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When we first drafted an anti-war petition in college, we gave a lot of thought to what it should say.  We wanted it to appeal to the widest array of people, without compromising our beliefs.  We decided to keep it simple.  Our petition was only six words: "We oppose the war in Iraq."

Our plan worked like a charm.  In four weeks, we got 2,000 signatures on a campus with 5,000 undergrads.  We didn’t care why you opposed the war, just that you opposed it.  Over the last few years, the anti-war movement has grown in strides in similar fashion.  Millions have added their voices to the movement, united in their opposition to the war regardless of their reason for opposing it.

But along the way, the anti-war movement has lost itself.  Not the anti-war movement that got a foothold six years ago in the run up to the Iraq war, but the one that sprung up seven years ago to oppose the war in Afghanistan.  Today, that anti-war movement has been hijacked by those who oppose the Iraq war only because they think it distracts from the war in Afghanistan.  As someone whose political psyche was born in the fall of 2001, this tears me up, and so I write...

It was the fall of 2002, I was a junior in college, and I lived and breathed the anti-war movement.  Our campus anti-war group was strong and vibrant.  Before the Iraq war even started, we already had 2,000 signatures on an anti-war petition--on a campus with about 5,000 undergrads.  We had over 1,000 people on our email list long before the war turned unpopular.

Yet when I think back to our biggest meeting, it wasn’t in the fall of 2002 or the spring of 2003, right before the start of the Iraq war.  It was in 2001, the week following September 11th.  The whole country rallied together after September 11th.  So too did activists on campus.  We dropped everything and spontaneously came together to demand a just and humane response to a horrific tragedy.  We opposed airstrikes into Afghanistan and warned that they would kill thousands of innocent civilians, put our troops in danger, and ultimately do little to quell terrorism.

We talked about the paradox of a "war on terror" in which we terrorize and massacre innocent civilians for the sake of vengeance.  And we pointed out the absurdity of waging war on a tactic.  Terrorism is, after all, not a political ideology or a religious doctrine or even a military strategy.  It is simply a tactic.  Like shock and awe was a tactic.  We explained, first rationally and then emotionally, that you can’t eliminate terrorism by waging a war against it, because anyone anywhere can carry out a terrorist attack for any reason.

We reasoned that the only way to curtail terrorism is to address the root causes.  And of course, that meant first figuring out what the root causes were.  We rejected the idea that "they hate us for our freedoms."  We railed against the theory that this was a cultural war or a clash of civilizations.  We urged policymakers to look, in this case, no further than Al-Qaeda’s own words to find the true cause.

They had attacked us because of our foreign policy in the Middle East.  A foreign policy that had terrorized Iraqi civilians for a decade through sanctions that killed nearly two million people before this second Iraq war even started.  A foreign policy that had undermined democracy in Iran and propped up the oppressive regime of the Shah.  A foreign policy that championed the Saudi despots.  A foreign policy that had created the power vacuum that brought the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, and that subsequently supported the brutal and oppressive regime that terrorized Afghani civilians.

We told everyone who would listen that the only way to truly root out terrorism was a fundamental shift in our foreign policy.  If ‘we’ stopped terrorizing ‘them’ then ‘they’ would stop terrorizing ‘us’.  Unfortunately, we had a President who responded to terror with a war of terror--one that was and is an act of terror being inflicted on the Afghani civilians, and one that has spawned even more terrorist attacks and inspired more people to turn to that tactic.  President Bush failed to hear the voice of the anti-war movement.  It wouldn’t be the last time.

We all know what happened next.  After a miserable failure of a war in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq.  Our voice was louder this time, but still could not reach the President’s ears.  Over the next few months and years, as it became abundantly clear that the mission could not possibly be accomplished, our voice grew louder and louder, until it was the voice of mainstream America.

But one day, I woke up and realized that this voice--the one that was ringing loud and clear, that was permeating our social fabric, that could be heard on the floors of Congress and in the speeches of our next President, and that was verified by poll after poll after poll--that this voice was not my voice any more.  Because this new voice failed to recognize the fallacy of the war on terror.  It opposed the war in Iraq because it was a distraction from the war on terror; not because it was merely the next phase in our own government’s war of terror.

