We’re told that a new Osama Bin Laden audiotape has emerged, and America’s Most Wanted said he would like to strike a deal with the US: Let’s stop fighting. You leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone.
The Bush Administration rejected the offer out of hand. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Vice President Cheney said. Instead, we have to “destroy them.”
No surprise there. We’re at war. The 9/11 attacks were an “act of war,” the president insisted. They weren’t a crime to be dealt with by using police and courts. This was war, full-bodied, bomb-your-enemy-and-invade-his-capital-city war.
But wait. In full-out wars, the combatants negotiate truces. They stop fighting if they can achieve their goals by political means. Indeed, the government has a duty to use its temporarily-increased powers, its “war powers,” to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible.
Osama bin Laden just offered the US what it says it wants. Most Americans want to end the war on terror. Most Americans want to be free of the fear of another big terrorist attack. Isn’t that what we’re fighting for?
Bin Laden says that the US should withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans have said they don’t want the war to continue indefinitely. Why should we? The war is not benefiting us. It is killing us and our children. It is putting us all at the risk of further terrorist attacks. It is bleeding dry the government that is supposed to serve us, causing us to get less and less for our hard-earned tax dollars. The deficit that the federal government is running up will burden our children and grandchildren.
In short, we’ve won. Most Americans initially supported the “War on Terror” as a way of reducing the threat of terrorist attacks. They do not support it so that we could control the oil and other resources in the Arab world. The war’s not about that, its supporters have (often angrily) maintained.
If we ended the war now, the president could focus on things he says he cares about: education, jobs, clean energy, the environment. He could re-direct toward these causes the billions of dollars (our dollars) that are being shoveled into the furnace of war. Call it a “Victory Dividend.”
The president has been given a rare second chance: The Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over after 9/11, if the US would present evidence that bin Laden perpetrated those attacks. The president refused. More than four years later, all of the president’s unmanned aircraft, Tomahawk missiles, 2000-lb bombs, and overworked and underpaid troops still can’t catch bin Laden. We’ve killed many others, though, including tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We’ve tortured. We’ve built secret prisons and run a gulag in Cuba. Yet after all this effort and all this money, bin Laden is still capable of attacking our homeland. We aren’t even prepared: all sorts of soft spots remain vulnerable.
To refuse even to negotiate is irresponsible and reckless, and unrealistic. We cannot destroy an invisible enemy, no matter how many bombs we drop, no matter how many civil rights we erase. We will merely impoverish ourselves, and our brutality will only win the enemy more recruits–who will attack us again and again. A truce is what we need. It is better than anything we could have hoped for in the dark days after 9/11.
We should not let the president pull defeat and misery out of the jaws of victory.
BRIAN J. FOLEY is a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. The views expressed are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit his website at www.brianjfoley.com.