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Dear Eric, CASI subscribers,

> These attackers have over 280 million Americans enraged and
> completely unwilling to listen to anyone.

This point is significant, and already a bad starting place for any kind of
political action. Retaliation is due, surely, but unless focussed and
targetted will only exacerbate matters. Cancers are removed with careful
surgery and precision instruments, not mallets.

One central issue in the posting from the ex-US armed forces member is that
he merges two distinct issues; that of 'retaliation' and that of
'understanding.' In both cases, a distinction is drawn between the action of
the US and the actions of the World Trade Centre Terrorists... I use the
word in uppercase to denote the gravity of their actions and the abhorrence
I feel at the damage done on Tuesday. [I should also add that obliquely
questioning people's sincerity when they decry recent events is a fruitless
and singularly cruel exercise, and should best be avoided.]

The term 'Understanding' is being used in the empathic sense, rather than in
the rational. The act of understanding (I will denote my use of the term in
lowercase, to avoid confusion) is an attempt at deteminism, and in no way
implies legitimising the action. It should, perhaps, be added that the
*perceived aggrievances* of the Terrorists should be analysed, whether or
not they be considered legitimate.

On the question of understanding, I raise the point that that the act as
being treated as a moral evil WITHIN ITSELF, without the assessment of any
external factors (ie the perceived aggrievances of the perpetrators.) By
this logic, surely the bombardment of Afghans, or other third parties would
become a moral evil in the same sense? This is without even noting that the
mass bombardment of people not directly responsible for there people's
aggrievances is morally the same as destroying the WTC. Presumably it was
antagonism arising from US foreign policy that led to the barbarism of this
act, yet the government was not targetted in any focal sense- a large,
public structure was. Is this so different from attacking Afghans in order
to oust bin Laden? Those guilty should be punished; targetting those outside
that group is -formally - an act of terrorism, intended to terror peripheral
individuals into giving up those directly responsible.

The question of retaliation merges with the question of understanding, at
least in the sense that analysing the mindset of the Terrorists is necessary
to suggest that they were retaliating. The term 'just war' is used -

> Retaliation is a component of Just War, and self-defense is morally

As reprehensible as the logic behind the WTC atack is, presumably it was -
in the mind of the Terrorists- a perceived retaliation? Yet, there is a
cruel dualism in the way US retaliation is being treated - it is accepted
that 'people will die' in the return attacks, but less significance is
placed on those lives. What is to be made of this? That these deaths are
somehow morally justified by the fact that the attack is retaliatory in
nature? Or that the lives of non-US citizens, or Arabs, or Asians are
intrinsically less important than the lives taken on Tuesday and since?

> And the blame
> rests squarely on the people that support terrorists.

Perhaps the last sobering thought - it would appear that this is EXACTLY the
logic that has driven the Terrorists; "No need to worry about individuals,
treat people as a collective - all Americans must suffer for the sake of
aggrievances against US policy." Do Americans actually support the damaging
activities of their government? I think - I hope- not. To target collectives
is, I repeat, formally a terrorist act. How far do Americans want to
resemble the people who have just inflicted so much harm upon them?

Oxford, UK

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