A Couple Thoughts on the “War on Terror”

“Freedom was attacked today, and freedom will be defended.”

So said George W. Bush on September 11th, 2001. It struck me then, and still strikes me today, as fundamentally wrong.

“Freedom” was not attacked that day; symbols of American economic and military dominance were attacked. Power was attacked that day, not “freedom.”

Bush’s War on Terror was and is a huge mistake, and needs to be declared null and void. Responding to the attacks of September 11th as if they were an act of war, and not a criminal act, is giving Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden  precisely what they want; legitimacy as “holy warriors” when they only deserve infamy as brutal criminals. They need to be opposed with skilled international policing, not a big, stupid, endless “war.”

More on all that in my next post.

<rant on>

But there is one other thing I want to say, regardless of the above. May I be blunt, here? The American right seriously needs to get a pair. Begging the government to torture people who frighten you doesn’t make you a tough, clear-eyed realist; it makes you a bed-wetting, sniveling coward who dishonors every brave American who fought to obliterate and bring to justice Hitler’s torture brigades and the rapists of Nanking.

Look — It used to be that Americans defined their enemies as Those Who Torture:

 

I mean, really: What is the big, unprecedented deal about Al Qaeda anyway? Yes, 9/11/01 sucked, and I’d definitely rather not go through that again. That said: the extremist criminals killed just under 3000 people that day, and destroyed or damaged under 20 buildings and 4 aircraft. That was bad, no argument there…but “an enemy unlike any other”??! Pull yourselves together.

Worse than the Civil War (a million killed and wounded)??

Worse than World War II? (Somewhere between 45 and 60 million total killed, including up to 11 million gassed, hanged and machine-gunned by the Nazis and Japanese, and virtually every city in central Europe and East Asia reduced to lego-sized, smouldering fragments?)

Worse than The Cold War? I mean, think about this for a second: the United States spent 40-odd years under the constant threat of having the entire country vaporized by ruthless, amoral totalitarian atheists who had publicly and repeatedly vowed our destruction.

And now you’re begging the government to torture people whose most recent attack amounted to some pathetic, deluded criminal failing to detonate his underwear?

Your childish, pants-wetting cowardice would be funny in a pitiable sort of way, except for the fact that you’ve convinced so many of my fellow Americans that Torturing People Is The Only Way To Defeat The Magically Powerful Terrorists. No, that’s not funny at all: it fills me with  shame, but also righteous rage. Osama is laughing in whatever cave he’s holed up in.

Oh – and the “Greatest Generation” you fetishize? You dishonor them with your pitiful cowardice. The ghosts of those who fell on a thousand battlefields (who, by the way,  were really, actually Defending Freedom) have every reason to be ashamed of you.

</rant off>

About Matt Talbot
  • phosphorious

    And now we can’t try KSM in NYC. . . because we would become a target!!

    The right has some very peculiar ideas about “courage.”

  • Rodak

    “Magically Powerful Terrorists”–that is just exactly IT. Matt, your rant is the first piece that I’ve read that says exactly what I believe to be the truth about the “War on Terror.” The only thing that I might add–or maybe differ with you on–is that in addition to abusing our power, whether with military might or economic clout, these people believe that we are polluting their culture and threatening their religion. And they take their religion and their culture very seriously. They don’t want their kids watching our dirty movies and listening to our vulgar music. And we should respect that. They are not obliged to live like we live. That is not freedom when it is not wanted.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    9/11 was a “godsend” for Bush & Co. What better carte blanche could there be for politics-corporations-military than a war without the possibility of an end ? Anything goes! Heck, they even managed to drag Iraq into it – the gold/oil rush that was planned just didn’t happen.

    I always say that every time some idiot tries to pull another stunt aboard a plane we’ll be forced to perform new stupid pet tricks in security – for all eternity. I bet that’s the true purpose of shoe and underpants bombers. In Europe, they at least don’t make you take off your shoes in most places I’ve flown from. How afraid can you be ? The chances of dying are so much slimmer than in, say, everyday traffic. Imagine this scrutiny in other areas of life.

