Monday, September 17, 2001

Week of 09/17/2001

Letting Slip The Dogs Of War
- by David Matthews 2

There is a quote from Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar" that I think best describes the emotions of many people since the events of September 11th:

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

A graphic image, to be certain, but one that does express the sentiments of many here in America who feel the rage and anger over the devastating attack by terrorists in both New York and Washington DC.

To put it bluntly, we’re pissed! And we’ve never been this pissed in well over a century!

The tragic events that took place in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania have been compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but even that comparison rings hollow. The Japanese planes attacked military targets only, not the entire island. And they used their own airplanes. The terrorist attacks involved hijacking commercial airplanes, with innocent civilians on board, and then attacking both military AND commercial buildings!

World War II would certainly not be a good comparison. This was not an attack on an island hundreds of miles from home. This was IN America. A better comparison would be more along the lines of the War of 1812, when the British invaded Washington DC and burned it to the ground. Or perhaps General Sherman’s torching of Atlanta in the Civil War. Attacks that happened on our own soil, affecting not only military targets, but civilian targets as well.

But even those historical accounts are not fair comparisons to what happened on September 11th. Those involved invading armies. We knew who the enemies were in those days. We could see them coming and mount some kind of defense against them. Today’s enemies were already here, and got much of their training in America that they turned around and used against us. They blended in with innocent families and the average working Americans, hiding their true intentions until it was too late for anyone to stop them.

Yes, everyone is talking about payback and revenge, but they’re also talking about war. After the attacks, many members of Congress, along with their supportive pundits, were seriously talking about passing a declaration of war. President Bush has said repeatedly that this is "an act of war"

But war against whom? Certainly the terrorists themselves, and those who orchestrated the foul deed. And those who knowingly give them save harbor, of course.

But therein lies the rub. How do you spot them? How can you tell who is the good guy and who is the bad guy? Did anyone even suspect that an orchestrated attack of that magnitude would be carried out just prior to September 11th? Sure there were some words that were picked up in hindsight, but nobody would ever suspect that the generalized words spoken in a strip club by two drunken men would translate into the carnage that followed just hours later.

Much like everything else about the new millennium, how we deal with war needs to be reconsidered.

Terrorism is nothing new. The Boston Tea Party was considered to be a terrorist act. Adolph Hitler used the terrorist torching of the Reichstad to secure his absolute control over Germany in the early 1930’s. Terrorism was used in the Vietnam conflict as a way to disrupt American forces there. It’s hard to feel safe when you’re getting bombed and shot at well inside an area that you would consider to be "safe".

But terrorism has gone from being the disruptive side effect of war to being the prime instrument of war. Fear and terror have become the weapons of choice, not just by countries, but by small groups of people bent on disrupting everyday life.

And that’s where the problem of waging war comes in. You can’t fight it using traditional methods of war. You can’t just raise an army and point them to a country or even to a leader and say "There’s your target, KILL IT!"

Yes, by all accounts, it appears that Osama bin Laden is the prime orchestrator of the September 11th assault. And with all of the saber-rattling going on in the world, it right now appears that Afghanistan will be the chief country we will be waging war against. Between their fanatic devotion to the Koran – to the point where the spreading the word of any other religious faith is punishable by death – and their continual support of bin Laden, the ruling Taliban party appears to be taking part in their own suicide run against a whole world clamoring for revenge.

But even if we manage to eradicate that entire country, make it glow in the dark with radioactive fallout, and then dump all of the world’s salt on the land so that nothing would grow for centuries, it would not stop terrorism. Some other rich-man’s bastard with dreams of power and delusions of grandeur would step in and use that incident as their rallying cry to once again let slip the dogs of war. There is always Libya, Iran, Iraq, and a whole score of other countries that are full of people who actually cheered when the rest of us wept.

Let’s get brutally honest here… this "War on Terrorism" is not a war of territory. It is not a war of countries or leaders, or even of politics or religion, but rather of ideas. Specifically, of fanatic, extremist ideas.

