Why we say no to war and hate

October 7, 2011

Despite the overwhelming support for war after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there were antiwar voices who stood up to George W. Bush's war on Afghanistan. Socialist Worker was proud to be among those who challenged the claim that the war was about "liberating" the people of Afghanistan--and stood up to the war on Muslims and Arabs at home.

On the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war, we reprint interviews and statements from prominent critics of the war that SW compiled at the time. This originally appeared in the September 28, 2001, issue of Socialist Worker.

GEORGE W. BUSH is beating the war drums. He and the rest of the U.S. political establishment have all but promised air strikes against Afghanistan--with wider military action to come.

And the drive to war abroad is being matched by a war at home--a crackdown on civil liberties, especially targeted at immigrants. The politicians' hysteria has fueled racist attacks on Arab Americans and other people of color.

None of this will make the world "safer." In fact, if Bush and Co. get their way, they will only add to the injustice and oppression and violence that breeds conflicts around the world.

Despite the overwhelming tide of pro-war sentiment, voices of resistance have begun to speak out across the country. We spoke to a number of opponents of Bush's war drive--and asked them to explain why they say no to war and hate.

Noam Chomsky

Longtime opponent of U.S. imperialism and the author of numerous books, most recently, The New Military Humanism.

THE QUESTION we should be asking now is: What about the alliance that's being formed--that the U.S. is trying to put together?

Marching against the bombing of Afghanistan in San Francisco in 2001
Marching against the bombing of Afghanistan in San Francisco in 2001 (Josh On | SW)

We should not forget that the U.S. itself is a leading terrorist state.

What about the alliance between the U.S., Russia, China, Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria--all of whom are delighted to see an international system develop sponsored by the U.S., which will authorize them to carry out their own terrorist atrocities?

Russia, for example, would be very happy to have U.S. backing for its war in Chechnya. You have the same Afghanis fighting against the Russians.

Indonesia would be delighted to have authorization to extend its own state terrorism. And that runs through the world...

I don't know what name you give to the attack that's killed maybe a million civilians in Iraq and maybe a half a million children--which is the price the Secretary of State says we're willing to pay.

Is there a name for that?

Supporting Israeli atrocities is another one.

Supporting Turkey's crushing of its own Kurdish population--for which the Clinton administration gave the decisive support, 80 percent of the arms, escalating as atrocities increased--is another.

The bombing of the Sudan--one little footnote, so small that nobody even mentioned it. How would somebody feel if they blew up half the pharmaceutical supplies in the U.S.?

Although that's not a fair analogy, because the Sudan is a poor country which can't replenish them. Nobody knows how many tens of thousands of deaths followed from that.

If somebody did that in the U.S., we'd probably call for nuking them. In this case, we say, "Oh well, too bad, let's go on to the next topic."

Other people in the world don't react like that.

This statement was excerpted, with permission, from an interview with Chomsky conducted by David Barsamian of Alternative Radio. The full interview was published in Monthly Review magazine.

Rania Masri

Coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition and media director of the Palestinian rights group Al-Awda. Her words here are taken from an article that will appear in the International Socialist Review.

SINCE THE terrorist attacks, various "Middle Eastern looking" minority communities-- including Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, South Asian Americans, and Sikh Americans--have suffered hundreds of (reported) verbal assaults, harassments and physical attacks.

These attacks against fellow Americans have been perpetrated by a small group of people. The vast majority of us stand united by our compassion, united against racism. And the media have been supportive in highlighting these assaults.

However, the mainstream media has not been as objective as it needs to be. It has repeatedly aired clippings of a small group of Palestinians rejoicing, while failing to state that all Palestinian organizations condemned the attacks.

The media have also repeatedly reported on "suspects" who "look Middle Eastern," thus further fueling the xenophobic sentiment that is taking hold of a small group of violent people, all of whom appear to "look European."

Now, there is much talk of war--of a "war against terrorism," of a "crusade" against evil. Georgia Senator Zell Miller represented this spirit to lash out when he said, "I say bomb the hell out of them. If there's collateral damage, so be it."

Who are "them"? Are they the people of Afghanistan, a people already suffering? Their civilian infrastructure, their educational systems and their hospitals have already been largely destroyed by both the previous military Soviet occupation and the present Taliban regime.

Or are they the people of Iraq, a people imprisoned by an 11-year state of siege? Every day, approximately 150 Iraqi children under the age of five die due to the effects of sanctions, while the U.S. continues to bomb Iraqi cities on a weekly basis.

As deep as our pain is now, we need to understand that our suffering is neither unique nor exclusive.

The road to peace is the road to security. And the road to peace and justice begins with the implementation of peace and justice, at home and abroad.

