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If we want to root out terrorism, then we have to display a leadership that extends beyond our narrow economic and military interests.
We funneled billions in military aid to both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden when it suited US policy to do so. The stark truth of the matter is that these two men are creatures of US policy.
During the waning years of the Cold War we supported Hussein in an effort to contain a Soviet-backed Iran. Reflecting shifting US policy, in the more recent Gulf War we encouraged Iraqi citizens to rise up against Hussein. But as soon as Saddam’s army surrendered, and the westward flow of oil from Kuwait was no longer threatened, the war ended. We stood by idly as Hussein slaughtered 1000s of pro-democracy Iraqis. If it was important enough for us to wage war against Iraq, it should have been just as important to install a peace-keeping force to ensure that its nascent democracy took hold. The result is that Hussein, who is a supporter of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, is gaining power by the day. A related issue is the US’s shameful medical embargo against Iraq, which has done nothing to hinder Hussein’s rule of the area, and has killed 1000s of innocent civilians. Far more have died from our purposeful destruction of the Iraqi water supply, an act violating the Geneva Convention. The UN estimates that 500,00 Iraqi children have perished as a result of US actions and sanctions, with an additional 5,000 dying each month.
Osama bin Laden, another Cold War creation, was supported and trained by the US to repel the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Billions of US dollars went to the Afghan Mujahiddeen, a group of Islamic fundamentalist holy warriors. When the Soviets withdrew, the US did nothing to assist the more moderate and tolerant faction within Afghanistan. The result was that the repressive Taliban regime took over. It was not until 1998 that Unocal, under pressure following the US embassy bombings in Africa, pulled out of its Afghan oil pipeline scheme. Earlier this year the US sent $45 million to the Taliban to help fight its production of opium ? which was a poor decision, given that opium is the Taliban’s greatest export, second only to terrorism. The greatest act of terrorism in modern Middle Eastern history occurred nineteen years ago, in a three-day orgy of rape and murder, when Israel and its Phalangist militia allies killed 1700 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. This followed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon that killed nearly 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinians ? almost all of whom were innocent civilians. The US, of course, backed this act, and provided Israel with the Apache helicopters and Boeing air to ground missiles to get the job done. Israel continues to use US weapons on Palestinian civilians. Israel and US policy are in violation of UN resolutions calling for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank. The US and Britain are the only countries supporting Israel’s state sponsored terrorism against the Palestinians.
In my view, there are only two options for the US to pursue. Option 1 is to mount an all-out war on terrorism. This, however, is doomed to failure. Witness Russian military advisers who tell the US that a battle in Afghanistan will make Vietnam look like a picnic. More war will further radicalize an already desperate people, and destablize an already precarious region. More war will not redress, let alone acknowledge, the many wrongs in the Mid East for which the US is responsible. Afghanistan is already laid low. A more wretched country you’ll be hard pressed to find.
Option 2 is a non-military option. It involves seeking justice through the International Court, collaboration with international financial institutions to freeze the flow of money that funds terrorism, and a redress, for starters, of Palestinian grievances. The US’s blatantly biased support of Israel’s war against the Palestinian and Lebanese people has created the fever pitch of anger we now find in radical Islam. After considerable study in this area, I feel that the silver bullet to the resolution of our Mid East problems would be forcing Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders: A complete withdrawal from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. This would be in accord with international consensus, via the UN, that Israel is illegally occupying these lands. If this can be accomplished, much of the basis for the anger that drives terrorism will be removed.
The result of a non-military approach could be miraculous. Let us see what some honesty and a turning of the other cheek might accomplish.
And, if it doesn’t work ? if it doesn’t curb terrorism — then the US could always fall back on its military might, re-installing an Israeli state 1000 miles across if we chose to do so.
Mario Cuomo, New York’s governor, has spoken eloquently regarding the horrible events of September 11 as NOT being a Pearl Harbor. It was an act of terrorism, NOT an act of war.
If the US succumbs to its fears, gives up its cherished civil liberties, becomes a more closed society, and refuses to acknowledge that the vast majority of Islam (and there are many denominations of Islam) does NOT support terrorism, the world ? OUR world ? will become a yet more sorrowful and fearful place.
Make no mistake about it: The terrorism of September 11 was a horrible, despicable, unconscionable act. But more bloodshed through a US war effort is neither morally nor politically right. CP
Derek Bishop lives in Hawaii.