World Trade Center Terrorism: Bin Laden
September 11, 2001
Writing tonight about anything
other than the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon
would seem superfluous. Yet given the mountains of ink and hours of
airtime already devoted to the subject, there is not, perhaps, much that has
not already been said. So here's summaries of the types of comments
I've seen posted today on discussion boards of progressive sites
(particularly at Common Dreams),
and then a few thoughts of my own:
The U.S. has killed
hundreds if not thousands of times more civilians in terrorist attacks on
other countries than the U.S. suffered killed today. Undoubtedly
true, since our military killed 2-3 million civilians during the Vietnam War
The U.S. is only having
done to it what it has done to others. Again true. See directly
above. To give yet another of many possible examples, terrorists we
have financed and even sometimes directed have deliberately killed tens of
thousands of civilians just in Central America --
Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala.
Americans, living in a
democracy, are responsible for the actions of their government. Again
true. However, one might argue that while we bear a collective
responsibility to the world community, we have an individual accountability
only to our Maker, and that individual New Yorkers should not be subject to
a death penalty imposed by self-appointed judges (the hijackers).
If we commit terrorist
acts against others, that's wrong; likewise, if they commit terrorist acts
against us in retaliation, that's also wrong. In other words, two
wrongs don't make a right. A credible argument can be made for this
Our military response to
these attacks will undoubtedly wind up killing additional civilians wherever
we strike. This has certainly been the pattern in the past when we
We should be vigilant that
the U.S. government doesn't use these attacks as an excuse to curtail civil
liberties and freedom in our country. A legitimate cause for
Having suffered real death
and destruction on our own soil, maybe the U.S. will be a little more
reluctant to resort to military interventions against other nations in the
future. Probably not, unless the American people demand such
restraint, the likelihood of which is nil, in my opinion.
Here are some thoughts of my
own, which I've not seen expressed elsewhere:
The enemy of my enemy
isn't necessarily my friend. Just because the Taliban and bin Laden are enemies of Bush, doesn't mean the Taliban
and bin Laden are my friends. Quite the contrary. As I've
explicitly written elsewhere,
the Taliban are an abomination, their treatment of women tantamount to
slavery. I would certainly never want their form of dictatorship to
spread. Same for bin Laden.
If we knew bin Laden was
training pilots for suicide missions on 757's and 767's, the planes used
today, why didn't we take preemptive action?! Frankly, if we had
sent in the 82nd Airborne and gotten rid of bin Laden and the Taliban in one
fell swoop, I wouldn't have objected.
Unfortunately, I believe we
never tried to stop the terrorists' planning for an attack like today's because of our
military's seeming doctrine that no American soldier can be put at
risk. If it can't be done with cruise missiles, don't do it.
Cruise missiles, as we've
seen, can't permanently take out terrorist camps in the mountains. To
destroy a camp training terrorist 757/767 pilots, you'd need to go in with
ground troops and suffer significant casualties to get the job done.
And at least until now, we don't seem to have been willing to do that.
In any event, all deaths
are to be mourned, and this writer certainly feels for the families of all
those killed today. Amen.
Bill O'Reilly Calls
for Mass Starvation of Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan Civilians to Force Overthrow
of Those Governments
September 17, 2001
Bill O'Reilly, Fox News talk
show star, called tonight for mass terrorism against the civilian
populations of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
O'Reilly advocated completely
destroying the civilian infrastructure of those countries, as well as mining
the harbors of Tripoli, Libya.
Then, O'Reilly said, those
populations will have two choices: starve, or overthrow their
"Knock their food supply
out and their water supply out and those people will have to overthrow the
Taliban. It's either that or they die."
"The population must be
made to endure another round of intense pain" O'Reilly said of Iraqi
Regarding Libya, O'Reilly
says, "Let them eat sand."
Even a military
counter-terrorism expert on the show, retired Major General Paul Vallely,
when asked his opinion of O'Reilly's plan, balked. Vallely warned
O'Reilly that such a course of action would hurt "all the other people
that are not part of that regime."
O'Reilly said he didn't care:
if people were going to go down, better the civilians than U.S. troops.
Note to Bill: targeting and
harming civilians for political purposes is the very definition of
terrorism. Mass terrorism is what you're advocating.
Why does O'Reilly have a talk
show? He should have a padded cell.
Take a Hard
Line Against bin Laden and the Taliban, But Spare the
September 12, 2001
Wow! I forgot that some
people will not read a piece completely through to get my entire
argument. Instead, they will read only the beginning, get really
pissed off, stop reading and immediately let me have it!
It was only at the end of yesterday's Daily Diatribe that I said
I think we should have long ago sent in the 82nd Airborne and gotten rid of
Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban,
too, for that matter. Clearly I have no sympathy for him or them.
Readers who didn't get this
far apparently concluded that by calling in the beginning of my piece for
the United States to stop its own terrorist-type activities in the world,
that meant I have sympathy for, or even approve of, bin Laden.