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Excerpts from an antiwar statement.

THE U.S. government should consider the root cause of this terrible event, which has not been the first and will not be the last one.

The U.S. should stop supporting Afghan terrorists and their supporters once and for all.

Now that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden are the prime suspects after the criminal attacks, will the U.S. subject Afghanistan to a military attack similar to the one in 1998 and kill thousands of innocent Afghans for the crimes committed by the Taliban and Osama?

Does the U.S. think that through such attacks--with thousands of deprived, poor and innocent people of Afghanistan as its victims--it will be able to wipe out the root cause of terrorism?

Or will it spread terrorism on an even larger scale?

From our point of view, a vast and indiscriminate military attack on a country that has been facing permanent disasters for more than two decades will not be a matter of pride. We don't think such an attack would be the expression of the will of the American people.

The U.S. government and people should know that there is a vast difference between the poor and devastated people of Afghanistan and the terrorist Jehadi and Taliban criminals.

While we once again announce our solidarity and deep sorrow with the people of the U.S., we also believe that attacking Afghanistan and killing its most ruined and destitute people will not in any way decrease the grief of the American people.

Ahmed Shawki

Editor of International Socialist Review and a member of the International Socialist Organization.

THE BUSH administration lost no time in moving into action on several fronts in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But none of its responses will put an end to terrorism. Nor will they be in the interests of those who died--or those of ordinary working Americans.

And for hundreds of thousands around the world, it will mean continued terror at the hands of the U.S. military. Nothing they've done, or will do, will help the people around the world who suffer from terrorism--that is, the terrorism of national states, the terrorism of an unjust economic system.

There's a fundamental question here: What gives the United States the right, first, to judge who the terrorists are; second, to engage in military action against them; and third, to be the guardian of the Muslim world?

No matter what the country and who the leaders are, it's up to the people of that country to determine their future--not the U.S. government.

In the Vietnam War, the United States killed on average 5,000 people per week with its bombing--roughly the number who died in New York City. It wasn't suggested at the time that the Vietnamese had the right to bomb the U.S. or to change its government or to assassinate its leaders. But that's what's being talked about by the Bush administration.

People in this country are being asked to go along with this based on their outrage at the attacks and their grief and sympathy with the victims.

But as an antiwar coalition in New York says in one of its slogans: "Our grief is not a call for war." War will only make the problems worse, rather than better.

Chalmers Johnson

Author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.

"BLOWBACK" HAS now arrived in the United States.

So far, our government has given us a brilliant display of how to lock up the house after the burglars have left. The Pacific fleet, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, left San Diego to patrol the Southern California coastline in case our intelligence geniuses discover that Osama bin Laden has a navy. It is beyond belief.

Actually, of course, it is just posturing after a catastrophic intelligence failure. One must recall that bin Laden, like Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein before him, started his political career as a "CIA asset."

This isn't an "attack on the United States." It is an attack on U.S. foreign policy. It was our people who invented the concept of "collateral damage," referring to the Iraqi and Serb civilians that were killed from our safely impervious bombers.

The people of New York who died on Tuesday were "collateral damage" of recent American foreign policy, including our unilateralism; our walking away from the conferences on global warming, racism, the world criminal court and chemical weapons, while pursuing monomaniacally a ballistic missile defense system; and our indifference to the antiglobalization movement from Seattle to Genoa--even though our Department of Defense uses the movement's main premise as a reason for why we should put weapons in space: that under our current economic policies, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Medea Benjamin

Cofounder of Global Exchange and the Green Party's 2000 candidate for U.S. Senate from California.

AFTER THE shock of September 11, we started to see lots of hate crimes against people of Arab ethnicity--or at least against people who racists thought were of Arab or Muslim background.

And this wasn't just nationally, but right here in our own neighborhoods. So we held a press conference with a local Iranian coffee shop owner and printed up signs that read: "Make our communities a hate free zone."

Now hundreds of people a day are downloading these signs off our Web site and putting them up in businesses, community centers and homes across the country.

We have to convince people that a military response will only create more of the hatred against the U.S. that created this terrorism in the first place.

Everybody says that the world changed after September 11. But the question of how it will change is up to us.

If the U.S. responds militarily, then we will see more violence and more loss of life.

But if we can build a strong movement for global peace, then maybe we can build a world that is free of terrorism and the conditions that create terrorism in the first place.

Norman Solomon

Syndicated columnist on media and politics and the author of The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.

IT'S REALLY a matter of a single standard for human rights and human life. To get beyond the media spin and ideological agendas, we need to support with all of our resources the quest for social justice, economic equity and human rights.

