If the spectacular originality and cunning simplicity of our adversary’s opening gambit bodes for the rest of the game, it is going to be a mean match.
He holds a hand of aces. First of all, if we kill him, he will become a saint! There are already more volunteers for suicide bombings than any extremist outfit knows what to do with. These people want to be martyrs, and the more you oblige them, the more of them you get.
The brilliance of this latest attack is going to swell the ranks that much more. If the mastermind is Osama bin Laden, he has a lot of company. There are thousands of unemployed mujahideen in Afghanistan, who created such ingenious tricks that saw the Russians off their property.
We do have some support from moderate Muslims, and we can squeeze some cooperation out of their governments. But his next ace is that if we lean on them, they may cave in. We increase the risk of Islamic fundamentalist victories in those countries – extending the base of support for his ideas again. Many of our corrupt clients in the Mideast are barely able to keep a lid on popular Islamic movements as it is by using repression and torture tactics.
His next ace: a great many Muslims sees our empire and our allies as decadent and historically ripe for overthrow.
How long can the outpouring of sympathy for America on the Arab street last, when only a fraction of one percent of our media airtime has gone to the question, what have we done to make them so desperate to attack us? Even then, most of the answers bog down in the fog of religion, and ignore the gaping wounds: our role in the destruction of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
This hostility has arisen simply because we did not uphold our own values for Palestine, we trod all over them, because our democracy is prone to political influence peddling. This explanation stands up without any reference to Islam, entirely within our American vocabulary. We have locked ourselves into a colossal hypocrisy of double standards, and the more we try to maintain it and the apartheid pseudo-state we created, the worse it gets. We had to buy out Egypt, subvert democracies in the bud, support dictators, commit enormous war crimes in Iraq, and isolate countries that should be powerful allies, but the whole creaking mechanism called our Mideast policy is unsafe at any speed and ready for the junkyard.
Opinion polls show the percentage of Palestinians who support suicide bombings against Israel doubled in the last year, to a thumping majority. Yet many of them are Christians, and the very name Islam is derived from the word for peace. Which explanation of this abnormal situation would you believe:
1. Palestinians are genetically a violent race
2. They feel aggrieved, are hard pressed and see no other effective means of redress.
Since Americans are not yet ready to give up their faith in racial equality, let’s assume it has to be the second choice.
There is a third explanation circulating, the idea of Islamic martyrdom. But Islam forbids killing innocent civilians. Suicides go to hell, not heaven, and anyone who kills himself together with innocent people is a suicide and a murderer, not a martyr.
Palestine is the Holy Land. Palestinians, Jerusalemites, Bethlehemites and all are a deeply religious people. That may be why, even though most of them are refugees from ethnic cleansing, they also want Americans to be spared from the violence they experience daily.
I find that a touching quality of mercy. But leaving religion aside now, ask of your innate sense of justice: When a nation is an aggressor, can its people really expect to be safe in their homes? When your right hand breaks into a hornet’s nest, is it an injustice if your left hand gets stung? Since its founding, America has destroyed many nests. Among others, we are invaders and occupiers by proxy in Palestine.
When innocent civilian victims are citizens of an aggressor nation, they are due a share of pity, but also their share of the blame. The victims in New York are no more and no less innocent and pitiable than were the million noncombatants who died in our bombings of the Axis countries, innocent victims who could not stop their own governments’ aggression abroad, which eventually brought on the tragedy that befell them.
The Germans started that war, and these things boomerang. It is a law, and sentimentality has no effect on it. The Mideast conflicts were started by the Zionist invasion. The USA keeps them going, and they are still on the offensive. Americans have to understand there is no fortress anymore. It is one global village, and the bottom line is we can’t keep bombing without getting bombed. That goes for proxies, too. They are just the human weapons in our arsenal. As Bush says, terrorists and those who support them are the same. Amen.
The blame for an act of vengeance lies both with the avenger, and the aggressor who attacked first and provoked the revenge. In practice, violence runs in cycles, making attack and retaliation indistinguishable, and the greater blame is with the party who escalates or over-reacts. Blessed are the peacemakers, and they who strive to spare the innocent.
After the attacks on America, the question of innocent civilian casualties is being more hotly debated in Palestine, too. God willing, this should lead to a change in the attacks on Israelis, and Palestinian freedom fighters will return to the policy of sparing civilians and targeting the military.