So let's be clear: I don't
and I don't. Get rid of him. Such a course of events would make
That hopefully being
crystal-clear now, let me get to the point tonight: however we retaliate, it
must be in a way that attacks bin Laden and his associates, and military
forces and involved government officials of countries that aided him, BUT
We rightly claim outrage and
deep sorrow at the loss of what could now be tens of thousands of civilian
deaths at the World Trade Center and on the hijacked airliners. We
cannot then go ahead and kill, in retaliation, large numbers of civilians
ourselves -- even if we do not target them deliberately, and even if they
are what we have in the past called "collateral damage."
They are still just as dead.
Especially in this case,
Afghanistan is a dictatorship and the people there, already suffering a
Stone Age-level of deprivation, should not be punished by us for the ill
deeds of their government, whose policies they are helpless to change.
So we shouldn't carpet bomb
Kabul, as some people are demanding. And we shouldn't, as we did in
Iraq, destroy what is left of the civilian infrastructure of
Afghanistan. Just like the Taliban have said that they are willing to
let the people starve rather than have aid groups proselytize, the Taliban
would certainly be willing to let the people do without water and
electricity. That won't hurt the Taliban, but will kill many Afghani
Indeed, it should be kept in
mind that the Taliban are the descendants of one faction of mujahideen,
Islamic holy warriors, who we heavily armed when they were fighting the
Soviet Union after that country invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
When the Soviet Union withdrew, the Taliban gradually took over the country
and established their theocratic dictatorship. The U.S. did nothing to
try to force our erstwhile allies to institute any kind of democratic
So it would be a horrible
double-whammy for us to first provide the military wherewithal for the
Taliban to enslave the Afghani people, and then bomb the Afghani people for
the terrible behavior of their own oppressive government.
So like I wrote last night:
invade Afghanistan and get rid of bin Laden and the Taliban, but
DON'T kill Afghani civilians.
[more on sparing the Afghani civilian
Bombing German Civilian Infrastructure in World War II Not Applicable to bin
Laden in Afghanistan
September 18, 2001
Those of us strongly opposing
the bombing of the civilian infrastructure of Afghanistan or any other
country are often met by the argument that "we did it in World War II
against the Germans."
The situations are not
In World War II the United
States was fighting the standing multi-million man German army. The
civilian population of Germany provided the men for that army, grew the food
to feed that army, make the guns, planes and other weapons that army used to
fight with, and through taxes provided the funds that army used to purchase
anything else it needed.
So destroying the civilian
infrastructure of German could at least be said to have been directly
related to cutting off the German army's supply of men, food, weapons and
everything else it needed to survive.
In the case of Afghanistan,
the opposite is true. Bin Laden's "troops" don't by and
large come from the Afghan population, but from other Arab countries.
Bin Laden's money doesn't come from taxes paid to the Afghan government;
rather, bin Laden is himself wealthy, and his group also receives funds from
individual contributors from countries outside of Afghanistan. Afghan
factories certainly don't manufacture the weapons that bin Laden purchases.
So destroying the civilian
infrastructure of Afghanistan would not have anything to do with cutting off
bin Laden's source of personnel, weapons or money.
Assuming bin Laden purchases
his food locally, destroying the civilian infrastructure could, if it
produced widespread starvation in Afghanistan, reduce bin Laden's food
But as discussed
yesterday in evaluating Bill O'Reilly's call to starve the Afghan
population to force them to overthrow their government, such a course of
action would constitute terrorism by our country: targeting civilians for
injury or death in order to further our political goals.
That would bring us down to
bin Laden's level, and forfeit our claim to moral superiority in our
campaign against him.
There are legitimate
diplomatic and military ways to bring down bin Laden, and those are the ones
that we should employ, not killing innocent Afghan civilians.
New York Times: Bush Plans to Invade Afghanistan, Overthrow Taliban
September 13, 2001
Tomorrow's edition of The
New York Times reports
that the Bush administration policy to fight terrorism will not only include
destroying terrorist networks, but bringing down the governments that harbor
"It's not just
simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable,"
said Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, "but
removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states
who sponsor terrorism."
Mr. Wolfowitz said the
United States and its allies would wage "a campaign, not a single
action" to dismantle the terrorist group or groups responsible for
this week's attacks, and to bring down the governments that support
Even more specifically:
The planning and the
language used by administration officials was read by military analysts
as a sign that Secretary Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, is preparing the way for a military force that could
ultimately be used to occupy Kabul, the Afghan capital, and overthrow
the ruling Taliban.
Is this serious, or just the
administration floating the idea to scare the Taliban and other governments
into handing over terrorists?
It seems serious. The
New York Times also reports
tomorrow that "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has recommended
calling up as many as 50,000 military reservists."
each of the past two days that I wouldn't be unhappy if the 82nd Airborne
overthrew the Taliban. I'm reminded of the adage, "Be careful
what you wish for, you might get it."
