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"No glory in Unjust War on the Weak"
October 14, 2001 8:05 PM   Subscribe

"No glory in Unjust War on the Weak" Barbara Kingsolver offers a touching response to America's retaliatory acts on Afghanistan. She is famous for her best-selling novels The Posionwood Bible and The Bean Trees. Kingsolver starts off very defensive, wary that she will be ridiculed for her "idealist" or "anti-american" opinion, but she then offers some good reasons why. Very moving.
posted by alex3005 (72 comments total)

 
I second your sentiments. Excellent, excellent article suitable for framing.

I've not yet read any of her books but I will certainly make a point to do so.
posted by ethmar at 8:21 PM on October 14, 2001


Wow, she hits everything in an attempt to make a point:
Bush Election
Corporate welfare
"misunderestimated"
Health care
Public transport
Renewable energy
Oil dependence
Consumer culture
Military budget
WTF??

Terrible essay. I don't like bush, but it is hard to take something seriously when she sticks in an ad hom attack on the president.

"If we were to put a few billion dollars into food, health care and education instead of bombs, you can bet we'd win over enough friends to find out where [osama is] hiding"

I have always hated this logic. Do we have to pay for justice? Do we have to offer financial support to not be loathed? This is making humanitarian aid into protection money. As much as I hate to say it: given the choice between offering food aid to keep someone from striking us and building up the military, building up the military is the morally correct choice.
posted by phatboy at 8:22 PM on October 14, 2001


I've only got one word for Barbara Kingsolver: hell yeah!
posted by mcsweetie at 8:26 PM on October 14, 2001


I have always hated this logic. Do we have to pay for justice? Do we have to offer financial support to not be loathed?

Either way we are paying. We are already paying in excess of 40 billion dollars for this war.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:31 PM on October 14, 2001


I stopped reading after the remark about answering a terrorist attack with another. I have a poster of the Jewish resistance in Poland on my office wall. Most people don't know that the Jews fought back... would Barbara Kingsolver have told the Jews in the Resistance that they were terrorists, too? Nobody goes to slaughter willingly, Alex and Ethmar. Where did you get the idea they should?
posted by Kami at 8:39 PM on October 14, 2001


phatboy, i see it a different way:

take an average Afghanistan family, reasonably poor. the mother and any daughters, according to Taliban rule, never have an education, leave the house, or have a job. the males in the family work banal, perhaps manual labour jobs, or maybe they don't have jobs and their days are spent chatting with other unemployed males. their sense of religious pride is strong. what they know of the rest of the world, including the US, is information fed to them by the Taliban. no free press or news.

if they are bombed, what would they do except believe that the Taliban was completely correct, and that the US is a horrible, evil country, attacking their own poor country? they don't have any reason to believe otherwise.

improve the education system in countries like Afghanistan, and people are then able to work in a professional capacity - their incomes are better, their spending is up, their country's economy is better - they are more likely to travel, to meet colleagues and train further in other countries - dispelling myths that they have learnt about those other countries.
posted by kv at 8:39 PM on October 14, 2001


Interesting essay. I disagree on several counts, and agree on others. On some, I'm not informed enough to state my position.

I don't know if oil gluttony got us into this. I suspect it did. I would like the US to make real steps to significantly decrease our dependence on oil. No, we have not always been at war.

I don't know if the US military action is against the right enemy or how effective it is. I do know that regardless of whether Taliban was directly responsible or not, the only morally right thing now is to do what the US is doing: to destroy Taliban and to try and establish a new government. It pains me to realize that the army of my country of birth (Soviets) was mostly responsible for the mess that Afghanistan is now.

Make no mistake, however: along with changing our policies and admitting our mistakes, we must destroy organized criminals that Taliban have become. And I believe the US military is the best force on the planet to do this right. AFAIK less than 30 civilians have been independently confirmed dead because of the strikes.

I too despise Bush, but not for the reasons she gives...
posted by azazello at 8:39 PM on October 14, 2001


Oh, and The Bean Trees is one of my favorite books.
posted by azazello at 8:40 PM on October 14, 2001


I'd like a government that subsidizes renewable energy sources instead of forcefully patrolling the globe to protect oil gluttony. Because, make no mistake, oil gluttony is what got us into this holy war, and it's a deep tar pit. I would like us to sign the Kyoto agreement today, and reduce our fossil-fuel emissions with legislation that will ease us into safer, less gluttonous, sensibly reorganized lives. If this were the face we showed the world, and the model we helped bring about elsewhere, I expect we could get along with a military budget the size of Iceland's.

This seems a little too simple and naive a statement. IMOO
posted by bjgeiger at 8:51 PM on October 14, 2001


I'm biased for Kingsolver because I liked her book The Bean Trees. I thought her essay was moving because I like her personal writing style. If you know any biographical information about her, you would understand why she writes the way she does. Referring to my own political views versus hers in a journalistic manner, she is too idealistic and hypocritical. (she even anticipates that someone will say that). Know that this is a personal essay and was not written as a journalistic piece. She's entitled to her opinion, and the manner she delivers it deserves praise.
posted by alex3005 at 8:52 PM on October 14, 2001


We've answered one terrorist act with another

I know she's a novelist, but does she really fail to see the moral distinction between the WTC and bombing Taliban military targets? By her logic, even one death in self-defense is unacceptable. (Or she believes we really declared war against Afghan civilians, Islam, and possibly Arabs in general despite repeated assertions to the contrary by virtually every public official within 50 miles of a television camera.) This sort of absolutism is beyond "idealistic"; it's completely absurd.

