It is finally becoming publicly acceptable to speak some self-evident truths about terrorism, national security, limits of military power and Constitutional freedoms in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The entire approach to dealing with the threat of Bin Laden's small band of radical Islamic terrorists on the part of the Bush Administration has been one of failure and incompetence, disguised from the American public by an unrelenting campaign of Republican propaganda.
The first step to policy recovery is to debunk some basic propaganda about Bin Laden and terrorism. Here are some of the most important points: (1) the terrorists hate us because of the policies of our government and corporations and not because of who we are, (2) the terrorists are not going to be stopped by military means exclusively (or even largely by military means) because they are not primarily a military threat nor do they control any nation or government, (3) spending huge sums of money is not going to produce significant reductions in the limited threat posed by Bin Laden's terrorists and weakens our nation by undermining our national finances, (4) undermining our Constitutional freedoms does not produce a more secure nation when it comes to terrorism to any significant degree and (5) outside terrorist attacks cannot destroy America even if 9-11 style attacks were common but we can destroy America by over-reacting.
The 9-11 terrorist attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The Bin Laden terrorists had political objectives. They were seeking specific changes in American foreign policy. The most widely publicized goal was the removal of American troops from Saudi Arabia. The Bush White House did remove the troops from Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of 9-11. In foreign policy terms, the terrorists achieved one of their main goals.
It was a mistake for the first Bush White House to permanently station American combat troops in the Moslem holy lands after the first Gulf War. Like the Iraq invasion by the current Bush Administration, Arab and Islamic public opinion was not given sufficient consideration in developing American foreign policy. The limits of military power were ignored in both cases. Military power is no substitute for a well-designed, intelligent and logical foreign policy.
Military power is good in stopping military attacks. It does not lend itself well to dealing with politically or religiously inspired terrorism. Terrorists, who are not created by governments, really cannot be defeated by military means alone especially if they have widespread public support. The policies of the Bush White House have created more public support for Islamic terrorists instead of lessening that support. The long-term occupation of Iraq has been a public opinion disaster in the Arab world and greatly strengthened the appeal of radical Islamic terrorists.
One of the main goals of Bin Laden has been to bankrupt the American government. The 9-11 attacks were funded with less than a million dollars. The American government reaction including the Iraq disaster will cost the United States trillions of dollars. The financial resources expended are a serious over-reaction that undermines the health of the American economy. We are handing Bin Laden a major victory once again!
The great universal appeal of America in the world has been our democratic institutions, our tradition of individual freedom and religious tolerance. The Bin Laden terrorists do not have the ability to undermine these institutions and traditions. We do. They cannot reduce this moral appeal and example to the world community but we can. Unfortunately, the Bush White House and the Bush Republicans have actively been undermining our Constitutional freedoms in the name of national security.
There is no bigger threat to America than the internal one posed by this trend toward unrestrained state power. Detention without trial, governmental spying on citizens, arbitrary power of officeholders to deny Constitutional protections to individual citizens or groups and similar abuses have no rightful place in American politics. These things are the first and important steps towards destroying American freedom. They are much bigger threats to the American nation that the small band of terrorists controlled by Bin Laden and company. Our Constitutional checks and balances system has been under serious assault by the Bush political machine using the terrorist threat as an excuse.
We should immediately start a public debate about the role of American foreign in the Middle East and the larger Islamic world. We should be able to construct a foreign policy that both meets our national needs and does not create hatred of the United States in the Arab street. We are not natural enemies.
We should stop relying on military means and undermining American personal freedoms to combat Bin Laden's terrorists. We should withdraw from Iraq as quickly as possible. Our current course is a disaster. The only approach which could be worse would be following Senators McCain and Lieberman advice to increase troop levels. That approach would be simply irresponsible. The damage would be permanent. Neither Senator should ever be given the position of Commander-in-Chief.
We should stop overstating the power and importance of Bin Laden and organization. They are not significant powers in the world community. The importance they do have in the world community is their ability to manipulate the Bush Administration into over-reaction. The American public has already begun to reject the political fear-mongering by Bush Republicans to hang onto power. We now need specific changes in public policy to reverse the damage.
Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Phone: 443-907-2367.
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