At the onset, the anti-war movement had been the anti-war-on-terror movement, not the anti-war-in-Iraq-only movement.  And today, as Senator Obama and the Dems proclaim that they will end the war in Iraq so that they can instead turn their attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan, I am once again forced to question the political will of our leaders.  Senator Obama is one of the most intelligent political minds in the history of our country.  If a group of undergrads can see that the war on terror is creating more terrorists than it is eliminating, surely he can too.  But that is a politically inconvenient truth in a country where FOX News still remains a reputable news outlet.

It breaks my heart to hear Senator Obama talk about expanding the war on terror, or refocusing on the war on terror, or even mentioning the "war on terror".  Because it reinforces the notion that anything we have done militarily in the last seven years has in any way, shape, or form, addressed the root causes of terrorism.  In trying to capture one Osama bin Laden, the so-called war on terror is producing new Osama bin Ladens everyday.  Capturing the one will not make a lick of difference any more.  Not until we address the underlying causes.

To the Obama campaign’s credit, in the last two debates, both Senators Obama and Biden have finally begun to talk about some of these underlying issues.  Somewhere in the middle of the talk about bombing Pakistan, they both acknowledged, in their respective debates, that to truly take on terrorism we have to win the people’s hearts and minds, and that means supporting democracy and helping them with governance and their economic well-being, so that their only interaction with us isn’t with our military.

But we must keep in mind that any good will we may build will go out the window the second we bomb them.  Even if their only interaction with us isn’t with our military, as soon as that bomb goes off, for them, it will certainly be their most important interaction with us.

Originally posted to Q without U on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:05 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  War on Terror (0+ / 0-)

    I agree..I am surprised by Obamas stance on the tribal areas and the Pashtun. I hope he does more jawing than bombing..he did speak out for change.

    I read today that Saudi ARabia is beheading more people than one ever mentions Saudi role in the War on Terror..

    Amnesty's report says capital trials are often held secretly and non-Arabic speaking foreign nationals are unable to understand proceedings because they are routinely denied access to a lawyer.

    In some cases, Amnesty says, they have no idea they have even been convicted.
    Six Somalis beheaded this year were only told they were to be killed on the morning of their execution.

    From the BBC.

    Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

    by ohcanada on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:15:08 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bouwerie Boy, Uncle Irish

    I think killing bin Laden and stopping the Taliban are important.  

    Taking war off the table is not an option.  It's bad, but so are fossil fuels.  But we won't stop using them tomorrow or the next day.

    Please realize that the ONLY reason that a candidate as liberal as Obama is (according to my Rethug father he is VERY LIBERAL) will be elected is because he is prepared to say that he will not hesitate to use our military when needed to defend our interests.  Which is what he wants to do in Afghanistan.

    The world we live in is just to complicated to be met with slogans like "Stop all war anywhere."  This evades our responsibility to use our strength when and where appropriate.

    "No way, no how, no Palin war with Russia." --KariQ

    by andrewj54 on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:18:18 PM PDT

    •  Obama is a moderate, not a liberal (0+ / 0-)
      Hence voting for FISAA, the bailout, etc.

      I would say point taken, and that it's too late in the process not to fight, but that moment too has passed, and I think in Iraq and Afghanistan it's too late for everything. Better to take responsibility for the wrongs this nation has committed (hence the Responsible Plan for Iraq) and pull out of both.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:25:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The world we live in and slogans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The world we live in is just to complicated to be met with slogans like "Stop all war anywhere."  This evades our responsibility to use our strength when and where appropriate.

      Agreed.  Also problematic:

      1. Unilateral support for Israel.  Strategically unwise to continue down this road.  The Iraq war was not particularly great for them either.  
      1.  All of the bushisms: they hate us for our freedom, "war on terror," etc.  

      Among other things.

      "We're half awake in a fake empire."

      by Alec82 on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:29:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "They hate us for our freedoms" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    may be the most dangerous lie of all. Because if that's true, then they hate us for who we are, and we're not going to change, so to defend ourselves we have to kill them all. As thereisnospoon has pointed out, the logical end state of our Iraq policy is to genocide.

