Terrorism and the US

The events that unfolded recently have left most of us in this country speechless. They have made us realize how trivial many of our day-to-day concerns really are, and how lucky we are to have the things that truly make living worth while.

The loss of life is unimaginable, and as the stories pour in of the victims, their families and their loved ones, the full impact of this event is beginning to become comprehendible. Trying to find the words that express the sorrow we feel at the loss of thousands of human lives is difficult. I stood in horror and in stunned silence as I watched the first tower collapse with potentially thousands of people inside. No words existed that could convey the emotions we had once the full impact of these heinous crimes against humanity were realized.

To many of us, this event did not come as a surprise; it was only a question of when. Many parts of the world deal with terrorism virtually on a daily basis. We have been fortunate enough to be domestically shielded from this. This is the first time our younger generation has experienced an event like this, an event that feels as though it would change the world forever the moment we found out. I hope that this event is never forgotten, and something similar never occurs again. My heart goes out to the people lost in this tragic event and the loved ones and families of those victims.

Imagine yourself getting ready to go to work. You have a beautiful condo that you worked hard saving up for, a beautiful family that you love very much. You work 9 to 5 in an office job with great people. You kiss your spouse in the morning, tell them you love them, wake your children, go through your morning routing, breakfast, newspaper, coffee. Then you turn on the television to check the weather, like always. This is where you hear the news. Your office building has been severely damaged by an explosion and a fire engulfs it. You are standing there watching it on your television, seeing your office building burning, thick smoke pouring from the windows. You worry about your coworkers, your friends. What a horrific site. As the fear and loss rushes through you, you find out it wasn’t an accident, instead it was an intentional attack. Suddenly anger fills you, how could someone do such a thing? These innocent people had nothing to do with this quarrel. They were just trying to feed their families, to live a good and happy life. Now their world has erupted around them. Your nation erupts in anger at the thousands killed, your leaders speak of the perpetrators of this act as Evil, declaring that God is with you and your country. You are angry; you want to get back at these people.

But you are not in front of your television watching the World Trade Centers burn, instead you are in Baghdad watching your office building burn with your friends and co-workers inside. The explosion was not caused by a hi-jacked airliner but by a cruise missile launched from a destroyer hundreds of miles off your coast. A cruise missile that was launched at the order of the US president at the time with approval of the US senate. You are infuriated! What did you and your friends, family, and loved ones do to deserve this?

The popular contention is that terrorism is random and unmotivated. It is not. These acts are heinous, terrible, and saddening, with little regard for the sanctity of human life. But they are not random, nor unmotivated.

President Bush, following the attack, said that America was attacked because of what it is, because it is a symbol of freedom. America is our home; it is the land of the free and of opportunity, the diversity and uniqueness of its citizens being its strength. To many people, both domestic and abroad, this symbolizes the opposite of their ideologies. But the US is not the only country like this, there are many other countries that symbolize what America is. Other wealthy post-industrialized nations have an extensive industrial and economic presence internationally. These countries, such as Australia and Switzerland, along with the US, are capitalist; export their culture and religions along with their products and services. They believe in religious freedom, economic opportunity, and respect the rights of the individual. Yet one third of all the terrorist attacks in the world are perpetuated against US targets. The US has no internal civil war and no conflicts with neighboring countries, the things usually present in countries wrought with terrorism. America is attacked because of what it does, not what it is.

When was the last time you heard of a terrorist attack in Switzerland.

If we were to take a moment, a rational moment of self reflection, to understand what motivates a terrorist attack, to understand our enemy, then we may be able to change those behaviors which incite terrorist attacks, saving innumerable lives. As the possibility increases of terrorist organizations acquiring nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction, realizing that terrorists have a motivation behind their attacks becomes vitally important. It becomes a matter of life and death for us, our families, our loved ones, and everyone else who lives in this nation. Identifying and ceasing these acts which serve to incite a terrorist response is essential in curbing the upcoming terrorist threat, especially now in light of the potential dangers.

Wars and violent conflicts are an extension of the tribalism that has existed for so long with humans. Tribalism depends on the ability to make people perceive the enemy as something else, something other then “US”. It is this US vs. THEM mentality that has directly been the cause of every major conflict and is responsible for more loss of life then any other concept in the history of humanity. As political and economic borders fall, the cultural boundaries that are necessary to maintaining this US vs. THEM mentality necessarily fall as well. It would be very difficult in this age of international flights, television, Internet, and international phone calls to convince people in the United States that people in France are
inherently Evil. Yet in countries where borders are not so open, this task is much easier.

