It looks like another crime against humanity has been perpetrated by the political extremists who killed my brother David on Sept.11th, 2001. What makes these brutal and unjustifiable murders even more tragic is that those in power, who have the ability go to great lengths to prevent such attacks, refuse to do so because of their own obsession with war and violence as a "solution". As a hopeless and sad attempt to prevent terrorism, they would rather initiate and threaten wars of aggression against regimes with no known partnership with Al Qaeda (Iraq, Syria, Iran), while refusing to reform our relations with our allies that clearly breed Al-Qaeda terrorists by the hundreds (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Qatar).
In response to the tragedy in Riyadh, Dick Cheney had the following to say about terrorism: "The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it."
Anyone who has been even partially conscious over the last 20 months knows that when Bush, Rumsfeld or Cheney talk about "destroying" terrorism, they mean by using smart bombs and American soldiers, and not the taboo project of actually making America a less hated government in the middle east and therefore making Bin Laden's recruiting campaigns much harder to pull off. Even a quick glance at the history of terrorist conflicts in other regions of the world confirms that using bombs and guns to end terrorism does not actually work, while the massacre of civilians that is endemic to war emboldens the terrorist's resolve to fight back, therefore making worse the problem your hoping to rectify.
So, I have some questions for our vice-president concerning his idea of "destroying" terrorism.
1- Please explain - and please use logic, not the idealism of Leo Strauss - how our military is going to "destroy" terrorism?
I know the Brits' military capacity over the last two decades no where approached our current capabilities, but how do we expect to succeed where they failed? Seems to me that maybe they began to make progress with the IRA after we forced them to negotiate with Sinn Fein. But what do I know. And the Israelis, they even have a lot of our military toys and they just can't seem to "destroy" Hamas. From what I remember, the most peaceful period between the Palestinians and Israelis over the last 15 years was after we forced both sides to make concessions at Oslo. And we did not even have to use one of our cruise missiles to accomplish that either. I know that your neo-con buddies are confident that by flaunting our unmatched military force in Iraq, we'll deter the bad guys from killing us. I wonder if maybe the suicide bombers in Riyadh weren't scared of us, or did they just not get the full brunt of how scary our military is because Al-Jazeera provided such impartial coverage of the war? Did the Clinton administration just get lucky after Oklahoma City in 1995? I mean they wimped out and did not flex our military muscles. If they were to have applied the Bush doctrine of pre-emption, they should have made craters of those militia-saturated regions of Idaho, Montana and Michigan where future McVeighs could have been planning the next OKC bombing. Clinton must have just gotten lucky.
2- Most criminals have motives behind their crimes. How do you square your and President Bush's long-held claims that Al-Qaeda are a bunch of "freedom haters" with the reality that they just attacked people on Saudi soil - a nation that is no friend of freedom?
I know that being attacked because of our democratic principles is a lot more psychologically comforting than being attacked because of our foreign policy, but maybe it's time that we actually start paying attention to what Al-Qaeda ideology says about why they are attacking us. I know you guys argued for months that invading Iraq would make us safer, but Osama Bin Laden and his cronies have made it pretty clear that they have had loads of success recruiting angry, young Arab men by pointing to our aggression in the Arab world as "proof" that we are dead-set on "destroying Islam" and "controlling Arab oil wealth". I know that I am not an elected official, and that after 9/11, to criticize you or any other Bush official is akin to treason, but I still want to know why your policies are so rigidly fixed on doing things that feed into the anti-Americanism that fuels terrorism, rather than policies which can effectively deflate such hatred? Sure is a lot to ask of people when on the one hand you make a bunch of 19 year-old Marines go fight a war that increases terrorist anger, and then the other hand ask EMS workers in NYC to get ready for an unimaginably horrific attack that could be just around the corner. I guess if Ashcroft rounds up enough Muslims then we are bound to at least stop one attack. Yet, it would maybe be better to keep the Bill of Rights intact and confront the messy geo-political issues that give grounding for terrorist grievances, than ignore it all and just flex our muscles, drop bombs and endure bloody terrorist attacks for the next 20 years - if we're lucky. But what do I know.
Meanwhile we have victim after victim. An American soldier here, an Iraqi civilian there - now foreign nationals working in Saudi Arabia. I know all well what the families of those victims are going through - and I wish I didn't. I wish I could go back to the good ole days of denial, where watching war on television was like watching the Olympics. But I've been unable to sanitize it all after losing my own loved-one to violence. My family is one of thousands who are paying the price for all the obsession with violence on both sides of this conflict. How much more bloodshed do we have to endure before we start pursuing real solutions to terrorism?
How come US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca can go to Sri Lanka this week to urge the terrorist group LTTE to stay in the peace process with the Sri Lankan government, but such negotiations with Al-Qaeda would be "rewarding terrorism"? Are some forms of terrorism more "evil" than others? Aren't the Sri Lankans letting the "evildoers" win? Or maybe after 19 years of bloodshed, both the Sri Lankan government and the terrorists are on to something that we are not: violence will never achieve either side their objective. What is more
important: defiance that brings more violence, or courageous and difficult humility which brings ceasefires, and maybe even peace.
But what do the Sri Lankans know. I guess if they had the MOAB like us, they wouldn't have to negotiate either.
Andrew Rice is a board member of Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows - http://www.peacefultomorrows.org These opinions are his own, and not that of the organization. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org