"If we were to put a few billion dollars into food, health care and education instead of bombs, you can bet we'd win over enough friends to find out where [osama is] hiding"

The irony is that when the U.S. actually does things like this, people like Barbara Kingsolver refer to us as imperialists. (incidentally, if she knew a damn thing about U.S. foreign policy, she'd know that we do put a few billion dollars into food, health care and education.)
posted by lizs at 8:53 PM on October 14, 2001


kv:

We have already spent a bunch of aid money in afghanistan. What more is required before they stop wanting to kill us? Do you think that the education system can be improved without ousting the Taliban?
posted by phatboy at 9:08 PM on October 14, 2001


I stopped reading the essay as soon as I read something I didn't agree with. I prefer to only read things that support my already formed opinions.
posted by Doug at 9:23 PM on October 14, 2001


We do give out billions in foreign aid (military and humanitarian) each year, with 1/3 of it going to Israel. Israel is the 16th richest country in the world in terms of per-capita income. For an authoritative review of the imbalance in our foreign aid program, try this page from the estimable Washington Report.
posted by chaz at 9:24 PM on October 14, 2001


I have always hated this logic.

I don't blame you, but there's an even better reason to hate it than the reasons you gave: She's already long since been proven wrong. We've poured money in there for years, and the results have been exactly the same as they always are in every repressive country: almost none of it ever got where it was supposed to, and didn't do anything to turn them to our side when it did. The only way to actually insure any of our aid would get where it was supposed to go would be through - big "duh" here - military action. And of course, the concept of the Taliban allowing education or much health care for any females is laughable on its face. Oh, and how many posts were there here from members of the left complaining about our food drops being mere propaganda?

And even if the concept itself would have worked in theory, we still couldn't do it in Afghanistan because the Barbara Kingsolvers of the world had long since browbeaten our intelligence agencies into practicing political correctness. CIA directive, 1995: No more human intelligence allowed to be gathered from anyone that "is a civil-rights violator." That means no coaxing Taliban members with food, money or anything else.
posted by aaron at 9:33 PM on October 14, 2001



phatboy:

i see your point. let's kill, kill, kill.
posted by kv at 9:38 PM on October 14, 2001


aaron: yes, and also, she is an idiot.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:40 PM on October 14, 2001


The reason the Afganis are not eating the food parcels is simple -- they believe there is pork in them.
posted by dydecker at 9:51 PM on October 14, 2001


Somebody remind me why I care?
posted by aramaic at 10:00 PM on October 14, 2001


I met a young woman in central France when I was very young. She had a faded tatoo on the inside of her forearm. She was in one of the camps as a child. She didn't want to talk about it.

What would you have told her, doug? To get a second opinion? When I'm revulsed, I feel it.
posted by Kami at 10:12 PM on October 14, 2001


Er, they're eating that food.
posted by mrbula at 10:24 PM on October 14, 2001


What the hell are you talking about, kami? Are you trying to somehow equate this situation to the holocaust? I don't get it.
posted by Doug at 10:26 PM on October 14, 2001


kv:

Thanks for the sarcastic reply.

I hate the fact that innocent people have to die. Heck, I hate the fact that that anyone has to die.
posted by phatboy at 10:35 PM on October 14, 2001


[The reason the Afganis are not eating the food parcels is simple -- they believe there is pork in them.]

Considering those parcels are meatless, that's hard to believe.

What Barbara fails to grasp is the root of the problem. It isn't hunger, hatred or ignorance. Those are symptoms, not "root causes". These people have no self-determination. If we elimate that (and we are now hopefully working torwards that end) then we eliminate that issue we eleminate our enemy.

This 'war' is oft characterised as a war against terror and not against Islam. I belive this is truly representative of the the U.S. position.

We hear again and again that we have to be careful or the Islamic countries will view this as a "Christian war against Islam".

I say it is the Islamic countries that need to fear this outcome more than the "christian countries", because if this becomes a war where on one side we have Judeo-Christianity and Islam on the other, there is no doubt as to the outcome. Given the current socio-economic reality, Islam has not provided it's followers with a society capable of winning that war. They choose that battle at their own peril.
posted by revbrian at 10:37 PM on October 14, 2001


The pork story came from interviews with Afganis who made it to Peshawar broadcast on Japan NHK last night. Whether the parcels had meat in them is irrelevant. The point is that was what was believed.

That NYT story is from the area of Afganistan controlled by the Northern Alliance.

Bear in mind if the hijackers had rained food parcels over NYC no one in their right mind would have eaten them. Even if you were desperate.