Might this U.S. intervention
actually be a good thing? How could the people in Afghanistan have it
worse than now?
It's hard to believe myself
saying these things, but my disgust with the Taliban is so extreme that it
seems to override what I know to be the historical record of terrible
suffering that ensues when the U.S. overthrows Third World governments.
What about Iraq? The
Sudan? Other countries? Are we going to invade, occupy and set
up governments in them also?
Or will doing so in one
country be enough to scare the other nations into doing what we want?
Will our European allies go
along with this?
Will the civilian populations
of any of these countries welcome us, or -- despite their unhappiness with
their present governments -- still violently oppose our invasion?
A million questions, and no
answers for now.
Time is needed to ponder
about these undoubtedly intense days ahead of us.
UPDATE: The September
18 New York Times reports
Deputy Secretary of State
Paul D. Wolfowitz spoke last week of "ending states who sponsor
terrorism." Officials say now that he misspoke, that he meant to
say that the goal is ending state support.
In some cases, like
Afghanistan, that may be a semantic issue since the goal would be to
dislodge the Taliban rulers if they refused to cooperate with
Washington's counter-terrorism campaign.
It's unclear from this report
how much of a backtracking by the Administration this really is.
A Proposal for
a Non-Partisan "Commission on U.S. Foreign Policy Since World War
September 19, 2001
The lock-step mantra thundering
from the Bush administration and most politicians and commentators is that
the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon targeted
the United States because they hate our freedom and are jealous of our
A few public figures -- not
many, but perhaps a slowly growing number -- have dared to delve deeper into
All of these public figures
rightly condemn without equivocation the terrorist attacks, and lay 100% of
the moral responsibility for these outrageous acts on the perpetrators.
That being understood, an
acknowledgement is made that there are concrete, specific issues involved,
not just irrational hatred and jealousy:
[I]n the Arab and wider
Muslim worlds... bitter political grievances abound, among them: the
United States' support of Israel; its troop presence in the "holy
land" of the Arabian peninsula; its military encirclement and
economic strangulation of Iraq; and its alliances with governments
across the Middle East and Asia that are widely perceived as corrupt.
[John Burns, The
New York Times, September 16, 2001]
Similarly, James Robison, a
well-known evangelist and host of "Life Today," a Christian
television program, speaks of our "sins" of
relationships with Third World and foreign countries, plundering other
countries for resources while supporting their despots, and indifference
to others' poverty and pain.
New York Times, September 15. 2001]
Patrick J. Buchanan asks:
What motivates that kind
of hatred? Why did they do it? Why do they hate us so much?
How can all our meddling
not fail to spark some horrible retribution?
[on Hannity &
Colmes, September 19, 2001]
Where should our asking these
questions lead us? Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) provides a clue:
Mr. Kerrey, a combat
veteran of Vietnam, also pointed out the psychological challenge for
leaders and a public that have been quick to denounce the attacks as the
work of cowards or madmen.
"I condemn it
morally, and I do think it was cowardly," Mr. Kerrey said.
"But physically, it was the opposite of cowardly, and if you don't
understand that, then you don't understand the intensity of the cause
and then you're papering over one of the most important things. There is
hatred out there against the United States, and yes, we have to deal
with terrorism in a zero-tolerance fashion. But there is anger, too, and
they ought to have a place for a hearing on that anger, in the
International Court or wherever we give them a hearing."
New York Times, September 15, 2001]
Following those last words of
Sen. Kerrey, I propose that at an appropriate time -- not immediately, but
soon after the immediate threat of bin Laden and associates has been taken
care of -- a non-partisan "Commission on United States Foreign Policy
After World War II" be established.
I say non-partisan as opposed
to bi-partisan, because a far greater spectrum of input would be appropriate
than just from the Democratic and Republican parties.
All elements of the U.S.
political spectrum should be invited to present their facts and analysis on
a country-by-country basis. And it shouldn't end there.
In a manner similar to that
of certain commissions which have been set up in Third World countries after
internal strife has ended, citizens of other countries who feel they have
been victims of U.S. foreign policy should be invited to present their
testimony and data.
The mandate of the commission
I am advocating would be not only to try to come to a consensus on where
U.S. foreign policy in the last 56 years has gone right and where it has
gone wrong, but also, to make recommendations for the future.
Would Congress ever set up
such a commission?
If not, who could?
By what process would
commission members be chosen?
How could the number of
individuals and groups desiring to present evidence be kept to a manageable
All of these questions and a
myriad of other concerns must be addressed.
I make this proposal here in
only the most rudimentary form, in an attempt to start making something
positive come out of an event last week so tragic.
In that spirit, all
suggestions for how such a commission could be set up and operate would be
most welcome. They will be incorporated into future writings on this