HOW TO WIN THE WAR ON TERRORISM : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread


By Ted Rall

Constructive Suggestions Bush Will Surely Ignore

NEW YORK-Last fall I predicted that Pakistanis would turn against Gen. Pervez Musharraf for helping the U.S. bomb Afghanistan ( news - web sites). As I write this, Musharraf-ridiculed in his own state-controlled press as "Busharraf"-finds himself bereft of political support and in danger of being violently overthrown. Afghanistan, I wrote last fall, could never be united by an American-imposed puppet regime. At least three different flags fly currently over that country, his cabinet is being picked off by assassins and 90 percent of the country remains beyond the reach of Hamid Karzai's Kabul city-state. I mocked the federal government's single-minded obsession with airline security, guessing (correctly, so far) that September 11th would be the jihadis' first and last use of hijacked airplanes to kill Americans. In the future, I said, Islamist terrorists would apply the same tactics they use against Israel-suicide bombings and shooting sprees, truck bombs and assassinations. In fact, the second hit came in the form of an oddly downplayed July 3rd suicide shooting at LAX.

Being right all the time sure is weird.

I realize that my winning streak as punditry's Cassandra may not last. But while I'm riding high I'd like to satisfy those how-come-you-columnists-always-criticize-but-never-offer-solutions complaints that flood my in-box.

But first, let's go back to last fall.

What Really Happened on 9-11

Most Americans were shocked, shocked, shocked! by the attacks on the Pentagon ( news - web sites) and World Trade Center. Suddenly, like a bolt out of a clear blue sky, radical Muslims who hated us for no conceivable reason had killed 3,000 innocent people for reasons both mysterious and nefarious. Our response was knee-jerk: we had to get even. The "evil doers," Bush told us, were led by Osama bin Laden ( news - web sites). He, and they, lived in Afghan caves. We would bomb those caves, he promised, until America was safe again.

In truth, Afghanistan had always been a sideshow of anti-Americanism, a mere back lot funded and armed by Pakistani intelligence. Most of the training camps, extremist groups and Al Qaeda itself were in Pakistan. Gen. Musharraf, our new "ally," was virulently anti-American and pro-Taliban. Bombing Afghanistan never made sense as a way of "getting" the 9-11 guys because the 9-11 guys were all Saudis and Egyptians. Bombing may do the trick, but you'd have to bomb the right country-and Afghanistan isn't it.

We wanted to get even for 9-11, but we missed the point: 9-11 was an act of revenge for more than a decade of perceived insults and abuses. Muslims around the world watched in anger and despair as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, first in the Gulf War ( news - web sites) and later as the result of U.S.-imposed trade sanctions and daily bombing raids over Iraqi cities. They were appalled by the continuing carnage in the endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a meat-grinder that claimed a grossly disproportionate number of Palestinians. According to Muslims I've met from Amman to Tashkent to Karachi, President Clinton ( news - web sites)'s 1998 cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan were the last straw. Despite ironclad proof that the Sudanese plant destroyed in the attack manufactured nothing more deadly than aspirin, the U.S. government refused to apologize for its mistake. "Your country's arrogance is astonishing," a Talib told me over Kashmiri tea in August of 1999. "You won't be able to fight your war against Islam away from home forever." After years of trying to grab our attention with smaller attacks-on the World Trade Center in '93, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, on the U.S.S. Cole-there still wasn't any serious discussion of American actions in the Muslim world among American leaders or journalists. That's when jihadis decided to launch a big-budget, theatrical assault not even the thickest-headed American could ignore. Sayonara, World Trade Center.

What They Want/Why They Hate Us

"There are people that hate our freedoms, that really can't stand the thought that people are able to worship freely or speak their mind freely, or be able to realize their dreams regardless of who they are," Bush says. "They don't like that, and therefore they want to strike out at America again." Actually, they don't give a fig about our freedoms. Islamists don't want to impose Islam on America, they want to make Muslim countries more radically Muslim. They also want us to stop messing with them.

When terrorists make demands, take them at their word. When bin Laden says he wants us to remove our military bases from the Arabian peninsula, drop trade sanctions against Iraq and stop arming Israel, believe it: that's exactly what he wants. It may or may not be wise to give into these demands, but dismissing them as the rants of cave-dwelling freedom-haters is lunacy. Terrorists resort to violence because they don't believe that writing letters to the editor, lobbying Congress or other "legitimate" means of disagreement stand a chance of success. Ignoring their concerns entirely-not to be confused with giving in to them-is sure to infuriate them further, which will merely increase the frequency and scale of future attacks.