    Those who hate us do so for what we do. That's something we have some control over.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:20:56 PM PDT

    •  But what if it's true? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, Void Indigo

      What if, as they themselves say, the reason why "they hate us" really is  the liberality and anti-theocracy of post-Enlightenment Western culture? Or, to use their words, the godless degeneracy of it?

      If your only choices are to submit, to die, or to kill, what will you choose?

      None of which should be taken as a defense of Western actions in the Middle East. We've done some awful things, there is no doubt. But what did the Sunni Muslims in Iraq do to the Shi'ite Muslims that justified the bombing of their mosques? What had the Sunni residents of Baghdad done that made them deserving of being bound hand and foot and shot down like dogs in the street?

      All I can figure is that they read the same book the "wrong" way.

      And what about offering millions of dollars for the death of a novelist? Or the killing of innocents in retaliation for the printing of a cartoon? Or blowing up a disco in a country that, the last time they had any role in the Middle East, the bombers fathers and grandfathers supported, and which played no role whatsoever in the nasty things that are claimed to be the cause?

      And as wrongheaded and foolish as our invasion of Iraq was, I don't think we're to blame for the blood orgy that followed Saddam's deposition. I think you'd have seen the same religious (not ethnic) cleansing, the same groups contending for power, the same civil war, had the man dropped dead of a heart attack.

      The country was held together solely by the iron fist. One that fist was gone, no matter how or why it happened, the outcome was as predictable as the breaking of an egg after it falls off the counter.

      There really is no talking to some people. For those who believe that God wants them to kill you, there are only three things you can do. You can kill them, lock them away forever, or reduce them to the level of the guy standing on the street corner holding up a sign saying "The End Is Near!!"

      What if it's true? What do we do about it?


      "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
      "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

      by Leftie Gunner on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 12:25:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reduce them to the level of the street corner (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify, Alec82

        guy, jail the worst ones.

        Seriously though, this is a complex matter and the solutions aren't just simplistic warfare or diplomacy.

        There are socioeconomic factors-- wahabiism, the schools that foment anti american and anti jewish viewpoints, the economic and political tyranny of middle eastern dictatorships, the long standing religious and social outlook of these societies, etc. And oil. And the use of attention getting power of violence of terrorist movements to make their statements. The agendas of these groups someday has to be addressed-- not placated, but addressed, just as it has been in Ireland and other places in history where such movements were changed into more civilized political vote getting entities that came to realize there's more benefit to operating legally than to use violence to advance their grievances and their issues. It's a complex issue that should be tackled by diplomats, generals, and smart politicians, and left forever out of the hands of conniving power mad Neocon nitwits.

        Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

        by doinaheckuvanutjob on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 01:50:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think anyone suggests placating them (0+ / 0-)

          But addressing the problem will probably require the participation of moderate Islamists and foreign policy changes particularly with respect to Israel and evenhandedness, imo.  

          "We're half awake in a fake empire."

          by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 01:52:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  First, I agree on many points (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Q without U

    I'll start with the points where I agree.

    1.  One of the causes of this specific terrorism problem, or more to the point, the ambivalence many Arabs and Muslims have to it in the Middle East and elsewhere, is of course rooted in our abomination of a foreign policy.  
    1. There is much to be said for addressing the root causes.  I believe that putting an end to the Iraq war is of course the first and most important step, at this stage.  You'll note that the Bush administration is even responsive to much of what these various groups object to.  There are no bases in Saudi Arabia.  We can start there.
    1. I believe that terrorism is fundamentally a criminal problem.  That seems to be the proper framework for addressing this issue.  However, that does not mean that forces should be taken out of Afghanistan just yet.  I do have a problem with escalating that conflict.  I'd prefer we come up with some kind of framework for trying the conspirators (and not our sham military commissions).

