War on Terror
"But let us honestly state the facts. Our America has a bad name for superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it." Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fate, in The Conduct of Life (1860).
For that wisest of men, Emerson, terror -- "fate" -- was not something to which we as a great people need be subservient. For him, it was but "a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought." Id.
The main trouble with our government's response to "terror" since 09.11 is that "the facts" have "not yet passed under the fire of thought."
We now have the benefit of yet another reassessment of what happened and what our response should be, in the form of the Report of the special "9/11 Commission." The Report makes fascinating reading. The Commission, indeed, uncovered and reported on many interesting "facts" immediately surrounding the attack by Al Queda.
Literally buried in the long report is this item: "The animus of [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed...the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks] toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel." Almost as an aside, the Report states: "America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world."
During an interview on CNN by Wolf Blitzer that was broadcast on 07.25.2004, Blitzer asked Lee Hamilton why the Commission skirted the issue of whether Iraq had anything to do with 09.11. Mr. Hamilton responded that one of the two main reasons was that "if we had gone into the war on Iraq, it would have been hugely divisive, and we would not have been able to agree on the factual record, not been able to agree on recommendations." (Transcript)
This reasoning presumably was one of the reasons the Commission also said so little about the connection of 09.11, if any, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Former Senator George McGover, who was not a member of the Commission, was not so timid. In an interview aired as part of the same broadcast, he said:
BLITZER: Here's another provocative statement you write in [your new] book, and there's plenty of them: "There will be no progress against al Qaeda and terrorist Islamic cells, such as the one suspected of the Madrid train bombings, until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. That is the long, festering antagonism that feeds the terrorist impulse in the Arab world."
MCGOVERN: I don't think there's any doubt about that, Wolf, that we're perceived as being one-sided in the Middle East.
BLITZER: U.S. support for Israel?
MCGOVERN: Exactly. Now, I supported Israel all the years I was in public life. I still think Israel is a worthy country, worthy of our support. But we've got to increase the pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop this senseless killing. As long as that goes on, and we're perceived as being on only one side, the Israeli side, I think that's going to feed the terrorist impulses against us. (Transcript)
I suggest that Senator McGovern is right, that no matter how much money we spend domestically on protecting our country against terrorist attacks and no matter how much money we spend and how many lives of brave American soldiers are lost invading countries like Iraq, we will fail to secure domestic tranquility from terroristic attacks until we a) "pass under the fire of thought" the entire matter of obtaining a fair and just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and b) act accordingly.
I remember sitting with a friend at a table in Harkness Commons at Harvard Law School late one night in 1967 listening to a report about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and predicting that 25 or 30 years later if we turned on the evening news we'd still be hearing similar reports. Alas, in my youthful cynicism I was right. But cynicism won't get us anywhere.
In the "Week in Review" section of the New York Times on 08.08.2004, Fred Kaplan commemorates the 30th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation in a piece titled What They Would Do, with the "they" referring to Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger. He states, in relevant part:
...Mr. Kissinger would not have refused to negotiate over North Korea's nuclear weapons - as Mr. Bush has - just because it is ruled by a loathsome dictator. He would not have disengaged from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as President Bush did in his first months of office.
Would the Kissinger of the 70's have favored invading Iraq? It's unclear. He would have voiced concerns about a war's impact on regional stability. The horrors of Saddam Hussein's tyranny would not have much bothered him, much less stirred him to battle. Certainly, he would have ridiculed the neoconservative notion that toppling Mr. Hussein would unleash some inherent impulse for Western-style democracy. In his 1994 book, "Diplomacy," Mr. Kissinger derided, as a touching but naïve American fantasy, this "image of a universal man living by universal maxims, regardless of the past, of geography, or of other immutable circumstances."
It is, in any case, inconceivable that he would have blown off traditional allies, much less boasted of the rift, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did by touting the "new Europe" of Bulgaria and Poland over the "old Europe" of Germany and France. Alliances play a central role in any vision of balance-of-power politics, and in Mr. Kissinger's, alliances with France and Germany were indispensable.
Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va), author of a new book, Losing America (2004), reviewed in N.Y. Times by John Shattuck on 08.09.2004, "quotes the advice of [Hitler's henchman,] Hermann Göring[,] to rulers who seek to enhance their power: "[W]hether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship . . . all you have to do is tell [the people] they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." (Shattuck, supra.)
While Senator Byrd is most concerned about the imperial presidency, his wrath has other targets as well. The senator directs some of his sharpest criticism at the institution in which he has spent most of his political career. The Congress since 9/11 has been "unwilling to assert its power, cowed, timid, a virtual paralytic." On no issue has this been clearer than the war in Iraq. Mr. Byrd was appalled that most of his Senate colleagues were willing to pass a resolution in October 2002 with almost no debate, giving President Bush a free hand "to use the armed forces of the United States . . . as he determines to be necessary," especially after the administration had announced its radically new doctrine of preemptive war. The senator minces no words in condemning what he regards as Congress's abdication of its constitutional war powers: "In this terrible show of weakness, the Senate left an indelible stain on its escutcheon."
Shattuck also reviews Lewis Lapham's new book, Gag Rule (2004), stating in part:
Gag Rule is a lively political pamphlet written in the tradition of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense." Full of examples of the post-Sept. 11 chill on dissent, it takes aim not only at the politics of fear, but also at institutions and social phenomena that bolster an American tyranny of the easily manipulated majority, from media passivity to craven consumerism to political correctness of the right and left. While the tools of war can be employed to mute the population, Mr. Lapham argues, political passivity is also promoted by the central features of modern American life.
While my opponent was playing follow the leader, I publicly opposed the so-called Patriot Act, the use of torture in interrogation, as well as the war resolution -- all long before it became popular to do so. If elected, I will be a fearless, independent and intelligent representative voice both within the party and within the Congress, and will not put party loyalty and personal political interests above the public interest.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Burton Randall Hanson. Prepared & published by candidate on his own behalf and at his own expense. Candidate may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Candidate does not solicit or accept contributions or endorsements.