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An insightful article about the latest 'war.'

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
[It's long, so pull up a chair! Let me preface this article by saying I'm tired of all the "nothing can be done" talk the journalistic media have been pushing over the past few days. It's probably due to the sudden infusion of academics into the media's coverage — so that now we're being told the best ways to fight terrorism are to be nice and to shuffle papers. Mind, I'm behind Colin Powell's philosphy all the way: the diplomatic groundwork must be done before any international enforcement action is taken. But once that foundation of law is in place, there needs to be punishment meted out to those responsible for murdering upwards of 5,000 people.

[Also, I know the message board has a lot of threads about this recent terrorism; and I wish people would post relevant messages at the "Plane just crashed into the world trade center" thread, but I'm not doing it because hardly anybody goes to that thread anymore! Hopefully, Anne will consolidate all these threads into that one thread.]

The Times


Anatole Kaletsky: Our pathological need to talk up the enemy

We all know that truth is the first casualty in every war. But the “war against terrorism†declared last week by President Bush has given an unfamiliar, and potentially very dangerous, twist to this old cliché.

During the past ten days, emotion, hysteria and misinformation have pushed facts, figures and calm calculations almost completely out of the newspapers and airwaves. This outbreak of irrationality was to be expected, not only in the normal pattern of warfare, but especially because of the psychological trauma so many of us suffered in watching the living nightmare of September 11. What is more surprising — and far more alarming — is the direction in which the world’s collective unconscious has begun to move.

Instead of the boastful overconfidence and defiant patriotism that would normally distort political language in this early stage of a serious military confrontation, most news and analysis about the looming conflict has been been twisting public opinion in exactly the opposite way — with defeatist misinformation, morally dubious self-flagellation, exaggerations of the enemy’s invincibility and glamorised accounts of his methods and goals.

Watching TV and reading the papers since the start of this crisis, I have been increasingly reminded of the strange mental pathology known as Stockholm syndrome, whose most famous victim was the American heiress Patty Hearst. This is the chilling psychological reversal whereby victims of brutality and hostages of murderous gangsters sometimes become fanatical supporters of the people who terrorised them — or even, in the case of the Ottoman janissaries, massacred their families before their eyes.

How else can one explain what has now become the standard analysis of the confrontation that lies ahead? This analysis consists of a series of profoundly defeatist propositions that are taken as given even by the most ardent advocates of military retaliation. Yet each of these propositions is at most only half true. Consider how the standard argument goes:

First, the enemy in this war is said to be invisible and therefore impossible to defeat. Secondly, the sinister invisibility of the terrorist threat is said to have filled America with a paranoid fury. Since it cannot “get†the terrorists, America is now bent on a racist anti-Islamic retribution that will kill thousands of poor and defenceless people. This irrational lashing out will inevitably breed more terror and will therefore advance the terrorists’ evil goals.

If the retribution is directed at Afghanistan, the reasoning goes, the result will be even worse. The Afghans are the world’s most vicious fighters and they have never been defeated in war. Afghanistan has been the graveyard of imperial powers since Alexander the Great. Moreover, an attack on Afghanistan would achieve nothing, even if a bloody disaster could be averted.

Obviously, there is a grain of truth in each of these statements. But then, there was also a grain of truth in Hitler’s claims that Jewish bankers had enriched themselves at the expense of German workers or in Stalin’s belief that kulak peasants were hoarding their bread. These grains of truth did not justify the extermination of the Jews or the slaughter and starvation of untold millions of Ukrainian peasants. And propagandist half-truths about the battle that lies ahead should not be allowed to justify a spineless policy that could prove almost as dangerous and destructive of humanitarian values as the appeasement of the 1930s.

So let us consider the defeatist case, point by point. There is nothing invisible or invincible about the enemies in this war. The suicidal hijackers have already been identified, several dozen suspected accomplices have been arrested around the world and Osama bin Laden’s direct involvement in the previous attacks on American targets, including the World Trade Centre, has already been established. Of course, there might well be other atrocities in the future, even if these particular terrorists could be captured and their network broken. But nobody would suggest that the police should stop bothering to pursue murderers on the ground that some will inevitably get away, while other potential killers are born every day.

Turning to America’s response, far from lashing out, threatening thousands of defenceless people or betraying irrational fury, the Bush Administration has focused on a very reasonable and potentially achievable task. There is no indication that the US plans to bomb civilians in Afghanistan or in any other country to “retaliate†against the massacre in New York. Instead of retaliation or retribution, the US appears to have set two positive and precise goals: to capture or kill bin Laden and other known terrorists; and to “end states†that are known to sponsor or support terrorists.

