Since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which occurred three days ago, there has
been a lot of talk about what the United States will do in retaliation of this “act of war”. I have listened to every
elected official from Colin Powell to George W. Bush say that this attack cannot be tolerated, and we will
respond with force in order to “teach a lesson” to those terrorists who committed this act.
This sounds perfectly reasonable, but then we take it a step further. Not only do we want to retaliate against the
terrorists, but also on the nations in which they may be located. The president has said himself that “we will make
no distinction between the terrorists who committed these horrific acts, and those countries who harbor them.”
What this means in the purest of forms is that we’re going to maliciously attack some Arab nation.
As of right now, it appears that this was an operation devised by Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Arab leader of an
extremely intelligent anti-America terrorist group, which apparently runs out of Afghanistan.
It is safe to say that there is a lot of anger right now. Americans want to see somebody pay for what they’ve
done. Seeing those two enormous towers collapse to the ground, each bearing what is believed to be five
thousand or more souls, would certainly justify the emotion of anger. Parallels have been drawn to Pearl Harbor,
but this was not an attack on a military base thousands of miles off the coast of California. This was an attack on
innocent civilians, right in our backyard, in two of the most famous buildings in the world. People are human, and
for that, it is natural to demand vengeance.
Now I will begin to get to my proposal. I have heard from a lot of people on TV that we need to attack with
brutal military force. We need to bomb Afghanistan without discretion or concern for civilian casualties. They
took our innocent people, so we should be able to take theirs. An eye for an eye. Other more radical ideas
include dropping the atomic bomb, or wiping out the entire Nation of Islam. I propose an even more radical idea:
we do nothing.
I don’t mean literally “nothing,” of course, but I do mean “nothing when it comes to the aspect of retaliation.” I
know that this goes against every fiber of human nature, and conflicts with every emotion currently running through
Americans right now. I also know that there is no chance that our political leaders will even consider such a
proposal, but I would like it to be put on the record that there is an objection out there.
There is an aspect of human nature when it comes to War that has been described as “The Bravery Of Being Out
Of Range”. This song by Roger Waters, from the 1992 album Amused to Death holds true just as much today
as it did a decade ago, and possibly even moreso now.
This concept basically entails the idea that people are prone to demand blood when the object of their conflict is
far away. To most Americans, Afghanistan is practically the other side of the world. We believe that a conflict
with this country may simply require the launch of a few laser-guided bombs, and the complete destruction of a
few Arab cities. Then, we will be able to dance in the streets and wave our flag around, believing that all wrongs
have been righted.
The fact is that if we do make such a strike, Afghanistan has made it clear that they will retaliate. Most of us
forget that there is a difference between the government of this nation, and the terrorists who exist in its
underground. This attack was not likely endorsed or even known about by the national government of
Afghanistan, and an attack on their civilians will be seem equally as unjustified to them as the attack on our own
civilians was to us. I can think of no better example to support this point than from a book by Leon Uris entitled
Exodus, which accounts the formation of Israel. The underground of Israel, which responded to every act of
Arab violence with an act of even greater violence, was strongly opposed by the otherwise peaceful government
of Israel. The government of Afghanistan probably does not support Osama bin Laden for the very reason that
his actions may bring unjust retaliation to themselves. This is just an assumption, of course, but so is the idea that
these terrorists were “supported and funded” by the government of Afghanistan.
Should we attack them, they will retaliate. This conflict will not last a few days or weeks, but years, and it will be
ugly. It may cost thousands of more American lives, and by then, it will not be so adamantly supported as it is
now. The bravery of being out of range will have dried up, but only after thousands of parents lose their children,
wives lose their husbands, and children lose their parents.
There are only two courses that can be taken right now: that of war, and that of peace. One is logical, and the
other is emotional. Everyone’s emotions have clouded their judgment. I need not say that this is the very thing
that begins a war. People start seeing it as a battle of good against evil, and they are always inevitably in the
right. If Osama bin Laden did commit these acts, I’m willing to bet my life and the lives of my unborn children on
the fact that he did not see his own actions as “evil”. And if we attack Afghanistan, their government will not
simply say, “Well, we deserved that. You win.”
