On Native Ground
"MORAL CLARITY" AND THE WAR ON TERROR
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Is anyone going to stand up to President Bush's plan of perpetual war for perpetual re-election?
A U.S. attack on Iraq is discussed not as a possibility, but as a certainty. Only the timing is in doubt. It could happen as soon as this summer or perhaps early next year.
The U.S. not only has troops in Afghanistan; they're also in places like Yemen, the Phillipines, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Columbia as part of the "war on terror."
Did Americans ask for a global war of unlimited duration in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks? If you question this, you are helping the enemies of America and weakening the nation's resolve.
Professional moralist and right-wing scold William Bennett has a new book out, "Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism," that makes the case that Americans are insufficiently behind President Bush's war.
In an April 9 interview with the National Review to promoting the book, Bennett said after Sept. 11 one could see "the intellectual and moral confusion of the average American who asked. 'Why do they hate us' and 'Did we bring this on ourselves' and 'Shouldn't we work on getting rid of poverty and oppression - the root causes of terrorism?' Many of these Americans, it should be said, were and are supportive of our military campaign in Afghanistan.
But that these questions arose - and in some cases arose immediately - bespeaks lessons that have been forgotten and, for the young among us, have not been learned at all."
In other words, Bennett thinks we shouldn't be asking those sorts of questions about America. Why? Because it "is moral relativism at its worst," Bennett wrote in a column that ran in the New York Daily News on April 14.
"Because it undermines love of country and provides intellectual insulation to our enemies, it represents a grave threat to our long-term national security," wrote Bennett. "It must end. Until we see that Western civilization represents a superior way of life and that the United States of America is the greatest nation in the world, we reside on cracked, shaky ground."
Bennett is the point man for Americans for Victory over Terrorism (AVOT), a group that is a division of his conservative think tank, Empower America. Others involved with AVOT include Reagan/Bush the elder-era functionaries such as former CIA director James Woolsey, former Pentagon advisor Frank Gaffney, former Attorney General William Barr and Republican Jewish Coalition chair Lawrence Kadish, Bennett said at the press conference announcing the founding of AVOT that its mission is to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we're facing."
Some of AVOT's early targets include former President Jimmy Carter, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Harpers magazineeditor Lewis Lapham and American Prospect magazine editor Robert Kuttner - all of whom have publicly expressed their misgivings with President Bush's war. While Bennett has said that "we do not wish to silence people," AVOT's mission appears to be to snuff out the antiwar movement before it gains enough strength to move public opinion away from the "war on terror." But I think it is a mission that will ultimately fail, because I don't think the American people are buying Bennett's message.
Slowly, people are asking questions and are rejecting the ban on dissent that the Republicans think they can impose on the nation. The truth is too powerful to buried under the jingoism of folks such as Bennett. Let's start with the post-Sept. 11 law enforcement dragnet. Thousands of FBI agents rounded up more than 1,300 suspects since Sept. 11 - many of whom are still in detention. After one of the most extensive manhunts in U.S. history and after rewriting parts of the Constitution to chase the "evildoers," how many al-Qaida terrorists have nabbed?
According to the Times of London, the answer is zero. Not one al-Qaida cell has been found operating in the United States, and while security authorities in more than 60 other countries have arrested suspects with links to Osama bin Laden, the Times has reported that "none of the hundreds detained have yet been found to have any links with terrorism."
If you want to count Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged "20th hijacker," remember that he was arrested a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
As for "winning" the war in Afghanistan, that still doesn't quite seem to be the case. In a recent talk at the Chicago Headline Club, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh had some interesting things to say. Hersh's stories for The New Yorker have been some of the best reporting we've seen so far on the war, so his observations carry some weight. Hisremarks appear in the May issue of Chicago Magazine.
"al-Qaida was not destroyed in the war," Hersh said. "Afghanistan was. Is our country doing anything significant to rebuild the country, nation-building, all those things? Anything that might suggest that when we move on to Iraq it might do some good? ... If the model of going into Iraq is Afghanistan , boy, you can understand why people might be very worried... "We're really going the wrong way. I think we're in real trouble. I'm sure this is the most serious threat we've ever faced since the Third Reich. We have people that are committed that hate us, and that want to destroy us, and instead of dealing with the underlying issues that get people that way, we make it worse."
Maybe because the underpinning for the "war on terror" isn't preserving Western civilization or bringing democracy to the world. The real Bush Doctrine is not promoting global stability and fighting terrorism. It's about ensuring that the world's biggest consumer of oil has ready access to it. That's why the United States is building military bases in the Caspian Sea basin - one of the largest untapped sources of crude oil in the world. That's why U.S.-trained and equipped forces will be guarding an oil pipeline in Colombia. That's why U.S. embassy personnel reportedly met with the people who tried to overthrow Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. That's why President Bush sucks up to the Saudis, despite it being the place that provided the money and personnel for the Sept. 11 attacks. And that's why President Bush wants a war with Iraq.
True moral clarity might mean devoting more of our nation's resources toward conservation and developing alternative sources of energy, rather than spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a military to fight wars to control the oil fields. But we don't hear William Bennett and AVOT talking about that, do we?
"It is a war of shadows," wrote Richard Neville in the April 15 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. "Whose shadows? Who has the most to gain? An interlocking network of power brokers in oil, arms and media, for whom the world is a gold mine and this war their windfall."
These are just some of the realities of this war that we are being asked to uncritically and wholeheartedly support. I don't support this war, and growing numbers of Americans disagree with the bogus calls for moral clarity by people like Bennett.
In a truly free nation, in the words of Gunther Grass, "the first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open." Keep this in mind when people start confusing dissent with disloyalty.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).