Given that the parcels are 1/100,000 of what is needed to avert the looming humanitarian crisis it is easy to conclude that their purpose is merely propaganda, to reassure the folks at home that something is being done.
posted by dydecker at 10:56 PM on October 14, 2001


I think I have a solution that will appease violent rednecks and not wreck any more god damn havoc on third world countries.

lets bombs ourselves! then we can just skip the middleman. what do you say?
posted by mcsweetie at 11:05 PM on October 14, 2001


phatboy:

you're only fooling yourself. if you hated it, you wouldn't agree with it.
posted by kv at 11:05 PM on October 14, 2001


kv:

False dichotomy.

you're only fooling yourself. if you hated it, you wouldn't agree with it

I hate the fact that people die, but see no other alternative. I don't like seeing the pictures of babies injured by the bomb blast. However, I dislike more that the 20,000 - 40,000 children will die because of the actions of the terrorists. These deaths are invisible, but are just as tragic.
posted by phatboy at 11:16 PM on October 14, 2001


I stopped reading the essay as soon as I read something I didn't agree with. I prefer to only read things that support my already formed opinions.

lol This IS getting tiresome, isn't it? Popping up in more posts lately than Bert....
posted by rushmc at 11:25 PM on October 14, 2001


kv:
So, we just need to educate the Afghani people right? That is so patronizing. And beyond that, the Taliban (before Sept 11) wouldn't let you educate anyone in the first place. Unless you planning on teaching from the Koran.

...And Kingsover is once again making up facts: no one is eating the food? Wrong again. More editorial omniscience coupled with the now de rigueur pessimism of the left. Sad.
posted by geoffrey at 11:30 PM on October 14, 2001


It is not naive to propose alternatives to war. We could be the kindest nation on Earth, inside and out. I look at the bigger picture and see that many nations with fewer resources than ours have found solutions to problems that seem to baffle us. I'd like an end to corporate welfare so we could put that money into ending homelessness, as many other nations have done before us.

Not naive? This entire statement is naive. The entire article is naive. Yes, many nations have found solutions to problems that baffle us - but they have done it while some form of military supremacy gave them that luxury. I think we'd all love to end aggression and build a world in which we can live in peace and harmony - unfortunately it isn't going to happen any time soon. What part of Osama Bin Laden's statements concerning the killing of all those who do not agree with his version of Islamic fundamentalism didn't she understand? How exactly do negotiate with those who hold their position to be non-negotiable? At what point do you consider those who aid and abet these people as culpable as those who commit any actions?

We tried to negotiate the non-negotiable before and avoid actual war - the result was the largest conflict this world has ever seen. Sure, the Afgan civilians are not to blame - but neither were ours, yet those whom we seek felt no compulsion about killing them and no guilt at their death.

If that isn't worth fighting against - what exactly is?
posted by RevGreg at 11:49 PM on October 14, 2001


At what point do you consider those who aid and abet these people as culpable as those who commit any actions?

And is there a statute of limitations? Careful now, Henry Kissinger is listening.
posted by holgate at 2:56 AM on October 15, 2001


bomb the bastards! let loose the dog's of war, and the hounds of hell. they will respect america. if you grab em by the short and curlies, their hearts and minds will follow. go army!!!!!!!!
posted by billybob at 4:34 AM on October 15, 2001


If that isn't worth fighting against - what exactly is?

Yes. The WTC murderers wanted to kill civilians. As many civilians as possible.
The U.S. does not want to kill civilians. When they do they regret it and apologize.

Until we all accept this distinction we'll continue running round in circles.

Why the hell is it so difficult to understand that a very small number of people are wrong and evil(i.e. want to kill others not even caring who they are)but the great majority hate killing anyone; even murderers?

It's very easy to parody euphemisms like "collateral damage" but what they mean is mainly "Sorry, but we didn't mean to kill any innocent people".

The other guys wanted - and want - to kill innocent people.

The "who is guilty?" question is an entirely different one; as is the "should we kill the guilty?"
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:00 AM on October 15, 2001


How is wanting everyone to have the opportunity of a good education "patronizing"?

and phatboy, that's why I'm saying you don't hate it - if you HATED it, truly hated it, you wouldn't be saying that there's no alternative. there are always alternatives.
posted by kv at 5:12 AM on October 15, 2001


Considering those parcels are meatless, that's hard to believe.

Muslims are not just concerned about visible pork, but any trace of pork, including pork fat or other pork products rendered invisible and untraceable in foods during preparation. Some Muslims still believe that the Israelis—whose Jewish citizens have similar proscriptions against pork that may or may not be followed depending on their adherence to dietary laws—use bullets soaked in pig fat.

What is important to take away from the fact that some Afghans are not eating the ration packs is that they do not trust us.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:47 AM on October 15, 2001


Some Muslims still believe that the Israelis—whose Jewish citizens have similar proscriptions against pork that may or may not be followed depending on their adherence to dietary laws—use bullets soaked in pig fat.

::: snort :::

Yeah, it's not the bullet that hurts ya--it's that pork fat, gonna keep ya out of heaven (no virgins for YOU!)!
posted by rushmc at 6:22 AM on October 15, 2001


And so US vs. Taliban MeFi thread #1283 comes to an end. Let's recap where we are: those supporting the bombing continue their support. Those against any sort of military action still oppose this campaign. Total number of positions changed to date: 0. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:44 AM on October 15, 2001


if you don't like it, don't read it, Jeff. no need to diss the rest of us.
posted by kv at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2001


It's really not a diss so much as a comment on what's becoming an endless redundancy. I'm actually one to talk, having apparently participated in 25 9/11-related threads (that's actually scary -- I had no idea it was that many). But it seems that the same arguments get lobbed back-and-forth, back-and-forth. I read because I'm hoping for additional insight. My comment merely reflects that I'm not finding any.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:10 AM on October 15, 2001


Like most of the antiwar pieces I've read, it does not give enough weight to the enormity of what happened in September. Every conceivable criticism of US foreign policy and domestic society, some relevant, some not, are pulled out and thrown into the equation.