No reasonable person would object to the first aspiration, although it may be difficult to achieve. It is the second aim of “ending†terrorist states that seems to have sent a chill round the globe. The phrase “ending statesâ€, which was deliberately used on Monday by Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, may indeed inspire apocalyptic fears of mass civilian casualties and Dresden-style carpet bombing.

But is this really what America intends? It seems much more likely that Mr Wolfowitz was choosing his words very carefully when he spoke of ending terrorist states, rather than nations or countries. Far from planning to liquidate countries or subdue entire peoples, the US has a much narrower and more legitimate target. It wants to eliminate terrorist regimes, not the people who live in their countries.

In a conventional war, the distinction between a state and the people it rules might appear just a hypocritical diversion. But in a confrontation with Afghanistan, the distinction between the wretched, impoverished Afghan people and their monstrous Taleban oppressors could not be more clear. To me, the most amazing feature of the phoney war which has been raging for the past ten days in the world’s media has been the lack of attention to the horrors which the sadistic Taleban fanatics have inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan.

What the Taleban have done in the past five years to the people of Afghanistan — above all to the women, but also to the large ethnic minorities, to millions of now landless peasants and to smaller non-Muslim groups — ranks as one of the greatest crimes ever committed against humanity. If any government in the world attempted to crush a racial group such as Africans or Jews with the sort of oppressive, humiliating and murderous laws imposed on all Afghan women by the Taleban, the civilised world would long since have taken the most extreme measures — quite possibly including military action — to eliminate this regime.

But even if the moral case for eliminating the Taleban is irrefutable, how could this possibly be achieved? Surely Afghanistan is an impossible military target, with an unbroken record of defeating mighty foreign powers? This widespread belief seems, again, to be based on a series of half-truths. If America’s goal were permanently to conquer Afghanistan and subdue its people, then history, geography and the ferocity of the Afghan fighters might indeed militate against it. But if the objective is merely to destabilise and topple the Taleban regime, history and geography are very much on America’s side. The country has always been ethnically divided and has rarely had a stable central government, with much of it ruled by robber barons, motivated more by booty and money rather than national pride or religious zeal. Afghanistan’s history consists of an endless series of struggles between warlords, internal rebellions, government coups and periods of vassalage to neighbouring powers.

Given the unprecedented misery which the Taleban have inflicted on the country (there are more refugees from Afghanistan than from any other country, including even Congo and Rwanda), it is distinctly possible that many Afghans would welcome a carefully targeted strike by American and European paratroops as a potential liberation, not an invasion by a conquering power.

Terrorism may be a mental disease which can never be fully defeated, but America and the civilised world could surely topple the Taleban. That would send an unforgettable message to the leaders of other terrorist regimes.

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.

post #2 of 21
Thanks Mr.Cat for posting this. It gives some rational arguments and made me slow down and think about all of this in a different way.
post #3 of 21
Mr Cat, I agree ..these aims are all achievable and I surely hope that is what is planned. I think what is scaring some folks is the ol' Nuclear Nightmare. The fear that in frustration somebody will order a Nuke strike on this very politically unstable region. It will be a sore temptation I would imagine.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for reading this article! I can surely understand the anxiety of those both inside and outside the U.S.A. who contemplate the possibility of nuclear weapons being used. I, myself, do not think such a scenario is viable. World-wide condemnation, not to mention possible retaliation and sanctions of various types, would ensue should any entity use nuclear weapons in future. I further believe more rational thought is possible on the part of governments of capitalist nations than by countries steeped in fundamentalist religion. After all, the corporations which own capitalist-nation governments want to continue taking others' money! "Business as usual" would become ancient history if the U.S.A. used nuclear weapons. I worry more about terrorists and the governments which support them.

post #5 of 21
Terrorism is a huge worry, especially after what happened in New York and DC. This is not the first article I've read which suggested the Afghan people would welcome an overthrow of the Taliban. Maybe that is the solution for how to deal with bin Laden, get rid of the government which helps support him. It also helps to avoid the N dilemna, which would have unknown consequences for all of us.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
I agree completely with your observations. Personally, I see no scenario in this present "war" which would require the use of nuclear weapons. I think the "N" word is being tossed about in the journalistic media because it's a scary word and fear sells newspapers (and broadcast time). By the way, I've a thread in this forum titled "'Important if true'" which contains a few articles pertaining to the possible overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

