Nothing blew up yesterday. This is interesting, because a high-ranking law enforcement official told a friend of mine to ‘stay away from New York monuments’ Saturday. I don’t know whether this means our fears are overdone or our intelligence was good enough to pick it up and foil it – or, most likely, that it was just one of countless phony bomb scares.

New York is returning to normal, as is air travel, and you should come see a show. You think it takes courage? Statistically, even now, it takes a heck of a lot more courage to get behind the wheel of a car and drive home from dinner.

Come and meet … those dancing feet!
On the a-ve-noo I’m taking ya too: Forty-Second Street.

My feet start to tap at the mere thought – and yours should, too.

Still, this new environment is all-consuming, and it’s hard, just now, to get back to writing about automated bill-paying services.

Like you, I have read many compelling articles and e-mails over the last several days dealing with “why they hate us so much” and what, in any event, we should do.  And also like you (I assume), I don’t feel I can tell for sure what’s true and what isn’t and what makes the most sense.

Still, I have been heartened by the careful, measured response of the administration.  I get the impression that they really do understand the risks and the need to think things through very carefully before proceeding.  This is good news.  They are doing a very good job.

It is also good news that the initial verbal and physical attacks on Arab Americans have, apparently, fallen off dramatically, as people at all levels get the word that this is distinctly uncool.

And it is good news to see Congress working together.  Perhaps you saw Hastert, Gephardt, Daschle and Lott together on Meet the Press today, talking about what it was like to be stuck in a secret safe-room together for a day as we braced to see if there would be further attack.

So . . . so far, you might say (odd as it sounds under the tragic circumstances), so good.

Now what should we do?  “Bomb them with butter, bribe them with hope,” read the subject line of one of the (unattributed) Internet messages I got:

A military response, particularly an attack on Afghanistan, is exactly what the terrorists want.  It will strengthen and swell their small but fanatical ranks.

Instead, bomb Afghanistan with butter, with rice, bread, clothing and medicine.  It will cost less than conventional arms, poses no threat of U.S. casualties and just might get the populace thinking that maybe the Taliban don’t have the answers.  After three years of drought and with starvation looming, let’s offer the Afghani people the vision of a new    future. One that includes full stomachs.

Bomb them with information. Video players and cassettes of world leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, condemning terrorism. Carpet the country with magazines and newspapers showing the horror of terrorism committed by their “guest.”  Blitz them with laptop computers and DVD players filled with a perspective that is denied them by their government. Saturation bombing with hope will mean that some of it gets through.  Send so much that the Taliban can’t collect and hide it all.

The Taliban are telling their people to prepare for Jihad. Instead, let’s give the Afghani people their first good meal in years. Seeing your family fully fed and the prospect of stability in terms of food and a future is a powerful deterrent to martyrdom. All we ask in return is that they, as a people, agree to enter the civilized world. That includes handing over terrorists in their midst.

In responding to terrorism we need to do something different.  Something unexpected . . . something that addresses the root of the problem. We need to take away the well of despair, ignorance and brutality from which the Osama bin Laden’s of the world water their gardens of terror.

If we continue attacking in the old ways we will get the same old results. Look at what has been happening the middle east for thousands of years to see what we can expect if we attack with bombs and military force. Do we want to live a life of fear as people in the Middle East do?  WE WANT PEACE!

I think the VCR and DVD idea may presuppose the presence of more televisions – and electricity – than are actually there (much as I would like to airdrop TiVos as well), so this idea may need refinement around the edges.  But the approach is compelling, and could be combined with the very forceful attempts that will be made to destroy the terrorist cells.  It’s not “either/or.”

(One friend of mine pitches it a little more flippantly:  “Airdrop millions of CD players, CD’s, radios, TV’s, candy, food and western goods. In six weeks, the Afghan people will revere Brittany Spears and overthrow the Taliban in order to keep up their addiction to Snickers bars and pop music. This would be cheaper, cost fewer lives, and, in the short run, anyway, rid the US of all this crap.”)

Paul Lowry: “The problem isn’t terrorism.  The problem is hate.  It shouldn’t be a war on terrorism – it should be a war on organized hate.  Americans must understand why nations and cultures hate us and how they will interpret our words and actions.  You may not change those already indoctrinated by bin Laden or other hate leaders, but the wrong action by us now could raise his followers from the thousands to the millions if we don’t try to see the world through other peoples’ eyes.”

But why do they hate us so much?  How much of the motivation behind the terror is psychopathic, and how much stems from a logical (to them, if not to us) fury over decades of perceived injustice?