Terrorism under any rhetorical guise needs to be rejected. That's why we condemn what happened at the World Trade Center, and that's why we condemn the continuing history of U.S. military action that has taken so many human lives in various countries.

In the long run, we've got to build social movements that are humanistic and pursue a radical vision for redistribution of wealth, authentic grassroots democracy and a broad, vibrant definition of human rights that we can bring to fruition.

Adrian Lomax

Prisoner in the Oregon Correctional Facility in Wisconsin and contributor to the book The Celling of America.

IN 1985, using an antiaircraft missile provided by the CIA, Osama bin Laden shot down a Soviet civilian airliner, killing everyone aboard. We didn't call that terrorism--though it clearly was.

The Israeli military--using weapons, training and funds provided by the U.S.--has bombed, bulldozed and shot Arabs on a daily basis for decades. We don't call that terrorism--though it clearly is.

In 1988, Bill Clinton bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, depriving a nation of much-needed medical supplies. We didn't call that terrorism--though it clearly was.

The incessant U.S. bombing of Iraq both during and since the Gulf War--along with U.S.-backed economic sanctions--have killed more than 1 million Iraqis. We don't call that terrorism--though it clearly is.

The war on terrorism that George W. Bush now proposes will certainly consist of appalling acts of terrorism--committed by the U.S. military.

If Americans want to reduce international terrorism, we must first stop committing and sponsoring terrorism ourselves.

Michael Albert

Editor of Z magazine/ZNet.

I GENERALLY oppose war because it uses fear to galvanize people's worst behaviors, because it kills innocents, because it creates conditions that further injustice rather than mitigating injustice.

War now would pile catastrophe on top of catastrophe, meet callousness with callousness, answer fundamentalism with rigidity.

It would neither solve nor even address the problem of terrorism, but would instead be terrorist itself and simultaneously lay the groundwork for more to come.

Instead of large-scale war, however, I anticipate an effort to have the fear that war nurtures, the reactionary impulses that it propels, the war budget and mentality that it is sustained by and simultaneously expands--without, however, having the fighting.

We will likely do some surgical strikes or perhaps even commando actions. We may also bomb the defenseless poor somewhere, as in other recent campaigns.

I fear even more that we will disrupt flows of food or of food aid--and in doing so may well cause countless people to suffer starvation.

But eventually, I suspect that U.S. elites will put a lid on processes that could lead to upheavals throughout the Middle East and Moslem worlds--which was surely bin Laden's intent, if he was in fact responsible.

Kathy Kelly

Member of the group Voices in the Wilderness and recently ended a fast and vigil in New York City to call for an end to sanctions against Iraq.

IT'S STILL hard to speak while hearts ache for loved ones killed on September 11. But how can we stay silent when we hear screams for revenge?

No, it's time to again break ranks--be voices for peace amid the cries of hatred and war.

It's sadly ironic that the attack on America has caused a bereavement that has long been mirrored in cities, towns and villages across Iraq, where civilians have endured 11 years of cruel attacks and a devastating siege.

Nothing, nothing justifies the September 11 attacks. Nothing, nothing we've ever seen in Iraq could excuse it.

But the security that people crave here requires a deeper understanding of what ordinary people have endured in countries where U.S. policies have claimed thousands of victims.

Perhaps now we can hear the echo in our own hearts of the far-away voices of people previously forgotten and invisible, people who can help us see that our security won't lie in being able to frighten, threaten, coerce and kill other people.

Those nearly silenced voices there--and in our own hearts--tell us that a safe and livable future will lie in our ability to forge bonds of understanding and compassion with other people.

Anthony Arnove

Editor of the book Iraq Under Siege.

PRESIDENT BUSH has announced a war on terrorism everywhere.

But his definition of terrorism is a convenient one. Terrorism is limited to actions carried out against the United States and its allies, not by them.

The same journalists and politicians who speak of the sanctity of life and condemn "all" acts of terrorism in reality do support acts of terrorism and violence.

It's terrorism when the U.S. bombs Iraq, as it has done again this week. It's also terrorism when the U.S. bleeds the Iraqi people through more than 10 years of sanctions.

Or when the U.S. government sends billions of dollars to support government and right-wing death squads in Colombia.

Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. The United States is the richest--and spends more on the military than its eight next richest competitors combined.

Any war that the U.S. undertakes will be a slaughter.

Fortunately, around the country, people are questioning the idea that the U.S. should respond to the taking of innocent people's lives by killing more innocent people and risking much wider war.

Peace vigils, teach-ins, organizing meetings and rallies have shown that people are mobilizing.

We have to build on these sentiments and organize a broad movement against the coming war.