Even if every single one of these criticisms are true - and I believe that many are valid - the bottom line is that the US was attacked and thousands of innocent people were killed. This is an act of war.

I wish that I could belive that responding with money, or teachers, or pork-free food would make everyone live happily ever after. But does anyone truly believe that this is would work in this situation?

I abhor the prospect of killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, although I believe they are trying to minimize this. But bombing is a necessity if ground troops are to be brought in, which seems likely. If you were the family of an American or British soldier, how would you feel if every possible effort had not been made to eliminate the defensive positions of the people that would be shooting at your son or daughter?

War sucks, but I just don't see any alternative in this case.

And pardonyou?, I do think it's good to continue to air our views on this issue. The religion debates are always dead-horse beatings, but war is still in it's early stages and many people will be continually evaluating their positions. I know that I will.
posted by groundhog at 7:13 AM on October 15, 2001


Matt Welch responds to Kingsolver's tripe.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:27 AM on October 15, 2001


I for one was moved by her opening lines about feeling isolated in all of this, calling a friend to commiserate, and reminding one another that we are not alone, that there are indeed many, many of us in America who believe there is something wrong with this war. Essays like this sustain me. Thanks, Alex.
posted by mapalm at 7:33 AM on October 15, 2001


Jeff, I understand what you mean about the "endless redundancy" - it definitely feels like that, in almost every Metafilter thread that I read - but debate and communication are important. I believe I need to represent and defend my pacificistic outlook because no one else here will. This is a very serious subject, and all types of opinions should have a chance to be heard.
posted by kv at 7:34 AM on October 15, 2001


Matt Welch responds to Kingsolver's tripe.

He pretty much summed up what I felt about this; nearly every 'fact' she cited was either an unprovable assertion, an exaggeration or an outright lie. You might be moved by that kind of writing, but you can't base any sort of policy on it.
posted by boaz at 7:42 AM on October 15, 2001


Whatever, boaz. I have long since stopped trying to argue any points here. Not now. Not when the climate is so hostile. Not when so many people are so self-righteously convinced that the US is doing the just and honorable thing. It will be many months until a shift takes place. But I know it will. It has to, or we are all in trouble.
posted by mapalm at 7:54 AM on October 15, 2001


pardonyou?, i agree that there seems to be a lack of movement in these ongoing discussions.
but in a RoyalTroll stylee, i shall belligerently continue to hold my opinions, until someone can help me to see otherwise.
So, let's take it from the top:
What is the moral distinction between killing innocent civilians in an act of war on US soil and killing them anywhere else? If you believe, as was stated by some us military bigwig on the news the other day, that 'everybody knows the us doesn't attack civilians purposefully' then you are probably not familliar with the us military's history (see Laos etc.)
There has been no attempt at negotiation, or understanding the 'muslim world'. Subsequently, the western governments mirror ignorance about the west with ignorance about the east. Muslims may not be convinced by the lip service paid to 'the peaceful religion of islam', and quotations from their holy book by men who have just picked it up. They may find this patronising.
The world bank may well claim that the world-wide recession is the fault of some terrorist action in the us, but it doesn't take much imagination to realise they may want to avoid blame. Oxfam, a charity commited to ending world poverty has this to say about the latest WTO arrangements:
'The Uruguay Round trade agreements were unfair to poor countries. Rich countries have not implemented many parts of those agreements that might have been good for development.'
So, maybe by having a war they can stimulate the economy? Guess again.
So, other than exacting revenge on an already war ravaged country, pleasing the voters at home, what has the us/uk succeeded in doing?
posted by asok at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2001


Not when so many people are so self-righteously convinced that the US is doing the just and honorable thing.

There's plenty of smug self-righteousness on both sides now. The link (to Matt Welch) provides a pretty good overview of the lact of honesty on Ms. Kingsolver's part. I've been touched by many works of fiction, but never by one on the opinion page.
posted by boaz at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2001


You call the Matt Welch piece an article? He sounds like a teenager on Ritalin, foaming at the mouth. Not even worth going into the details of his tripe.
posted by mapalm at 8:42 AM on October 15, 2001


You call the Matt Welch piece an article?

Wow. That's weird; I didn't call it an article, nor did the person who linked to it (SdB). I think you need some away-from-keyboard time.

I did state that her article was full of exaggerations, lies and unprovable assertions, something I would be happy to expound on if it wasn't so redundant at this point in the thread.
posted by boaz at 8:54 AM on October 15, 2001


I took a look at the Matt Welch article...he is clearly scraping the jar looking for criticisms, it's pretty pathetic. here's just a few things I noticed:

When a “progressive” becomes a “media critic,” fully 22% of her time is spent complaining about point sizes. It’s bizarre.

I don't understand the point of that comment at all.

1) Inadvertently bombing a few dozen civilians (while trying mightily to avoid doing so) during a war, is not remotely similar to the deliberate attempt to murder tens of thousands of civilians during peacetime.

she wasn't weighing the two acts. the point she was trying to make, that so many try to make and get slammed with a similar flawed counterpoint, is that there is no such thing as justified killing, no matter whether a civilian is paid to do it and it's called a "crime" or whether a soldier is given a pension to do it and it's called "heroism."