On the psychopath side of the ledger, I read a chilling article in one of the Jane’s publications about a Hollywood-couldn’t-make-it-any-more-chilling character named Mughniyeh.  I don’t mean to take your whole morning, but it’s worth reading.  You thought Osama bin Laden was scary?

On the perceived injustice side, you may have seen this piece riding the e-waves.  I don’t have the competence to judge how much of it is fair.  I certainly don’t think it does a very good job of seeing Israel’s very valid point of view, or of crediting her with having offered tremendous concessions last year, rejected out of hand by Arafat.  And I don’t think it correctly portrays our motivation in the genocidal Balkans, or much of anywhere else.  But that’s all really a separate question.  Do they justly hate us?  I desperately hope not.  But why do they hate us?   Read on:

Dear friends,

In order to make sense of the violence that occurred in NYC recently we must accept our anger and sadness but not let it cloud our vision.  We must condemn all killings of innocent civilians while not losing sight of why this tragic event happened and how it can be prevented in the future.  In reference to the information I am about to present, I would recommend that everyone do their own research on these important topics which are all written about extensively on the Internet and elsewhere.

One of the essential questions to look at, in trying to make sense of the tragic events, is who had the means to do such a thing and how they obtained the necessary training and power.  Many in the government and media have pointed at Osama Bin Ladin, member of the Taliban.  Bin Ladin, and the Islamic fundamentalists who now compose the Taliban, were trained and funded by the CIA to carry out terrorist acts against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  In 1997, the power and weaponry the Taliban had amassed through U.S. support was used to take dictatorial control over Afghanistan.  They created an environment highly abusive to women and those not fitting in with the far right-wing Taliban viewpoints.  The U.S. government made no attempts to rectify this situation which had arisen as a direct result of our support for extremists.  This is not an out of the ordinary case, but rather, a predictable pattern.  Manuel Noriega of Panama was on the CIA payroll, and Saddam Hussein was funded and supported by the US government before we bombed Iraq.

Another essential question to look at is why someone would want to attack the U.S. government.  This question can be answered, not by choosing one specific thing, but rather, by presenting a list of war crimes committed by the U.S. or by foreign regimes supported by U.S. funding and training in the recent past (all examples are after 1980):

* After U.S.-led bombings of civilian targets in Iraq, including water treatment plants, the UN Human Rights Commission now reports that 5,000 Iraqi children die per month as a direct result of the bombings and the subsequent U.S.-led sanctions that prevent the rebuilding of the civilian infrastructure in Iraq.  Approximately half-a-million children have died as a result of the sanctions.  Over 200,000 were killed in the initial bombing operations and the U.S. continues to bomb Iraq on a regular basis.

* Over the past year the U.S. has given $1.5 billion ($1 billion from Clinton, $550 million from Bush) in military aid to Colombia, a country with the worst human rights record in the hemisphere. The official U.S. government rational for Plan Colombia is the “drug war.”  The Colombian military and their paramilitary allies are, and work for some of the major drug traffickers in Colombia, a fact that leaves the stated reason for the funding dubious.  The Colombian military and paramilitaries are reported by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to commit around 70-80% of the killings in Colombia, totaling 14,000 since 1986. Clinton removed language from the funding agreement that would have prevented the funds from going to units known to have committed human rights abuses. Since the start of Plan Colombia violence has increased dramatically in Colombia, toxic fumigation of farmland has begun, and tens of thousands of peasants have been driven from their homes, displaced by violence and toxic spraying.  One probable reason for U.S. involvement is counter-insurgency against the leftist FARC, which demands an end to the economic exploitation and repression of the majority of Colombians.

* The U.S.-trained and funded military regime in Indonesia murdered thousands and drove several hundred thousand people from their homes in 1999 after East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia.  Elite units of the U.S.-trained Kopassus special forces, legendary for their brutality, and their senior military adviser, General Makarim, a U.S.-trained intelligence specialist with experience in East Timor and “a reputation for callous violence,” appear to have directed the militias in the massacre.  Kopassus had been training regularly with U.S. and Australian forces until the time of the massacres.

* The U.S. led NATO bombings of Yugoslavia killed over 500 civilians and in clear violation of international law targeted hundreds of civilian installations, including over 190 school buildings.  The bombing of numerous petrochemical installations released toxins into the air that caused significant adverse effects on the health of the population of Yugoslavia and the neighboring countries.  NATO currently maintains a completely undemocratic military protectorate over the population of Kosovo.  The U.S. led NATO alliance also used it’s influence to increase the power of the KLA, a militant rebel group heavily involved in organized crime, at the expense of the ethnic-Albanian civil government in Kosovo, which was functioning previous to the NATO bombing.

