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The War Comes Home

Hello, all. I suspect that, even though you are a bit more removed from the 
events of yesterday than those of us in the United States, that you are 
having to deal with the same issues.

The peace movement here has moved quickly and courageously to try to put 
out some counteractive to the incredible drive for indiscriminate vengeance 
we are seeing all over TV and the newspapers.

Here is my perspective, published on Common Dreams, our main progressive 
website for breaking news and analysis.

In solidarity,

Rahul Mahajan

The War Comes Home

The war that the United States has been waging against the nonwhite peoples 
of the world for over half a century came home yesterday.

Nothing does, nothing can, justify the brutal terror attack that may have 
killed thousands of innocent civilians. It is a crime against humanity of 
the highest order, and the sympathies of all right-thinking people must be 
with the families of the victims.

But we must understand what led to it, and draw the right lessons from it, 
or as Santayana suggested, we may be condemned to relive it.

Let us not pretend that this was the only harvest in history that was never 

The main practitioner of attacks that either deliberately target civilians 
or are so indiscriminate that it makes no difference, is no shadowy Middle 
Eastern terrorist, but our own government.

Where was the justified rage of commentators, analysts, and talking heads 
when the United States attacked civilians on a massive scale during the 
Gulf War, even referring to Basra, a city of 800,000, as a "military 
target." Where was it when they deliberately destroyed the water treatment 
systems of the country, and then spent ten years carefully rationing the 
chlorine needed to treat the water and the medicines that could be used to 
fight an explosion of water-borne disease, while over 1 million Iraqi 
civilians died?

Where was it when the U.S. invaded Panama, in blatant violation of 
international law, shelled a lower-class civilian neighborhood of Panama 
City for hours, broadcasting commands for the people to surrender in 
English, not Spanish, and then bulldozed most of the estimated four 
thousand (mostly civilian) dead into unmarked mass graves?

Or during Guatemala's genocidal dirty war against the indigenous Mayan 
population, inaugurated after a CIA-sponsored military coup in 1954, and 
supported by the United States through the 1980's, which killed a quarter 
of a million people? When the United States financed an army of thugs to 
rape, torture, and murder innocent peasants in Nicaragua whose only crime 
was that they wanted to control their own lives?

When NATO destroyed the civilian infrastructure of Serbia? When, on 
hundreds of different occasions since December 1998, U.S. planes dropped 
bombs on Iraq?

None of these victimizations of innocent people in other countries by our 
government justifies the victimization of innocent Americans by any foreign 
agency (and we must remember that as yet there is no conclusive evidence 
about who committed these atrocities). But they do help to explain the 
anger many people feel against the United States, and the symbols of its power.

Everybody (so it seems) is beating the drums of war, in a way we have not 
seen in this country since the much-referred-to attack on Pearl Harbor. 
George W. Bush, in his speech to the nation yesterday, said "We will make 
no distinction between the terrorists who committed these attacks and those 
who harbor them," suggesting that retaliation will not only be swift and 
severe but indiscriminate, that it will involve targeting the innocent 
citizens of the country from which the perpetrators happened to plan this 

Unfortunately, it seems that most Americans are choosing to learn the wrong 
lessons from this. Instead of learning that the imperial fantasies of being 
able to destroy entire countries without incurring a single American 
casualty, of being able to antagonize half the world and somehow assure 
complete safety by intelligence operations have crumbled when brought into 
contact with reality, they have decided that what we really need is more of 
a failed and completely untenable policy.

In this Orwellian world we have lived in for almost six decades, we have 
internalized the debasement of language so thoroughly that we rarely 
question it. We have spent all that time being told, and thinking, that 
"national security" is imperiled by Cubans' desire to live free of external 
domination, by anything that threatens U.S. corporate profits, that it is 
something that has to do with the ability of our government and our 
corporations to control the rest of the world.

Now, confronted with the first significant real threat to national security 
in a long time, we should finally be able to see that our genuine security 
is not enhanced by military aggression against other countries, by buildup 
of expensive military equipment that could not possibly have helped against 
an attack like this, or by attempts at total economic domination of the 
Third World.

Massive retaliation will just keep us locked in a cycle of violence. We 
have come to the sharp limits of the security that can come from the boot 
on the neck, and must, if we are to be secure, try what can come from the 
open hand.

Mutual disarmament and peace based on global justice are the only way. Let 
us be first in peace as we have been first in war for so long.

Rahul Mahajan is an antiwar activist. He serves on the National Board of 
Peace Action and the Coordinating Committee of the National Network to End 
the War Against Iraq. (Identification only). He can be reached at

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