Guest Opinion: A Pacifist's Plea
By George Howard
Date: October 02, 2001
It is hard for we Americans to understand how these people live. I am not talking just about the people of Afghanistan, but the people of the region. We are surrounded by plenty, while they are surrounded by poverty. They have no government services, no health care, and very few schools. They live in tents and mud huts. No running water and what water they can get is not to anyone's standards. They have no infrastructure. They are sick, hungry, tired and in a constant struggle to survive. They do not live very long over there. They do have spirit and an optimistic outlook on life.
The situation with their government is similar to Somalia in that the country is run by a gang of warlords that set the rules as they go along. They tolerate terrorists in their country because of the money. Terrorists have money. As with the drug lords of South America, they do spend some money for the locals, schools and hospitals. Of course, the schools teach the people their own brand of radical religion and the hospitals will give the gangsters first priority. Nevertheless, this looks good to the locals who would not have had any access but for gangsters.
We have Americans that make more money in an hour than some of the poorest people in the world can make in a year. We have Americans that are worth more than some countries Gross National Products. This is made possible by what we believe in. Human Rights and Freedom, the ability to protect that freedom, and the economic system that finances our freedom.
We have been attacked by an organized gang of terrorists. The attack was aimed at the heart of America, a three-pronged attack. The first, aimed at one of our great symbols of capitalism, the World Trade Center. The second, at the symbol of the protectors of freedom, the Pentagon. The third, I believe, was Independence Hall in Philadelphia, one of our great symbols of freedom.
This is everyone's first reaction. It is a hormonal, emotional reaction driven by chemicals released into our bloodstreams. Programmed into our bodies is a response to prepare us for "fight or flight." It is part of our inheritance from ancient times when literally that was our only choice. In modern times, we have developed a thin veneer of civilization allowing us to consider other options. It is thin; remember that we have only been "civilized" for a small part of the time humans have been on this Earth.
When the bloodstream clears of the "fight or flight" hormones, we begin to think of the consequences of war. We start thinking about the money, the deaths and broken bodies. What about the aftermath? What will happen to our reputation? How will the rest of the world think of us? Will we be better off that before? War causes a lot of uncertainty.
Why should we send "2 million dollar missiles against 10 dollar tents"? Who is hurt by sanctions? I have not noticed Saddam Hussein wearing thread worn clothes or badly in need of a haircut in his appearances on TV. I do not think the sanctions have affected him in any way except to hinder his plans for mass destruction. When he tells his people that the US will not allow him to import the things necessary to improve their lives, how does that make the people feel about the US. Remember, they do not have access to information independent from government sources. How will we finance this war?
I think we have more in common with the people of the region than would appear at first glance. Ninety nine per cent of the people want the same things out of life that we do. They want to have a family, a job, and a full tummy and left alone to live their life as they want. They believe in the same things we do. They believe in the same God we do. Their religion teaches them to be nice to others, do not steal from others, and respect the rights of others, same as us.
Being nice to others has a much larger meaning than do not let your dog poop on the neighbor's lawn. It applies to countries too. We believe that the people in countries are downtrodden by their governments, so their governments deserved to punishment. The problem is this; we have no way to punish those in government. Our choices have been from diplomatic notes saying, "We don't like you because you are bad" to all out war starts by affecting the little people first.
I would like to suggest that we try a new approach. Stand up for what we believe in. Being nice to others does not mean letting them starve. It does not mean bombing them because of the actions of a few. It means that we are obligated to help these people. We must have these people as friends, not enemies. We see the results of having them as enemies.
We believe in the rule of law. This should apply to all our actions. We can feed these people and help them to develop the infrastructure to bring services to the people. Our beliefs require that we help these people.
We can bomb the place until we kill some of the terrorists. We can then pull out and go home with our chests puffed out and say, "Boy, we sure showed them. They will not mess with us again." How can we be so sure? Put yourself in their position. Would you think, "Well, that's that, I know my place. I'll continue to starve and keep my mouth shut." I do not think it will turn out that way. I believe we will cause the entire region to rise up against us. Countries will start churning out terrorists.
What if we feed them? I mean, give them food, no strings attached. They can continue to have the gangsters if they want. I do not think they will choose this option. I think when they are strong and healthy, they will choose not to have the gangsters there. The only strings I would put on the program are; the US and our allies should deliver the food and other supplies to the People, not the government, under the supervision of the Red Cross and the UN.
What do we get out of this?
We gain the satisfaction of knowing that we practice what we preach.
It is the last thing the terrorists would expect or want to happen. Their plan is foiled. They are out of the game.
We now have friends in the region.
We will have done something huge and set an example people would talk about for centuries.
Finally, there is always the money. How would we pay for this? Will it be war or peace? Let us assume that the cost of each option is about the same. We could raid social security. We could raise taxes. We could just borrow more money and increase the national debt. We could rethink the war on drugs. We are not only spending billions on keeping people from something they want, but also driving billions into the underground economy where it pays no taxes. We, realistically, do not have anything to show for the billions we have spent on this war. Soft drugs should be under government supervision much like alcohol and nicotine. Hard drugs should be illegal to deal and produce, but leave the poor user alone. Get him some counseling. The billions saved would be enough to finance either option.
Personally, I believe it would be cheaper and more profitable in the long run to exercise the peace option. It is time for Americans to stand up for what they believe in and add another layer to that thin shell of civilization. It is only fitting if the greatest act of terrorism was followed by the greatest act of humanity.
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