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Earth Is Our Homeland

by Tom Turnipseed

Continuous television news hypes the “War on Terrorism” like it’s a big ball game we can win if we can only destroy enough of “the enemy” and their “targets” as we unleash our sophisticated, hi-tech, destroy-and-kill military machine on one of the poorest countries in the world. CBS’s Mark Phillips stands on the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier with cruise missiles streaking away toward some cave in Afghanistan and enthusiastically quotes a sailor who says, “We are going to terrorize the terrorists.” Funky cheerleader hosts like Geraldo Rivera exclaim, “Don’t it feel good to hit back,” as his General Electric-owned cable channel boosts the battle for their defense contracting parent company. Retired generals and admirals appear on camera as analysts of the bomb-by-bomb, play-by-play action. Beyond the flag-waving and getting-even- feels-good that keeps the score in the game of death and destruction dominating television, there are increasingly sobering stories in newspapers of daunting doomsday danger.

On October 8, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council that claimed the right under Article 51 to launch military attacks in self-defense and, after singling out Osama bin Laden’s al-Queda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, said, “We may find that our self-defense requires further actions with respect to other organizations and other states.” U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he and diplomats in the world body were “disturbed” by the U.S. statement claiming a right to extend military attacks beyond Afghanistan. Negroponte’s nomination for U.N. Ambassador was opposed by human rights advocates because of his support for the murderous Honduran military and their CIA trained death squads in the Contra War when he was the U.S. ambassador in Honduras from 1981 to 1985. On October 10, the N.Y. Times reported that U.S. officials said terrorists tied to al-Queda in the Phillippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are among the “likely” targets of future covert and overt American actions. The Wall Street Journal gave in-depth coverage to a “simmering debate within the Bush administration over whether any ‘war’ on terrorism could be complete without a strike at Iraq.”

The N.Y. Times also reported on October 10 that Pakistan’s President, General Musharraf, said he had received “definite assurances” from the U.S. that the military operation in Afghanistan would be short, but the White House contradicted him with Bush commenting, “I don’t know who told the Pakistani president that.” In nuclear-armed Pakistan, the N.Y. Times reported that military officers close to Musharraf said the U.S. should not take for granted that Musharraf can indefinitely hold the loyalties of the army and Washington needed to understand how tenuous General Musharraf’s position might be if the bombings continued, additional Afghan civilians were killed, and the Islamic protests grew. As the war planners expand the conflict, their need for more secrecy grows.

On October 9, President Bush lashed out at members of Congress for “leaks” of classified information about the war against terrorism. Bush received bi-partisan criticism for his “order” limiting Congressional access to classified information about war making activities and plans. Senator Hagel (Rep. Neb.) complained that “this thing exploded” and Senator Stevens from Alaska, who is the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said “I’m not going to vote for money for intelligence matters that I don’t know where it’s going to.” Senate Majority Leader Daschle said “Congress has a constitutional role involving oversight.” The secrecy “leak” issue caused the House Appropriations Committee to cancel a scheduled mark-up of a $369 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes the CIA budget. According to the Wall Street Journal, a committee spokesman said, “It won’t be rescheduled until this is fixed.” The greatest threat to democracy in nation states like ours is government secrecy, particularly in “national security” matters. President Eisenhower warned us about the military/industrial complex that contrives secret war plans to make “defense” contractors lots of money and can get a lot of people killed. We must demand openness in our government and especially the most lethal part of it. The American people need to hear why and how the United States is going to kill people and why so many people in the world hate us enough to kill us. The Bush Administration must not continue the secrecy in war planning and the media censorship they are now demanding.

President Bush’s newly appointed head of “Homeland Security,” Tom Ridge, declared this week that “the only turf we should be worried about protecting is the turf we stand on”. I believe the earth, the-whole-wide-world, is our homeland and “terrorizing the terrorists” continues the cycle of killing. CP

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

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