    Matt, the poster is very interesting – the US used to pride itself on not torturing – in much worse situations, no less. As far as “regular war”, in this case WW II, is concerned, it’s not that clear cut good/evil. The Allied military actions were very much like the Axis’. Purposely bombing,(or, in the American case, nuking) civilians is no claim to fame. The house across the street from my grandparents’ was flattened by an Allied bomb, eg, no military target anywhere near. A little off and I wouldn’t even be here. “Total war” on both sides.

    I agree, freedom wasn’t attacked. The main freedoms here in the US are
    – freedom to get screwed by employers, insurance companies, banks and the like
    – freedom to complain about the above mentioned things

    If freedom were the target, Austria would be a much likelier target. People enjoy greater freedom from corporate abuse, are free from being fired while pregnant, free from “pre-existing conditions” etc.

    “They” don’t hate the USA because it’s “free”, “they” hate it because its military and corporate minions are over there. The hatred toward Canada is rather miniscule, eh ?

    In general, once an American president declares a “war on XYZ”, you know that things are going straight to hell. “War on drugs” – another great success, for crime syndicates. Handling it rationally cannot be expected from most state governments. Heck, one could eliminate related crime and tax sales – Matt, you’re in NorCal, too, know Harborside Health *? 😉 Imagine that around the country instead of overcrowded prisons. AK-47 strain instead of AK-47 guns.

    *The Shangri-La of Cannabis dispensaries

  • alex martin

    ‘Symbols’ were not attacked. People were attacked and died. While I may agree with the larger sentiment of your post, do not diminish the deaths of some 3,000 people by claiming symbols were attacked.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      I merely meant that the targets were selected because they were symbols of American power – I wasn’t trying to deny that people died, Alex.

  • http://www.catholicanarchy.org Michael J. Iafrate

    Excellent, dead-on, post!

  • phosphorious

    ‘Symbols’ were not attacked. People were attacked and died. While I may agree with the larger sentiment of your post, do not diminish the deaths of some 3,000 people by claiming symbols were attacked.

    Red Herring.

    We all know that people died that day. It is one of the insidious presuppositions of the conservative right that anyone who is against the Iraqi invasion, or waterboarding, or Guantanamo or any aspect of the Global War On Terror, has “forgotten the victims of 9/11.”

    The point is that in all the hysterical fear mongering of the Bush years, it is exactly the conservative right in this country that has forgotten that thousands of Americans were killed, and they deserve something like justice.

    If that had been the guiding principle of the Bush administration, his presidency wouldn’t have been the failure that it was.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    By his own standards, Bush would have had to declare war on his own government. WMDs, state-sponsored terrorism, you name it. Bin Laden just doesn’t have the same kind of marketing department.

  • http://christopherblosser.blogspot.com Christohper

    On torture — ditto (I agree). But as to simply treating 9/11 as an isolated criminal action — and not part and parcel of a long war, I would recommend a reading of Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      Chris – I don’t think of 9/11 as being “an isolated criminal action” – it was the result of a criminal conspiracy planned and implemented by dangerous, organized men, who mean to do the United States further harm if permitted to. It calls for a response – and given the scope of his reach, a big one. I think that response should be, and should be presented as, far more diverse and holistic than the response has been up to now. Giving Osama a “War” increases his credibility in the eyes of people whose opinion he cares about. Treating him, and more importantly describing him, as a criminal will decrease his stature, and the stature of his movement.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    The current “response” by the US does the recruiting for Al Qaeda.

    I came across an interesting tidbit in a book about the Crusades by Zoe Oldenburg today. On the first crusade, Muslims desecrated crosses/crucifixes in mocking, obscene etc ways. This greatly incensed and motivated the Crusaders. A millennium later, the situation is reversed. The constant is that there are religious extremists on both sides then and now. Mormons dreaming of converting Iraq, evangelicals embracing Israel hoping Jesus will come back (imagine a president Palin)…

    In a fight between the American system and radical Islam there really shouldn’t be a winner.

