Letters and commentaries on the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath have understandably fallen off the past couple of months. We want to return to normal. But the bombing and the buildup continues, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and we still haven't captured Osama bin Laden. Maybe it's time to start asking where we're heading. Given the magnitude of these events, the political and budgetary shifts, and the liberties we are seeing eroded, shouldn't we be encouraging a hard look at a broad array of our policies, not threatening dissenters, as has the attorney general?
It should go without saying that the terrorists and their accomplices are heinous villains, but do we really think we can put the entire blame for this colossal catastrophe on outside forces without asking how U.S. actions may have contributed to the conditions that led to Sept. 11?
The Dec. 7 Empire carried an L.A. Times opinion piece titled "How Clinton let bin Laden slip away." It detailed missed opportunities and seemingly purposeful lack of effort. If it is to be believed, these were only the latest in a long line of policy blunders going back at least to the CIA's involvement in both the overthrow of the legitimate government of Iran in the 1950s, and the coup in Iraq that paved the way for Saddam Hussein's rise to power.
A Frontline TV documentary on KTOO in October, about the history of Middle East terrorism, made it clear that although the Reagan-Bush administration talked a tough line on terrorism, it didn't walk it, playing so many sides off against each other that we no longer knew where our real interests were. And it's common knowledge that the U.S., along with the Saudis, virtually created the Afghan mujahedin and Osama bin Laden.
Prior to that was the particularly troubling story that has been dubbed the "October Surprise." This is the assertion, unproven, but heavily supported by circumstantial evidence and the statements of numerous individuals, that, in 1980, in order to win the presidency, the Reagan-Bush campaign conspired with the Israelis and Iranian "terrorists" to keep the U.S. hostages in Iran until after the November elections, in exchange for the delivery of weapons and money to Iran. Before you dismiss this idea as too fantastic, remember that it was proven during the Iran-Contra hearings that Reagan did later illegally trade arms to Iran, (a "terrorist" country), while he was president.
The reason I bring all this up, and I'm just scratching the surface, is I think we need to raise serious questions about our actions in the Middle East and around the world. We should be holding our intelligence agencies much more accountable. We seem to be always under the spell of people who think the ends justify the means, with a shallow regard for the unforeseen consequences of their actions.
Incredibly, we hear about new policy scenarios that would see us initiating attacks on other countries and possibly even resorting to battlefield use of nuclear weapons. This doesn't sound like we're "winning" a war. This does not sound like the United States that most of us were taught to believe in.
We have an Office of Homeland Security and security circuses at our airports. The authorities tell us we will need to live with increased surveillance and give up some of our freedoms. We should be vigilant and be prepared to accept occasional terrorist attacks as part of our way of life in the new century.
Why should we accept this? Is it so that, out of fear, we will agree to continue to fund a military budget larger than the combined budgets of the next nine largest military forces in the world, (almost 40 percent of global military spending)? Is it so that we can continue to be the largest seller of arms and armaments in the world? Or, is it so we can control Middle-East oil because it will represent more than half of all available reserves within the next decade? I submit these are all prime reasons for our current policies, and while they may buy us another barrel of oil, they won't buy us an ounce of security.
Kenneth DeRoux is a local artist and third-generation Juneauite.