Accountability

No healthy society longs for war. To your average person war is a nasty reality of human history to be avoided if possible and fought quickly if necessary. Because we claim to be a democracy, the government must convince enough of the populace that war is justified. Your average person does not need statistics, an objective history, or even a clear-cut plan of action. All they need is a simple reason to make them believe. While the New New Left draws attention to the root causes of terrorism, the State takes a much easier route.  To justify war all one must do is convince Joe average that his security is threatened and that decisive action is necessary to keep him safe. To make the masses support the actions of the government, the reasons must be simplified and the objectives must be dumbed down.  
   
The State believes that the most effective way to fight terrorism is through the use of military force. With the exception of a few politicians, Congress has enabled the President to declare preemptive war and given him the funds necessary to maintain an indefinite occupation. Through an effective media campaign the Bush administration has alienated the radicals and put the bulk of the American public opinion into two camps: those who think the war was justified and those who were against the war but believe that we can no longer pull out now that our troops are there. To bring much of the public into the complacent liberal camp, the Administration relied on four basic arguments to justify their War on Terror. These arguments were not complicated, nor were they intended to be. But, they were persuasive enough to be effective.
   
The primary argument that carries the most weight in the minds of the American people is that it is the irrational objective of the international terrorist to destroy our way of life. September 11th clearly demonstrated to the American public that we had an enemy that was capable of inflicting a direct attack against US citizens. That day, much of the security felt by the bulk of our populace was shattered by the realization that we were not invincible and there were those ready to fight us with unconventional tactics. The government tells us to “never forget” and part of that means to never forgive. It has been made clear by both the pundits and the State that the terrorists aren’t just attacking us to redress grievances they have with the West; they are attacking freedom and democracy itself. 

This quickly ties into their second argument. We are told that the terrorists’ actions cannot be justified or explained by looking for root causes. Their causes are made irrelevant by the tactics they employ. This statement in itself insures that no one thinks too hard about why a substantial global population is willing to take their own lives to fight us. Rather than address the issue of why, the administration has us focus on the irrationality of their actions and the brutality of their methods. Claiming moral superiority our use of force can justified without having to deal with the nuances of our foreign policy in the Middle East.
Now the ante must be upped. It is not enough to say that they irrationally seek to destroy our way of life and that their causes are made irrelevant by their method of warfare. The state now must argue that soon the terrorists will poses weapons of mass destruction necessary to carry out large scale attacks against Western cities. Boat bombs sinking the Cole, men that explode in public places, and planes flying into buildings are apparently not the only threat. Now, we must deal with the prospect of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon being brought to America and detonated in a major city. This makes the threat seem more deadly; this serves as a lead in to point four.

The final point is the lynch pin. The terrorist network cannot exist without the support of rogue states. As a result, to stop terrorism we must enact regime changes in any country in which terrorists operate lest the rogue nation supply a terrorist group with weapons of mass destruction. The biggest threat to our security has supplied the ultimate justification for war.

These four arguments serve as the rational for supporting the war or being complacent enough to not actively oppose it. While the New New Left points out the record numbers of people in the streets of New York on 2/15 (500,000) and 3/22 (200,000) prior to the war, they do not account for why there were few people attending the demonstrations once the hostilities began. The reality lies in the inadequacy of their arguments. The bulk of the New New Left is composed of upper middle class, white college students that oppose war simply because they feel war in itself is bad. The intelligentsia of the movement, more articulate and more capable of presenting reasons for terror comes across as justifying terrorist actions rather than proposing a means to peacefully stop them. They simply are not making the type of arguments that Joe average can relate to either because they are too complex (ex: the ramifications of globalization) or they are too impractical (ex: ending aid to Israel). While the New New Left is quick to protest, empty rhetoric is no solution to terrorism and their solutions do not answer the one question on every Joe and Jane Average’s mind; will I be safe?

