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The issue at hand.

Daily reports of armed conflict, terrorism, and torture reveal a disturbing hollowness in the supposed U.S. victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason it seems appropriate that the Humanist directly address the "war on terror" from the standpoint of sound judgment and humanistic justice.

Toward this end, in "Terror, Evil, and the New Cold War," John Buell shows how policymakers have misjudged the nature of today's terrorists and hence have chosen unsound policies for dealing with them. The terrorists of today are hypernationalists, people in the thrall of a monolithic concept of national ethnicity, religion, and culture which drives them forth in an effort to purify their chosen nation as well as the world. The Humanist alternative to such an attitude is a flexible and continually evolving democratic pluralism--not the angry and self-righteous superpatriotism that has emerged of late. Indeed, nations that become monolithically extreme in response to terrorism end up mimicking the terrorists and thereby becoming terroristic in turn.

Furthermore, the harm caused by superpatriotism isn't only the violence it visits upon enemies but the compromises in liberty that it forces on a nation's citizenry and its friends. Government surveillance of civilians increases, freedom of expression is curtailed, and--if the nation's wars and aspirations require it--military conscription is instituted. John Swomley in "The Return of the Draft?" warns how imminent this form of indentured servitude is and calls for immediate action to prevent it.

But aren't all of these sacrifices warranted because the need is dire and the cause is just? As Barbara Dority and I argue in "Humanism versus the Militarization of America"--citing historic and longstanding Humanist and secular principles--the Iraq war and occupation don't meet the standards of a just war. As such, the costs are unacceptable and serve only to destroy both "victor" and "vanquished" alike in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

A prime example of this destruction and self-destruction is the Iraq prison scandal. Michael I. Niman goes below the surface to uncover facts the mainstream media hasn't been reporting--such as the role played by private contractors (mercenaries) who, on behalf of the U.S. government, kill and torture on the company clock.

In the end what Americans need to ask themselves is not only what the United States is really doing in Iraq but what the cultural values are that America is ostensibly trying to inspire and model. Are Americans even clear as to the nature of the "gift" they dream of imposing on Iraq? Thomas Mates tackles this question in "The Gift of the West," raising provocative questions as to what American values really are and really look like to others.

The conclusion seems clear: not only have terrorists been misunderstood but Americans have failed to understand themselves and their values well enough to effectively proceed against terrorism.
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Author:Edwords, Fred
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:Humanism.
Next Article:Transhumanism and immortality.

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