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Who’s Being Naïve? War-Time Realism Through the Looking Glass


Lampooning the left for adhering to such ostensibly simplistic slogans as “violence begets violence,” these self-proclaimed pragmatists insist that sometimes massive force is necessary and that in the case of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, little else could possibly serve to diminish the threat of terrorist attack. It takes me back, all this self-assured confidence in the value of preemptive assault. To 1986 in particular, when a co-worker of mine insisted that although our bombing of Libya had failed to kill Colonel Quadafi, that by killing his daughter we had nonetheless served the cause of peace.

Of course, come to find out that Libya had not been involved in the terrorist incident for which we claimed to be attacking them, but why bother with details? And of course, just two years after my colleague insisted that our assault on Libya had made us safer, 259 people in a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland–and eleven more on the ground there–learned how dangerously ignorant such faith really was. They as it turned out became the victims of actual Libyan terrorists enraged by the previous U.S. attack on their country.

To be nave, on the other hand, is to pay attention to modern history, which tells us in no uncertain terms that bombing people is rather likely to fuel their anger, resentment, and desire for revenge.

To be nave is to point out that terrorists arent reliant on one, or even several countries to operate, and as such, we could eradicate every member of the Taliban tomorrow without delaying by so much as a day any future attacks on our shores.

And its what they did when they claimed the Soviets were building a military base in Grenada, or that the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were running drugs (actually it was our guys, the contras, who were doing that). And apropos of todays headlines, its what they did when they decided to dub a certain band of fundamentalist thugs known as the Mujahadeen, “freedom fighters.”

To be realistic is to say, “we tried peace and peace failed.” To be nave is to ask when, exactly, did the U.S. try peace: in the region, or specifically in Afghanistan? Was it when we were selling Stinger missiles to the Muj, so as to help them fight the Soviets?

Or was it when we cozied up to the Taliban because they promised to crack down on opium cultivation, using the time-honored anti-crime techniques of extremist Islam?

After all, we have harbored and even taught terrorists and death squad leaders at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. We have harbored known Cuban terrorists in Miami. We even gave a tax exemption for several years to a neo-Nazi “church” affiliated with the National Alliance, whose leader has called for worldwide racial cleansing, whose words are credited with inspiring Timothy McVeigh, and whose members have committed bombings, murders and armed robberies across the country.

To be nave is to point out that the food drops–according to relief agencies–are insufficient to meet the need, especially since our bombing has aggravated the refugee crisis to staggering proportions.

To be nave to the point of disloyalty, would, I suppose, be to ask whether or not American soldiers in Pearl Harbor would have felt better about the bombing of December 7, 1941, had the Japanese pilots made a second run to drop sushi and edamame.

To be nave is to point out that never in history has a nation under attack blamed its own leaders for the attack, but rather, exactly the opposite. After all, in the wake of 9/11, Americans did not, en masse write to the President demanding he accede to the wishes of Osama bin Laden.

To be nave is to point out that if we continue to bomb, especially through the holy month of Ramadan, there will be few Muslims in the world who will believe that. Perhaps its just me. But something seems dangerously Alice in Wonderland, when Clinton Advisor Dick Morris can say on national television that we should declare war on Afghanistan, and then Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Columbia–and not be viewed as a paragon of mental illness–but Quakers and pacifists are derided as uninformed boobs.

But hey–King, Ghandi, Jesus: what did they know? Dreamers all of them: nave, simplistic, innocent, and not nearly as informed or clear-headed as say, Donald Rumsfeld, or Stephen Ambrose, or Tom Clancy, or White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Richard Falk–a longtime international peace expert–has called Operation Enduring Freedom, “the first truly just war since World War II.” This, despite the fact that by the standards he himself has laid out for a just war, the bombing of Afghanistan–and the refugee crisis alone that it has sparkedcompletely fail the test of justice (see Stephen Shalom, “A Just War? A Critique of Richard Falk.” at, http://www.zmag.org/shalomjustwar.htm).

And one hardly knows what to make of Eleanor Smeal, of the Fund for the Feminist Majority. Recently she testified to Congress about Afghanistan, not to plead for an end to the macho militarism currently underway, which is likely to accelerate the starvation of perhaps a million women and girls there, but merely to suggest that the women of Afghanistan not be forgotten in any reconstruction government.

Again, maybe its just me. Or maybe its 1984, and War Is Peace, and Slavery Is Freedom, and Ignorance Is Strength. Or maybe all that is just bullshit, being served up on a silver platter, while the servers tell us its really Goose Liver Pate. It reminds me of something my Grandma once said: “You can call your ass a turkey, but that doesnt make it Thanksgiving.” Likewise, you can call your war just, and the rest of us nave, but that wont make it so.

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