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"War Thoughts"

     The media attached the label, "Attack on America," to the
horrors of September 11 last month, and the name stuck.  Most
citizens of the U.S. are unaware that the name "America" is
imprecise, referring to everything from Tierra del Fuego to the
Arctic Ocean.  But it's our hemisphere, it is generally assumed,
and "Attack on the United Stated of America" doesn't trip off the
tongue quite so easily.
     We spent several days in a sort of stupor, watching the
images, imagining what we couldn't see underneath the collapsed
towers, and marveling at the courage and sacrifice of fire-
fighters and other rescue workers.  
     A TV anchor interviewed a roomful of children.  The most
poignant moment came when a little girl, no more than eight years
old, asked plaintively, "Why do they hate us so?  What did we do
to them?"
     The TV anchor had an opportunity to deliver a history lesson
to that little girl, and to millions of viewers who share her
puzzlement, but he sidestepped the opportunity.  Here is a little
of what he could have said:
     The U.S. has been at war with the poor people of the world
for the past fifty years.  Without looking up in any reference
book, nineteen countries come to mind, where the U.S. has
interfered violently, sometimes extremely violently, beginning
with Iran in 1953, just as the Korean War was stopped.  In Iran
we deposed and murdered the elected president, Mohammed
Mossadegh, and replaced him with a king, called The Shah.  From
there the process continued.  In Guatemala we murdered the
elected president, Ricardo Arbenz, and installed a puppet of the
United Fruit Company. In The Congo we murdered the elected
president, Patrice Lamumba, and installed a puppet of mining and
tropical lumber companies. 
     We invaded Cuba, trying to remove the Cuban Revolution.  The
failure has made our government the enemy of Cuba ever since.
     We waged horribly violent, anti-personnel war in Vietnam,
Laos and Cambodia, killing millions.
     We "de-stabilized" Angola, Mozambique and East Timor, as
they became independent of Portugal.  Millions were killed
because of our interference.
     We murdered the elected president of Chile, Salvador
Allende, and replaced him with a mass murderer, who represented
the rich against the poor.
     We sponsored death squads for decades in El Salvador,
killing the poor in order to protect the oligarchy.  We waged
horribly violent war in Nicaragua, including rape and murder of 
nurses and teachers, in order to remove the Sandinista movement 
which represented the people against the wealthy.
     None of this is in the school text books.  Eight-year-olds
don't remember the bombardment of Iraq in 1991, and are unaware
of how many children die every day because of sanctions still in
place.  The U.S. bombings of Sudan, Afghanistan and Serbia may
have been something they heard of, but it's not likely.  The 
newscasts are so violent, truncated and unexplained as they are, 
that many parents regard them as obscene and not fit for viewing 
by children.
     Most of the world's people have the impression that the U.S.
has decided that it is common not-rich people who need to be put
down and/or killed.
     Now the U.S. is on the brink of a new war.  Before declaring
this new war, against "terrorism," we should first stop the war we
have been engaged in for so long.  Quit -- just simply quit
altogether, as we did in Vietnam, finally.  We should surrender,
or at least admit defeat publicly, which we never really did in
Vietnam.  We need to renounce that war against the poor people of
the world, and begin the considerable task of reparations.
     As for terrorism our government needs to be careful about
producing the kind of desperation that leads to a willingness to
be a suicide bomber.  No one should become that desperate, but in
the past fifty years our government has been neglectful in this
department, allowing an astonishing amount of hatred to build up. 
Greed, ideology and our decision to try to make our unfair
advantages permanent have bred much desperation.
     We also need to keep in mind the American tendency to
underestimate those selected as "the enemy."  We did it to a
marvelous degree in Vietnam, where teen-agers in black pajamas
with antiquated weapons defeated the best armaments and the best-
trained and best-intentioned soldiers we could produce.
     If we decide on a land war in Afghanistan, we may regret it. 
In Vietnam the enemy were Buddhists who tended to be pacifists,
until grossly provoked.  The Afghans may be the second poorest
nation on earth, but they have no pacifist tendencies.  Their
traditions are warlike and ruthless, tending toward cruelty. 
Quagmire won't be quite the right word for it, but it will be
long-lasting and extremely unpleasant.

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Copyright © 2001 Harry Willson

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