Those of you who object to my proposal may now be asking, “Isn’t that exactly what you’re saying we do? Just
say ‘you win’?” On the contrary, I see it in the exact opposite manner. America lost thousands of innocent lives.
To go and kill thousands more innocent lives in Afghanistan is losing. If you want to look at things in terms of
good and evil, wouldn’t it be giving in to evil if we went and took more innocent lives, which will lead to the taking
of more and more innocent lives?
Most of you will not understand my last comment, so I will rephrase it. If taking thousands of innocent lives is
considered evil, the very thing we are fighting against, why wouldn’t it be considered evil if we were to do the
exact same thing? Evil can only win if we submit to it. And going off to commit even more acts of evil on an
undeserving people would certainly, in my opinion, be submitting to evil.
But, you may say, would it not be submitting to evil if we were to do nothing? By not retaliating, doesn’t that send
a message that the terrorists have won, and we have submitted to evil?
Let’s talk for a minute about the concept of “sending a message”, because I believe this is the most ludicrous and
ridiculous concept ever conceived by the human mind. Was it not bin Laden’s intention to “send a message” to
America, if it were in fact bin Laden who committed this crime? Have we received that message? Of course not.
Instead, we want to “send our own message” to the terrorists. Will they receive that message? Of course not.
We will just keep sending “messages” back and forth until millions have died for no reason. One book that
speaks volumes on the subject comes to mind: The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss. In this satirical children’s
book, two enemies have built a wall between themselves: the Yukes, who butter their bread on top, and the
Zukes, who butter their bread on the bottom. They keep developing more and more sophisticated weapons until
they come to a standstill, and nothing has been accomplished. No lives are lost in this book, because it parodies
the Cold War, but in this situation, it is likely that many lives will be lost. And in the end, it is inevitable that no real
victory can be attained.
If we do want to send a message, I believe it will be a much stronger message not to retaliate. Most of us have
been raised to “turn the other cheek” when somebody picks a fight with you. I find it interesting that George W.
Bush, who is such a devout religious man, is going utterly against the statements of peace made by Christian
leaders throughout the country, by pursuing a violent course of action.
If we do not retaliate against these attacks, that will be a stronger message than any military attack. We are seen
as the bad guys by most people in that area of the world. If we attack their innocents, we will only be confirming
their conceptions. If we do not respond with bloodshed, we will be showing them not that we are a nation of
cowards, but that we are a nation of strong, compassionate people, who value human life more than the petty
pursuit of vengeance.
I would beg the political and military leaders of our nation to consider this proposal, for this reason alone. A
violent response to these actions will only spark more violence. A peaceful one, however, may make a World of
Difference. We can set an example for all other Nations of the World that we are Strong enough to not fight.
We are proud enough to be peaceful. This message will speak louder than the explosions of any bombs. The
people of the Middle East may just see these Noble actions, and change their minds about us. We are supposed
to be fighting for Peace in the Middle East. Are we just going to throw all of that out the window because we’re
pissed? If we can set an example that Peace is the better alternative to War, we might just change the world more
than any act of evil has done. We are the only nation powerful enough to do that. We are the big brother of the
world. By declaring War now, we are setting the example that violence is the answer to violence. If we choose
Peace, then all our little brothers around the world may just follow our example. This is the greatest opportunity
our nation has ever had, because it gives us the opportunity to show just how strong and proud we are. I want
anyone reading this to read the next sentence very slowly, and then go back and read the entire previous
paragraph: This tragedy, depending on how our nation handles it, can either lead to World War, or World Peace.
I am not a scholar, a professor, or even a religious man. I don’t honestly believe this one poorly written document
can possibly make a difference, but I do believe in God, and I do believe in Miracles. All I have is Hope. And I
Hope to God that we can see what is truly the Right thing to do.
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the
other one also.”
“But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.”
A Radical Proposal
Kem Stone - September 2001