2) How the living hell does a feminist novelist in Arizona know that Afghans are the “most war-scarred populace that ever crept to a doorway and looked out”? Oh yeah – she has no idea what she’s talking about.

this comment is just plain wrong. one could say, "what does a self-righteous dixiecrat know about contemporary politics?" this is the 21st century and there is nothing stopping anyone, woman or not, from educating themself in world affairs. if he didn't know that, then he has no business criticizing anyone. if he did know that but ignored the fact just so he can rag on someone that doesn't share his beliefs, then he has no business criticizing anyone.

Note the names she doesn’t admit to being called – liar, bad writer

this statement is ironic, considering it's followed by "bleating nutbag." I can see now why he is the market for a new job.

And to claim that the government’s policy is to bomb “until we've wiped out every last person who could potentially hate us” … good Lord, woman, have you no fucking shame?

she never said that was the government's policy, she was making on observation on the path we're headed on if this bombing, in the tradition of all our other bombings, continues.

Sorry to play the Hitler card, but would you have loved Hitler back?

that has no relevance whatsoever to this situation.

Uh, name one single nation that has ended corporate welfare.

Switzerland?

Really? It was the SUVs? Funny, I thought it was those terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center and killed 6,000 people Sept. 11. I’m so misled!

indeed he is. this is yet another textbook example of pro-war sentiment's lack of hindsight. perhaps he should read this before he opens his mouth again.

admittedly, he does make a point or two, but only in spite of himself.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2001


I can't access the Kingsolver story for some reason... pardonyou?: my position about the whole thing has actually shifted in the last month. So I guess I'm special... (o:

Well, the only thing I can say is the West and the Taleban's points of view come from completely different ends of the spectrum, so to speak. The terrorist attack was Muslim (radicals) vs the West, so to them, any retaliation must be the West vs Islam (IMHO), it doesn't matter what the West's intentions are. Everything's propaganda.

It's sad that a war has to be waged and people have to die, but something has to be done. The US (UK, allies, etc) does not operate in a vacuum, the Taleban is not a benign government that is defending itself from an unprovoked attack (again, IMHO).

When the whole thing happened, I was 100% against an attack on Afghanistan, for all the reasons bandied about in the press and on the Web. But since then, my opinion has changed somewhat. I still think the US has done a lot to piss other countries off, but they've also done a lot of good. Nothing can excuse the killing of (any) innocent people, but I'd prefer the US and its allies do their best to contain terrorists (this means all sorts of things for the future, including further support for development in third world countries) than have it retreat into isolationism and have extremists (whatever flavour) claim victory.

Basically, I dislike the US government (even Bush) less than the Taleban and Osama. The US government offers more hope for a decent future.
posted by jetgrrl at 7:37 PM on October 15, 2001


mcsweetie, I missed your comments earlier, and I must admit you've done an excellent job pointing out what an insensitive jerk this Matt Welch character is. But you don't really address his veracity except in spurts.

there is no such thing as justified killing, no matter whether a civilian is paid to do it and it's called a "crime" or whether a soldier is given a pension to do it and it's called "heroism."

Hmmm...no to go all John Stuart Mills on you, but I think if you know someone is going to kill more people, and you kill him, saving the lives of the people he would have killed, then you would have lowered the overall killing level. Even if that's not justification, that's something. It's the same theory we use when we jail (and sometimes kill) muderers.

Switzerland?

Switzerland bails out Swissair. This happened a week ago.

she never said that was the government's policy, she was making on observation on the path we're headed on if this bombing, in the tradition of all our other bombings, continues.

I'm sure the still-living Japanese, Germans, Iraqis, Cambodians, Serbians, etc. would be very surprised to learn of this tradition.

indeed he is. this is yet another textbook example of pro-war sentiment's lack of hindsight. perhaps he should read this before he opens his mouth again.

Saying that it's because of the WTC attack may be facile, but blaming it on oil is downright false. And if changing the past was a realistic strategy, I'd be all for expunging most every deed in that link you posted, but it's not. I mean, cmon, I'm Jewish, you can't really expect me to feel guilty about the Crusades.
posted by boaz at 8:35 PM on October 15, 2001


OK, I was called out like a million posts ago...

RE: My position that blowing up Afghanistan feels wonderful but signifies nothing, as advertised I stand by that assertion. It would be nice if we knew for absolute sure WHO the enemy is. I also find it interesting that we didn't strafe-bomb Idaho and Montana for months on end until we found every extreme anti-government militant in the wake of the OKC bombing. Why is this OK "over there" but unthinkable here? Oh, I get it.

If we had the incontrovertable proof that X, Y and Z not only masterminded the WTC/Pentagon/Pennsylvania (remeber them?) attacks, then yes, I'm all for rounding them up and subjecting them to the justice system. It was good enough for McVeigh & Nichols after all. Oh, I get it.

But we DON'T have incontovertable proof of much of anything. We have a damaged Pentagon complex and hundreds dead, a destroyed World Trade Center and thousands dead, and a downed airliner in Pennsylvania with tens dead. We "believe" that Osama bin Laden was wholly responsible, however the government has stated time and time again that they "believe" that nothing will actually change in the world if bin Laden is removed from circulation. So why blow up a dirt-poor country? Oh, I get it.

I can't imagine what being beat down by years of oppression in countries like Afghanistan must be like. Too bad others can't try before making half-assed comments about "having no sympathy" for anyone losing family members who had nothing to do with anything wrought on the US or its allies.