The definition of innocent civilians there is muddied by settler violence, and the phenomenon of settler colonialism as a form of invasion – that was probably why the American Indians were careless in making distinctions between settlers and soldiers. Extremist, ideological, gun-slinging adult settlers are more paramilitary than civilian.
Another viewpoint strongly raised in the Palestinian camp now is that it is not a tactful time to tell Americans that they have brought this tragedy on themselves, and especially, not the time for Muslims to say it. Be that as it may, this attack has finally attracted America’s attention to the Mideast. Now, or at least after a decent period of mourning, might be the best time to face them with the bitter facts.
Strangely, the people crying loudly for vengeance are not those who are crying tears over personal losses in New York. This is the very first foreign bombing on an American city in history (America has probably done more bombing abroad than the rest of the world put together). Yet it was only after devastation of whole cities by bombs that Europeans lost their lust for war. I sincerely hope America can somehow learn by osmosis, and not have to go through the full treatment. Perhaps even our adversary hopes so. And why not. In a generation or so we completely changed our attitudes about civil rights – domestically. As we come closer into contact with the world, might we soon realize that double standards between nationalities are not OK when it comes to killing, [body counting and lead injections dishing out deadly medicine,] either? Or will it still be only our own body bags that count.
Returning to the Afghans, this people have a stoic belief that they will see off every invader, and that if America does go in there (again), it will be a noose around our own necks.
This is our adversary’s gambit – to get the Great Satan to step in where the Great Soviet slipped.
Bin Laden is no Afghan, he wants to use the country as a trap for us, just as we did for the Russians. Although fiercely independent and generally scornful of soft lowlanders, the Afghan mountain tribesmen are not fanatics or even fundamentalists. That influence was imported by the CIA, along with bin Laden, to neutralize the Reds. The people dislike and fear the Taliban, but were overwhelmed by all the armies and weapons we put in there.
The US – USSR power play has already wrought over 20 years of suffering for the Afghans. What that poor country needs is a Marshall Plan, and help to overthrow the Taliban tyrants, not more bombing. An American decision to do this right would even perk up Wall Street and the world economy. Yet our government will do just the opposite. It will attack Afghanistan, mobilizing all the tribes to support the Taliban in a fight to the death.
This is the American strategy: drive the Muslims mad, then bomb them to bits.
If we could instead repent our trespasses in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, the guerrilla war against us would wither away.
Looking at our track record, our adversary is betting long that we won’t do that. Without retreating from past offenses, all of them exposed positions, we will go on another offensive. We will become a target for more heroics, we will get more and more intricately involved, as the Russians have in Central Asia, as the Israelis have in the West Bank. The more we kill, the poorer the people get, the braver the heroes and the more their babies, and the younger the kids that shoot back at us. We sink deeper in the quagmire, and exit after another wasted generation, after who knows how many more diabolical attacks on our cities. In the end game he is playing for, we retreat from our forward positions, only after helping radical, fanatical Islam to capture the hearts and minds of a billion Muslims, much as we helped it conquer Afghanistan – and his camp sweeps the board.
Yes, we are in a guerrilla war. You can call it terrorism, or you can call our bombing terrorism, but that doesn’t change the nature of anything. What is terrible is to be on the receiving end. Are we finally learning that?
Some of us are, but most have missed the point. We still imagine that might gives us the right to dish it out without getting hit. But our adversary has one more ace still: Globalization. On this turbulent airship Earth, all classes of passengers are going to arrive together, or crash together.
America, in its war hysteria, is ready once again to bomb innocent people without due process. Our governments have involved us in foreign misadventures on false information so often already (see “Caution: Suicide Can Be Contagious”) that we are surely incorrigible fools to be railroaded down the path to war again. If we go in bombing and blazing again, the worldwide list of our victims, adversaries and potential suspects will be just that much longer. If we never learn the Golden Rule, if we once again strike out wantonly with callous disregard for the innocent creatures beneath the bays of our bombers, the moment of prayer and sympathy for the USA will quickly change to redoubled hatred around the world.
Is Mr. Bush hell-bent on earning the title of Great Satan for us in the eyes of the entire world? Can the son of an accused war criminal (Ramsay Clark website http://www.deoxy.org/wc/warcrime.htm ) rid our world of evildoers!? Let each one start with himself!
Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)