    Points of disagreement

    1.  Politically, it makes sense to shift the debate to Afghanistan for now.  That has always been an issue, and far more people signed on to the antiwar movement when the administration decided to take us to war in Iraq.  So I understand where Obama is coming from and I support that goal.
    1.  These are also committed ideologues in many cases.  Armed ideologues.  Well financed.  The reorientation of our foreign policy may drop their support levels and erode recruitment efforts, but they are not going to fold simply because we change our foreign policy.  I suggest if you haven't already reading up on bin Laden and the origins of Al Qaeda.  To that end, some role for the military is expected and hard to argue against.  But as I implied above, you don't kill ants with nukes.  A sharper, leaner and meaner strategy is what is called for in the long run.
    1.  Economic growth and assistance is particularly useful in Afghanistan, which has become something of a narcotics state, but most of the terrorists that were recruited for the 9/11 attacks were middle class and fairly well educated.  This is not simply a poverty problem.  Irritation over the lingering impact of the economic sanctions on Iraq pre-2003 probably played a big role in the resentment that drove up recruiting efforts, but US presence in the Middle East and our relationship with Israel is a bigger factor.  I noticed you did not specifically address the Palestinian question, but that must also be resolved.  

    Just my initial thoughts.  Post a tip jar!  I enjoyed your diary a great deal.

    "We're half awake in a fake empire."

    by Alec82 on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:27:13 PM PDT

    •  If treated as criminal matter, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as I think it should, we have serious problems.

      and from the dissent of Justice Gregory of the Fourth Circuit in the Moussaoui case:

      "How to proceed with the prosecution is a matter for the Executive to decide; how to protect the integrity of the criminal proceeding is a matter for the Judiciary."

      Gregory was dissenting from the decision to overturn Judge Brinkema's ruling that summaries of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's and another alleged co-conspirator were not reliable and that the defendant had to be allowed to depose them.

      •  Yes, problems, sure (0+ / 0-)

        I am assuming you mean the absence of the tapes? The problem of forced confessions?

        I'd want those excluded, of course.  I think...I don't KNOW, but I THINK, that the current court might uphold exclusion in the context of criminal proceedings.  Just an off the cuff theory (somewhat informed by a criminal law background).  

        What'd you think of my other points?

        "We're half awake in a fake empire."

        by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 12:02:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Without confessions, is there a case? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Alec82, Q without U

          You assume there is, and you presume guilt.  This is not really compatible with a criminal justice approach.  

          But overall, your points are reasonable and humanistic and your approach would have and could still lead to fewer deaths in Afghanistan.  The problem is that Muslim guilt has always been presumed, but it's to late to take back the vengeance of 2001.

          The Japanese minority parties pushed for more development aid last year, in the context of debate over whether Japan should continue to provide ship refueling assistance to Anglo-American ships in the Indian Ocean.  The refueling assistance passed, but I think Japan is also increasing its development assistance to Afghanistan.

          People did not have time to oppose the Afghanistan campaign, and the political climate for doing so was much worse in the fall of 2001.  But a strong case was made by international law scholars that a reprisal attack was not allowed under international law, and that a criminal justice approach should be taken instead.  I agree with that, and have always opposed both wars.  This is considered extreme by many, but it is not at all.  

          •  I don't think that position extreme (0+ / 0-)

            And I don't actually presume guilt.  Quite the contrary.  I'm assuming that the coordinated flights required coconspirators.  

            I think part of the problem in the fall of 2001, in addition to your point about the political climate, was also the presence of the Taliban, who were, I think, unprepared to negotiate for extradition in good faith.  Of course, I don't really believe that President Bush would have negotiated in good faith at that point either.  Such is life.

            "We're half awake in a fake empire."

            by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 01:05:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I should say.... (0+ / 0-)

            ....I do not presume the guilt of the men charged.  I just think it highly unlikely that the attacks could have been coordinated solely by the pilots.  

            "We're half awake in a fake empire."

            by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 01:07:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I guess, also, let me be more clear (0+ / 0-)

        There will be problems if the tapes are admitted.  Sorry, I finally realized what you were getting at.  The Fourth Circuit has been a mess since the Decider got his judges on that bench.  It is too late in that case, but in future cases I think it will depend on SCOTUS rulings and the policy of Obama's justice department.  

        "We're half awake in a fake empire."

        by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 12:04:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Actually on point 3, I don't think we disagree. (0+ / 0-)

      I agree that poverty isn't the root cause for resentment in the region, and that is actually our foreign policy that is at the heart of the matter.  But that's why I think the Obama campaign has begun to move in the right direction when they start to acknowledge that you cannot eradicate terrorism using a purely military strategy.  At least they are finally starting to admit that the problem is that we won't make them like us any more by bombing them, and that we can't really eradicate terrorism until we repair our reputation in the region.

