Sunday, August 22, 2004



Better weapons lead to better and better weapons,
until the earth is a grenade with the fuse burning.

William Burroughs
Cities of the Red Night


What kind of a nation reacts to an act of terror as we have?

In response to a vicious and brutal attack, we mercilessly destroyed one nation (the poorest of the lot) for harboring the terrorists while allying ourselves with those nations that supplied and supported them. We could have as easily bombed ourselves for financing and supplying Al Qaeda, the Mujahadeen, and every other Islamic fundamentalist militant group who served on the front lines in our war against the Soviet beast.

Did we not promise never again to forget the destruction we have wrought and have we not forgotten? We have left Afghanistan with a government confined to its capitol. We have left their country in the hands of the very same war lords who made the Taliban acceptable to a people ravaged and broken by war.

Did we not promise never to forget those responsible for knocking the twin towers down and have we not forgotten? Osama bin Laden is alive. Al Qaeda is regrouping even in the very same region where we were supposed to have routed and destroyed them. But we have turned our attention elsewhere. We prefer to fight old enemies, enemies we can face on a battlefield, in wars we can televise from beginning to glorious end.

What kind of a nation uses a terrorist attack to justify declaring war on three sovereign nations, however ruthless or despicable their leaders may be, having no relation and bearing no responsibility for the destruction we have suffered? Can we look at ourselves in honesty and candor and reflect that this is the behavior of an enlightened nation? Are we in truth the great liberator our president proclaims or are we the great destroyer, an avenging angel, champion of the cause of vengeance? Do we carry the torch of liberty or the hammer of wrath? Do our friends and allies welcome us or do they fear not to welcome us?

Place yourselves in the shoes of our adversaries if only for a moment. You are living in Kabul. Your country is decimated, its economy in tatters. You cannot find work or housing, medical care or schools for your children. You cannot leave the boundaries of the city for fear of landmines or warlords or parties still loyal to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. America has spent tens of billions destroying your country but offers only a fraction to rebuild it. An American reporter approaches you to ask how you feel about your liberators. You reply that you love America but in your heart there is no love. You fear America and do not wish to rouse the anger of its government.

Imagine now that you are living in Baghdad. You have suffered under the rule of a tyrant but you know that America helped place him in power, supplying him with the instruments of terror and oppression, and helped keep him in power for as long as the oil fields remained open to western control. You have watched half a million of your children die from the American war and its aftereffects and you cannot bring yourself to blame it all on Saddam. When the conquering army marches into your city you cheer and smile and pray that your suffering has come to an end. But within you is deepest, darkest doubt. America has never brought good will or good fortune.

Imagine living in Korea, Iran or Venezuela. Do you pray for American intervention? Do you welcome the great liberator or do you fear her wrath?

It might so easily have been different. We could have responded as an enlightened nation. The world was united in its good will toward us. Americans were ready to be challenged. Instead of challenging the world to brace itself for unending war, our president could have issued the greatest challenge of the new millennium: He could have challenged us to transform our economy from oil dependency to a solar, wind and hydrogen based economy. No longer would we need our troops on the holy lands of Saudi Arabia. No longer would we consume most of the world’s finite resources. No longer would we claim the right to poison the world’s air, pollute her waters, and destroy her ozone layer. We could have weaned ourselves and much of the world from the inevitable catastrophe of nuclear energy.

Of course, we would have had to go after Al Qaeda as well but we might have listened when the Taliban offered to present the accused to an international court of justice. We would still have faced many hardships but Osama bin Laden would not be free and Al Qaeda would be isolated and inoperative. America would not have to stand alone (with none but borrowed and dependent allies at her side) in her crusade against terror.

But is this just a dream? Is it as impossible as it seems? There is no escaping the fact that a different path could not have been chosen as long as the same corporate interests that direct us toward war and oil dependency are in control of our government. Despite our best intentions and desire for peace, the people are paralyzed by a notion of patriotism that requires our support in times of war regardless of circumstance.

Clearly, the path to a more enlightened nation begins by striking down the dual dogmatism of false patriotism and blind faith in corporate dominated governance. Our economy is dependent on fossil fuels because our government is financed by the profits that fossil fuels provide. We could long ago have achieved oil independence. We need only the desire to make it so.

For the time being, we must fight against the forces of war. We are not a war loving people. The dirty underside of war is rarely observed before it slips into the pages of history. It is popular now to lament the plight of Vietnam veterans but when their story was immediate, when the suffering was living history, America’s silent majority did not want to acknowledge it. We yearned for ribbons and parades but we did not wish to hear why so many of our children are disillusioned, disturbed and disengaged. Even now, as we lament our forgotten soldiers, our mourning cries ringing through the nightmares of history, we have all but forgotten those who served in the last war. The Gulf War Syndrome is more than a soldier’s bad memories. In the shadows of the forgotten where no cameras are trained, ten thousand have died and one third of those who served are seriously ill.

The time for our passion, our sympathy and outrage, is before the suffering begins. We must rise in one voice to challenge the path of war. But as we do so we must not forget that the path to enlightenment begins with a change in government. To free our nation of oil dependency and all the bloody entanglements it demands, we must free our government of the same. We must elect individuals whose only interest is the welfare of the people they represent. Only then will the price of war be too high to pay. Only then will peace have a chance.



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