By Jack Random
Of all the manipulations of the Bush propaganda machine, one of the most dangerous was the assertion that the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was the first volley in a war of the ages. While politicians have a predisposition to dramatize all events, the tragedy of that horrific day required no dramatization. This was an assertion with implications far beyond the typical media sound bite. It redefined the event in a manner that would serve a preconceived policy of preemptive war and global dominance. It served to prepare the nation for a state of perpetual war.
In times of war, measures can be taken that would be unthinkable at any other time. Bloated military spending, record deficits, job loss, declining wages and draconian laws can be rationalized. Dissidents can be silenced, harassed and detained without reasonable cause and entire classes of American citizens can be confined to concentration camps. In times of war, fundamental rights can be suspended or denied.
The war in Afghanistan was questionable, the war in Iraq indefensible, but the war on terrorism, like the drug war and the cold war before it, is not a war at all.
For the purposes of international law and international codes of conduct, war has a very specific meaning. It describes an armed conflict between states or nations; Al Qaeda is neither. It is an outlaw organization without status or legitimacy. To define it as an enemy in war is to give it a level of legitimacy it does not deserve. It empowers an organization of criminals and rallies to their cause others who share nothing with Al Qaeda except a grievance – real or perceived – against the United States of America.
This nation would have been far more secure had we attacked the problem of international terrorism with the sword of international justice. The president has squandered an opportunity to form a united front against a common enemy and, in so doing, divided the world into “us and them” for decades to come.
If the war in Iraq ended with the fall of Baghdad, then this nation is no longer at war. We are an occupier of one nation and an occupier-by-proxy of another. Not long ago, the president sent his emissary to the United Nations in an attempt to win for the occupation what he could not win for the invasion. He failed. The president was right though he was clearly insincere. It is time to return to the United Nations – this time with open arms. In the interest of our soldiers and our nation’s security, it is time to give up control of Iraqi oil. It is time to give up control of the contracts. It is time to give up control of the occupying forces. It is time to end this constant state of siege and the public terror alerts that serve no purpose save to maintain a level of fear in the electorate.
We are not a nation at war. We are confronted with a problem that much of the world has long endured. It cannot be eliminated with bombs and missiles. It can only be contained through the decisive actions of nations with a common cause. It can only be defeated when the root causes of discontent are effectively addressed.
The war with terrorism is over. It is the war that never was. Let us now elect a president who can declare the peace.