  • Chris C.

    IMO, not a good post. Unworthy of a faithful Catholic endeavoring to contribute to the common good. Any way to make the same points in a spirit of charity, perhaps with at least some reference to Church teaching?
    By the way if memory serves,the late Holy Father Pope John Paul 2 had no criticism to offer of the US military action in Afghanistan after 9/11.
    God Bless.

  • http://www.catholicpeacemaking.com Nate Wildermuth

    Hundreds of thousands of people have died of suicide in America over the last decade. Yet we don’t declare a war on suicide. Same thing with traffic accidents.

    When you trip and fall and break your nose, you don’t declare war on the sidewalk and bust it up with a jackhammer. But if someone trips you and you bruise your little toe, and he just laughs at you and makes faces and pushes you a little again . . . you go nuts.

    There’s something about it being ‘personal’ that makes us more upset about the evil that we suffer.

  • http://kylecupp.com Kyle R. Cupp

    You just don’t get it, Matt. 9/11 changed everything.

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    “Bush’s War on Terror was and is a huge mistake, and needs to be declared null and void. Responding to the attacks of September 11th as if they were an act of war, and not a criminal act, is giving Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden precisely what they want; legitimacy as “holy warriors” when they only deserve infamy as brutal criminals. They need to be opposed with skilled international policing, not a big, stupid, endless “war.””

    This is not the Buhs War on Terror and it’s even not the now Obama war on terror. It is the United States War on Terror. I see few elected Democrats that asking that the Drone attacks in Pakistan stop or that American Special forces and other operations stop.

    I never get this International Policing and treat this as some legal thing. How are the FBI and Interpol going to to go into Somollia and Pakistand and Afghanistan and other places and slap the cuffs on these guys.

    Hitler was in many ways a criminal too. However we did not give the job of getting rid of him to J Edgar Hoover.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      This is not the Bush War on Terror and it’s even not the now Obama war on terror. It is the United States War on Terror. I see few elected Democrats that asking that the Drone attacks in Pakistan stop or that American Special forces and other operations stop.

      I never get this International Policing and treat this as some legal thing. How are the FBI and Interpol going to to go into Somalia and Pakistan and Afghanistan and other places and slap the cuffs on these guys.

      In situations where the assistance of the military is needed (such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and so on) then they assist law enforcement with bringing criminals to justice – but it needs to be law enforcement in the lead.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      Hitler was in many ways a criminal too. However we did not give the job of getting rid of him to J Edgar Hoover.

      In what possible sense are Hitler’s Germany and Osama Bin Laden’s bunch of criminals in any way comparable?

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    ” I think that response should be, and should be presented as, far more diverse and holistic than the response has been up to now”

    Well I think in many regards it has. It is not a either or here. It is amilitary and Law enforecemt action. It also involves foreign aid and also tries to engage more moderate regimes that are in Islamic in focus.

    In fact besides of the Humantarian reasons one reason the Bush administrations was spending so much time as to their Africa policy was because of the recognition that instability caused by aids, hunger, and other issues caused a vacummn where there terroist could operate and assume power.

    So I think this war has been fought on many fronts and not just by the military

  • digbydolben

    Yes, Kyle R. Cupp, 9/11 probably DID “change everything”: it brought to bear Ben Franklin’s prediction–that America would not forever be able to keep its representative democracy.

    Franklin also said that folks who valued “security” more than “their freedom” “deserved NEITHER.”

    In writing what he has written Matt Talbot shows himself to be a genuine heir to his ancestors’ convictions, while you show yourself to be the appropriately craven subject of a totalitarian system.

  • http://kylecupp.com Kyle R. Cupp

    … you show yourself to be the appropriately craven subject of a totalitarian system.

    I don’t ask for much, digbydolben, just an all powerful mega-state run by my tribe that will keep me safe from all evil and give me the proper thoughts and narratives so that I can go to sleep each night comforted that my endless state of fear has a legitimate basis.