Safety is key and national security is paramount in the mind of both the US citizen and the US government. Whatever side can convince the majority that their solution can offer a more secure country; that is the side that will sway public opinion.  The government’s platform (the use of military force) has not succeeded because it is practical and it has not succeeded because it offers a clear-cut solution. It has been successful because it is easy to understand. A sad reality about our society is that not enough people are curious enough to look beyond what they are familiar with to arrive at a conclusion. If any force in this country, be it the democrats, the radicals, or the New New Left, seek to challenge the foreign policy decisions of the State they must remember two things: First, that no solution will be acceptable if it does not guarantee safety. Second, it is not enough to oppose a policy; one must present a plausible solution in the language Joe Average can understand.  



Your Government Makes You Accountable

When one regards the modern state, it is important to differentiate between the people and their government. The distinction is indeed quite blurred when a nation proclaims itself a democracy. To an outside observer, the actions of the democratic state, be they foreign policy or imperialist war, seem as though sanctioned by a national consensus. After all, America does tell the world that her people have freedom, and freedom implies choice. To the world it seems that Americans have chosen hegemony over international democracy and national self determination. To nations directly affected by our foreign policies, the rational conclusion is that our democracy and freedom is intended only for Americans and the reaction to that conclusion is hate. If one had always been told America was a democracy and had heard any US national rhetoric on TV, the inevitable conclusion would be that whatever was done by the US government could be blamed on the American people. It is that rational that made our civilians legitimate targets in the eyes of the terrorists. Against the strongest military power on earth, all those opposed to our presence must fight a poor man’s guerrilla war; we call such war terrorism, and to understand why they hate us we must first define who they are.
   
What would make someone give their life to attack the American system? It safe to say it is a combination of two factors; a profound hatred for the US and a deep sense of hopelessness that anything can change without the use of force. Force being the modus operandi of the US, it must be widely believed that it is the only thing to which our government will respond. These individuals do not necessarily wear kafias. While it may happen that most of the more visible terrorism has its objectives rooted in the US’s involvement in the Middle East, we cannot forget that our foreign policy in both Asia and Latin America has made numerous populations wary if not resentful of the American role international politics. Due to resent media coverage our perception of terrorism is that of Arabs hijacking planes and strapping bombs to themselves. This is not the case. The threat is broader and more complex than what our government tells us. 
   
We’ve been a prominent hegemonic power for over fifty years and have retained hyperpower status since ’91. We, as a hyperpower, are the dominant player in the international community and our tendency to play fair often does not coincide with our desire to retain power. The “international terrorists” are not some isolated community of fundamentalist crazies. It is more pragmatic to assume that on many levels they are supported by the peoples of the third world.Throughout the Muslim world there is widespread bitterness against America, even among well educated businessmen and professionals, who…resent the way the Western Powers have behaved in their countries”.  Just because the bulk of the third world is not ready to commit themselves to a war of attrition with the US, does not mean they do not support one. This is not to say that all third world populations completely support the tactic of political violence. It is quite possible to hate America both culturally and ideologically without necessarily taking action. What is important to realize is that for these groups to continue functioning they need a ready source of funding and volunteers. The governments of Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq undoubtedly lent state support to terrorist organizations. However, many groups base themselves in nations controlled by governments that are relatively secular, corrupt, and admittedly pro-US.  “Hatred of the United States is not peculiar to the Middle East, nor does it translate directly into a desire to launch terrorist attacks. The relationship between the two is more complicated and indirect, akin in many ways to that between oxygen and fire. Oxygen does not cause fires-the spark must come from something else-but fire requires oxygen to rage. In the same fashion, terrorists need anti-American sentiment…it provides them with people willing to give aid and comfort.” It is obvious that they hate us, now the real question is why. 
   
