On Ending Terrorism

Since September 11th, the progressive movement has been on the
defensive. But times are changing. The mushrooming Enron scandal;
European criticism of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo; the
U.S.’s inability to apprehend Bin Laden or Mullah Omar, either dead or
alive; recession and rising unemployment; Cheney’s refusal to release
information about his energy task force: all of these developments
have put the Bush oil-and-war-men on the defensive.

It’s time for us to come forward with a political counter-offensive,
visible activism, outreach and outspokenness, through such activity as
the April 20th demonstration in Washington, D.C. initiated by the
National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, forthright peace and
justice electoral campaigns and other campaigns.

In order to be most effective in this counter-offensive, we need to be
able to directly address the issue of terrorism. By “terrorism” I mean
the deliberate and organized use of force or violence against innocent
civilians to advance a political, economic, religious or social
agenda, engaged in by either governments, organizations or individuals.

What is an affirmative approach to combating this problem, doing so in
a way that can move us in the direction of a truly new world?

First, as far as Al Qaeda in particular, there is an approach which
could have been used that probably would have been more productive,
certainly in the long-term and possibly in the short-term.
Such an approach would have involved intensive but respectful
diplomacy; drying up Al Qaeda financial support–which especially
means getting tough on the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda’s primary
backers; policy changes vis a vis Israel/Palestine and Iraq; serious
support to the more democratic and non-warlord-controlled opposition
groups in Afghanistan; and limited military/police action in
Afghanistan to arrest Al Qaeda leaders as necessary following
broad-based international support for such action. As distinct from
the Bush/Cheney adminstration’s opposition, we should support the
establishment of an International Criminal Court to bring to justice
those accused of crimes such as the 9-11 attacks.

Second, we need to investigate the failure of U.S. intelligence
agencies on September 11th. What was behind the resignation of John
O’Neil, former Deputy Director of the FBI in charge of investigating
Al Qaeda, two weeks before September 11th? He is quoted in a book
published in France as saying, “the main obstacles to investigating
Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and role played
by Saudi Arabia in it.”

What about a whole series of reports indicating that there was at
least some prior knowledge on the government’s part of “something big”
about to happen and little being done about these warnings? Is it
true, as has been circulating on the internet, that a top intelligence
official made a lot of money through the buying and selling of airline
stocks just before and on September 11th? Are our intelligence
agencies too tied in to multinational corporations such that their “intelligence” work is compromised or worse?

We need government agencies that are about “intelligence” that truly
defends us against groups like Al Qaeda using intelligence information
for the advancement of human rights and human progress, not corporate
power and wealth.

Third, we need to get serious about the development of alternative
energy sources so that we will not be dependent upon Middle East oil.
This would play a major role in helping to reverse the global warming
crisis. Jim Hightower and Senator John Kerry are among those who have
recently called for this approach as an essential aspect of post-9-11 government policy. In Hightower’s words, we should “enlist our very
best scientists in a crash program. . . to resolve any remaining
technological impediments to the mass use of fuel cells, biomass,
solar, wind, geo-thermal and other abundant, clean and cheap energy
sources.” In 1992 Presidential candidate Jerry Brown called for a
crusade to weatherize our buildings and homes and make them much more
energy-efficient. Hightower again: “The simple steps of common-sense
conservation are proven solutions that can cut America’s electricity
use in half and cut consumers’ utility bills by a total of $17 billion
a month! Doing this job will put hundreds of thousands of our people
to work, putting badly needed paychecks into the grassroots economy
and instantly lifting our nation from recession to recovery.” We
should take money out of the Pentagon budget and put it instead into
improving and strengthening our railroads, subway and bus systems and
other forms of mass transportation so that this becomes an economical
and attractive option for those who drive cars.