post #7 of 21
Thanks for posting that article. It made more sense than most things I have read or heard this week. Did anyone happen to see "Behind The Veil" last night on CNN? An Afghan born woman went alone undercover into Afghanistan with a camera and spoke to citizens there. It was unbelievible what these people go through daily. Since the taliban has taken over, women are not allowed to hold jobs, have medical care,be given the most basic education, and are mostly just not a part of society. They are going to small, peaceful, villages and murdering the men in the streets, committing horrible atrocities on thier dead bodies. Since women are not allowed to work, they have no way to feed themselves and their children. This very brave reporter went with a group of women secretly educating their daughters. They were sitting around talking and applying makeup. They could be executed for these "crimes". It was heartbreaking. I felt like the most spoiled, lazy thing in the world. It only strengthened my belief that something must be done about the taliban. It is so hard to comprehend that people can be murdered for going about their daily lives. It is illegal to take pictures of living things there. It was amazing that this woman was brave enough to go in there alone and bring this video footage out. Everyone that thinks the taliban is only a bunch of politicians and scholars should see this. It was truly awful!
post #8 of 21
Wow, I feel like I'm watching a completely different bunch of news programs from the rest of you! I have not yet seen one commentator saying that the odds are against us. Maybe it's a Texas thang, Texans being different from the rest of Americans in a lot of ways. I can't explain it, it's like they never forget they were an independent entity at one time and it gives them a different attitude about politics, among other things. Or maybe it's being married to someone who thinks Rush Limbaugh is a centrist, while most of the media is considerably more liberal. It could even be that I am suffer a pathological aversion to news programs and talk radio, so I simply haven't been bombarded with information as networks struggle to fill air time with any joe who has an opinion.

Anyway, I have found far more people embracing a sort of mindless patriotism. I mean, I love my country, but many of the same problems exist now that existed before the attack, and yet I keep running into people who have adopted a sort of "America is the best and any criticism is a sign that you support the terrorists" attitude.

By the way, this was a really cool piece from a mail art friend of mine. Scroll down to the bottom and check out "A Tribute to America". Funny that it takes a Canandian to tell us all the good things we've done!
post #9 of 21
I think the rest of the world is not so much worried about the big nuclear weapons as the small tactical ones. In a protracted struggle in Afghanistan it would be a sore temptation for the military to use them. Look at the terrible weapons the Russian army used there because normal actions were not working. Afghanistan is a very hard terrain to mount a conventional war in from what I read. Mountains riddled with caves and remote valleys,extremely thin air which hampers foot soldiers and helicopters alike. The Afghan fighters learned some very hard lessons in their war with Russia and survived.
Remember that the Russian army and especially their elite forces are no pushovers..they can fight as hard as anyone.

Tac nukes in that area could spell disaster. Don't forget that the countries surrounding it are nuclear also. China,India,Pakistan,Russia all are nuclear countries and would not react well to tac nukes on their borders.

Plus,remember,Pres Bush and his cabinet are still a very unknown quantity to the world at large. We really have no history to judge his reactions by. Everything about this situation is new ground; so everyone's a little jittery right now. None of us wants to make a mistake which will drag the world over the brink.

I think once concrete actions begin a lot of this nervousness will disappear and we will all get down to cases.
post #10 of 21

Thanks for starting this Thread Joe. Also, I'd like to thank KrazyKat for posting that too familiar documentary. It was an extreme nightmare to watch that! I've also read where the stadium that was a gift to the Afgahns when Russia left them (since they had nothing to offer Russia and they were more of a burden to them) is not used for football games it's used as a huge public execution center, where they line up women and shoot them in the head and hang men from the goalposts. Sick and unbelievable, but I believe everything I hear about the Taliban due to their historical nature of barbarism. These aren't humans. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction of calling them animals. Animals wouldn't treat their own kind like that!....I know in my heart that Americans do not want to see Afghanistan nor other nation under attack. But, please Joe, tell me, since the majority of these terrorists live in these countries, what are we supposed to do? They are known to be in at least sixty different countries and this is only one of many terroists regimes. We're currently positioned in various areas! Incredible, but true. Unfortunately, we don't have the intelligence that's necessary in this short amount of time to wipe out terrorism even with the information that we have. That would take forever and a day. I hate to sound so grim, and it makes me cry to think of such horror, but I do feel that a war will take place, maybe not a nuclear war, but one that will leave us all sorrowful and broken even more so because of the added lives that will be taken.

Historically speaking the US has never said that we will not use nuclear warheads, so, I would never say that it's been ruled out. I hate to project, but there's always a chance that the Taliban will not rule that out of their war plans. What is truly one of the most remarkable cliches I've ever heard and I'm afraid it applies here; "All's fair in love and war...