And we need to fight for a world without terrorism, war, embargoes, refugee camps and the gross inequalities and injustices that breed conflicts around the world.

Edward Herman

Veteran opponent of U.S. militarism and co-author, with Noam Chomsky, of Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

THE BUSH administration is heading us rapidly toward war, under strong pressures from within, based on the humiliation and loss of prestige on the part of the security establishment; the national surge of Yellow Ribbon chauvinism with the crucial help of the mainstream media and a right wing that is taking advantage of the crisis to push its agenda of holy war and repression; and the existence of vast inventories of overkill and a military-industrial complex eager to supply replacements.

But the likely war will have no redeeming features for the general citizenry. It might not even hurt the planners of the recent attacks, but it is sure to cause massive civilian casualties in either pure air and missile attacks or combinations of air and ground warfare.

Unless extremely narrow in scope, it is very likely to cause further retaliatory attacks, with a good chance of a vicious spiral out of control.

Some have argued that the underlying strategy of the recent attacks was precisely to induce a massive response against Islamic targets that would destabilize major Islamic states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. This could be the prelude to much wider warfare.

A war will also have strong negative effects on this country and its allies, wasting resources, creating a culture of fear, with home casualties from the fight against "terrorism," and bringing with it serious encroachments on civil liberties, as well as ethnic, religious and political polarization.

The right wing is pleased with and encourages this process, as it serves their ideological aims. But it is extremely damaging and threatening to human welfare and democracy.

David Barsamian

Director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colo.

THE U.S. government's new "war against terrorism" is not only very vague, it's potentially very dangerous for the U.S.

Does this mean that the United States is going to invade and bomb Turkey--a terrorist state that terrorizes its Kurdish population?

Does it mean the United States is going to invade and bomb Israel--a state that terrorizes Palestinians?

Is it going to invade and bomb Indonesia because Indonesia carries out domestic terrorism?

This is a Pandora's box that the U.S. is opening.

The U.S. is already one of the major rogue states in the world in terms of how it ignores international treaties. The string of treaties that the U.S. refuses to sign--or signs and ignores--is well documented, from the Kyoto protocol on global warming to the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that's now being rolled back.

A good way to understand how U.S. foreign policy operates in the world is to recall the Godfather movies. If you kissed the hand of Don Corlione, then he was your friend. He would embrace you and kiss you on both cheeks. But if you didn't kiss his hand and if you didn't genuflect and honor him, then he would break your knees.

The kind of gangsterism that the U.S. conducts overseas and the bargains it strikes with the most heinous type of people--from Osama bin Laden to Ferdinand Marcos to Manuel Noriega to Saddam Hussein--is outrageous.

Most of that information is hidden from the American public. They think the United States is a victim.

They don't know that the United States is the major victimizer in the world.

Matthew Rothschild

Editor of The Progressive magazine.

THE MASSIVE war that George W. Bush is planning will kill thousands of innocent people to avenge the death of thousands of innocent people.

That doesn't seem to square on the scales of justice.

Also, this war will not make us more secure. It will make us more imperiled. For every terrorist that Bush kills in this war, two terrorists will arise. For every innocent person Bush kills in this war, five or 10 terrorists will arise.

I'm heartened by the peace movement that is developing in a surprising way. But we're a very tiny minority according to the polls, so we need to raise our voices.

And it's also important when we do raise our voices to acknowledge the pain and grief and understandable rage that many Americans feel, especially those who lost loved ones in New York or Washington or Pennsylvania.

But even as we share that grief, we need to try to persuade our fellow citizens that, as Martin Luther King said, hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, toughness multiplies toughness, in a descending spiral of destruction.

George Capaccio

Peace activist who has traveled to Iraq numerous times to bear witness to the barbaric impact of U.S. economic sanctions.

IN MY neighborhood, as no doubt in yours, almost every home displays our country's flag--in recognition, I suppose, of the bond, the loss and the grief we share in common.

Too many, I fear, believe the solace that we collectively seek is to be found in war. How hard it is for we Americans to see, at this time, the futility of war.

Our media, as it did during the Gulf War, serves only to inspire hysteria, jingoism and xenophobia.

Rarely does a reporter or commentator ask why the United States was attacked. To do so, of course, would raise disturbing questions about our conduct in the world.

We have only to look at our history to understand why so many people in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world bear so much ill will toward our political and military institutions.

Given such a record, it is not too difficult to understand why we have become the target of terrorist networks.

What is truly remarkable is the way our own media establishment has kept us woefully ignorant of the harm that we have done in the name of "national interest."

Our government is preparing for war. It is not too late, friends, to make our voices heard and do all that is within our power to prevent what is sure to be an even greater catastrophe for the peoples of this world.

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