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"Something" must be done?

By Paul D'Amato | January 11, 2002 | Page 9

"THE QUESTION isn't whether the Americans and the rest of the international community should urgently address the problem of terrorism--the question is how."

This is the seemingly commonsense argument made by one pacifist organization critical of Clinton's 1998 "antiterrorist" cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan. It's a position that has been commonly held by the more conservative wing of the current antiwar movement.

After skewering Washington for bombing Afghanistan, cartoonist Ted Rall wrote in an October 17 AlterNet column, "No nation is worthy of the name unless it's willing to react to the murder of its citizens with force."

The statement assumes two things: that the U.S. government's real goal in this war is ending terrorism, and that the U.S. government has the moral authority to "urgently address the problem of terrorism."

The terror-bombing of thousands of innocent civilians and returning the murderous mujahideen warlords who previously ran Afghanistan should be enough to show that "fighting terror" isn't foremost on Washington's real list of goals.

The answer of Rall and many others is that there should be a legal rather than a military response (which, admittedly, may still require the use of force). But as one questioner asked in an antiwar meeting in Washington, D.C., if we accept the idea that the "terrorists" must be "brought to justice" in some kind of international court, how, without military action, can they be captured?

The answer, of course, once you accept this line of reasoning, is that they can't. The position, therefore, isn't a far throw from the pro-war position taken in the Nation magazine, which backs military action but urges the U.S. to act with restraint and to bring the United Nations on board to give its war more international legitimacy.

The answer to "something must be done" is twofold.

First, we must argue that the answer must not be a false one, or one that makes the problem worse. Doing nothing is better than doing more harm. By parroting Bush's line, we will not win antiwar converts, but weaken the movement.

We will create a solid foundation for an antiwar movement that must continue--as Bush sets his gun sights on Somalia, Iraq and even Pakistan--if we understand that September 11 is a pretext for U.S. force, and that justice can never be served by a government that commits atrocities far worse.

To those who say, "something must be done to fight terrorism," we must answer: By whom and against what terrorism? Certainly not by the terrorists in Washington. Do we call upon the biggest mafia don to impose "peace" by killing all of the smaller dons, and by raining death and destruction on the neighborhoods they control?

If we are to bring "terrorists" and governments that harbor them to justice, why not begin with George Bush Sr., who obliterated an entire poor neighborhood in Panama City in 1989, bombed Iraq into a "pre-industrial state" in 1991 and starved Iraqi children with sanctions after that. How about Ronald Reagan, the man who secretly funded a contra army in Nicaragua that killed more than 20,000 people?

The list of American war criminals worthy of an international tribunal would be quite long--which perhaps explains why the U.S. refuses to back an international criminal court unless it exempts U.S. military personnel from prosecution.

As the U.S. uses its pretext of a "war on terror" to expand its military presence and interventions from the Philippines to Somalia to Iraq, it should become clearer to all that Washington's role as the world's cop will not end terror, but only spread it.

It's up to us to try to stop them, not to advise them how to do a nicer job.

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