Violence grows out of
"We cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare
The "evil" to which President Bush referred
in his address to the nation Tuesday night will not go away when the United
States finds those responsible for the horrible
-- Albert Einstein
attacks and makes them pay for the lives
of the untold thousands of innocent people who were killed.
Like sacrificial lambs, those victims were
made to pay for their nation's secret wars. The only way to respect their
death is to oppose further U.S. violence.
First, we heard the term "mindless terrorism"
thrown around by commentators in the aftermath of the attacks as everyone
sat dazed, trying to make sense of the horrific
images on their television screens. Then,
in the same day, we heard them echo the sentiments expressed by Bush and
his cabinet -- more weapons, more defense
spending, "this will not stand!" Little
attempt was made at understanding the cause for the "Attack on America."
If we knew who committed this act, it would
be easier to determine what caused it. As this column went to press, no
solid evidence has been found that links the
airplanes to a specific country or organization.
But the answer lies partly in U.S. economic and military policies.
The Pentagon was not just behind the World
Trade Center in the timing of its attack -- it was also behind the prosperity
that built it.
The "hidden hand" that guided our country's
free market was often a clenched "hidden fist" used at the expense of another
country's freedom and our own freedom to
know what was being done in our name.
Who was killed by U.S.-backed right-wing
death squads in the secret wars of Guatemala? Hundreds of thousands of
civilians were deliberately massacred or
disappeared. At first, common citizens
did not know of this activity. When we found out, it was explained that
such events are a part of being a superpower that always
gets its way. Sometimes innocent people
have to die in order for us to maintain our way of life.
Noted Middle East correspondent Robert
Fisk has suggested in the British papers that we "ask an Arab how he responds
to 20 or 30 thousand innocent deaths and
he or she will respond as good and decent
people should, that it is an unspeakable crime.
"But then they will ask why we did not
use such words about the sanctions that have destroyed the lives of perhaps
half a million children in Iraq, why we did not rage
about the 17,500 civilians killed in Israel's
1982 invasion of Lebanon, and why we allowed one nation in the Mideast
to ignore United Nations Security Council
resolutions but bombed and sanctioned
all others who did."
Unfortunately, Fisk's voice is rarely heard
on the channels that brought us pictures of Tuesday's attacks. And it is
only after years of protest at the U.S. military's School
of the Americas, where many who were implicated
in Latin American massacres and disappearances received their training,
that opposition to killing in the name of
U.S. prosperity is being heard.
It is horrible to think that because Tuesday's
attacks have elicited calls for war, our freedom of expression will become
limited, and these voices will likely become
even more marginalized. Essentially, the
protection of the way of life we've used to justify killing innocent people
will begin to erode.
If history is repeated, we know that enemies
will be found in those who offer possibly helpful critiques. People who
are not responsible for the attack, and in fact openly
condemn attacks on innocent people, will
find themselves under extreme scrutiny.
The Homeland Defense Act, which is currently
under consideration in the House of Representatives, is expected to be
pushed through Congress and activists are
anticipating that "the patriotic sounds
and warlike ferver will cover up the faint tearing sound of the Bill of
Rights and everything this country stands for."
Now that U.S. soil has been confronted
by a violent response to its government's own violent policies, this should
be a time of open dialogue and reassessment. Our
situation is challenging, but we must
make rational decisions about the actions we take because they have the
potential to escalate beyond our control.
According to polls, about nine in 10 citizens
support military action against groups or nations responsible for the attacks,
even if it means getting into a war. This
immediate reaction of wanting to protect
ourselves and retaliate against senseless violence is no doubt understandable.
However, so long as the United States is
the guarantor of global capitalism and exploitation (instead of democracy),
it will be a target of those suffering from it.
Thousands more innocent people will die,
many of them Americans.
True courage in honoring those killed on
Tuesday requires that we change our policies and not dictate more violence.
It is the difference between world peace and
Feltz, a post-baccalaureate education student,
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.