::: Copying to clipboard as stock response going forward :::
posted by ethmar at 9:07 PM on October 15, 2001


I also find it interesting that we didn't strafe-bomb Idaho and Montana for months on end until we found every extreme anti-government militant in the wake of the OKC bombing.

I think that's because we already controlled the ground in those states; you do remember that we sent a small army down to Waco to deal with a case of armed wackos resisting arrest though. And that right now we're dealing with a group of armed wackos 10-100 times larger with the government's support. It seems to me that's the situation that requires a larger army.

If we had the incontrovertable proof that X, Y and Z not only masterminded the WTC/Pentagon/Pennsylvania (remeber them?) attacks, then yes, I'm all for rounding them up and subjecting them to the justice system. It was good enough for McVeigh & Nichols after all. Oh, I get it.

This is actually not how our justice system works, though; first you show 'probable cause', then you round them up, then you show your 'incontrovertible proof' at the trial. Even if using our justice system is the way you want to go, I think we've pretty clearly got the proof necessary to do the rounding-up phase.
posted by boaz at 9:24 PM on October 15, 2001


I think we've pretty clearly got the proof necessary to do the rounding-up phase.

Ah, so a grand jury was seated?

I think that's because we already controlled the ground in those states; you do remember that we sent a small army down to Waco to deal with a case of armed wackos resisting arrest though.

I'm stumped. "We already controlled the ground"? How is this different other than locale? Were there not rumors that McVeigh and Nichols "had help" in the wake of the OKC bombing? Where was the massive raids that not only sought the perpetrators but "all who harbor and support them"?

And that right now we're dealing with a group of armed wackos 10-100 times larger with the government's support.

And you know for certain that bombing Afghanistan is the only way to bring these particular "wackos" to justice? Your field intelligence is unparalleled. Bravo!

Not sure how the Waco thing works in there other than the "charismatic leader" and "people died needlessly" angle, but hey, what do I know.
posted by ethmar at 9:35 PM on October 15, 2001


Ah, so a grand jury was seated?

You're digging yourself in deeper. Police are allowed to detain suspects with only 'probable cause'; a grand jury is a tool used only when standard police work is deemed ineffective for even finding the suspects. Go find a good law site if you really think you need a grand jury to make arrests.

Were there not rumors that McVeigh and Nichols "had help" in the wake of the OKC bombing?

yes, there were rumors that all the Jews called in sick at the WTC on 9/11 too. www.snopes.com has a good list of rumors if that's what you want to base your opinions on.

And you know for certain that bombing Afghanistan is the only way to bring these particular "wackos" to justice? Your field intelligence is unparalleled. Bravo!

What the heck is it with people asking for 'certainty' or 'incontrovertible proof' these days; I'd prefer having my views held up to a realistic standard, like does it make sense based on the available evidence. Are you 'certain' that bombing isn't the best way to bring these wackos to justice? Is your field intelligence, unlike mine, unparalleled? If you know something I don't, then say it; don't question my intelligence because I'm not omniscient.

I'm stumped. "We already controlled the ground"? How is this different other than locale?

That locale has tanks, stingers, mortars, SAMs, etc. aimed at us.

Not sure how the Waco thing works in there other than the "charismatic leader" and "people died needlessly" angle, but hey, what do I know.

70 people holed up aren't going to get arrested by Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle. 7000 that much less so.
posted by boaz at 10:01 PM on October 15, 2001


I must admit you've done an excellent job pointing out what an insensitive jerk this Matt Welch character is

*kiss kiss*

*hug*

Hmmm...no to go all John Stuart Mills on you, but I think if you know someone is going to kill more people, and you kill him, saving the lives of the people he would have killed, then you would have lowered the overall killing level.

true. but is it always necessary to kill the first person?

I'm sure the still-living Japanese, Germans, Iraqis, Cambodians, Serbians, etc. would be very surprised to learn of this tradition.

what I think she and I meant was, the US has a bit of a reputation for exploding it's problems, which may very well solve those problems, but sometimes it becomes a cycle which we can't allow to go on forever.

Saying that it's because of the WTC attack may be facile, but blaming it on oil is downright false.

maybe so, but I feel that it does carry at least some of the blame. our pursuit of oil interests in the middle east probably haven't won us too many friends.

I really believe that if the US can find and implement a non-military solution and demonstrate to the world that you don't always have to kill someone to solve a dispute, then we can take one more step forward as a culture, towards a day when war is as archaic a concept as segregation or slavery. (sure, both of those things still exist, but we're getting there.) and besides, the promise of a future without war and bloodshed would truly be the only fitting end to such a prodigious tragedy.

ps kiss
posted by mcsweetie at 10:09 PM on October 15, 2001


Go find a good law site if you really think you need a grand jury to make arrests.

Dropping bombs = "arresting"?

70 people holed up aren't going to get arrested by Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle. 7000 that much less so.

Was David Koresh ever "brought to justice"?

Are you 'certain' that bombing isn't the best way to bring these wackos to justice?

Was Saddam Hussein ever "brought to justice"?
posted by ethmar at 6:35 AM on October 16, 2001


Dropping bombs = "arresting"?

So literal-minded. In a word Yes. To arrest you have to get to the person; If there are tanks, mortars, etc in the way, they need to be cleared to get to the person. That's just how it works. Remember that we already tried the 'asking nicely' and 'demanding forcefully' methods of extradition. If you have an alternative method of extradition, please inform us.

Was David Koresh ever "brought to justice"?

