For the record, I am wholly against military action as a response to this incident, however I am acquiesced to the fact that the wave of hatred and rage sweeping America right now is too powerful for any President (especially a Republican) to resist. Americans smell blood and the feeding frenzy is now in full swing.
There are other means. If as Bush says this was an act of war then the attack is surely a war crime and the culprits as well as those who abetted them should be tried as war criminals. And the evidence seems to be mounting.
Revenge is not equal to justice and one must bear in mind that the terrorists themselves — men who were presumably of free will and able mind — are now dead. Bin Laden may have been the architect, the financier, and the leader of the group that committed this despicable act but he was not the executioner.
If he is guilty he must be tried and humiliated and shamed like any murderer (except those in America — who get agents and sign book deals).
Perhaps Americans are so cynical about their own justice system’s inability to truly punish those widely perceived as guilty that they feel that their only shot at vengeance is murder and widespread slaughter. If they couldn’t get OJ with DNA, the murder weapon, blood-stained clothes, and fleeing the scene — might Bin Laden (or whomever it is) escape their grasp as well?
I’ll bet I can give you the names of 4,637 people today who probably don’t feel that starting a war and killing a bunch of Arabs in the Afghani desert solves anything.
And as we embark upon what could become World War III I will remind you that it was a chain reaction resulting from the rage and aggression surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that buried hundreds of thousands of men in holes in the ground at the beginning of the last century.
And it was racism and nationalism that made rational and palatable the notion of calmly sending Jews off to gas chambers by the millions — to the broad general acceptance of most of the world at the time (including North Americans).
More recently, it was the rising price of the gasoline that powers our cars that made the carpet-bombing of 200,000 starving, defenseless, conscripted Iraqi soldiers fleeing through the desert seem perfectly acceptable. The “Defense of Democracy” here was really a not-so-cunning veil for the re-patriation of a feudal monarchy exploiting its odd geography at the expense of its neighbors.
History is filled with injustices inflicted by the gun. Maybe it’s time to address the real problems that underly the issues which terrorists and the PLO alike seek to draw attention to.
Like it or not, terrorism is a political tool commonly used by the under-recognized and oppressed against the oppressors and imperialists of the modern world. It is an instrument of warfare for those who cannot afford the tools of war. The Boston Tea Party, in which many British soldiers were killed — burning alive on their ships — was one of the first terrorist acts to occur on American soil and will certainly not be the last. As wars become increasingly brutal for the losers, so terrorism will keep pace.
Right now there is a movement afoot to try Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, for supporting Suharto with money, weapons, and propaganda and funding his wholesale slaughter of the East Timorese people. Also for his undeclared war against Laos and Cambodia, personally ordering bombing campaigns resulting in the deaths of as many as 500,000 innocent peasant farmers. What makes one man a politician and another man a terrorist? A suit and tie or an ivy-league degree?
While this attack was clearly a tragic, evil, and brutal act we live in a world filled with tragic, evil, and brutal acts played daily on the stage of international politics. None of these seem to be quite so haunting or dismaying until the touring company of death and destruction reaches our shores.
Mourn these people and their families, but remember that their lives are certainly no more or less valuable than the 358 Jews and Palestinians killed in Arab-Isreali skirmishes so far this year or the hundreds of thousands that have died over the last 54 years of aggression in that region.
Think about the numbers I have described here. Do you care more about millions of dead East Timorese (an entire culture nearing extinction) or about 4,637 innocent Americans?
And how do we, as a people, fundamentally prevent this from happening again?