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[Nettime-bold] A just war
Ivo Skoric on Tue, 18 Sep 2001 22:32:42 +0200 (CEST)


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[Nettime-bold] A just war


This looks like a battle of a herd of elephants against the colony of 
viruses - elephants are far bigger, stronger, more resourceful and 
intelligent, but viruses are tough to win. "An eye for an eye and all 
the world is blind." wrote somebody with the marker on the cover 
that's dropped over the Washington Square monument in NYC.
ivo

Date sent:      	Mon, 17 Sep 2001 16:24:21 -0400
Send reply to:  	International Justice Watch Discussion List
             	<JUSTWATCH-L {AT} LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
From:           	Thomas Keenan <keenan {AT} BARD.EDU>
Subject:        	It Happened Here
To:             	JUSTWATCH-L {AT} LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU

Cross-posting of commentary only permitted

A strongly-written editorial in The New Repubic calls for war, an
announced policy "to kill anybody who is preparing to kill us, [...] a
policy of active and sustained aggression against all individuals and
groups whom we have confidently identified as terrorists."

        "Senseless," "unimaginable," "crazy," "unfathomable": these 
words
        that preserve the catastrophe as a black idiosyncrasy of 
American
        experience, as an event too unlike the way we live to be
        incorporated into the way we think, must be resisted also on 
other
        grounds. They are simply false. It is not true that the attacks 
of
        September 11 were unimaginable; and anyway imagination is 
no
        longer necessary, now that we have memory. It is not true that
        they were crazy, except by our standards and the standards 
of
        civilization; but those are not the only standards in the world.
        It is not true that they were senseless, because they made sense
        to the people who carried them out, and to the individuals and
        the movements and the states that supported them or applauded
        them. It is not true that they are unfathomable: they were
        actions with reasons. These evil deeds were the results of
        beliefs. If we do not comprehend those reasons and those beliefs,
        then all we will do is mourn our dead and heal ourselves back
        into the traditions of our complacence. History is asking more of
        this country than sorrow.

Thomas Keenan
Human Rights Project
Bard College
============================================================================

http://www.thenewrepublic.com/092401/editorial092401.html

Copyright 2001 The New Republic
THE NEW REPUBLIC
Post date 09.13.01 - Issue date 09.24.01

It Happened Here
by the Editors

"Senseless," "unimaginable," "crazy," "unfathomable":  as the World Trade
Center fell and the Pentagon burned, those were the words that came to the
lips of many Americans, on camera and off camera. We must beware those
words. They have a way of carrying the war against us away from us, of
fortifying our incredulity against the evidence of our eyes, of shutting
down thought when thought is required, of lifting the obscenity that was
visited upon America back out of the realm of possibility. But the legacy
of September 11, 2001, must be nothing less than a new sense of what is
possible. When those planes flew into those buildings, the luck of America
ran out. And so we must finally allow ourselves to be sobered out of our
sensation of historical and geographical immunity. We must not let the
tremor of what we have seen pass from us. It happened here.

"Senseless," "unimaginable," "crazy," "unfathomable":  these words that
preserve the catastrophe as a black idiosyncrasy of American experience,
as an event too unlike the way we live to be incorporated into the way we
think, must be resisted also on other grounds. They are simply false. It
is not true that the attacks of September 11 were unimaginable; and anyway
imagination is no longer necessary, now that we have memory. It is not
true that they were crazy, except by our standards and the standards of
civilization; but those are not the only standards in the world. It is not
true that they were senseless, because they made sense to the people who
carried them out, and to the individuals and the movements and the states
that supported them or applauded them. It is not true that they are
unfathomable: they were actions with reasons. These evil deeds were the
results of beliefs. If we do not comprehend those reasons and those
beliefs, then all we will do is mourn our dead and heal ourselves back
into the traditions of our complacence. History is asking more of this
country than sorrow.

