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq? 

Was it the former Soviet Union?  China?  Osama bin Laden?

No, the answer is the United States.

Here is a list of U.S. interventions in the Muslim world which were designed to overthrow unfriendly regimes and install in power those who would be more compliant with U.S. needs:

Syria, 1948 - The U.S. overthrows the regime; Syria turns anti-U.S.

Iran, 1954 - The U.S. overthrows nationalist Mossadegh, puts the shah in power. Result: Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Egypt, 1955 - The U.S. tried to kill nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. He turns to the Soviets.

Iraq, 1958 - The U.S. puts Col. Kassem in power. He turns into an anti-American lunatic.

Indonesia, 1967 - The U.S. overthrows Sukarno. The army and mobs then kill 500,000 Sukarno supporters.

Libya, 1969 - The U.S. helps a young officer, Moammar Khadafy, seize power in Libya, then tries to kill him in 1986.

Iraq, 1975 - The U.S. helps young Saddam Hussein seize power. In 1979, the U.S. encourages Saddam to invade Iran in an effort to crush Iran's Islamic revolution. Some 700,000 die in the war.

Lebanon, 1983 - U.S. forces intervene in the civil war to prop up the Christian government, 240 U.S. Marines die.

Kuwait/Iraq, 1991 - The U.S. goes to war against former ally Saddam, but keeps him in power.

Somalia, 1992 - The U.S. intervenes in a civil war, loses men and flees.

Iraq, 1996 - A U.S. attempt to create a Kurd mini-state collapses under Iraqi attack. CIA agents run for their lives.

The implications of this history are twofold:

First: Given the rampant failures listed above, the United States needs to take great care in its attempt to replace the Taliban and install a more friendly regime.

I support removing the Taliban from power, because of their support of terrorism, and their barbaric domestic policies, not the least of which is their virtual enslavement of women.

But there are many questions to be answered before our flirtation with the Northern Alliance is turned into a marriage.

Second: our repeated interventions in the domestic affairs of these Muslim nations, indeed all over the world, should, at an appropriate time after the immediate terrorist threat is abated, be the subject of intense study and evaluation, so that our future foreign affairs will be conducted in a manner that will not turn other countries and peoples against us.  See A Proposal for a Non-Partisan "Commission on U.S. Foreign Policy
Since World War II."

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center can never be justified.  That being understood, we should still do all we can to insure that our future foreign policy is conducted on a fair and moral basis.

October 1, 2001
     10:15 p.m.
--  A poster on an Internet bulletin board was calling for blood, saying the U.S. shouldn't be concerned at all about avoiding Afghan civilian casualties in its response to the September 11 attacks.

A reader wrote back to the poster, suggesting that a willingness to kill civilians could put the U.S. in the same league as Osama bin Laden.

The poster replied that he didn't care, they killed our civilians first.  But, the poster added, if the reader could bring to his attention any family members of those killed in the World Trade Center who were also expressing concern about avoiding Afghan civilian deaths, then perhaps the poster would reconsider his position.

I knew I had read of such sentiments among the next-of-kin, but had forgotten where.  In the next day or two, I came across two additional such expressions of "Let's avoid killing more innocent people" from those directly touched by the September 11 tragedy.  It's now too late to respond to the poster directly, but maybe somehow he will wind up reading this.

In a Letter to the Editor in The New York Times, one bereaved parent wrote in part:

My son Donald, a pilot, was a passenger on board the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93. He died a hero, fighting the terrorists to regain  control of the airplane.

Naturally, I wish to see those responsible for the terrible events of Sept. 11 brought to justice. But an assault on Afghanistan would cause civilian casualties and inflame foreign sentiment against us.

The second example comes from another bereaved set of parents:

The father of a man presumed killed in the
September 11 attack on the World Trade Center raised his voice Sunday against the strident support for US military retaliation

"As a nation, we must not use the same means as the people who attacked us. We're better than that," Orlando Rodriguez said, as he and wife Phyllys mourned the loss of their 31-year-old son, Gregory, who perished in Tower One of the World Trade Center.

Explaining further, Mr. Rodriguez stated:

"Look at my son, who died only because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I believe that, if there's a war, thousands of other sons in other lands are going to die, for being in a wrong place at a wrong time."

"Revenge is a powerful emotion. It initially seems like a reasonable reaction. But indiscriminate reprisals aren't going to help," he said, adding that he didn't want to see his son used "to justify the murder of others."

Very powerful.

Hopefully such sentiments coming from those with a unique right to offer them, will reduce the bloodlust of not only the poster referred to above, but any others still harboring similar feelings.

We should bring bin Laden to justice in a way that avoids the deaths of innocent Afghan men, women and children.  In that way we will best honor the memory of those who died on September 11.

UPDATE : Here's a link to another expression of such sentiments which I just saw mentioned on a bulletin board.

UPDATE DEC. 5: Here's a link to a site with a large collection of such expressions by relatives of 9/11 victims.

[Anyone having other examples of such expressions by next-of-kin, please send them to me]

[For other reasons to make it a top priority to avoid civilian casualties in the U.S. response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, see this and this.]


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