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Is Questioning War Naïve? (by Tim Wise)

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  • aerozep71
    Is Questioning War Naïve? Tim Wise, AlterNet October 30, 2001 To hear those who support the current air assault on Afghanistan tell it, those of us who doubt
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 19, 2001
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      Is Questioning War Naïve?
      Tim Wise, AlterNet
      October 30, 2001

      To hear those who support the current air assault on Afghanistan tell
      it, those of us who doubt the likely efficacy of such a campaign, and
      who question its fundamental morality are not only insufficiently
      patriotic but dangerously naïve. Lampooning the left for adhering to
      such ostensibly simplistic slogans as "violence begets violence,"
      these self-proclaimed pragmatists insist that sometimes massive force
      is necessary and that in the case of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,
      little else could possibly serve to diminish the threat of terrorist

      It takes me back, all this self-assured confidence in the value of
      preemptive assault. To 1986 in particular, when a co-worker of mine
      insisted that although our bombing of Libya had failed to kill
      Colonel Quadafi, that by killing his daughter we had nonetheless
      served the cause of peace. After all, said my co-worker, she was
      destined to become a terrorist someday, so better to kill her before
      she grew. That others might be able to apply the same logic to
      Americans -- who, after all, could grow up to be Elliot Abrams -- was
      lost on her, as she was convinced the world had been made safer that

      Of course, come to find out that Libya had not been involved in the
      terrorist incident for which we claimed to be attacking them, but why
      bother with details? And of course, just two years after my colleague
      insisted that our assault on Libya had made us safer, 259 people in a
      plane over Lockerbie, Scotland -- and eleven more on the ground
      there -- learned how dangerously ignorant such faith really was. They
      as it turned out became the victims of actual Libyan terrorists
      enraged by the previous U.S. attack on their country.

      All this talk of what's naïve and what is realistic has seemed to be
      nothing if not bizarre. It's as if words no longer have their
      original meanings, or perhaps mean the opposite of what one might
      otherwise think.

      So to be realistic means to believe that bombing one of the poorest
      nations on Earth will not only reduce terrorism, but also fail to
      ignite a new round of anti-American fanaticism. To be naïve, on the
      other hand, is to pay attention to modern history, which tells us in
      no uncertain terms that bombing people is rather likely to fuel their
      anger, resentment, and desire for revenge.

      To be realistic is to think that pummeling one nation -- in this case
      Afghanistan -- will have some appreciable effect on the thugs in al-
      Qaeda, despite the fact that the group operates in sixty-four
      countries including many allies whom we have no intention of bombing.
      To be naïve is to point out that terrorists aren't reliant on one, or
      even several countries to operate, and as such, we could eradicate
      every member of the Taliban tomorrow without delaying by so much as a
      day any future attacks on our shores.

      To be realistic is to believe our government officials when they
      insist they have proof of bin Laden's involvement in the 9/11
      attacks. To be naïve is to wonder how an intelligence community that
      completely missed the signs of impending disaster, could be so sure,
      so soon, of who did this thing that they had no idea was coming in
      the first place.

      To be really naïve, I guess, would be to think that perhaps they
      might be lying. Forget that that's exactly what they did so as to
      justify bombing Quadafi, and what they did when the CIA announced
      that armed Libyans were roaming the streets of America, planning to
      assassinate Ronald Reagan. And it's what they did when they claimed
      the Soviets were building a military base in Grenada, or that the
      Sandinistas in Nicaragua were running drugs (actually it was our
      guys, the contras, who were doing that). And apropos of today's
      headlines, it's what they did when they decided to dub a certain band
      of fanatics known as the Mujahadeen, "freedom fighters."

      To be realistic is to say things like "all they respect is force." To
      be naïve is to point out that the force we have demonstrated over the
      years by our support for Israel, or bombing and sanctions against
      Iraq, has apparently led not to something so kind as their respect
      for us, but rather to their willingness to slaughter as many
      Americans as possible. If this is how al-Qaeda shows respect, I
      shudder to think what disdain must look like.

      To be realistic is to say, "we tried peace and peace failed." To be
      naïve is to ask when, exactly, did the U.S. try peace: in the region,
      or specifically in Afghanistan? Was it when we were selling Stinger
      missiles to the Muj, so as to help them fight the Soviets? Or was it
      after, when we left the nation in ruins, unconcerned about helping
      rebuild so long as the Russians had fled? Or was it when we cozied up
      to the Taliban because they promised to crack down on opium
      cultivation, using the time-honored anti-crime techniques of
      extremist Islam?

