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World Trade Center Terrorism Attack: Bin Laden & Taliban

Selections from The Daily Diatribe

World Trade Center Terrorism: Bin Laden & Taliban
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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 alone.

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 proposition.

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 have retaliated.

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 concern.

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 governments. 

"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 civilians.

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 Civilians!

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 me happy.

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 NOT CIVILIANS.

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 civilians.

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 practices.

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 population]

Logic of 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 analogous.

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 supply.

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 them:

"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 them.

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."

I wrote 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 that

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 II"

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 prosperity. 

A few public figures -- not many, but perhaps a slowly growing number -- have dared to delve deeper into the issue. 

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

arrogance in relationships with Third World and foreign countries, plundering other countries for resources while supporting their despots, and indifference to others' poverty and pain.
[The New York Times, September 15. 2001]

Even arch-conservative 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."
[The 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 number?

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 proposal.


Taliban Cretins and other Ultra-patriarchal Imbeciles

What's with these Taliban guys? Are they worried they have so little control of themselves that if they saw a woman walking down the street with her ankles (let alone her knees!) showing, they'd all immediately scamper down the street after her like a pack of dogs, attempting on all fours to sniff her ass?

Is it mass priapism? Sexual arousal without end that can't risk even the slightest intimation of female sexuality, lest dire consequences follow?

Or, more seriously, is it that all their rules and regulations governing women are one more, in this case in extremis example of insecure men fashioning a system to exert control over women? A system that purports to be divinely based, and therefore impossible to challenge. And, therefore, a system which can mandate death to any who oppose it.

Be assured, this is not an attack on the religion of Islam. Islam contains many beautiful elements.

But let's face it, none of the world's major religions can be seen as the be-all and end-all of morality. As far as I know, not one of them unequivocally states that human slavery is wrong and therefore forbidden. When written down long ago, the moral rules established in these religions may have been advances over the moral rules then extant. But at least in certain areas, the average human consciousness has gone way beyond holy scriptures-based morality.

Similarly, certain rules, regulations, or "laws" of these religions may also have become outmoded. Such would be the case were Islam to really mandate the Taliban-like strictures on women.

But since the Taliban interpretation of Islam is not accepted by the vast majority of the world's Muslims, it seems fair to say that the Taliban are distorting, not upholding, the essentials of Islam.

So what? Can't people establish whatever religious rules and rituals they want?

Sure, up to a point. If someone said that the only way to find God is to stand on one's head eating strawberries while someone places radishes between your toes, fine. Let them do it to their heart's content.

Who are we to say that even the most outlandish rule or ritual is not the true course to divine knowledge? All such rules and rituals, and the persons following or performing them, should be accorded the utmost respect and deference.

But a forbidden point is crossed when either of two things occurs:

First, even a benign rule that in itself does no harm is wrong when another is forced to observe it. So it's not, in itself, terribly harmful to have a requirement that men not shave and grow beards. But it's wrong to force all men to grow beards.

If you want to have a society which mandates observance of a set of religious laws, then go somewhere with your followers and set up such a society. But don't impose such a system on others for whom these religious laws are nothing more than dictatorial fiats.

Second, and more seriously, is when the religious rules are inherently harmful to those upon whom they are applied. In other words, does that rule or law inherently require the denial of the fundamental human rights of a person?

Such would be the case with forbidding women to go to school or to work. Besides crushing the aspirations of half of humanity, serious physical harm occurs. For example, at one point,  the Taliban system forbid male doctors to treat female patients, and made it extremely difficult for female doctors to work, or for their patients to see them. So the vast majority of women were left without any medical care!

Even were a woman to voluntarily submit to such a system, it's inherently harmful in its effect on children, especially girls, raised to believe in the validity of their having such a severely curtailed role in life.

Could a God who is our Father really want half his children to cause the other half to suffer so terribly?

And any discussion of the Taliban dictatorship would be incomplete without mentioning who is most to blame for the plight of Afghanis subject to the Taliban yoke: none other than the United States. The Taliban, along with other mujahideen, received indispensable weapons, training and other wherewithal from the U.S. government in order to allow the Taliban to fight against, and ultimately kick out, Soviet forces which were occupying Afghanistan at the time.

No rational person would hold any brief for life under Soviet occupation. Yet had the Taliban never fought, Afghanistan would have become free of Soviet control when the Soviet Union collapsed. No one can be sure of what would have happened in Afghanistan at that point, but it's hard to imagine that the result would have been worse than the current Taliban dictatorship.

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