David Koresh is a vivid example that we're not living in some dream world where 'bringing someone to justice' just involves knocking on their door or asking real nice. Justice is a noble goal, but it's not alway humanly enforceable.

Are you 'certain' that bombing isn't the best way to bring these wackos to justice?

Was Saddam Hussein ever "brought to justice"?


Saddam Hussein was never "brought to justice" because in order to form the coalition, Bush agreed not to. I suppose your idea of justice would have been to leave Kuwait as South Iraq. Now answer the question with that 'certainty' you seem to have in such abundance, what would have been the proper course in the Gulf War?
posted by boaz at 7:04 AM on October 16, 2001


Damn mcsweetie, there you go getting all friendly and reasonable with me.

*hug*

true. but is it always necessary to kill the first person?

Well, I suppose you could jail him and take his life one year at a time instead of all at once. Or you could change his mind, but that's harder than people would like to admit (often impossible).

the promise of a future without war and bloodshed would truly be the only fitting end to such a prodigious tragedy.

That is truly a noble goal, but people with noble goals often have to choose between internal practice and external enforcement of their goals. Willingness to consider both is a base necessity in achieving ones goals.
posted by boaz at 7:16 AM on October 16, 2001


Now answer the question with that 'certainty' you seem to have in such abundance, what would have been the proper course in the Gulf War?

Hmmm, the Gulf War.

Well, what caused the Gulf War? Iraq invaded Kuwait.

What was our mission in Kuwait? Ostensibly to liberate it from the invading forces.

Why did the US feel compelled to be the country to do it?

Some would say oil.

How much of that oil actually gets shipped to the US?

Very little.

So why is the US insistent on bombing Iraq into dust?

Here I'm at a loss, so much for 'certainty'.

-----------

David Koresh is a vivid example that we're not living in some dream world where 'bringing someone to justice' just involves knocking on their door or asking real nice.

Actually, as the Christian Science Monitor righty noted at the time, David Koresh went jogging alone every morning. If "bringing David Koresh to justice" was truly our aim, then surely the FBI could have merely pulled up alongside him and read him his rights? Sure beats what happened instead. So yeah, they could have "asked real nice".
posted by ethmar at 7:44 AM on October 16, 2001


How much of that oil actually gets shipped to the US?

Very little.


620,000 barrels a day from Iraq, 263,000 a day from Kuwait, 1.52 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia, making up about 1/4 of all our oil imports. Are these the insignificant quantities you were referring to?

Still, none of the 5 questions you answered bore any similarity to the one I asked? I don't think that's a coincidence.

Actually, as the Christian Science Monitor righty noted at the time, David Koresh went jogging alone every morning. If "bringing David Koresh to justice" was truly our aim, then surely the FBI could have merely pulled up alongside him and read him his rights? Sure beats what happened instead. So yeah, they could have "asked real nice".

Except that they had a search warrant, not an arrest warrant (which admittedly makes it an imperfect metaphor for our Current Situation). And if we want to be snarky, I could point out that they could've let them in? Sure beats what happened instead, doesn't it?
posted by boaz at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2001


What exactly would the doves have the U.S. do about state-sponsored terrorism? It's not like the Taliban would say "Sure, U.S. officials, please come on in and round up all our terrorists with impunity."

I personally hate war.. but I recognize that the choices here were 1) attack Afghanistan or 2) do nothing. Choice number 2 simply is not an option. MOST Americans support military action in this case - would you have 90% of America up in arms about government pacifism in a time of crisis or 10% up in arms about the deaths of innocents on a far off shore? If I were a government official, the choice would be obvious.

Some might say that the bombings are unnecessary, but I can sympathize with our miltary strategists on this point. The Russians and the British both failed to take Afghanistan; clearly the U.S. recognizes this and is using a military strategy they hope will prevent failure based on the mistakes of others.

Kingslover is a wonderful writer, but I am afraid that in this case her piece would have been much stronger if she had offerred alternatives that hadn't already been tried. The US was the largest aid provider in Afghanistan before this conflict, and one example of the use of this cash was the "soccer stadium" that was used to carry out public executions of women accused of adultery.
posted by xyzzy at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2001


I could point out that they could've let them in?

But they didn't, and there's a reason why. Can you recall why this was so?

RE: The Gulf War, and alternative strategies, I for one have no qualms saying I don;t have all the answers to the world's problems. But dropping bombs indiscriminately, while technically a solution, isn't. Of that I'm sure.

By the way, while you're spouting statistics, how many Kuwaitis dies in the struggle to liberate their country from Iraq? Just curious.

I personally hate war.. but I recognize that the choices here were 1) attack Afghanistan or 2) do nothing.

So what if the people who were truly responsible for 9/11 are in say, China? How does attacking Afghanistan do anything more than give us something to feel good about while solving nothing?

You're right, we were soo pigeonholed into 1 of 2 choices. Silly me!
posted by ethmar at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2001


ethmar, you bring up an interesting point. Of course I was basing my post on the idea that Al-Qaeda is responsible for those attacks (and we KNOW they were responsible for many others - Cole, 2 embassies, WTC bombing) and that this organization has a symbiotic relationship with the current ruling order of the Afghanistan, the Taliban.