Who They Are

You can't effectively fight your enemies unless you understand their motivations. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and similar groups are composed of men-most with wives and children-who don't consider themselves terrorists. If anything, calling them terrorists only hardens their resolve and their belief that Westerners don't "get it." From their point of view they belong to resistance organizations. (One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist; in August of 1944 Charles de Gaulle's Free French were transformed overnight from brigands and bandits into the internationally-recognized government of France.)

Desperate, determined individuals whose political and other concerns are systemically excluded from mainstream discourse by those in power form resistance organizations. Their structure is loose and internally secretive; every leader is dispensable. Few members know other members save the person who recruited them and one or two more they themselves recruit. They lead low-key lives and don't attract attention to themselves. They don't attend meetings. Their cellular structure and secrecy makes them hard to find and catch in significant numbers.

Historically, governments have typically responded to resistance groups ("terrorists," if it makes you feel better) by applying standard tools of repression: mass arrests, infiltration, torture, reprisals against members' relatives and associates. These tactics hardly ever work. The African National Congress ( news - web sites), Free French and the Solidarity movement all faced formidable, better-armed adversaries in the Afrikaners, Nazis and Soviets. And yet the former eventually seized power from the latter. In fact, repressive tactics radicalize moderates and fence sitters, increasing the ranks of the resistors. Who doubts that Hamas recruits new members among those who watch Israeli bulldozers knock down their neighbors' homes?

How to Fight Them

I'm not a pacifist. Military action is necessary to defend a nation's borders from invaders. But you can no more bomb a resistance organization out of existence than you can track down every one of the estimated 40,000 Al Qaeda members living outwardly bland lives all over the globe. So how do you stop them?

The short answer is that you can't-not entirely. As long as explosives are cheap and the world breeds despair, there will be someone willing to walk into Times Square with an Uzi and a last will and testament. But we can turn once again to history for a solution.

Despite occasional flare-ups, Northern Ireland's "troubles" are a shadow of the crisis they once were. The Irish Republican Army ( news - web sites), after decades of armed attacks against British occupation forces and their Protestant paramilitary allies, has disarmed. Sinn Fein has been mainstreamed (some might say co-opted) into Irish politics. Here in the United States, the Weather Underground-once the most feared domestic revolutionary organization of the late `60s-disintegrated when Nixon began pulling troops out of Vietnam. In both cases, the groups evaporated when their cause-in the first example, the alienation and oppression of Northern Irish Catholics, opposition to the Vietnam War in the second-vanished.

Both the IRA and the Weather Underground were composed of relatively small numbers of committed members who received financial support from larger numbers of sympathizers. During the `80s many Irish bars in Boston and New York promised to send a portion of their profits to the IRA. Similarly, Islamist groups draw their financial strength, the asset that allows people from impoverished Third World countries to fund a $200,000 attack against the U.S. on 9-11, from millions of sympathetic Muslims. That broad-based outrage, in the form of millions of dimes and quarters dropped into collection plates in mosques worldwide, should serve as a signal that, just maybe, American policies in the Middle East and elsewhere should be reassessed.

What, Sell Out? What About Punishing the Evil Doers?

Obviously, the perps of 9-11 should be brought to justice. Perhaps the Bushies are already working with Saudi and Egyptian authorities to track down members of the specific groups that planned and executed 9-11. If so, these guys, once arrested, should be put on trial for crimes against humanity at the World Court at The Hague ( news - web sites). This would show the world that the U.S. seeks impartial justice rather than ham-fisted vengeance.

Addressing Islamist demands-not caving in outright-would eliminate most of the broad-based Muslim support for jihadi groups. Moreover, they'd do us more good than harm. Withdrawing our support for the corrupt Saudi dictatorship might lead to a less pro-American regime, for example, but it would begin to inoculate us from the mostly-justified criticism that we pro-democracy Americans promote oppression wherever it suits our business interests. Stopping or reducing our $3 billion per annum flow of arms to Israel would allow us to truly act as an impartial negotiator in the Middle East, not to mention put a dent in the deficit. We could still offer to defend Israel in the event of an invasion, and while that stance wouldn't sate Osama et al., it wouldn't spark much anger among the great Arab mainstream.