Love & Peace,
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
I agree, that once military action begins there will be a different attitude abroad in the land. I still can't conceive of anybody using nuclear weapons of any kind. That's a Pandora's Box nobody's opened since 1945, though there have been numerous times when talk about the use of nuclear weapons has been pushed by the journalistic media. Media owners have their own agendas; and the first item on those agendas is the making of money. Also, those who enjoy bashing the U.S.A. (academics in particular) like to depict the U.S.A. as a nation always willing to use nuclear weapons. That's actually happened once — fifty-six years ago during the Second World War. The Allies, to a nation, didn't object then; but the subsequent world-wide proliferation of nuclear weapons has caused rightful concern. It's worth pointing out that the U.S.A. is one of many nations with nuclear-weapons capability. Of course, it's possible that someone might use such weapons at some point in the future; but whomever does will be eternally damned.

Your points about warfare in Afghanistan are well taken! Ever since the Viet Nam War, most politicians in the U.S.A. have steadfastly opposed the use of infantry in combat. (Talk about political correctness!) Hence, the Washington establishment has adopted the notion that wars can be successfully fought from 30,000 feet of altitude and/or from great distances. I believe that's an absurd notion: It surely wouldn't work in Afghanistan; and the only way to rid that nation of terrorists is to have an occupation by infantry. Aircraft flying overhead will have little effect upon terrorists; and many more civilians will die as the result of air raids than from occupation by infantry. Military service is a risky job of work, yet many U.S.A. politicians (and academics) think such service is merely a matter of wearing uniforms and standing in formations.

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Catarina, check out my last response to Kitty Foot. I firmly believe nuclear weapons will never be used, especially not by the U.S.A. To do so would be to sign a death warrant for one's nation.

Sun Lion, I'm glad you brought this matter to our attention! Before the recent terrorist attacks against the U.S.A., there were fairly-regular reports in the journalistic media pertaining to the oppression of women by the Taliban. Since the attacks took place, the media have been practically devoid of such reports. The feminists have suddenly gone quiet on this issue. Why? I suspect it's because academics have decided any negativity directed toward the Taliban would be an endorsement of military action on the part of the U.S.A.

In academe, as in other establishments here and abroad, the politically-correct position is always one of negativity toward the U.S.A. We're all "bullies," you see. In fact, "we" are individuals — the vast majority of whom have no influence whatsoever upon government policy. Mind, I've serious grievances against U.S.A. policies domestic and foreign alike! But in this matter of attacking terrorism via the armed forces, I've no such grievance.

During this national emergency, our bought-and-paid-for politicians have donned the mantle of populism. Once this emergency subsides, it'll be back to "business as usual"; and populism will be forgotten inside The Beltway. In the interim, I shall stand behind the government's campaign against terrorism. It needs to be eliminated; and basic human rights need to be restored to the women of Afghanistan. Government bereft of the Taliban would speed up that process.

post #13 of 21
Hi Joe...

Oh, I totally agree, but I did not say that we would use nuclear warfare. I said "historically" the US has never ruled out nuclear warfare, furthermore; I said that I did not want to project and we had no idea what the Taliban is truly capable of.

Do you really think we would stand by if they attacked the US with nuclear warheads?

Honestly, I don't think this will be a war of nuclear bombings, but we will infiltrate our troops and we will have airstrikes.

I agree with you and KittyFoot on many of the issues that have been presented here regarding the use of nuclear weapons, especially since there are so many other countries that surround their borders.
post #14 of 21
It's good to have your voice obviously know whereof you speak. There's so much information/speculation floating around that it's hard to sort out the chaff.

I was wondering about the wider ramifications of the war on terrorists. Who qualifies as a terrorist group?? They are not going to be all over THERE!! The IRA and Provos from Northern Ireland are almost certainly going to be named. What about the supporters who raise money for them over here? What will the reaction be if they name the KKK,the American Nazi Party, Hell's Angels and some of the so-called Militia groups?? Military weapons will certainly be severely restricted if not banned outright in private hands. Gun control WILL be a fact of life.

There are going to be big changes in all our lives in the years to come. We are becoming a world-wide community because of this..and I think for the better. I just hope we don't screw up this chance by being short-sighted and petty again.
post #15 of 21
Don't think I'm leaving you out here...your views are being taken note of too. I'm very impressed with how so many Americans,while living thru such trauma,can still think rationally and coolly about the wider world. It would be so easy to just lash out at everyone outside your borders. Thank God you are wiser than that.
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
I think the operative phrase used by the U.S.A. government is "global terrorism." I'm sure that's a deliberate phrase, as it conveniently excludes what's happening in Northern Ireland and much of what's happening in the Middle East. Obviously, then, hate/paranoia groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi groups and those idiot posse comitatus militia types won't be targeted. Even though money flows hither, thither and yon to support such groups I'm quite sure they won't be targeted — at least not by the U.S.A. government which, after all, is now Republican and thus has a certain amount of sympathy for reactionary philosophy.