And if President Bush is serious about this being a "War on Terrorism", then he has to admit that this is not just a war about extremists in other countries plotting and planning acts of terror. The very same mentalities that created people like Osama bin Laden and his band of evil also gave birth to the late Timothy McVeigh, who destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City because of his extremist beliefs. It gave birth to Eric Robert Rudolph, the suspected terrorist who bombed Centennial Olympic Park in the 1996 Games, as well as two abortion clinics and a lesbian nightclub. It gave birth to Paul Hill, who is sitting on Florida’s death row for the deliberate, premeditated, and cold-blooded murder of an abortion clinic doctor, as well as all other so-called "pro-life" supporters who took it upon themselves to commit acts of terror in the name of their extremist beliefs.

How can we be so determined to make the world safer from terrorism if we tacitly support terrorist actions in our own land?

Further complicating this conflict – this horror – are those who are using this tragedy as vehicles for their personal hatred against those who are not like them. The ones who are thinking like the terrorists and want this to be a holy war. The ones who want this to be a war between Christians and Muslims, or even simply believers versus non-believers.

Following the terrorist acts of September 11th, Muslim mosques have been vandalized and burned. Islamic children here in America have been insulted, cajoled, and threatened by adults who wrongly blame them for the terrorist actions of extremists. One Muslim woman was chased down the street by a drunk driver, who was hell-bent on killing her for what happened in New York. One immigrant gas station owner was killed, and another was targeted by some self-appointed "patriot". God Squad leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, as well as several other self-righteous theocratic groups, are using this tragedy to blame gays, lesbians, pro-freedom groups, and anyone who does not agree with THEIR beliefs. They feel that somehow GOD has lifted "his protection" from America.

Well, I know this message will never reach the right ears, but I hope my readers and listeners will forgive me as I briefly address those above-mentioned "people":

You vain, petty, self-righteous, self-centered, egotistical PRICKS! What the hell, do you think you arrogant bastards are doing, huh? You’re not helping matters, you vile wastes of human material, you’re contributing to them! It’s people like you who have helped create terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Robert Rudolph, and Paul Hill. You jackals and Pharisees constantly talk about waging a "cultural war" and a "spiritual war", well some other arrogant prick just took you up on your talk of war, and now we’re all paying the price for it! If there is anyone who should be blamed for this horror outside of the terrorists themselves, the burden is YOURS to bear. So on behalf of myself and all other rational human beings out there, I suggest to people like "Osama bin" Falwell and "Osama bin" Robertson that you kindly slither back under whatever rock you came from, or else not-so kindly GO TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG!

Okay, that’s more than enough attention those pieces of flotsam should ever get. As a libertarian, I may have to defend their right to speak their mind, but that doesn’t mean I have to do so silently.

Just as bad are the arguments by government and anti-freedom groups to use the tragic events of September 11th as an excuse to start taking away the very freedoms that we cherish. Here we have everyone talking about how America is this great land of freedom, and yet in times like these, freedom is usually the first casualty. If our politicians start chopping down our rights in the name of safety, then what exactly will our country stand for? It sure as hell wouldn’t be for freedom anymore.

If we start listening to the authoritarians and start living our lives in fear of the next attack, then the terrorists will have won. We’ll be in a situation where we win all the battles, but yet lose the war.

This conflict is not about US against THEM, or even a case of U.S. against THEM, but rather it is a case of US against those who hate US. The Earl of Chesterfield once said, "People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority." That, I think, best describes those extremist groups, and why they are hell-bent on making the rest of us so fearful of them. They are, after all, afraid themselves. That’s why they cling so tightly to what they believe. Those who are truly confident of who they are and what they believe in are not afraid of those whose ideas differ from their own.

Look, its sheer naïveté to believe that we’re going to eliminate terrorism. As long as there are people who fear those who have a difference of opinion or a difference of beliefs, then there will always be conflict. But certainly we can get the message out that terrorism will not be tolerated, not only inside America, but elsewhere as well. And just like terrorism is not limited to any territorial boundary, those who organize, orchestrate, finance, and otherwise knowingly support terrorist activities should know that they can no longer hide in the shadows, or under the safety of some country. They too will have to be held accountable.

They say war is hell. Well, the supporters of terrorism will soon find out why it is so.

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