      On the issue of Israel, as unlikely as it may sound, I just plain forgot to mention it out of habit.  In our anti-war group on campus, people had very differing views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  We reached an uneasy detente by throwing up an artificial wall and agreeing to leave it off the table.  It was another one of the compromises some of us made to allow the group to grow.  But I agree with you wholeheartedly, certainly our unrelenting and unconditional support for Israel is a cornerstone of our foreign policy that does not make us very popular in the region.

  •  I disagree with so much of your viewpoint (0+ / 0-)

    I don't know where to begin.
    Please don't equate our "terrorizing them" with them terrorizing us.  
    Sometimes warfare is an neccesary reality. (Sometimes it's not) No Afghanistan?  Really?  Would you have not fought WW2 as well?  

    just another liberal, anti-American, cutnrun combat veteran

    by Uncle Irish on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:45:51 PM PDT

    •  How do you catch.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      szilard, Q without U

      How do you catch people who are already dead?  The people who committed 9-11 are dead: no one can touch them, capture them, torture them, or kill them.  Sure they got some help from friends, but they (the hijackers) are the ones who are solely responsible.  We can blow up a thousand huts and kill thousands of peasants, but We can never get them.  I suppose that is exactly what they wanted: to ignite a holy war that would pit them vs us.  Well, they got what they wanted...

      •  Well there are coconspirators (0+ / 0-)

        And they should be held accountable.  As I stated upthread, this should have been approached as a criminal matter.  With the use of military force that would be required if necessary.

        We've botched it but we can still pursue the conspirators.  That is completely legitimate.  The wars, on the other hand....

        "We're half awake in a fake empire."

        by Alec82 on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 12:06:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I am not a pacifist. But this was not a just war. (0+ / 0-)

      I am not opposed to all wars.  But even if the goals of a war are just, that does not justify war unless the military engagement can reasonably help attain that goal.  In World War II, our involvement in the war could and did stop a genocidal quest for world domination.  The threat and aggression were coming from an organized military, and we could reasonably presume that if we could stop that military force, then we could eradicate the threat.

      That is the fundamental difference between World War II and the Afghanistan war.  In Afghanistan, there was no reasonable presumption that we could eliminate terrorism by waging war.  Again, as I mentioned before, terrorism, by definition, is not something that can be defeated.  Moreover, numerous scholars predicted and history has shown that our egnagement in Afghanistan has only spawned more terrorism.  If we thought the war was going to eradicate terrorism, we were dead wrong, and we are no safer today than we were on September 10, 2008.

      In fact, it's been pointed out repeatedly that Osama bin Laden likely wanted us to attack Afghanistan and Iraq precisely because it would breed further resentment in the region and fuel more terrorism.  

      So even if you concede that we had the just goal of eliminating terrorism (which is debatable, since I think the reason for going to war was as much politics and vengeance as anything else), the war was not justified because it couldn't possibly help attain that goal.

  •  I think your petition should have (0+ / 0-)

    stated We Oppose War.  Seems more inline with your beliefs. The war on terror to me is a broad based statement. Eliminate the immediate military/terrorist threat ie training bases for terrorism and a government that supports them in Afghanistan then win their hearts and minds.  

    I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. Will Rogers

    by thestructureguy on Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 11:52:14 PM PDT

  •  the anti-war "movement" whatever it is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    castrated itself when it threw its lot in with the pro-war democrats in 2006, and then refused to demand nothing more than vague platitudes from the pres. candidates in 2008.

    I also do not think you're going to find much sympathy here for being against an expansion of the war in south asia.  In my experience, most democrats support ratcheting up the imperial war in afghanistan and pakistan.  There never has been anything "anti-war" about the democratic party.

  •  There will be time to do the right thing .. (0+ / 0-)

    but now is not it .. we have to delouse the country's power structures from fascists first!! find out where that  Anthrax really came from .. perhaps work on media ownership rules ... until then we are screwed!!

    Real News Daily - !

    by egyinny on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 04:47:56 AM PDT

  •  Cringe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Q without U

    I agree entirely, Q. Every time that Obama starts in on bombing Pakistan, I feel like we're back in that week after September 11th.

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