9-11: Look in the Mirror

Mr. Beres served three years on Oregon's Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East. He also has been a member of the Oregon Greek Orthodox Committee for Peace & Justice.

"I has seen the enemy-- and they is us."

That ungrammatical but insightful phrase may be familiar only to those old enough to remember a long-gone syndicated comic strip,"Pogo." It-- like the best of comics-- gave us a clear view of ourselves, often about character flaws we choose to ignore. It came to mind in the aftermath of the terrible human loss suffered in the terrorist bombings of New York City and Washington, D.C.

A public statement of George Bush, the man seated in the president's seat, brought it into focus:"Freedom was attacked this morning by a faceless coward." He was right; but he didn't go far enough. All he, I and our sorrowing fellow Americans need do is look in the mirror, and we'll see the clear image of that"faceless coward."

What I write can't minimize the evil of those who used four of our jet planes to kill innocent passengers, and end the lives of thousands those planes struck. The effort to uproot and punish them is understandable and right. But translating it into all-out war would compound the tragedy by killing many other innocents as we seek out the guilty ones. Shooting from the hip has enabled us to destroy targets around the world because we keep them faceless, denying the truth that they possess the same flesh-and-blood humanity we try to protect among our children and ourselves. The list is long, but some recent examples make the point: bombing a Sudanese pharmaceutical firm and destroying the limited source of medical help for that Third World country; bombing of and sanctions against Iraq that result in the deaths of thousands of that nation's children; the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians-- some terrorists, but many more innocents-- by U.S aircraft and weapons used by the Israeli military.

Central America often has been traumatized by U.S. military policy in El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere, where arbitrary policies of slaughter have a hidden agenda: protecting and maximizing profits of U.S. corporations. A visible implement of those policies has a human face in Pekin, Illinois through those who oppose it. In the new federal prison are courageous demonstraters, mainly women, who crossed into forbidden territory to break the law when they objected to the policy of assassination taught by the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga.

Tally them up. It's a long list that helps one understand why Third World countries, seeing no other recourse for halting our corporate greed, become a breeding ground for terrorists who attack"the land of the free and the home of the brave." As the ultimate sacrifice of so many New York firefighters and police reminds us, that phrase from the nation's anthem still describes a part of us. There is selfless bravery still within us. But we are not free -- not so long as we allow our government to serve selfish overseas interests of craven corporations instead of seeking the health of our people, and of all people. As I've commented before, this happens because of an undemocratic elections system that allows big donors to bribe candidates.

The contraditions in our tragic split personality pop up everywhere, even in what some feel was the finest hour of television news covering last week's tragedy. ABC News had an analyst, who once was a high level CIA official in charge of working with the Contra death squads during President Reagan's Iran-contra scandal. Later, he became part of the National Security Council that supervised covert aid to Afghan guerillas when it served our purposes during the Cold War.

When the man in the Oval Office describes the battle-to-come as a"monumental struggle of good vs. evil," he and we need to look in the mirror before we jump off the edge.

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Tristan Traviolia - 9/19/2001

Is the author's viewpoint legitimate if terrorists refuse to stop attacks, and instead insist on escalating their attacks exponentially with weapons of mass destruction? Can we afford to run that risk in light of their recent actions? Can we treat the World Trade Center bombing as an isolated incident, and only seek out those individuals involved in that incident? Are proactive measures based on imperfect intelligence permissable or do innocent Americans have to die to protect "possibly" innocent cells of "potential" terrorists because a courtrooms level of reasonable doubt can't be surmounted? The answers to these questions will decide which groups innocents might die, because if terrorists aren't stopped innocents will die. That is an indisputable fact.

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