Let us start the rebuilding of our understanding of our place in the world
by recognizing that we are living in a new era of anti-Americanism. This
may seem surprising, in the aftermath of America's triumph in the cold
war. "I am for peace," the Psalmist declared in bewilderment, "but when I
speak, they are for war." This is America's bewilderment exactly. But
perhaps the equivocal position of the United States in the post-cold-war
world is not so surprising. For the victory of the United States,
democracy, and capitalism demonstrated more than just their superiority to
the Soviet Union, totalitarianism, and socialism. It was also a great
demonstration of what used to be called American exceptionalism. The
United States--and more generally the West, a geographical appellation
that is really a moral appellation--was revealed to be peaceful and
prosperous in a world that was more and more a political and economic
shambles. A shattering difference in the fates of nations was made clear.

The spectacle of American happiness--we were pursuing what Jefferson
instructed us to pursue and we seemed to be gaining it--provoked opposite
reactions in the suffering regions of the world. Briefly, it provoked a
love of America and a hatred of America. There were many who wanted an
American happiness for themselves and their children, and they did what
they could do to gain it. But there were many who chose to condemn what
they could not attain--whose envy of America curdled into resentment, and
whose resentment curdled into an analysis that made America responsible
for the non-American conditions of their lives, and whose analysis curdled
into ideologies of "resistance" against the symbols and the interests and
the allies of the United States. This anti-Americanism had its spokesmen
in America, too. "When will the smaller, lesser, weaker peoples," Edward
Said wrote in 1999, during the American-led war to rescue Kosovo from
extinction, "realize that this America is to be resisted at all costs, not
pandered to or given in to naively?" That was the "progressive" question
and the "progressive" vocabulary in the 1990s.

Does anybody doubt that the crusade against globalization is to a
significant degree a crusade against the proliferation of American values
and American practices around the world? For an alibi must again be
devised: another wave of progress has come and gone, and many regions did
not seize it. Instead they transformed the old charge that modernization
was American imperialism into the new charge that globalization is
American imperialism. The politics of antiglobalization has revived the
old "North-South" analysis of the 1970s, a fatalistic and even paranoid
view of social and economic failure that had the effect of trapping many
states and societies in their failing ways. The United States has become
once again the archetypal adversary of the wretched of the earth; and in
the excitable warrens of militant Islam this conspiracy theory has been
promoted into a theology, into an expectation of apocalypse. Thus it was
that Al-Ahram, the government newspaper in Egypt, described the attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as the "beginning of a war against
globalization." The editorial explained that "[t]he real reason behind the
terrorism is the widening of the gap between north and south." Never mind
that poor people do not generally become murderers, and that the lesser,
smaller, weaker peoples have sent many more immigrants to these shores
than terrorists. We must welcome the immigrants. We must extirpate the
terrorists.

Anybody who hates modernity hates America.  Anybody who hates freedom
hates America. Anybody who hates privacy hates America. Anybody who hates
human rights hates America. Anybody who hates ballots and bookshops and
newspapers and televisions and computers and theaters and bars and the
sight of a woman smiling at a man hates America. Osama bin Laden and the
terrorists of Al Qaeda chose the United States as their target in perfect
accordance with their beliefs. Philosophically speaking, we are their
mortal foes and they are ours. But to the hatred of America they add
another virulence, the hatred of Israel. In the same breath bin Laden
calls for the killing of Americans and the killing of Jews. "We will see
again Saladin carrying his sword," he ranted on a tape that surfaced this
June, "with the blood of unbelievers dripping from it." By unbelievers, of
course, he means those who do not believe what he believes: this is an
enemy by whom we should be proud to be known.