      To be realistic is to insist that nations harboring terrorists must
      be brought to justice. To be naïve is to note that a) we aren't
      really serious about that -- after all, many nations that do so are
      coalition partners in the war on Afghanistan; and b) by that
      standard, any number of nations would have the right to attack us.
      After all, we have harbored and even taught terrorists and death
      squad leaders at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.
      We have harbored known Cuban terrorists in Miami. We even gave a tax
      exemption for several years to a neo-Nazi "church" affiliated with
      the National Alliance, whose leader has called for worldwide racial
      cleansing, whose words are credited with inspiring Timothy McVeigh,
      and whose members have committed bombings, murders and armed
      robberies across the country.

      To be realistic is to believe that Afghans will be impressed by our
      packets of peanut butter, dropped from airplanes, and that they will
      thank us, and view us as their beneficent saviors. To be naïve is to
      point out that the food drops -- according to relief agencies -- are
      insufficient to meet the need, especially since our bombing has
      aggravated the refugee crisis to staggering proportions. To be really
      naïve is to note that to even get the food, Afghans would have to
      traipse across minefields, and that their experience with toy dolls
      dropped from Soviet planes in the 80's -- which turned out to be
      explosives -- might have left them a bit reluctant to tear into our
      humanitarian goodies. To be naïve to the point of disloyalty, would,
      I suppose, be to ask whether or not American soldiers in Pearl Harbor
      would have felt better about the bombing of December 7, 1941, had the
      Japanese pilots made a second run to drop sushi and edamame.

      To be realistic is to claim that attacks on Afghanistan will lead the
      pulverized citizenry to overthrow their Taliban oppressors. To be
      naïve is to point out that never in history has a nation under attack
      blamed its own leaders for the attack, but rather, exactly the
      opposite. After all, in the wake of 9/11, Americans did not, en masse
      write to the President demanding he accede to the wishes of Osama bin

      To be realistic is to insist that this is not a war on Islam. To be
      naïve is to point out that if we continue to bomb, especially through
      the holy month of Ramadan, there will be few Muslims in the world who
      will believe that.

      Perhaps it's just me. But something seems dangerously Alice in
      Wonderland, when Clinton Advisor Dick Morris can say on national
      television that we should declare war on Afghanistan, and then Iraq,
      Libya, Sudan, and Columbia -- and not be viewed as a paragon of
      mental illness -- but Quakers and pacifists are derided as uninformed

      And yet I have no doubt that many of these American warlords will
      attend Martin Luther King Jr. day celebrations come January, and sing
      the praises of a man who would have condemned them roundly for their
      current course of action. And they will continue to go to church --
      those who call themselves Christians -- and sing praises to someone
      whose teachings run completely counter to everything they are now
      doing. But hey -- King, Ghandi, Jesus: what did they know? Dreamers
      all of them: naïve, simplistic, innocent, and not nearly as informed
      or clear-headed as say, Donald Rumsfeld, or Stephen Ambrose, or Tom
      Clancy, or White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

      Even more disturbing than the uniformity with which conservatives
      have labeled dissenters un-American and unrealistic (which at least
      is to be expected), is the rapidity with which quite a few
      progressives have accepted the need for, and ultimate propriety of
      war. Richard Falk -- a longtime international peace expert -- has
      called Operation Enduring Freedom, "the first truly just war since
      World War II." This, despite the fact that by the standards he
      himself has laid out for a just war, the bombing of Afghanistan --
      and the refugee crisis alone that it has sparked—completely fail the
      test of justice (see Stephen Shalom, "A Just War? A Critique of
      Richard Falk" at www.zmag.org/shalomjustwar.htm).

      Perhaps even more perplexing is the stance taken by Eleanor Smeal, of
      the Fund for the Feminist Majority. Recently she testified to
      Congress about Afghanistan, not to plead for an end to the macho
      militarism currently underway, which is likely to accelerate the
      starvation of perhaps a million women and girls there, but merely to
      suggest that the women of Afghanistan not be forgotten in any
      reconstruction government. Not only does she appear to support the
      overthrow of the Taliban by the same U.S. government that funded it
      and cared not a whit for the women there until six weeks ago, but she
      also seems to trust that patriarchy can be pounded into rubble by
      exploding phallic symbols, dropped and fired by guys whose view of
      feminism is probably not much better than Mullah Omar's. To suggest
      there is any way to reconcile this war with feminism or the interests
      of women generally strains credulity, especially given the propensity
      for gang rape so well developed among our new "contras," the Northern
      Alliance. Talk about irony.

      Again, maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's 1984, and War Is Peace, and
      Slavery Is Freedom, and Ignorance Is Strength. Or maybe all that is
      just bullshit, being served up on a silver platter, while the servers
      tell us it's really Goose Liver Pate. It reminds me of something my
      Grandma once said: "You can call your ass a turkey, but that doesn't
      make it Thanksgiving." Likewise, you can call your war just, and the
      rest of us naïve, but that won't make it so.

      Tim Wise is a writer, activist and antiracism educator. He can be
      reached at tjwise@....
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