New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Love Your Enemy Day

September 12, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Guest Author, Politics

Charting a New Course, a Decade After 9/11

by Ian Harris

September 11, 2011, marked the tenth anniversary of a terrible tragedy, when almost 3,000 Americans were killed by coordinated attacks by 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists. Within a month the Bush administration declared war on Afghanistan, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” even though the terrorists involved in the attack did not come from Afghanistan. Seventeen months later the Bush administration invaded Iraq, supposedly to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction from that country. Ten years later the American people, while commemorating the tragedy wrought by the terrorists, would do well to examine the morality and utility of such militaristic responses to crises.

The 10-year war in Afghanistan has cost more than 2600 U.S./Coalition lives (and rising weekly, often daily), more than $439 billion, and we’ve killed more than 8,000 Afghan civilians — two and one half times the number killed in the initial attacks in this country. The war in Iraq, based on lies, has cost nearly 4800 U.S./Coalition lives (and still sadly counting) and more than $789 billion. Estimates are that more than 800,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in that war. In these combined wars over 6000 American troops have lost their lives (and rising). A military commander in Iraq has been quoted as saying, “We are making terrorists faster than we can kill them.” Terrorism cannot be condoned, but we don’t have to out-terrorize the terrorists to make our country safe. There are alternatives:

Love Your Enemy: A Campaign to Reclaim Human Dignity Through Nonviolence is an initiative launched by the Metta Center for Nonviolence in Berkeley, CA, to break the cycle of humiliation and hatred that the United States has launched as a result of the terrorist attacks on America ten years ago. While many Americans celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year, proponents of nonviolence regret the barbarism demonstrated by this slaughter.

Osama bin Laden waged a horrific act against the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we have to launch an equally horrific act against him — or anyone in any country where he might have been. A more just response would have been to bring him to trial in the International Criminal Court, an initiative adopted by more than 100 nations designed to set up a legal framework for trying acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity. A court trial would have displayed the injustice of his actions and provided a public forum to judge the horrors of terrorism. A judicial trial could have allowed us to maintain the strong emotional support shown to the US by the people of the world immediately after 9.11.01 and then to move forward in a healing process. Instead we reverted to the law of the jungle — an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (As Gandhi pointed out, such behavior leaves us all toothless and blind.) A 10-year war against the Afghan people with thousands of more deaths was and is entirely unnecessary, as was the war on Iraq fought on false premises.

By dedicating ourselves to nonviolence on this anniversary, we will be honoring our Christian roots, where Jesus asked us to love our enemies, and our Old Testament roots, the commandment that says THOU SHALL NOT KILL. Yes, we should be angry about the attacks on 9/11, but we have a choice about what to do with our anger. People attacked the U.S. because of years of oppression of Muslims by the West (supporting authoritarian regimes throughout the Islamic world, overthrowing an elected government in Iran, and usurping Palestinian people’s lands, etc.).

We have responded to the acts of terrorism on 9/11 by bombing wedding parties in Afghanistan, using drones to kill innocent people in Pakistan, attacking Libya, and waging war in Iraq. This is not the way to stop terrorism. This is the way to enflame and create more terrorists. Our strategies create hatred, resentment, and more enemies. We should use this tenth anniversary to rethink our policies and chart a course that respects Muslim values.

A campaign to reclaim human dignity through nonviolence would urge all of us to rethink our notions of security. Instead of national security based upon military might, we should think of human security that would direct our government to implement policies that provide family supporting wages, decent housing, free health care, and accessible education to citizens. We should reconcile with our enemies because the hatred that we carry towards them poisons our relationships and helps us justify their destruction. The U.S. government relies too strongly on a peace through strength approach to resolving conflicts — e.g. brand your opponent as an enemy and wipe him out, a theme reiterated through popular and sports culture.

Other responses to conflict are peacemaking, which seeks to reconcile with enemies, and peacebuilding, which attempts to root out the sources of conflict. We can use international organizations like the United Nations, the World Court, and the International Criminal court to resolve our differences with other nations and rogue terrorists. We can support unarmed democratic movements that seek to reform authoritarian governments. Think of how popular the Peace Corps is! Using that model, the U.S. can address needs throughout the world. Adhering to the democratic principles upon which this country was founded depends upon a moral response to crisis, not a bloodbath. May morality, not the biggest bully or toughest guy, win.

Ian Harris ([email protected]), a professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, lives in Walnut Creek, CA.  He was president of the International Peace Research Association Foundation. This article was distributed by PeaceVoice.

0 Comments to “Love Your Enemy Day”

  1. I would like to draw readers attention to the work of Crisis
    Gareth Evans of the International Crisis Group []called for Conflict Prevention .He wants to promote the need to think and act globally, and the collective responsibility for protection. He identified ten key lessons.
    Lesson 1. Conflict prevention effort does make a difference.
    Lesson 2: The Best Way to Stop Wars is Not to Start Them
    Lesson 3. Conflict is cyclical: the trick is to stop the wheel turning. One of the things we now understand most clearly about conflict is that the countries and regions most likely to lapse into it are those that have been there before.
    Lesson 4. One size analysis doesn’t fit all: every conflict is different. To understand how to prevent – and resolve – conflict it is necessary to understand what causes it, and one of the products of the much enhanced focus on conflict prevention is much more academic and institutional analysis than we have ever had before on what generates conflict.
    Lesson 5. Conflict prevention requires complex strategies: one-dimensional fixes rarely work
    Lesson 6. Conflict prevention requires effective institutional structures.
    Lesson 7. Conflict prevention requires application of resources.
    Lesson 8: recognize that there is no substitute for cooperative internationalism.
    Lesson 9. Conflict prevention requires the mobilization of political will. This is the bottom line in just about every area of public policy: unless the relevant decision makers, at the national or international level, want something to happen it won’t.
    Lesson 10: recognize there is no substitute for leadership
    Of all the lessons we have learned about conflict prevention the need for good leadership is probably the single most obvious and the single most important. But it remains the hardest of all to get right. And maybe at the end of the day, the responsibility for getting it right in voting democracies like ours at least is something that we cannot pretend belongs to anyone but ourselves as ordinary, individual citizens.

    go to….A Discourse: Social Ecology


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