Intellectuals should be free to criticize
I will never apologize for the United States of America. I don't
care what the facts are.
--Former President George Bush
Somehow this country has managed to corner the market on righteousness
while perpetuating a humanitarian crisis with the potential to result in
the slow and painful starvation deaths of 5,000 Afghanis for 150 days straight.
While U.S. bombs prevent food and aid from entering the country, they
have helped the Northern Alliance to take the capital, Kabul, and occupy
Taliban offices. This group has been identified by Human Rights Watch as
a "rogues' gallery of brutal warlords," whose "ability to govern Afghanistan
is, at best, dubious."
What are the other results of the War on Terror for Afghanistan — home
to none of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks? One of the
world's poorest war-torn countries has had its rubble bombed to dust, its
infrastructure destroyed and its 46-year life expectancy lowered even further.
Estimates predict that seven million may starve this winter, while a regime
of warlords is likely to replace the Taliban. It is pretty much guaranteed
they won't be receiving an apology.
Even if we had linked Osama bin Laden or the Taliban to the Sept. 11
tragedy, we still haven't found him or reduced his ability to recruit more
outraged young Muslim men to his organization. Essentially, we've made
things worse — is this the justice the American people want?
Questions such as this give cause to recall a recent statement made
by University of Texas professor Robert Jenson in his essay, "Saying Goodbye
After receiving hate mail for critiquing U.S. war actions, he argued
that "a decision to abandon our responsibility to evaluate government policy
and surrender our power to think critically is a profound failure, intellectually
There have been other people who engaged in criticism of the government's
foreign policy, openly and with documentation, only to be called un-American.
In light of Bush's quote above, perhaps this accusation is right on target
— unlike "smart bombs" that hit Red Cross warehouses, twice.
Two weeks ago, Houston's Art Car Museum was visited by the FBI and Secret
Service, which now work together under the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The agents were responding to a call that un-American activities were going
Included in the museum's current exhibit is a painting that depicts
the elder George Bush in the "belly of the beast," which refers to the
Bush Administration's actions during the Gulf War.
It is especially ironic that this exhibit, which prominently features
many heavily cited essays by Noam Chomsky next to the art installations,
was investigated for being un-American.
As Chomsky noted in his essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals,"
"No one would be disturbed by an analysis of the political behavior of
the Russians, French or Tanzanians questioning their motives and interpreting
their actions by the long-range interests concealed behind their official
rhetoric. But it is an article of faith that American motives are pure,
and not subject to analysis."
Presently, it is impossible to pick up a U.S. newspaper without finding
laudatory articles on the war on terrorism. In contrast, one is hard-pressed
to find front-page coverage critical of the mass starvation the war has
all but made inevitable.
However invisible they are in the mainstream press, critics have noted
that "in less than two months, the United States government has gone from
the moral high ground of being victimized by one of the most heinous crimes
in world history, to being within a week or two of quite visibly committing
a crime so much larger as to obliterate the world's memory of September
As intellectuals, students on this campus should seek out reliable sources
of information in order to fully comprehend the effect of U.S. actions
in the War on Terrorism, such as the threat of mass starvation in Afghanistan.
There are many well-documented articles to be found on the Internet
about this trivialized loss of life. Without attention to warranted criticism,
there is little reason to be proud to be an American.