BUT.. say hypothetically it was Chinese terrorists. China is gigantic and well-organized and funded. Would we have sought a diplomatic solution first? Or would we have gone in and bombed China? I suspect that the Chinese would have condemned the actions of their terrorist group, unlike the Taliban, but I could be wrong. If we had provided the evidence that Al-Qaeda was responsible, would the Taliban have rounded up Osama and turned him over to the U.S.? Doubtful.

What evidence do you know of that would suggest that Al-Qaeda is not a threat to the safety of people in dozens of countries all over the world, ethmar? Just curious. ;)
posted by xyzzy at 9:33 AM on October 16, 2001


But they didn't, and there's a reason why. Can you recall why this was so?

Uh, because they were guilty? I'm not sure really, but the right to search your premises after obtaining a search warrant is codified in our Constitution; if you have a problem with that, then maybe you should form your cult in some other country please. Here's an excerpt of the Frontline's chronology:
At about 9:30 a.m. agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempt to execute arrest and search warrants against David KORESH and the Branch Davidian compound. Gunfire erupts. Four ATF agents are killed and 16 are wounded. An undetermined number of Davidians are killed and injured
RE: The Gulf War, and alternative strategies, I for one have no qualms saying I don;t have all the answers to the world's problems. But dropping bombs indiscriminately, while technically a solution, isn't. Of that I'm sure.

I'm not asking for all the answers to all the problems, just one answer to one problem. If you don't like something being done, you have to come up with a realistic alternative.

while you're spouting statistics, how many Kuwaitis dies in the struggle to liberate their country from Iraq? Just curious.

I correct one misstatement of yours and suddenly I'm your personal Enyclopedia Britannica; I'm of the teach-a-man-to-fish school.

So what if the people who were truly responsible for 9/11 are in say, China?

More of that basing policy on rumors ethmar? I thought we were beyond that. If it isn't true, then it shouldn't have any effect on our real policy.
posted by boaz at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2001


What evidence do you know of that would suggest that Al-Qaeda is not a threat to the safety of people in dozens of countries all over the world, ethmar? Just curious. ;)

I'm saying it's mighty presumptuous to think that to bomb Afghanistan is to destroy Al-Qaeda. Dig?

That's like saying that American citizens only live in the US. How did terrorist automatically mean "people in Afghanistan?"

I suppose I'll have to do my own Google search for that.
posted by ethmar at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2001


I dig. But I disagree that the term terrorist = people in Afghanistan to the government or even to most of the American people.

It seems to me that the strategy is to cut off the main head by destroying Al-Qaeda's political supporters, the Taliban, while simultaneously conducting massive investigations in various countries where suspected terrorists live and making arrests as appropriate. (Of course, from the X-Files point of view, the strategy could be to subjugate the Taliban in order to control an oil pipeline project, with the acts of terrorism really being a lucky break for the U.S. government.)

I am not a big fan of this military campaign, but I can't actually come up with an alternative method of handling the Taliban/Al-Qaeda problem, so I don't feel that criticism without alternatives is very useful in this case. Am I annoyed that the US supported, even indirectly, terrorist backing governments for years and only entered the "war on terrorism" when it hit the homeland? Sure. Am I irritated that innocent people are dying after they have already suffered for years under the Taliban regime? Absolutely. Am I concerned about the oil pipeline connection? Yes. Am I suspicious of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East? No doubt about it.

But I ask again.. what else COULD we have done, other than attempt to overthrow the Taliban to gain access to Al-Qaeda in a hostile failed state, that would have gained the support of the majority of the American population and also made progress in addressing the problem?
posted by xyzzy at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2001


But I ask again.. what else COULD we have done, other than attempt to overthrow the Taliban to gain access to Al-Qaeda in a hostile failed state, that would have gained the support of the majority of the American population and also made progress in addressing the problem?

Ay, there's the rub.

Again, I'm no strategist, so it's easier I suppose to come up with the list of "don'ts" rather than spell out a solution that resolves everything in a neat package.

My concern is that bombing Afghanistan will do nothing to truly "solve" the scourge of terrorism. Time will tell of course, and if I'm wrong then so be it. But if an arsonist burns down my house (ok simplified analogy, sue me), I want him caught & punished, not the neighborhood he hails from firebombed.
posted by ethmar at 1:23 PM on October 16, 2001


this is not a war of east and west. it is a war of have and have-nots. not to say that osama bin laden is a have-not. he just has things that the have nots want.

george bush, director of the CIA when usama bin laden received aid from the CIA to beat off the soviet invasion of afghanistan, is the senior advisor of the asian partners of the carlyle group, a merchant bank catering to the saudi binladen group. much has been made of mohammed bin laden's disowning of his own son, however, taped interviews of bin laden family friends have shown that mohammed urged usama since he was a very young man to "do all that he could to liberate palestine." these do not sound like words of a disapproving father.

george w. bush this year gave the government of afghanistan (read: the taliban) $47 million dollars to stop the flow of drugs into america.

my source for most of this information is the wall street journal. if you'd like to read for yourself instead of taking my word for it, go here:



in my opinion, the article has been edited to keep the wall street journal from being labeled as a communist rag sheet. more than one former u.s. president has received funds from the bin ladens. does it scare you that nothing is as black and white as it seems to be when large sums of money are passing between the sworn enemies "east" and "west"? i hope so.
posted by sebastian at 2:19 AM on October 24, 2001


Bin Laden Family Could Profit From a Jump
In Defense Spending Due to Ties to U.S. Bank

posted by sebastian at 2:21 AM on October 24, 2001


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