Following the tragic attacks on Sept. 11, the US Government and mainstream media have marched arm in arm toward war. The calls for indiscriminate military strikes, an end to civil liberties, and an end to the mindless “obsession” with the difference between civilian and military casualties all typify mainstream opinion. Essentially, it is being argued that we avenge the dead by adopting the tactics of their murderers.Syndicated columnist Ann Coulter argues, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity” (National Review Online, 9/13/01). A good Christian herself, Coulter goes on to advocate killing civilians in Afghanistan because in World War II “we carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians.”
Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger demonstrated his ability to speak the language of political correctness when he supported killing people who weren’t “immediately directly involved” in the attacks (CNN, 9/11/01). In other words, whoever happens to be standing under the bombs or in front of the bullets. For example, the last time we “retaliated” against bin Laden, which was in 1998 for the attacks on US embassies in Africa, one missile aimed at Afghanistan missed by a few hundred miles and landed in Pakistan.
For the innocent Afghans that are not killed by bombs, they can look forward to a more unsavory fate. See, Afghanistan is in the middle of a long draught and is currently under a United Nations-imposed economic sanctions regime. Millions of people in Afghanistan rely on aid workers in order to obtain enough food to survive. Naturally, these aid workers are now leaving the country.
Always willing to see the positive side of a situation, Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly applauds this outcome. On his Sept. 17 broadcast, O’Reilly observed, “Taking out their [Afghans’] ability to exist day to day will not be hard.” This can be accomplished, O’Reilly continues, by bombing “the Afghan infrastructure to rubble.” Always the humanitarian, O’Reilly concludes by saying, “We should not target civilians. But if they don’t rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period.”
O’Reilly, and the rest of the media for that matter, seem to forget how the “criminal” Taliban and bin Laden came into existence. The CIA financially and militarily supported both in the 80s for the “war against Communism.” Now, in the “war against terrorism,” it is said that the CIA needs to overturn its 1995 decision to “only hire Boy Scouts” (Wall Street Journal, 9/13/01).
Lastly, many foreign policy “experts” have been calling for a “new realism” in the government’s foreign policy. Supposedly, the reason why all this happened is that we have not responded enough, we haven’t been “tough” enough. Actually, this “realism” is not new at all. It was common practice in the “war on communism” (communism being any number of things). This is just a guess, but maybe fifty years of riding roughshod on other countries’ independence and other peoples’ lives has caused a few people to dislike the US government—or, “us.” By not limiting our response to only those responsible for the attacks, are we solving the root of the problem, or creating a whole new generation of people who hate us? Will the argument of “not having been tough enough in the past” be used by us to justify the innocent deaths of Afghans, or the reason bin Laden gives to a whole new crop of recruits as to why the “holy war” has not been won?