It's a simple equation, really: Parse Islamist demands into the acceptable and unreasonable, ignore the ridiculous and respond constructively to the mainstream. Take away the cause's raison d'Ítre and the cause goes away. To be sure, there may always be a few lunatics willing to blow themselves up for Allah. But their bank accounts will be small and so will their bombs.

-- (mind your @ own. business), July 11, 2002


The typical repug response, so that they won't need to bother...

"Ted Rall is a communist jerk, blah blah blah, yada yada yada..."

-- typical pug (attack the messenger @ ignore. the truth), July 11, 2002.

Ted Rall is a not a commie. He couldn't make a living writing sedition in a totalitarian country. But he is a jerk.

-- (, July 11, 2002.

Yes Virginia, there is some sanity on the Left---

This is what we're up against these days, and it depresses this Gore voter past the point of despair to write this... but... uh... the recently unveiled Bush Doctrine (rough translation: If we think you're coming after us next Tuesday, we'll be bombing your ass flat this Tuesday) is a necessary evil. Ask yourself this question and answer it honestly: If it was within your power in August of last year to order a pre-emptive strike that would've prevented the attacks of September 11, would you have done it? Of course you would. That's the Bush Doctrine. And the Bush Doctrine's first smackdown is going to be Saddam Hussein, who has to be removed from power before he kills thousands (or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands) of American citizens in a major American city.

The Stranger

The July 4, 2002

------------------------- by Dan Savage

First, some ancient history...

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, I saw something that made me wanna hurl. I still see this something almost every day because it hangs in a window I pass on my way to work, and the urge to hurl--my lunch, a rock--is as fresh today as it was back when I first laid eyes on it. And just what is this offensive something? The American flag peace symbol that appeared on the cover of Seattle Weekly on September 20. They called it their "Peace and Patriotism" symbol. So what is it about the Weekly's, uh, "PAP" symbol that bothers me so much? Just this: Pacifism and patriotism, together, is no longer an option after September 11.

After September 11, the left had some idiotic things to say--bomb them with love, Toni?--and some smart things to say. For instance, it's true that the United States jump-started militant Islam through our Cold War-era support of anti-Soviet "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the left concluded that the United States didn't have the moral authority to attack Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Christopher Hitchens--the lonely voice of sanity on the left--destroyed this argument with a few short, devastating lines: "Did we not aid the grisly Taliban to achieve and hold power?" Hitchens wrote in the Nation on September 24, 2001 ["Of Sin, the Left, and Islamic Fascism"]. "Yes indeed 'we' did. Well, does this not double or triple our responsibility to remove them from power?"

While the left was running around (like some perverse photo negative of Jerry Falwell) arguing about just how much responsibility we deserved for the attacks, the rest of the country was coming to grips with the fact that we were at war with "Islamo-fascists," as Hitchens dubbed bin Laden and his followers in Afghanistan and all over the world. "What they abominate about 'the West...,'" Hitchens wrote ["Against Rationalization," the Nation, Oct 8, 2001], "is not what Western liberals don't like and can't defend," like our support for Israel or our support for the Arab states, "but what [liberals] do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state." Osama has (had?) a vision for the Middle East: one nation, under Allah, cleansed of Americans, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, gays, a world filled with bearded men and enslaved women.

In the wake of bin Laden's declaration of war, people all over the world suddenly faced difficult, harrowing choices: People trapped in upper floors of the World Trade Center had to choose between jumping and burning to death; George W. Bush had to choose between an immediate, massive military response and a delayed, measured response; the Taliban had to choose between handing over bin Laden and enduring the wrath of the United States war machine; the president of Pakistan had to choose between cooperating with Bush's war on terrorism (and risking a coup) and cooperating with Pakistan's Islamo-fascists (and risking the wrath of the U.S. war machine). And while people all over the world were facing up to these difficult choices, the smug, dishonest lefties at Seattle Weekly--and the smug, dishonest lefties they were pandering to--sought to avoid making their own difficult choice, which was essentially this: Pacifism or patriotism? Because after September 11, you could have one or the other--but you couldn't have both.

In 1942, George Orwell (author of lefty classics Animal Farm and 1984) published an essay in Partisan Review slamming British pacifists who refused to fight Nazi Germany. "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist," Orwell wrote. "This is elementary common sense." Michael Kelly spelled it out in the Washington Post on September 26: "No honest person can pretend that the groups that attacked America will, if let alone, not attack again," Kelly wrote. "You are either for doing what is necessary to capture or kill those who control and fund and harbor the terrorists, or you are for not doing this. If you are for not doing this, you are for allowing the terrorists to continue their attacks on America. You are saying, in fact: I believe that it is better to allow more Americans--perhaps a great many more--to be murdered than to capture or kill the murderers. That is the pacifists' position, and it is evil."

