How quickly
we lost our way

This column was written February 11, 2003 and published on the editorial page of The Standard-Times February 18, 2003.

by Greg Stone

September 11 gave President Bush a free hand to do anything he wanted. There was an incredible unity in America and the whole world was with us. Now, in little more than a year, he has squandered that unity and support. America is divided and both our oldest and newest allies are openly challenging us. What's more, North Korea, a far more potent enemy than Iraq, stands poised ready to use our own pre-emptive war policy against us.

How quickly we moved from being the victim to being the aggressor; from being the solution, to being the problem; from being an aggrieved country, to appearing to use our wounds of September 11 as an excuse to carry out a pre-conceived agenda.

Our response to loyal opposition and sincere questions has been to insist that "you are either with us, or against us." That is the kind of arrogance you expect from a bully on an elementary school playground. We are getting it from the president of the United States who in the person of his Secretary of Defense thinks that the way to win friends and influence people is to resort to childish name calling.

Undermining the UN

We don’t want to participate with the UN. We want to undermine the UN. We will go along with the UN only if the UN goes along with our preset agenda. That isn't how democracies work. That is not the American way. That's the way of the strongest nation on earth saying simply we'll do whatever our president feels like doing. Right now that nation happens to be us. That won’t always be the case and if we don’t use our current position of supremacy wisely, we condemn our children and grandchildren to a far worse fate.

We are trying to implement the most immoral, illegal, ill-conceived and self-defeating foreign policy initiative ever undertaken by this country - pre-emptive military strikes. That is what the world can't swallow and with good reason. It is a formula that guarantees world disorder. It guarantees continuous war by any country under any pretext. It says I can hit you if I think you are thinking about hitting me. You can’t keep order in a kindergarten with that kind of rule, let alone a world.

This policy may grow out of fear, but it grows out of a total misinterpretation of that fear. The United States is the strongest country on earth. We spend more on our military than the next 18 countries combined and most of those are our allies! We have so many weapons of mass destruction we could wipe out the earth. For any country to attack us would be suicide. We have nothing to fear from other countries and we proved that by containing the Soviet Union for 40 years, just as we've contained a far weaker Iraq for more than 10 years.

But the operative word is "country." We have nothing to fear from another country.

What we should fear

We have everything to fear from extremists who have no country to lose. Osama bin Laden and Al Quaeda are but one example. It doesn’t take many terrorists to do terrible damage. How many Americans did it take to bomb the government building in Oklahoma? How many Americans did it take to confound an Army of police from the federal, state, and local level and hold Washington DC in terror for three weeks last fall? And how many Americans did it take to kill five people and throw government in a turmoil by sending anthrax through the mail? (I say Americans because investigators seem to be focusing on Americans and seem to think the stuff used came from our own labs.)

When are we going to wake up? We can - and have - generated as many deadly terrorists as any country. Our so-called friends, Saudi Arabia, provided 16 of the 19 suicidal fanatics who carried out the September 11 attack . These people don’t need Iraq to be nasty. And they don’t need Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction. The only weapon of mass destruction used in a terrorist attack to date apparently came from our own labs. The countries of the former Soviet Union have plenty of weapons of mass destruction and no one is sure where they are kept and under what security.

If terrorists have anything in common, it is that they hate our government. And the operative word in this case is "government." They don't hate the American people. They hate the American government and what it does. Sound familiar? It's the same thing we're saying about Iraq. We don’t hate the people of Iraq, we hate their government. Only it's the American people who die when our government is attacked - and it's the Iraqi people who will die when we attack their government.

Terrorism can unite the world

Terror is terrifying. War is more so. Terror is random and next to impossible to stop. War is random, but it can be prevented through wise and patient diplomacy.

Terrorism is something we have in common with the rest of the world. It is a theme around which the world can unite. It is a crime carried out by criminals and the only hope of stopping it is efficient, international police work. War divides the world. So we throw away the unity we need to protect ourselves form the real enemy in order to make war on an enemy whose strength and intentions exist in our fear of what they might do at some future time.

We must somehow regain control of a situation that is getting worse by the day. It's easy, because we're the source of the problem. It's hard, because we are what has to change. We need smart diplomacy, not smart bombs. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, " As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way."


Lase updated February 11, 2003

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