We must always remain careful when people tell us that someone else is fundamentally different, or wrong, or Evil. President Bush has already cited numerous times how this is an Evil act. That the people who perpetuated it are Evildoers, and that God is on our side. This has necessarily led many people to feel that the nation that is the home to these terrorists deserve the blame as much as the terrorists themselves do, but this is no different then saying the people in the World Trade Center who lost their lives deserved the blame for bombings in the Middle East just as much as the actual perpetrators of the bombing do, and this is most likely exactly why the attack took place.

If we were to bomb the people of Afghanistan, we are no better then the terrorists themselves.

The terrorists acted of their own accord, and were not officially sponsored by the Afghanistan government, while the US military acts in foreign nations as a representation of the US people. This is why the terrorists, the sole perpetrators of these attacks, feel that US citizens are just as much to blame. The now infamous Osama Bin Laden specifically stated that ‘Every US citizen is a valid military target’

If we were to visit the Middle East while it was being attacked by a US aircraft carrier hundreds of miles off the coast, a carrier that has firepower that exceeds that of many small countries, we would find the same things being said. That these attackers are Evil, that the perpetrators are cowardly, that they must pay, and that God is on our side. And a small faction of those people take the matters into their own hand and perform these heinous terrorist attacks in protest to previous US actions. These attitudes that our governments perpetuate are essential to maintaining that US vs. THEM mentality that allows us (or them) to feel justified in killing innocent people.

The Unites States is the only country that intervenes regularly in affairs outside its own region, and the vast majority of terrorist acts against US targets can be identified as responses to particular instances of US intervention. In the post-cold war world, frequent military involvement overseas is not needed to ensure the security of the United States, especially in light of the devastating consequence that WILL arise from this intervention. The vast majority of post cold war conflicts in the world have involved disputes between parties within states. Conflicts that the outcome will be far less influential on US security but will be far more likely to incite devastating terrorist responses domestically.

Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 1993 attack in Saudi Arabia, which left 18 American Rangers dead. His main reason for attacking was to protest the American presence in Saudi Arabia and Washington’s official support for Israel. If the links to bin Laden we are learning about now prove to be true, was America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia worth the thousands of lives lost with the attack and collapse of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon? Is it worth the chance that thousands more may be killed?

Moamar Qaddafi was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed 270 people, 200 of which were Americans. He was responding to the United States air strikes of Tripoli and Benghazi, which were apparently meant to assassinate him.

The US has performed numerous more acts in the past that benefited the US or the countries involved very little but raised the possibility of terrorist responses tremendously. I invite readers learn of more of these instances by visiting <http://www.cato.org/pubs/fpbriefs/fpb-050es.html>

Never has it been more important than now that we really think about our response to these actions. A continually escalating cycle of vengeance will not be good for this country, or for the world, let alone the millions of innocent people whose lives will be lost.

These views are not popular, and are not political correct in the United States, I may be labeled anti-American or a terrorist sympathizer. I am none of these things. These were horrendous acts against humanity and the perpetrators should be brought to justice. But the innocent people unfortunate enough to share their homeland with these terrorists should not be forced to pay.

I am not on the side of the terrorists, or on the side supporting US intervention in foreign lands. I am on the side of people all over the world, regardless of where they happened to be born. I am on the side of the innocent people that will necessarily get caught up in these conflicts through no fault of their own but who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Most people in the world are decent people. They have mothers and fathers and they love and feel pain. Very few people in the world are inherently Evil, the people of the Middle East are no exception. Most of them work jobs they are probably unhappy at, and have to deal with the death of loved ones, disease, cancer, affording food and medical care for their children, and finding a safe place to live just like everyone else out there. They do not deserve to be bombed.

I am not an isolationist. Some may say that I am. Some may say that the policy of restrained military involvement that I endorse is not on the side of people, after all, many of the conflicts we are involved in we are fighting for human rights. At least, that is what the conflicts are disguised as. The fact of the matter is that we are involved in these intra state conflicts to protect US economic interests, not to protect the rights of individuals. A cursory examination of history will edify this point. The US has often ignored heinous acts where far more people are being killed in countries which have no economic or military value to the US.

But when taken as a whole, our policy of protecting US interests abroad by militarily involving ourselves in political intra state conflicts and then policing our state as much as possible to make it as difficult as possible to perpetuate a terrorist act will, and obviously has, failed. Numerous more lives will be lost if we continue to act in a way that instills hatred and anger in other countries. We have to restrict of military involvement in other nations to situations that directly compromise national security.

Adopting a military police of restraint has nothing to do with appeasing the terrorists. Terrorists acts are morally abhorrent and should be punished whenever possible. Instead we would be reducing the motivations that terrorists have to attack the United States in the first place. With the probability of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists increasing, such a stance has become vitally important.