Now this is what it's like when worlds colliiide...!
It's been a month and a day since I was compelled to write the mid-month Vitriol in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in anticipation of the attacks I'd feared the United States was about to launch in retaliation. Fortunately, our government chose to act cautiously and wisely, investigating, warning, and offering the Taliban a chance to prevent the attack. I'm still not thrilled that we're bombing in Afghanistan, as I know without a doubt that there are innocents being killed, but I think this is the best I could've hoped for under the circumstances.
The administration does apparently understand that they're not going to be able to just go in and take Osama bin Laden. I do hope that he is brought to justice, though, and not summarily executed by bomb or missile or M-16. We don't need to create a martyr, and we do need to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it's justice, not revenge, that America is interested in. On that note, I think that the evidence we claim to have linking bin Laden and al Qaeda to the attacks needs to be shared, at least partially, with more of the world, if we want to allay criticism of our actions. While it certainly seems believable that he is responsible, can we blame democratic nations for wanting to see the same proof they and we would require to try a citizen? Let us not forget that the United States is still the model democracy, and we cannot afford to play a game of "do as I say, not as I do."
The current anthrax scare is unsettling. At the moment, we don't even know who's spreading it: it could be bin Laden, it could be Saddam Hussein (conceivably), it could even be another group, perhaps a domestic one, seizing an opportune moment. While I don't expect there will be many deaths due to anthrax, whoever is responsible is certainly achieving a terrorist's goal, which is spreading terror.
The United States still needs to understand where this hatred comes from. Is there blind religious fervor involved? Certainly. Is there resentment of a better lifestyle? Probably. But a big part of the problem is America's meddling in the affairs of the rest of the world, in the interests of the government or big business or both, as Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal so rightly mentioned. If Rudy Giuliani can't or won't concede that, well, that's his problem; a shame that he turned away money that the City badly needs, though. U.S. intervention has hardly been limited to Afghanistan and the Middle East, of course, and there are plenty of people in Central and South America and Asia who are no fans of the U.S. either. The difference is that the Muslims have justified violent struggle to themselves by turning it into a war of religions and cultures. The predominantly Christian West, and Jewish Israel, must take great pains to ensure that it doesn't become such a war. What we also need to do is ensure that we never again treat any peoples or nations as second-class (or 'Third World') again. Resentment breeds conflict. American colonists rose up successfully against the British Empire. Russians and Frenchmen tore down their respective monarchies. And while there is only a tiny group of radical Muslims right now who are itching to take on the West and their own governments, there are many more who are sympathetic to some of their causes. Let's not risk forcing them to take up arms as well.
Bosnia is allegedly a hotbed of former mujahideen, some of them quite possibly affiliated with al Qaeda. More mujahideen are fighting alongside the Chechens, and there are radical Muslim groups battling governments in the Philippines, Algeria, and elsewhere. While many of these groups may not consider themselves enemies of the West yet, in the current climate it may not take much to change their minds.
The bottom line is, it's going to take more than killing (or trying and sentencing) Osama bin Laden to end terrorism. It's going to take more than dismantling the Taliban regime and serving notice to the rest of the world that harboring (or condoning, or supporting) terrorism will no longer be tolerated. It's going to take more than freezing funds and keeping arms from reaching the 'wrong' hands. These steps will all help, but until the root of the problem is addressed, until we change the recipe, we will still be cooking up people ready to rise up in defiance and give their lives to make us suffer. I'm not justifying their behavior. No one deserves to die in a plane crash, or crushed under skyscraper rubble, or of anthrax, especially innocents far removed from the specific issues of greivance. But in the midst of all the zealotry and the insane hatred are a legitimate complaint or two. I hope we're all mature enough to accept and deal with that when the military action is over.
"An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." - Mohandas Gandhi