What follows are a series of letters I sent to my local, remarkably rightwing, paper in Champaign/Urbana.
One of the worst lies offered by pundits and professors since the atrocities of September 11 is the insistence that any attempt to understand the causes, reasons or motives for those crimes is to justify or excuse them. The assertion is dishonest nonsense.
The outrages that draw people to terror networks to the point of being willing to kill and be killed, are also resented by people of all social classes and backgrounds throughout the Middle East. It is the fault of those pundits and professors that Americans are largely unaware of them — (1) US support for corrupt family dictatorships across Arabia, support that is the result of US insistence on control of Mideast oil; (2) US sanctions on Iraq, which have killed a million people, half of them children; and (3) US support for Israel’s murderous occupation of Palestine, now in its thirty-fifth year and declared illegal by the United Nations.
Until we end these crimes, for which we as US citizens are responsible, we will be unable to stop crimes like those of September 11, for which we are not responsible.
On Monday, October 1, the local daily chose to feature on its editorial page a frantic attack by one Michael Kelly [of the Washington Post] on “pacifism” as “immoral.” Kelly doesn’t bother to distinguish the various views to which that term might refer, up to and including the position that the US should employ international law to apprehend and prosecute the criminals responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, rather than launching military assaults on impoverished countries. No, he just knows that “the pacifists’ position … is evil,” and, although “their arguments are not being taken seriously,” he seems very afraid that they will convince “Americans to not fight.”
Kelly seems to want (other people) to split heads as if they were infinitives, and he enlists George Orwell to help him make the Hitler Rhetorical Transposition — i.e., the standard assertion that all our enemies, whoever they may be, are always like Nazi Germany — and therefore of course justify any enormity practiced upon them.
Instead of this mad persiflage, we might get a better idea of the motivation for Kelly’s attack on peacemakers of all sorts from another recent column of his, in which (before September 11) he advised Israel to reject American advice on restraint: “Why shouldn’t [Israel] go right ahead and escalate the violence? … It can win only by fighting the war on its terms, unleashing an overwhelming force … to destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces…”
Machine-gun Kelly is at one with Osama bin Laden in wanting to bring about a war between “the West” and Islam. “That is [their] position, and it is evil.”
Suppose that, after the Columbine High School shootings, the government’s policy had been to go to the homes of the shooters and kill the parents who had “harbored” and “succored” them; locate the friends who agreed with their ideas and maybe even had some knowledge of their plans and kill them; and then burn the entire suburb to the ground. The media, while applauding the infinite justice of this response, would then excoriate as a justification of the original atrocity any suggestion that the motives or causes for the events should be examined.
We would of course condemn these responses as criminal and psychotic. Yet equivalent policies are being undertaken and applauded in response to the killings of September 11. What is the difference? The answer is short, sharp, and nasty: racism. Arabs and Afghans living half a world away are simply considered not quite so human as Colorado suburbanites, and therefore they may be attacked in ways that are inconceivable for people like us.
If we could put aside the “bloodlust” that the president rather surprisingly referred to last weekend, we could recognize that the proper course is to use rather than to flout the instruments of international law — the UN Security Council and the World Court — to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the September 11 crimes, and to try to understand why they happened, in order to see that they do not happen again. And it would be good idea to avoid more killing, even if it makes us feel better. CP