The religious dimension of bin Laden's war against Zionism is perfectly
clear. In his view, he wins heaven who wreaks hell. Bin Laden is waging a
holy war, which is always the unholiest war of all, since it drags the
most sacred things into its crimes. The common view is that he is seeking
to punish America for its association with Israel, but the contrary is
also the case. He wishes also to punish Israel (and Jews generally)  for
being so remorselessly American, that is, so secular, so liberal, so
enthralled by enlightenment, so unimpeded by the burdens of the past.
Israel poses the same threat to bin Laden's picture of the world, the same
challenge to his horror of liberty and equality, as the United States
does, and Israel is flourishing right there in the orbit of Islam. Its
vitality represents a rebuke to its torpid region. For this reason, the
terrorist war against the United States and the terrorist war against
Israel is the same war. This is as it must be, for the principles of the
United States and the principles of Israel are the same principles, the
same brazenly modernizing ideals. If not for anti-Americanism and
anti-Semitism, those two towers would still be standing.

This week there does not seem to be anybody in America who does not agree
that this is a war. Under the influence of those infernal images, the
nation appears to have discovered the virtue of indignation. But can we
bind this anger? It will not be easy. Americans are athletes of the
emotions, and we live in a society for which anger is merely "healthy,"
that is, valuable for its lack of consequences. It is also true that the
resumption of ordinary life is the only real victory over all this death.
But this time the anger of America must not be regarded as just a
sentiment, for it represents also a proper assessment of our situation. We
*were* attacked. We *are* vulnerable. We *have* enemies. This *is* a war.

So how shall we fight this war? We cannot fight it as we fight other wars.
Our adversary is not a state and not an army: the defense professionals
warn of the difficulties of "asymmetric warfare."  But surely one of those
asymmetries is an asymmetry of power. We are spectacularly stronger and
more resourceful than the suicidal cabals that have been formed against
us. We require a lot more intelligence (judging by what happened last
week, we require any intelligence at all) and a lot more cunning; but
above all we must state clearly as a nation, to ourselves and to the
world, that we are preparing to kill anybody who is preparing to kill us.
Is this a policy of assassination? It is not, because assassination is too
grand a term for the murder of murderers. It is a policy of self-defense.
And it is not a policy of retaliation, but a policy of active and
sustained aggression against all individuals and groups whom we have
confidently identified as terrorists. These murderers may be in our midst,
or they may be in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Pakistan or the Sudan;
but it is impossible to believe that we cannot find them if we genuinely
wish to find them. President Bush was right to proclaim, moreover, that
"we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these
acts and those who harbored them." Our adversaries are not states, but
they cannot survive or succeed without the support of states. It is time
to raise the costs of such support. (It is also time for the Saudis to
cease their filthy little games.) For pursuing such a policy, we will
assuredly reap more hatred, but only in places where we are already
despised;  and behold what the absence of such a policy has already
reaped.

The fires were still roaring at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
when the air began to fill with alarms about the morality of a serious
campaign against terrorism. David McCullough preached on CNN that "I'm
afraid that it will also mean a curtailing, trimming up some--maybe even
eviscerating of the open society [that] we know." (This is the same man
who is making a mint off an admiring biography of the author of the Alien
and Sedition Acts.) The editorial page of The New York Times warned that
"[t]he temptation will be great in the days ahead to write draconian new
laws that give law enforcement agencies -- or even military forces -- a
right to undermine the civil liberties that shape the character of the
United States." Military forces? The editors of the Times have been
spending too much time at Blockbuster. Who in the American government is
suggesting that we tear up the Constitution or perish? The notion that we
cannot destroy terrorism without destroying liberalism, or that the fight
against terrorists transforms us into terrorists, is bien pensant
demagoguery, and its only effect is to inhibit the already inhibited. Our
security need not be purchased at the price of our scruples. Now we have
been shown that we are not secure. Is there really no significant change
in our national security policy that is warranted by what we have
witnessed? If the charnel house of lower Manhattan changes nothing, then
we will deserve to despise ourselves.

But in truth it is hard to speak of policy when all that fills the mind is
tragedy. The ashes of Manhattan cover the entire land. The pictures wound
and wound and wound. The planes slam every time for the first time, the
buildings fall every time for the first time. Over and over our brothers
and our sisters die. These are the records of a defeat, and of a
derangement of the universe. Eloquence is stupid. We have been
slaughtered. Even if we live in a culture of forgetting, this we must
never forget.

===========================================================================


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