To be fair, I don't think the old hippies at the Weekly were being evil when they slapped that PAP symbol on their cover, any more than I think the handful of lefties who turned out for anti-war demos in the weeks immediately after September 11 were being evil. Brain-dead? Yes. Evil? No. But sensible lefties--the vast majority of lefties, I'm happy to report--knew that this war was unavoidable, necessary, and just. Even if we were afraid to say so too loudly at Victrola or the Still Life.


Why revisit these issues now? Why bring all this up when we should be celebrating our first Independence Day since the September 11 attacks? Because we're about to go to war again--hello, Saddam!--and it would be nice if the left refrained from sticking its collective head up its collective ass this time.

Here are some fun facts about Iraq:

Iraq is ruled by a psychotic dictator who has successfully terrorized his own people into submission. (See "Tales of the Tyrant" by Mark Bowden in the May 2002 Atlantic Monthly.) Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction (anthrax, mustard gas, nerve agents, biological weapons), and Saddam Hussein has used those weapons against his own people. (Yes, yes: We've got weapons of mass destruction too, but the federal government has so far refrained from gassing, say, the people of Oregon for defying John Ashcroft on the assisted suicide issue.) Finally, Iraq may be closer to building a nuclear bomb than we think, and does anyone doubt that Saddam would use one if he got his hands on one? (Yes, yes, I know: The United States has helped Saddam hold onto power over the years, we gave him military aid during the Iran/Iraq war, and the first President Bush did all he could to make sure Saddam stayed in power after the Gulf War, and there are other atrocities. But like Mr. Hitchens said about the Taliban, does this not double or triple our responsibility to remove him from power?)

All of these facts should bother anyone who resides in the United States--and here are some fun facts specifically meant to bother people who live in Seattle: For all the talk of nuclear "suitcase bombs," people paid to worry about terrorism are more concerned about "conex bombs," as Bill Keller wrote in the May 26 New York Times Magazine ["Nuclear Nightmares"]. The name "conex" refers to "those shack-size steel containers that bring most cargo into the United States." Last year almost two million conex containers were unloaded at the Port of Seattle, and tens or hundreds of thousands of conex containers come into Seattle every year from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries believed to have been infiltrated by al Qaeda fighters. Put a few barrels of anthrax spores and/or some easily obtainable low-grade nuclear waste and a few hundred pounds of explosives into a conex container along with some Islamo-fascist jackass excited by visions of paradise and... well, will the last person to die in Seattle please turn out the lights?

This is what we're up against these days, and it depresses this Gore voter past the point of despair to write this... but... uh... the recently unveiled Bush Doctrine (rough translation: If we think you're coming after us next Tuesday, we'll be bombing your ass flat this Tuesday) is a necessary evil. Ask yourself this question and answer it honestly: If it was within your power in August of last year to order a pre-emptive strike that would've prevented the attacks of September 11, would you have done it? Of course you would. That's the Bush Doctrine. And the Bush Doctrine's first smackdown is going to be Saddam Hussein, who has to be removed from power before he kills thousands (or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands) of American citizens in a major American city.

Yes, yes: Taking out Saddam Hussein means war, and war is bad for children and other living things. I went to grade school in the 1970s, and I recall the poster. But there are times when war is not only a tragic and unavoidable necessity, but also good for children and other living things. For instance, doing everything we can to prevent a conex bomb from sailing into the Port of Seattle will save the lives of countless American children and other living things here--like, uh, American adults. And it's not only American children who have benefited from the war that began on October 7, 2001 (my 37th birthday--oh, George! You shouldn't have!). The war in Afghanistan has been good for Afghani children.

"One of the uncomfortable realities of the war on terrorism is that we Americans have killed many more people in Afghanistan than died in the attack on the World Trade Center," Nicholas Kristof wrote in an op-ed ["A Merciful War," February 1, 2002] in the New York Times. Kristof estimates that between 8,000 and 12,000 Taliban fighters and about 1,000 Afghan civilians were killed. "[But in] each of the last few years... 225,000 children died in Afghanistan before the age of five, along with 15,000 women who died during pregnancy or childbirth. There was no way to save those lives under the Taliban." UNICEF was able to vaccinate 734,000 children in the two months after the fall of the Taliban, "in a country where virtually no one had been vaccinated against the disease in the previous 10 years. Because measles often led to death in Afghanistan, the vaccination campaign will save at least 35,000 children's lives each year." In the case of Afghanistan, Kristof concludes, "[War] can serve the most humanitarian of goals."