As for me, I'm all for gun control. Who needs the damned things anyway? I carried a weapon whilst in the Republic of Viet Nam. I knew what it was for. There will be enough killing in the near future without civilians walking about with their stupid little popguns. But, unless governments stick it to weapons manufacturers nothing will happen to lessen the threat from criminal use of weapons; and with a Republican government in office that means nothing will happen, as capitalism is held sacred. One wonders how many U.S.A. lives will be lost due to weapons made in the U.S.A. and sold by manufacturers with no regard for whom the buyer may be. The journalistic media in the U.S.A. only show images of terrorists with AK-47s, yet just as many of them carry new M-16s.

Here's a stunner: The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association are now on the same team!

post #17 of 21
I surely hope this goes beyond the agenda of any one administration or country...else we might as well quit right now. To be a real, meaningful act against the madmen of the world we are going to have to understand that the act against the horrible as it just the latest manifestation of a disease that is destroying the whole world. This is the same pestilence as Hitler's insanity, Stalin's massacres,Mao's Cultural Revoloution and the slaughter in Tianiman Square. There are maniacs from every nation involved here. Together they share the same philosophies,the same outlook and the same hatred of everyone else in the world. If you are facing an invading army,who cares about the names of each regiment therein? They are an army..make no mistake. They all want your family and mine dead or under their heel.

I guess I'm hoping that the other countries of the world will not permit the US or ANY OTHER COUNTRY to draw back and say "Well we didn't mean OURS!!!". Perhaps I'm just dreaming..I sure hope not!!
post #18 of 21
KittyFoot ...LOL I don't feel left out hon, not at all...this is a very good discussion. I do feel many of us have kept a level head about our position in this situation although we have no real control. Fine by me! God only knows what would happen if some seasoned idiot on our own soil would have access to any real information; which is a possibility. Just reading your last post says it all. The Taliban is only one of many terrorists groups.

I do believe that right now we're taking on the Taliban, but honestly, I think this will propagate into something much larger than what we're seeing now. What are your views on that...? Joe, Wayne? All?
post #19 of 21
I like to think the world is smart enough by now not to use nuclear weapons.

I am much more concerned about chemical and biological weapons. The damage caused tends to be more personal and most people seem to have the attitude that bad things happen to others but not to oneself. I think it is easy to underestimate the threat of those things, or to panic and overreact. Plus, once these things are loosed in the world, they are likely to change form in unpredictable ways. Nuclear weapons are dangerous, but at least we have a good idea of their effects and we have worked out several possible scenarios over the years. We can't even do that with the other kinds.
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
In regard to how far the U.S.A. government goes in pursuit of "global terrorism," I believe it depends upon two factors:

1. How corporations/lobbys feel about the situation, insofar as projecting future profit; and

2. What the opinion-poll people tell the politicians, insofar as such polls exist primarily as apologies for political action.

The latter factor will be tailored to fit the former, as all opinion polls are paid for by corporate/lobbyist entities. So, in the long run, what matters most to the U.S.A. government is what effect thus-and-such a contemplated action will have on corporate/lobbyist ability to make money for stockholders/lobbys.

If "global" terrorists respond with more atrocities inside the U.S.A. the "war" will be prolonged accordingly, as to do otherwise would mean the politicians might lose elections; and the corporations/lobbys would then have to hire new politicians. (Bear in mind it's politicians who make the laws regulating corporations/lobbys; and it's corporations/lobbys which enable politicians to be elected, via campaign funding.) The rest of us just have to sit back and wait to see what happens!

post #21 of 21
My father served in the military. I too wanted to follow in his footsteps. I was accepted until they discovered my epilepsy was still registering as being "active" and unable to control according to the EEG...I didn't have seizures for five years, but I guess that didn't matter. Bummer, I had applied to Officer Training School in the Air Force.

He used to tell me one thing that always stuck in my mind as one of the most hideous things a man could say...but as I got older I finally believed him.

He told me that war was a way to make our corporations money, that it was all about money and although the public would be protected; it was the money that spoke louder to all the nations. He spoke about a lot of things he learned within the Army Intelligence. He was a brilliant man. He died about 20 years ago he was only fifty. I called him the quiet giant.
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