On Native Ground
A TIME TO THINK CLEARLY
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The war drums are beating. The primal urge forrevenge=
is rising. The flags are waving and blind patriotism is the orderof the da= y. And many, many more innocents will die.
Tuesday's attacks were horrible beyond words. But I am afraid ournation'= s reactions to them will be even worse.
Take this editorial from the New York Post that appeared on Sept. 13: = "The heavens need to fall on their heads. They need to bleed. Not next mont= h. Not next week. Now. Who are they? Who cares? Cast a wide enough net, and= you'll catch the fish that need catching. ... So locate them. Pinpoint the= m. Bomb them. And bomb their smoldering rubble -- one more time! ... The we= ight of America's military might -- just short of nuclear oblivion -- needs= to be visited on those who planned and executed Tuesday's attacks. And als= o on those who support the terror -- benighted souls that they are. ... Dis= patch enough of them on the journey with no return, and this war will end q= uickly enough."
I've read some other variations on this theme from the rest of the lapto= p bombardiers on the right...words that need not be repeated here. These ar= e the words that have inspired Americans to lash out at all things Arabic. = The reports of attacks on Arab-Americans by so-called patriots increases by= the day, as if vandalizing a mosque or beating up someone of Middle East d= escent will avenge the thousands who died.
"War fever is never more vicious than when it is unfocused, when the ene= my is not yet clearly identified and war aims are not yet spelled out," wro= te Eugene Leach, a history professor at Trinity College, in The Hartford= Courant. "It is then that civil liberties, human values and democratic= institutions are at risk. ... If we are provoked into war, it will involve= none of the massive military campaigns of World War II. It will more resem= ble a cold war of antagonism always on the edge of hot war, with similar co= sts: titanic sums of money spent on security, civil liberties curbed, anxie= ty and paranoia displacing hope and trust, the life of the mind constricted= and contorted, and vast opportunities for human betterment lost."
Alread= y, Congress whisked through a $40 billion appropriation for the military in= preparation for the war that's certain to come. Expect manybillions more t= o be spend against an shadowy and ill-defined enemy in a warwithout a front= line.
Expect the Bill of Rights to be further trashed in the name of security.= Within hours of the attack, according to Declan McCullagh, a political rep= orter for Wired, FBI agents began showing up at Internet service providers = around the country demanding to place their "Carnivore" e-mail tracking sof= tware on their systems.
Under the terms of anti-terrorism legislation passed in 1996 in the wake= of the Oklahoma City bombing, immigrants can be held and expelled without = due process. It is a crime to provide material support for any designated f= oreign terrorist organization (and the Secretary of State has the authority= to decide which groups are 'terrorist organizations'). And part of that la= w made it more difficult for prisoners to appeal their convictions. In the = name of speedily dispatching Timothy McVeigh, hundreds of other prisoners w= ere executed after their legal rights were curtailed.
Expect more domestic spying by the FBI and other federal agencies. Expec= t our public spaces to be turned into armed camps. Expect the freedoms we o= nce knew to be curtailed in the name of "security." Commentator Patt Morris= on wrote in the Los Angeles Times about how this attack will challen= ge us to preserve those freedoms in the weeks and months to come.
"If the= y, whoever did this, expects us to become like them, likeany fearful and be= sieged and vengeful people...if 'better safe than sorry' becomes the nation= al motto...if the land of the free becomes the home of the military checkpo= int and the national ID card, then we fail the test," she wrote.
We can't let ourselves be blinded with fear, such as this nation did rig= ht after World War I when the federal government staged raids without warra= nts against leftists and radicals and deported immigrants, or during World = War II when we rounded up Japanese-Americans into concentration camps, or d= uring the Cold War, when the anti-Communist witch hunts raged.
And we need to remember, in all the talking about the need for revenge, = about the various acts committed by this nation over the years. President B= ush talks about the coming war as a battle between good and evil and procla= iming "our resolve for justice and peace," but one must never forget how ma= ny millions of civilians throughout the Third World that have been killed f= or political purposes by the U.S. government over the past five decades.
"If that statement seems outrageous, ask the people of Vietnam. Or Cambo= dia or Laos. Or Indonesia or East Timor. Or Chile. Or Central America. Or I= raq. Or Palestine. The list of countries and peoples who have felt the viol= ence of this country is long," wrote Robert Jensen, a journalism professor = at the University of Texas, for the Common Dreams NewsCenter site(http://ww= w.commondreams.org).
"The stilled voices of the millions killed in Southeast Asia, in Centra= l America, in the Middle East as a direct result of U.S. policy are the evi= dence of our resolve for justice and peace. If we are to be decent people, = our tears must flow not only for those of our own country. People are peopl= e, and grief that is limited to those within a specific political boundary = denies the humanity of others. And if we are to be decent people, we all mu= st demand of our government -- the government that a great man of peace, Ma= rtin Luther King Jr., once described as 'the greatest purveyor of violence = in the world' -- that the insanity stop here."
Our nation is the world's leading arms dealer. We've flooded the Middle = East with our weaponry. And never let it be forgotten that the CIA funded a= nd trained Osama bin-Laden, and others like him, during the 1980s to fight = the Soviets in Afghanistan. We have known for years that he was developing = the capability to carry out an attack such as the Sept. 11 horror, yet litt= le apparently was done to thwart it.
I remember well the blind jingoism during the Gulf War and how quickly t= his nation was whipped into a war frenzy to obliterate Iraq. We went to war= without thinking, without making even the slightest effort to let diplomac= y work. A million Iraqis have died since then as a result of our continuing= embargo, and our warplanes are still bombing Iraq a decade after the war. = And Saddam Hussein, another rogue that our government supported and sold we= apons to up until the day his armies invaded Kuwait, still is in power beca= use despite the rhetoric to the contrary, our national security people have= long maintained that not having Saddam in charge might be even worse for t= he Middle East.
We must not think carelessly about war. We must not think carelessly abo= ut curtailing the civil liberties that are the hallmark of this nation. We = must not destroy all that makes us the beacon of democracy in the name of r= evenge.
Peace, and the spirit of democracy, must prevail on earth.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20= years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).