* After U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998, the U.S. bombed a medicine factory in the Sudan destroying half the pharmaceutical production in that country. One year later they admitted that the owner of the plant had no links to terrorism and that the bombing was a “mistake.”

* The U.S. has used the radioactive substance depleted uranium as a coating for its munitions which it employed extensively in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and even in training exercises on the Island of Vieques in Puerto Rico.  There is strong evidence linking depleted uranium to Gulf War Syndrome, a debilitating disease affecting thousands of veterans of the Gulf War.  The U.S. has also used other weapons illegal under international law, including cluster bombs, which killed imprecisely and indiscriminately, in Yugoslavia.

* $3 billion in aid per year to Israel, the majority military aid, to a nation recognized by almost every member nation of the UN to be in illegal occupation of the State of Palestine. Israel is recognized by the UN Human Rights Commission to be in “widespread, systematic and gross violation of human rights” of the Palestinians. The Palestinians demand independence and the right to return to the homes that 800,000 of them were expelled from in 1948.  In reaction to their protest Israel bulldozes their homes, assassinates their leaders without trial, and murders innocent civilians who are exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.  Palestinian deaths and injuries have far outnumbered Israeli deaths in the conflicts both recently and since 1948.  Clinton pressured Israel to take a very hard line in it’s negotiations with the Palestinians.

* U.S. military assistance to Turkey which had been going on since the beginning of the Cold War escalated sharply in 1984 with the beginning of Turkey’s counter-insurgency against the repressed ethnic minority, the Kurds.  The military aid reached it’s climax in 1997 when 80% of Turkey’s total weapons had been donated to it by the U.S.  By 1999, Turkey had largely suppressed Kurdish resistance by terror and ethnic cleansing, leaving some 2-3 million refugees, 3,500 villages destroyed, and tens of thousands killed.

* U.S. funded military regimes and death squads in Central America, including the Contras in Nicaragua, murdered over 30,000 Central Americans during the 1980s.

* The U.S. invaded Panama in December 1989 killing over 2000, the majority civilians.  The supposed reason for the invasion was to oust the international criminal, Manuel Noriega, a man whom the CIA funded as he rigged elections and brutally ruled Panama throughout the early 1980s at which time he was praised by the US for his “democratic” credentials.

* Supported by U.S. funds and training, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which claimed the lives of 17,500 Lebanese civilians.

These are not all, but only some of the atrocities that the U.S. has supported since 1980, not least of which is its role as the worlds biggest arms dealer.  In light of these facts, we demand a peaceful response to this tragedy.  We demand that no innocent civilians are harmed in our search for vengeance against the perpetrators.  We demand, not an increase in the military and surveillance budget, but rather a decrease, as only LESS aggression on the part of the U.S., not more, will solve the danger that we are in, brought upon us by the intense hatred that many throughout the world feel for the U.S.  We need to accept that a great deal of misery and repression is dealt out in our name, and that we have a responsibility, both to our own safety, and to that of the rest of the world, to combat these injustices.  We must stop believing that American lives, freedom, and democracy are more valuable than the lives, freedom, and democracy of people abroad.

Please forward this widely, especially to those who may feel that a U.S. military operation is appropriate at this point in time.

Robert Arnow
Co-chair
Media Working Group

Call me naïve, but I think that is unfair and one-sided.  Us?  The bad guys?  So consistently and extensively?  But that’s how enemies tend to see each other – unfairly and one-sidedly.  It was only during the Viet Nam War that much national attention and extensive debate was focused on our actions – because so many families had a direct, life-and-death stake in it.  And you will recall that opinion was divided on the wisdom and humanity of our actions.  When was the last time you heard a vigorous debate on our role in Turkey or Indonesia or Colombia?  This is not to say we are even necessarily wrong in these situations.  Often, you have to pick the better of two bad options.  (Let the genocide go on without interfering? Interfere?)  And so will be hated for either choice.

Still, I agree with those who believe that this war on terrorism must be unlike any other, and that to win it, we must really try to understand what we’re up against.

So far, as I’ve said, I think the administration is doing it well.


Ken Shirriff: “A minor correction.  The Friedman Doctrine, that no nations both with McDonald’s have gone to war against each other, doesn’t hold since NATO bombed Serbia, and Belgrade has a McDonald’s.”

 

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