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A roll of the bombs. (Comment).

It's hard to get over the shock of September 11, even several weeks later: the grotesque audacity of the act, the canyon of pain and grief that it has left behind. More than 5,000 people murdered. More than 5,000 families shattered. On the scales of horror, this terrorist action weighs heavy.

And now there is more horror.

By bombing Afghanistan, George W. Bush has rolled the bombs as if they were dice. And for all his protestations to the contrary, he has treated the people of Afghanistan as if they were playthings.

On October 7, when the United States and Britain began bombing Kabul, a city of more than two million people, they guaranteed that innocent Afghans would lose their lives. It's impossible to bomb a city of that size, along with three other cities, Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad, and not kill people. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went on the air in the first twenty-four hours to argue that all the Afghan dead were guilty. "There is no question but that any people who were around those targets were around those targets because they were part of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban military," he said.

But why should we believe Rumsfeld? According to The New York Times, he loves to quote Churchill's hideous line: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

The innocent Afghans killed in Bush's war did not fly the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. They did nothing to deserve death at the hands of Washington.

How many innocent Afghans will ultimately die in this war we cannot know.

But what we do know is that Bush calculated that they were expendable.

They are not.

Killing innocent people is never justified.

Bush says the war will make us safer. "The only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it," he told the nation on October 7.

We've had many wars in the name of peace. And this one, like most, will not make the United States any safer; it will make this country more imperiled.

Already, the government is warning us of additional, and perhaps imminent, terrorist attacks on our soil.

Already, riots have broken out in Pakistan, raising the specter that the government of General Musharraf may fall to forces allied with the Taliban, and that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may not be secure.

Other riots have roiled Palestine and Indonesia, and more riots may erupt throughout the Muslim world, threatening U.S. allies from Egypt to the Philippines.

If you think our economy is in bad shape right now, imagine what it would be like if the corrupt Saudi monarchy were to fall. Saudi Arabia, after all, sits atop 25 percent of the world's oil supplies.

War is a terribly risky and dangerous game. "The men who have embarked on wars in this century repeatedly, almost exclusively, substituted their interests, desires, and preconceptions for accurate assessments of the most likely possibilities once they began," historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society Since 1914 (New Press, 1994).

But Bush embarked anyway.

Like his father in the prelude to the Gulf War, George W. spurned a last minute offer to negotiate. The Taliban said they were prepared to release the eight Americans under arrest, apprehend Osama bin Laden, and try him under Islamic law. But the United States opted for bombs, not negotiations.

Bush has vowed to wage an unlimited war. "You will have every tool you need," he assured his soldiers on Sunday, echoing his words of September 20, when he said the United States would use "every necessary weapon of war."

He thus went out of his way to keep nuclear weapons on the table.

The war is unlimited not only in weaponry but in time and targets. Bush and Rumsfeld say it may last ten years or more. And on October 7, Bush said the war in Afghanistan is just "phase one."

How many phases does he have in mind?

"Today, we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader," he said. "Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril."

Wait a second here.

Congress did not grant Bush the title of terrorism's grand executioner.

As vast as the Congressional authorization of force was, it was limited to targeting the culprits of the September 11 attack.

But Bush is not content to stop there.

The most powerful man in the world, unchecked by Congress and the media, now suffers delusions of military grandeur. He sees himself on a zealous mission, and innocent people are paying with their lives.

It's a mission that is doomed from the start. The United States cannot kill every terrorist in the world.

What's more, the war is probably already creating more terrorists who will be willing to kill and die to stand up to an America they see as the aggressor.

The suicide attacks will proliferate, and the violent responses from Washington will accelerate, and around and around we'll go, down what Martin Luther King Jr. called the "descending spiral of destruction."

Yes, the United States needs to secure itself against future attacks. Yes, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, or whoever were the authors of the atrocity of September 11, need to be brought to justice. They should be apprehended and hauled before an international tribunal for committing a crime against humanity, as Michael T. Klare and several others in this issue propose.

But terrorism itself will not disappear after bin Laden and Al Qaeda are gone.

It will not disappear if Bush levels Kabul, Baghdad, Khartoum, and Damascus all at once, as the war pornographers on the far reaches of the Republican Party fantasize.

War is not the answer. The answer is getting at the roots of terror.

And there are many roots. One is an immoral U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Palestine. Another is the legacy of U.S. support for the mujahedeen. Still another is world poverty, which globalization may only exacerbate in many places.

Some roots have nothing to do with U.S. policy. They are watered by two of the longest polluted rivers in the world: one called anti-Semitism, the other misogyny. (The wild statements in parts of the Muslim world that all the Jews got out of the World Trade Center are just a sample of such bigotry.) Then there are the fetid pools of religious fundamentalism that feed one poison tree after another.

The roots of terror cannot be eradicated at gunpoint; they cannot be pulled up by bombs.

But many of them would wither if the United States adopted a more benign foreign policy. And it certainly would help if Bush spoke in a secular, not a religious, voice. There he was on September 20 and October 7 invoking a higher power. It's just not clever for Bush to use his own theology to fight theocrats like bin Laden and the Taliban. If ever there was a time for secular speech, it is now.

Bush has set the nation upon an endless course of war. For the moment, the people are behind him. The Congress has given him a green light to "make red war yet redder," as Thomas Hardy once put it. And the media serve as the drum and bugle corps of the Pentagon.

But all this might change.

The costs of war may get excessive: in innocent lives killed abroad; in the deaths of U.S. soldiers; in the loss of civil liberties; in a wobbly and swooning economy; in world chaos.

Bush has rolled the bombs. Now we all may feel the fallout.
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Title Annotation:war on terror, Unitad States
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Previous Article:Mail call. (Editor's Note).
Next Article:The old way of thinking. (It Seems to Me).

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