we learned of the tragic events of Sept. 11, we were horrified; we felt
ill; we wept. Like most Americans, we Canadians also sought to know the
perpetrators; justice must be served.
For a while it appeared that President Bush, despite his wild rhetoric
about revenge, was allowing wiser thoughts to prevail. Eventually, however,
the bombs were dropped.
We were horrified; we felt ill; we wept.
How does it serve justice to pound an already demolished country and its
starving people with bombs in an effort to find one guilty man and his
Taliban associates? As one journalist put it, it's like attacking
a flu virus with a sledgehammer.
As words like "revenge" and "retaliation" get
bounced back and forth, to what perpetual fear of terrorism are we on this
side of the world being sacrificed? If Osama bin Laden lived in Switzerland
and that country, waving its historic neutrality, refused to deliver him
up, would the U.S. be dropping bombs on Switzerland today? It's difficult
A phenomenal number of stories have crossed our desk since the events of Sept.
11. We print but a few of them in this issue. Among the stories we do not print
are those that outrageously allege that the U.S. government (or some members of it) had knowledge of, co-operated in, even organised
the suicide attacks -- to make its citizens receptive to new legislation that
would curtail civil liberties, as well as to the attack on Afghanistan which,
together with the cleaning up and rebuilding of the World Trade Centre and the
Pentagon, puts incredible amounts of dollars in certain pockets. Hogwash! Some
also see the war as a golden opportunity to further entrench America into positions
of power in the Middle East and its oil fields.
Other wild theories suggest that Israel is behind the attacks, orchestrating
events that would cause the U.S. and its allies to gang up on its enemies in
the Middle East. Although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reported to be trying
to set up the "centre of international terror" of Lebanon for a
bombing run or two, along with Yasser Arafat's "little garbage tip
down in Gaza where the Israelis have discovered, mirabile
dictu, a 'bin
Laden cell'" (Robert Fisk in London's Independent, Sept. 25), one
could never believe them guilty of such terrorism against their best friend,
the U.S. It is sad, though, to see them jumping on the "terrorist-hating"
bandwagon in their recent assaults on the Palestinians.
It is even suggested that the attack on Afghanistan is but a stepping stone to
a subsequent one on Iraq, followed by the destruction of the Lebanese Hezbollah,
then the humbling of Syria, the humiliation of Iran and yet another "peace" process
put in place between Israel and Palestine. We won't close the door on this
Such terrible stories might be halted if Bush would show the world his proof
that Bin Laden is the dirty culprit. We have little doubt that he was the mastermind
behind the attacks on the U.S., but wouldn't we feel better if all doubt was
removed? Some people go so far as to suggest that the Taliban's offer to deliver
Bin Laden into the hands of a neutral country for trial is being refused by the
West simply because there is not sufficient evidence to convict him. And if there
is not sufficient evidence, what is the U.S. doing in Afghanistan? Tony Blair
seems convinced there is proof -- others claim it is fabricated.
The U.S. says it will not negotiate, despite the Taliban's seeming conciliatory
shift of position of late. It may very well be a delaying tactic -- so be it.
Has talking and negotiating not always been the first path to take amongst civilised
peoples? Surely war is not the preferred action to the justice of an international
trial if there is any smallest possibility of having one? So call the Taliban's
It's all well and good to decry any questioning of the U.S. position in
this conflict, labelling it "anti-American". But in any just society,
in any democracy, citizens must not follow blindly. We must have the right to
question who and what and how and, yes, why. The terrorist attacks did not occur
in a vacuum. And whatever Bush would have us believe, it was not religious fervour
and a hatred of liberty and democracy that brought them about -- however much
religious fervour may have facilitated these particular deeds.
Throughout the Middle East, there is serious anger -- and, yes, hatred -- because
of U.S. policies and activities there over past years. However much the American
government tries to control the media on the "why" of the Sept.
11 tragedies, they cannot change reality. And there they are, demonizing themselves
in the eyes of the Middle East once again, proving to the world of Islam that
which they had already suspected, if not believed.
The latest massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Karam, if true, will
help cement a growing suspicion in every country of the Middle East -- that this
is a war against Islam. This suspicion is why mobs riot on some streets. This
is why the Saudis held back their help. This is why so many Arab leaders have
so long maintained silence.
The U.S. asked its allies to help them fight "world terror". That
would have been believed if, when they began their onslaught on the Taliban,
they had included other terrorists in their quest in a show of even-handedness.
But the quarry consists only of U.S. enemies -- and, once again, innocent people
are "collateral damage".
The American government is building air castles if it thinks the capture of Bin
Laden, and/or the destruction of the Taliban, will solve their problems. Certainly,
the world would be a better place without such terrorists. But, just as certainly,
there are a great many more Bin Ladens ready to spring up, to organise a new
Taliban, to fulfil their missions. And they would do so with yet more hatred
and additional excuses to incite hatred. This war and the anti-American feeling
it continues to engender in the Middle East will bring a multitude of followers
to the terrorists' cause. It seems obvious that Bin Laden has already won,
whatever happens now.
There is yet another aspect we must look at. Why is the United Nations not leading
this attack on Afghanistan? Some charge that this war is breaking international
law, that it is an American war against American enemies and that other countries
should not be involved.
Clearly, the U.S. role might have been to seek out a way to apprehend Bin Laden
for trial in an international court. If this was not a realistic goal, they might
have considered sending in undercover men to pick off the bad guys surreptitiously,
one by one -- even if it took years to accomplish. While not a laudable action
to promote, it seems preferable to the action taken -- and not, perhaps, beyond
the scope of some U.S. departments. And couldn't relief money be better
spent than dropping in food that could as easily be feeding the Taliban as anyone?
Make no mistake, the United States is probably the most enlightened and most
generous country in the world. What other country, after fighting a war, has
ever helped its enemy rise from their ashes? Their generosity to both Japan and
Germany following the Second World War was unparalleled. And whatever their misdeeds,
they pale in comparison to those of such other super powers as China and Russia.
That is why we say nothing about Chretien's decision to send military assistance
to this war effort. The U.S. is our friend and we are thankful for that. We must
stand by our friends, even when we believe they err in judgement.
Rather than continue its mission of destruction, the U.S. might better spend
its dollars on what it certainly does so well: rebuilding Afghanistan, feeding
the starving millions there, helping them to help themselves. Some hold the theory
that, had they done so to begin with, many who now support the Taliban out of
fear and to fend off starvation would have deserted the Taliban -- that they
might even have provided the eyes and ears to deliver up the perpetrators of
the Sept. 11 tragedy.
Such positive action might have won the U.S. more wars and more friends throughout
the Middle East than anything else they could have done.