hate us because of our history. Analyzing the last fifty years of American foreign policy one must acknowledge that the US government has done some questionable things in the its war on communism. In 1953 the CIA overthrew the prime minister of Iran because he sought to nationalize the country’s oil and was thought to be leaning left toward Moscow at a time when nationalism was oft confused with the global communist revolution. We restored the Shah to power, a brutal dictator who then went about torturing and killing all opposition to his regime. Amnesty International summed up the situation in 1976 by noting that Iran had the “highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts, and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse history in human rights than Iran” This would sow the seeds for a fundamentalist take over in ‘79 making the country markedly anti-American. When Israel launched the six day war in ‘67 and achieved a decisive victory against its neighbors using American made weapons, the already substantial Palestinian refugee problem was worsened. With most of the Arab world regarding Israel as the 51st US state much of the animosity that arose from this conflict was redirected against the US. During the war between Iraq and Iran we sold weapons to both sides fueling a long drawn out conflict that would leave thousands dead. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in ’81 the US armed, financed and trained cadres of what would become today’s terrorist leaders to fight the invading Red Army. “Sunnis from all parts of the Islamic world fought in Afghanistan, and then returned home with the will, confidence, and training to begin terrorist operations against weak domestic governments.”When the Russians withdrew the nation was left with no infrastructure and no aid from the US. As a result the nation was left to the warlords of feudal anarchy and the Al Qaeda network would receive training camps and material support. The fighters, having beaten back the Red Army returned home ready to continue the Jihad. In ’82 when Israel invaded and occupied southern Lebanon in a joint action with the US, it was quite clear that the US was willing to use force to support its democratic allies. Combine all this with the corrupt dictators we supported, and continue to support, in most of the Arab world, the Gulf War, our military presence in the spiritual capital of the Middle East; Saudi Arabia, the devastating sanctions on Iraq, and its eventual invasion and occupation, we get some idea that perhaps some of the animosity they have for us is explained if not justified. 
   
They hate us because of our government. The third world fails to differentiate between the people and the apparatus of the state. When our president makes statements calling groups of nations with no apparent interlinking policy or leadership (Iraq, Iran, North Korea) an Axis of Evil, how is the international community expected to react? Our government is believed to be composed and elected by the American people, so when Congress votes on war appropriations it appears to many that it was a nationally made group decision. In reality the government tends to operate without much direct involvement on behalf of its people. It is clear that our government thinks it is upholding the national interest, but at what cost must the third world pay for our economic security? Morgenthau could not have hoped to have his theories better put to practice. The US government does not seem to have many moral scruples, despite the rhetoric spouted by politicians. It has proven time and time again, from Hanoi to Mogadishu that we will kill to protect our security. Some Americans are slowly coming to this realization, but most have not. To the bulk of American society September 11th was an unprovoked attack on freedom, not the culmination of fifty years of Middle Eastern foreign policy. To the terrorists, hating the American government is the same as hating the American people that enable its existence.  
   
They believe that all Americans are accountable. America is a complex society with a vocal minority on both the left and the right in polarized extremes. However, the bulk of middle class America, an enormous demographic, does not choose to voice a concrete opinion or take definite side for or against the government. Only 45% of Americans are registered to vote. The third world interprets this as a combination of indifference and support for the state, for in this case not saying anything maintains the status quo. That status quo is what we are hated for. Your typical American neither cares nor understands the ramifications of globalized capitalism or the reality of our military interventions. Their inaction makes them accountable. Our troops have been involved in hundreds of wars, conflicts, and interventions over the past fifty years. Our economic policies in the third world have led to destabilized economies and American control of valuable resources. Our citizens just want to watch CNN, eat Big Macs, and drive an SUV with a sense of security that they feel can be provided by their government. This gross disregard on behalf of our populace enables our leaders to enact the policies that taint our image in the global community. The hawks refer to terrorism as a protracted campaign of violence directed against non-combatants. But on many levels our non-combatants enable the deaths of civilians in the countries we invade.              
   
Now that we understand the motives of the terrorists we must address the root issue: how do we stop terrorism? We do not fight terror by killing the terrorists as the Palestinian Intifada has shown us, for every terrorist we kill we create four more. These fighters have both the zeal and the resolve necessary to continue fighting no matter what we throw at them. They may change their national power bases, they may lose key leaders, they may suffer annihilation on an individual basis, but they retain popular support and as long as our government makes the foreign policy decisions that initiated these conflicts, they will continue to. We can never stop violent opposition to America as long as it functions as a capitalist hyperpower. We must address our history; our people must know, acknowledge, and admit to what their government has done. Most of all; we must become accountable. We the American people are responsible for what our government does, it must be made clear that not only do we oppose the state; we will actively work to change it. They will only stop hating us when America becomes what it was intended to be. One nation, under the people, indivisible, with liberty and justice for both itself and the global community. 

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