A PROGRESSIVE RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
BY YIFAT SUSSKIND,
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, MADRE
Throughout the United
States, people are feeling shock, grief and anger after the September
11 attacks in New York and Washington, DC. But even as we struggle with
these emotions, we must continue to think critically, to move beyond
the buzzwords of the mainstream media and to work with others in our
communities to formulate progressive responses to the crisis.
Bush has made it clear that the US will retaliate with military force.
But more violence will not break the cycle of bloodshed, nor will it
lessen the destruction and loss of life in New York and Washington.
The US historical record is full of misguided retaliatory attacks, such
as the 1986 bombing of Libya, which only succeeded in killing dozens
of civilians and the 1997 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant
that manufactured most of that impoverished country's antibiotics and
vaccines. The only aim served by a military response is revenge. And
what's needed now is not vengeance, but justice.
In recent years,
the international human rights movement has strengthened its mechanisms
for addressing crimes against humanity such as this week's attacks.
A process to investigate, try and punish the perpetrators of these bombings
should be pursued through international courts, not through acts of
war by the United States. Those of us concerned with justice -- for
the victims of these attacks and for people worldwide -- must work to
ensure that any US response respects international human rights standards
and civil liberties at home.
THE RACIST BACKLASH
that after the Oklahoma City bombing, authorities presumed that the
bombers were from the Middle East. Dozens of Arabs and Arab Americans
were persecuted and harassed before the culprits were discovered to
be white Americans. This time, too, speculation was immediately directed
at Muslim and Arab groups. Random assaults against these communities
in the US began only hours after the attacks in the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. These racist assaults must be condemned and opposed.
Given that nearly
all public debate assumes that the bombings were orchestrated abroad,
we need to be able to participate constructively in this debate.
thousands of corporate media reports that have aired since the first
explosion hit, a most fundamental question has been largely ignored:
Why would people want to wage this attack against the United States?
The question goes unasked by mass media because it suggests that there
might be reasons for the rage and resentment that must have fueled these
acts. Reasons do not imply justification, but in the US, even posing
the question is taboo.
Instead, we have
been bombarded with buzzwords and ideological nonsense. President Bush
informed us that we are under attack "because we love freedom and
prosperity." In all likelihood, we are under attack because US
policies have denied freedom and prosperity (and even subsistence) to
millions of people around the world.
Consider the historical
record: Since World War II, the US has bombed 26 different countries.
Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, the US killed more than two million
people in Southeast Asia and supported death squads across Central America,
including a policy of genocide in Guatemala. Ten years of US bombing
and sanctions against Iraq have left more than a million people dead,
including 500,000 children. Successive US administrations have commandeered
the oil resources of the Middle East, leaving most people impoverished
and suffering under authoritarian regimes. The US provides the funds
and political backing for Israel's 34-year illegal occupation of Palestinian
land and gives diplomatic cover to Israeli human rights violations.
The United States
is the biggest arms dealer in the world, supplying weapons that are
aimed mainly at civilian populations. US economic policies have caused
a sharp rise in poverty and inequality around the world, while lining
the pockets of US corporations. And since George W. Bush came to power,
US arrogance and militarism have increased dramatically. Nothing justifies
arbitrary attacks against civilians, whether in New York and Washington
or in Baghdad and Belgrade. Defending this principle entails an honest
appraisal of the underlying reasons for such attacks.
DANCING IN THE
the US are angered over media images of Palestinians in the West Bank
celebrating the bombings. It is important to understand that this callous
response is a minority reaction. Any attempt to characterize Palestinians
in general as gleeful about the attacks is irresponsible and disingenuous.
It is also important to understand that this small minority is not celebrating
the pain and suffering of the victims, but rather, the destruction of
the centers and symbols of US economic and military might.
FOR MOVING FORWARD
- These attacks
are a golden opportunity for the Bush Administration to pump up military
spending and justify unbridled US militarism and hawkishness in the
name of "national security." We must not let the bombings
reinforce a political culture of reactionary "Americanism"
and war-mongering. These politics of destruction will perpetuate
violence around the world. Moreover, US national security is only
undermined by policies that cause suffering to others.
- As grief and
shock give way to anger and a desire for revenge, we will surely see
more arbitrary and racist assaults against Muslims and Arab Americans.
We need to oppose attacks against minority and immigrant communities
and fight racism in our communities as well as in US foreign policy.
when the US government has perceived itself to be under attack, civil
liberties have been restricted. Right-wing pundits have already begun
blaming "liberals" for inviting these attacks by undermining
America. Now more than ever, it is imperative to protect dissent
and defend people's rights to criticize government policy.
- Finally, as we
process these horrifying events with family, friends and others in
our communities, let's work to imagine responses -- both from the
Bush Administration and from one another -- that might actually promote
peace and justice around the world, instead of generating more destruction.
© MADRE, Inc.
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