What A President Wants

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George W. Bush has defined his war on terrorism as a struggle of goodagainst evil; one that all decent people would want to support. As more ofits implications bubble to the surface, however, Dubya’s War is lookingless and less like something worth going to the wall for.

In this war, the major event so far is the bombing of Afganistan. Thatinitiative is intended to bring about the collapse of the Taliban, aradical Islamic group that controls most of that land and that is providingrefuge to Osama bin Laden, the individual believed to have masterminded theatrocities of September 11.

After four weeks of bombing, however, theTaliban is still firmly in place, bin Laden remains at large and, despitea policy of bombing only military targets, civilian casualties aremounting.

Although the U.S. has the most sophisticated military machine the world hasever seen it has, so far, declined to use its full capabilities to captureor push aside the Taliban leadership and scour the country for bin Laden.

Rather than put American lives at risk on the ground, Dubya’s strategymeans that innocent Afgans, who have already been terrorized for decades,must die. This aspect of the war doesn’t feel much like moral high ground.

The Bush Doctrine says that terrorists will be rooted out wherever theyexist and governments who shelter them will be treated as enemies. In theview of many observers, this doctrine raises the spectre of continuingwars against Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and perhaps Libya. On theother hand, even though it embraces and proselytizes a fanatical brand ofIslam called Wahabism, Saudi Arabia is not on the list.

According to Stephen Schwartz, author of several publications on theMiddle-East, Wahabism “is violent, it is intolerant, and it is fanaticalbeyond measure.” Although, “not all Muslims are suicide bombers ... allMuslim suicide bombers are Wahhabis except, perhaps, for some disciplesof atheist leftists posing as Muslims in the interests of personal power,such as Yasser Arafat or Saddam Hussein.”

Most of those involved in theattack on the U.S. were from Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden, according to Schwartz,is a Wahabi and the Taliban is funded primarily by Wahabis. In short,Saudi Arabia not only harbours terrorists, it breeds them.

The U.S. has substantial oil interests in Saudi Arabia. So maybe a sub-themeof Dubya’s War might be “equal justice for all, except those who havesomething we want.”

That approach may satisfy Bush’s constituents but highmorality it ain’t.Instead of designating September 11 as the opening salvo of “the firstwar of the twenty first century,” another way to define the situationwould be to regard the attacks on Washington and New York as crimesagainst humanity. Whatever else they might have been no term moreaccurately describes them.

But to do that would limit Dubya’s options. Ifthe attack was a crime instead of an act of war, how could he legitimatelyrefuse the Taliban’s offer to deliver bin Laden to a neutral country?

Theavailable evidence suggests that bin Laden probably was responsible forthe incidents of September 11. But if we are not to stoop to the levelof barbarity against which we are fighting, doesn’t he deserve a fairtrial?

Along with others, award-winning foreign correspondent John Pilgerquestions American war motives. According to Pilger, “Bush’s concealedagenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, thegreatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according toone estimate, to meet America’s voracious energy needs for a generation.Only if the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the Americans hope tocontrol it.” That might help to explain why Bush refused, out of hand, theoffer of the Taliban to deliver bin Laden to some neutral authority.

Bush announced with a grin that he wanted bin Laden “dead oralive” an approach to justice that was the norm in the fabled AmericanWild West. Despite all of the feel-good movies made about it, the WildWest wasn’t called wild for nothing. The real Wild West was a land oflawless savagery and Dubya seems to have no qualms about embracing itsvalues.

It is the rare war where one side has a lock on morality. This is not oneof them. We are committed to the first phase of this action but before weallow ourselves to be drawn into a vortex of American military adventurismwe ought to give some very careful thought to all aspects of thesituation.

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