Yet Peace and Justice Must Prevail (Sam Webb)
joelw at bgnet.bgsu.edu
joelw at bgnet.bgsu.edu
Thu Sep 20 16:08:59 MDT 2001
Yet Peace and Justice Must Prevail
By Sam Webb, National Chair CPUSA
A sea change has occurred in our nation's life. The terrorist attack on
September 11 has shaken all of us. Few things will be the same.
There have been other terrorist attacks, both in our recent and more
distant past, but nothing on this scale or with these consequences. The
enormity of the death and destruction is only beginning to sink into
Terrorism is morally and politically reprehensible. Under no
circumstances can it be justified. Its only outcome is to strengthen the
forces of political reaction, racism, and militarism in our own country
as well as abroad.
The death of more than five thousand people is an American tragedy.
Other countries have experienced equal or worse tragedies, but this took
place on our national soil and was so cruel and unexpected.
In politics it is necessary to separate what is momentary and episodic
from what is long term and deep going. The manifold repercussions of the
terrorist attack fall into the latter category. Indeed, people are
questioning long held assumptions that inform how we think about our
lives, our families, and our nation's future.
We are all asking, "How could it happen here and what can be done to
prevent its reoccurrence?"
And the progressive movement has to help answer these questions,
knowing that convincing and compelling answers may not be easy to come
by, particularly given the pressure coming from our nation's ruling
circles to respond to violence with more violence.
During the past century, as a nation we have felt invulnerable to
external threats owing to our military might, unrivaled economic power,
and geographical location. According to official mythology, we were a
shining and secure city on the hill.
Somehow we thought that we were immune and protected from the violence
and turmoil experienced by other nations not blessed with our
advantages. But no more.
The world is smaller, weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of
individuals as well as powerful states, and terrorism is a worldwide
No country, not even ours, is an impenetrable fortress able to
safeguard people's livelihoods and lives. This lesson has been brought
home with enormous force.
So how do we as a nation respond to terrorist attacks?
There is a clamor for immediate retaliatory strikes even if we don't
know who the enemy is and even if innocent people are the probable
casualties, as well as for a more sustained campaign against the
terrorists and their state sponsors.
The accent in these quarters, beginning with the Bush administration
and the mass media, is on military measures, on projecting American
power to far flung regions of the world, and on turning our country into
a garrison state, with diminished civil liberties and privacy rights.
Of course, the immediate flaw in this strategy is that no one knows who
the terrorists are - let alone where they are headquartered or to what
extent our democratic rights will be restricted in the name of fighting
Another major flaw is that this strategy has brought few successes in
the past. Rather retaliatory strikes have resulted almost invariably in
escalating countermeasures by terrorist groups. And there is little
reason to think that bombing or invading Afghanistan will bring any
different outcome. We might vanquish the Taliban, but it is unlikely
such an action will defuse the terrorists. Instead, tensions in the
Middle East will probably heighten to the extreme and terrorist
counterattacks will inexorably follow.
Still another flaw in this strategy is that it ignores the subsoil from
which terrorism and terrorists spring. Isn't it naïve to think that US
government sponsored sanctions against Iraq that callously kill
children and other innocent people, or the brutal suppression of the
rights of the Palestinian people or the support for right-wing,
anti-democratic Arab regimes or the arrogant projection of US military
power around the world, or the crippling poverty, rampant disease,
widespread unemployment and social breakdown across huge regions and
even whole continents will breed anything but bitter resentment and
We can kill the terrorists and we can tear up the networks and states
that sustain them, but like a many-headed hydra, new networks will
spring up. As long as there exists this underbelly of fierce
exploitation, grinding poverty, unequal political power, and the
unrestrained use of military force by the powerful against the weak,
terrorism will continue unabated.
Or to put it differently, terrorism cannot be reduced to a religious
phenomenon nor is it specific to a people. Instead its roots are in the
contemporary capitalist world. And retribution in one form or another
will come from the disposseed and disinheritied across our globe to the
extent that a handful of nations and powerful transnational corporations
-- especially Big Oil which figures so heavily in shaping our policies
in the Middle East -- impose their profit driven interests on a
A final flaw in this strategy is that it is silent about
state-sponsored terror orchestrated by our own and other powerful
governments. Indiscriminate carpet bombing, blockades and sanctions
against smaller countries, political assassinations, the arming and
training of terrorists, like the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the contras
in Nicaragua, and the right wing death squads in Colombia by US
intelligence agencies are a few examples that convince millions of
people worldwide that our government is a sponsor of terrorism.
How then can we break the cycle of violence, how can we combat
First, the world community has to condemn terrorism in all of its
forms. There is absolutely no justification for terrorist action whether
carried out by powerful states or loose networks of individuals.
To be sure, conventional and nuclear warfare between states has been
more lethal and deadly up until now. In the Congo, for instance, three
million people, most of them innocent civilians, died in 1990s in a
civil war, while 140,000 men, women, and children were immolated almost
instantly when our government dropped nuclear bombs at the close of WWII
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the size of the death count should not
determine our attitude toward this new form of warfare. Terrorism is a
new and growing threat to humankind, especially with the spread of
weapons of mass destruction, and should be universally condemned.
Second, a successful struggle against terrorism requires the collective
voice, participation, and wisdom of every country and all humankind. No
one nation, and particularly our own, should act alone or assume that it
has a unilateral right to lead a world coalition against terrorism. An
emergency international conference under the auspices of the United
Nations would seem like a good place to begin such a world campaign.
In the meantime, mass expressions for peace and against terrorism in
all its forms should be organized in major cities around the world.
Third, political and diplomatic solutions should be favored over
military ones. Violence only begets more violence. The perpetrators of
this heinous crime in our country should be held accountable and
apprehended to be sure, but what must guide our country's and the
world's response to this new threat is the rule of law not vigilantism;
reason not hysteria; justice not revenge; the protection of peoples of
Arab ancestry and Moslem faith not xenophobic and racist assaults; the
preservation of rights and liberties, not the narrowing of the
boundaries of political dissent, and, above all, peace not violence.
In the longer run, building an economically just, peaceful, democratic,
and tolerant world is the only sure path to isolate and eventually
eliminate terrorism and all other forms of warfare. The 20th century was
the bloodiest and most violent in the history of humankind. Rather than
fighting the first war of the 21st century, let us find a way to
eliminate war in all of its forms and guarantee economic security to all
people. For our children and future generations, let us finally turn our
swords into plowshares and study war no more.
(Posted by Joel W.)
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