Fourth, as we take these steps, we have no reason to continue
supporting corrupt, sexist or racist, undemocratic and repressive
regimes throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Instead of support
to the Saudi Arabian regime, we can tell them that they either move to
democratize their country and provide for basic civil and human rights
for women, or they can expect no more such support. In cooperation
with the United Nations we can end the economic sanctions on Iraq that
are the primary reason why somewhere between one-half and one million
children have died in the 11 years since the Gulf War. We can take an
even-handed approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict, opposing acts
of terror from both sides, calling for Israel to end its illegal,
35-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and abandon its
settlements, and supporting a two- state solution as the only viable,
immediate answer to this escalating crisis. We can be the leader in the provision of financial and human support for Afghanistan’s
reconstruction, doing so in a way which respects their right to
self-determination and not acting in a neo- colonialist, “ugly
American” way.

Fifth, we should get serious about the demilitarization of the world,
beginning here at home. We should not abandon the ABM treaty, and we
should terminate the ridiculous, wasteful and destabilizing efforts to
create a so-called “missile defense” system. No weapons or nuclear
power in space. We should move towards a reduction of the U.S.war
budget with a goal of cutting it in half by 2010, with us taking the
first steps but increasingly making reductions in cooperation with
other countries, challenging them to follow our lead. We need to stop
pushing more and more lethal and expensive weapons systems onto other
countries, increasing the profits of war corporations but making the
world a poorer and more dangerous place. We should develop a plan for
conversion of war industry to peacetime uses and a program to provide
new jobs at comparable income for all workers and soldiers displaced
by demilitarization.

Sixth, we must live up to our democratic ideals and principles that
have never been fully implemented and which are clearly even more at
risk because of the sham “war on terrorism.” We must roll back the USA
Patriot Act with its expansion of the ability of the FBI, CIA and
other government agencies to eavesdrop, snoop and secretly investigate
those they choose to go after without any court authorization. There
should be open, public, Congressional hearings– something which did
not happen prior to the passage of the Patriot Act–into this question
of what additional tools should be provided to law enforcement
agencies to deal with the threat from Al Qaeda or any similar groups.
Congress must assert its oversight role as far as war powers and
policy, not give a blank check to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to do
whatever they wish anywhere in the world. No secret military
tribunals. No racial profiling, and firm action against police
brutality. There must be due process rights, including access to
family members and lawyers, for those “disappeared” into prison as a
result of 9-11.

And if we are truly serious about democracy, the two-party, big-
money-dominated, winner-take-all electoral system must undergo a
fundamental transformation. We need “clean money” elections, the
election of legislative bodies using proportional representation, and
the use of preference/instant runoff voting in elections for a single

Finally, and as the pro-corporate World Economic Forum is about to
convene at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, our country must turn
away from what is called “free trade” and instead embrace “fair trade”
and economic and social justice as the ultimate, long-term answer to
terrorism. NAFTA, GATT, the IMF, the World Bank, the FTAA, the
WTO: all of these U.S.-controlled or heavily influenced trade and
finance entities and treaties are about the ever-increasing dominance
of huge, dictatorial, destructive corporations over more and more
aspects of life for people all over the world. Millions have already
demonstrated or taken action in a variety of ways to oppose these
processes. The vast, overwhelming super-majority of those actions have
been non-violent, certainly non-terrorist. We must continue to build
this movement. It is the only hope for an end to all forms of
terrorism, government, organizational and individual. We must stop our
government from engaging in and supporting repressive, militaristic
activity that furthers injustice and corporate profiteering.
We need an affirmative program to redistribute wealth and power,
including anti-speculation taxes and wealth taxes on millionaires and
billionaires. We should support the call for reparations emerging from
the United Nations International Conference on Racism in Durban, South
Africa just a few days before September 11th. We must remove the
desperate conditions of life which are the soil from which the
terrorism of the powerless grows.

The responsibility is on us, those of us who clearly understand the
dangers facing our country and our world because of the Bush-oil-
and-war men and an opportunistic national Democratic Party that
continues to be virtually unanimous in its support of the sham “war on
terrorism.” Their militaristic war is only breeding more terrorism,
and it’s subverting what democracy we still have left. It’s time for us to come forward, loud and clear.