Much more concerned about humanitarian means than humanitarian ends, lefty weekly the Nation came out--surprise!--against going to war with Iraq: "[S]ince the Gulf War, Iraq's military capabilities have weakened significantly," says the Nation ["War on Iraq Is Wrong," July 8], "to the point where they pose little or no threat to its neighbors," and the Nation worries that a U.S. invasion of Iraq might "destabilize the entire region." (Gee, you think so? Well, gosh, we don't want to do nothin' to destabilize that good ol' peaceful Middle East!)

Even if everything the Nation says is true--Iraq is weak and poses little or no threat to anyone--there's still the small matter of the threat Saddam Hussein's government poses to the people of Iraq. They live in a police state, they're ruled by a tyrant, and their lives are hell. And, yes, U.S. sanctions have made a bad situation worse, but lifting sanctions won't turn Iraq into Sweden. Or Cuba. So even if Saddam Hussein poses no threat to Americans--and that's a mighty big "if" that, post September 11, I'm not sure we should count on--Saddam is threat to his own people.

"There is good reason to think that a Taliban defeat would fill the streets of Kabul with joy," Christopher Hitchens wrote on September 24, 2001, and he was right. There was dancing in the streets of Kabul when the Taliban fell. Does anyone reading this doubt for a moment that the fall of Saddam Hussein won't do the same for the streets of Baghdad?


In his June 20 column, Albert R. Hunt, the lone liberal voice on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal (it's worth picking up the WSJ on Thursdays for his column alone), called for a national debate on invading Iraq. "The first Bush administration abandoned Afghanistan after the Russian-backed puppet dictator was toppled, resulting in the rise of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden," writes Hunt, saying we shouldn't go into Iraq unless we're prepared for "an incredible challenge in nation building. It will take years, and the cost will be billions...."

Instead of waving PAP symbols and arguing about whether or not we should go to war--we've already gone, folks--the left in the United States should be making the case for waging Hunt's good war. To wit: The U.S. shouldn't get out of Afghanistan, as some demanded at last weekend's Gay Pride Parade. No, we should be getting in deeper: Afghanistan needs peacekeepers, medicine, money, educational materials, infrastructure, aid, and--finally and most importantly--a constitution. Leaving them with anything less amounts to a second abandonment. We will have a similar moral obligation to the people of Iraq post-Saddam. They'll need help rebuilding their country and building a sustainable, democratic system, one that if the U.S. is going to invade other nations during the War on Terrorism--and we are, Blanche, we are--we should leave them better off than we found them.

So the left needs to put down the PAP symbols and put away the "No War" posters. We're at war, ya dopes. Simply stopping the war now--rather than holding the United States to the standards we set after the last world war--would harm the very people the left professes to care about. Afghanistan needs a Marshall Plan now; Iraq's going to need one soon. U.S. smart bombs and troops, the left should argue, have to be followed by smart money and medicine and a constitution and an American commitment to long-haul nation building. We have to do for Afghanistan and Iraq what we did for Germany and Japan; anything less is immoral and indefensible. That's the argument the left should be advancing.

Why isn't the left making this argument? Well, grandstanding and screaming "warmonger" at people (my voice mail should be a treat this week) is whole lot more fun than taking responsibility for a war that's being waged in all of our names, of course, but I think it goes deeper than that. Since the left lost the "no war" argument, a perverse desire to see things go badly--even at the cost of Afghan and Iraqi lives--has taken root in the American left. Americans didn't leave only rubble and corpses behind in Germany and Japan after the Second World War, although we helped create plenty of both. No, we stuck around; helped rebuild; drafted constitutions; oversaw elections; established freedom of religion, association, thought, and the press. To invade Afghanistan and Iraq and leave anything less would be a tragedy.

So, tell me, PAPsters: What does the people of Afghanistan more good: Chanting "no war" and waving our PAP symbols? Or pouring into the streets and chanting, "We Want a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan!"

Shit, you guys, it even rhymes.

-- (the glove is thrown @ copy n paste.duel), July 11, 2002.

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