Since September 11th, the progressive movement has been on the defensive. But times are changing. The mushrooming Enron scandal; European criticism of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo; the U.S.'s inability to apprehend Bin Laden or Mullah Omar, either dead or alive; recession and rising unemployment; Cheney's refusal to release information about his energy task force: all of these developments have put the Bush oil- and-war-men on the defensive. It's time for us to come forward with a political counter-offensive, visible activism, outreach and outspokenness, through such activity as the April 20th demonstration in Washington, D.C. initiated by the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, forthright peace and justice electoral campaigns and other campaigns.
In order to be most effective in this counter-offensive, we need to be able to directly address the issue of terrorism. By "terrorism" I mean the deliberate and organized use of force or violence against innocent civilians to advance a political, economic, religious or social agenda, engaged in by either governments, organizations or individuals.
What is an affirmative approach to combating this problem, doing so in a way that can move us in the direction of a truly new world?
First, as far as Al Qaeda in particular, there is an approach which could have been used that probably would have been more productive, certainly in the long-term and possibly in the short-term. Such an approach would have involved intensive but respectful diplomacy; drying up Al Qaeda financial support--which especially means getting tough on the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda's primary backers; policy changes vis a vis Israel/Palestine and Iraq; serious support to the more democratic and non- warlord-controlled opposition groups in Afghanistan; and limited military/police action in Afghanistan to arrest Al Qaeda leaders as necessary following broad-based international support for such action. As distinct from the Bush/Cheney adminstration's opposition, we should support the establishment of an International Criminal Court to bring to justice those accused of crimes such as the 9-11 attacks.
Second, we need to investigate the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies on September 11th. What was behind the resignation of John O'Neil, former Deputy Director of the FBI in charge of investigating Al Qaeda, two weeks before September 11th? He is quoted in a book published in France as saying, "the main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and role played by Saudi Arabia in it."
What about a whole series of reports indicating that there was at least some prior knowledge on the government's part of "something big" about to happen and little being done about these warnings? Is it true, as has been circulating on the internet, that a top intelligence official made a lot of money through the buying and selling of airline stocks just before and on September 11th? Are our intelligence agencies too tied in to multinational corporations such that their "intelligence" work is compromised or worse?
We need government agencies that are about "intelligence" that truly defends us against groups like Al Qaeda using intelligence information for the advancement of human rights and human progress, not corporate power and wealth.
Third, we need to get serious about the development of alternative energy sources so that we will not be dependent upon Middle East oil. This would play a major role in helping to reverse the global warming crisis. Jim Hightower and Senator John Kerry are among those who have recently called for this approach as an essential aspect of post-9-11 government policy. In Hightower's words, we should "enlist our very best scientists in a crash program. . . to resolve any remaining technological impediments to the mass use of fuel cells, biomass, solar, wind, geo-thermal and other abundant, clean and cheap energy sources." In 1992 Presidential candidate Jerry Brown called for a crusade to weatherize our buildings and homes and make them much more energy-efficient. Hightower again: "The simple steps of common-sense conservation are proven solutions that can cut America's electricity use in half and cut consumers' utility bills by a total of $17 billion a month! Doing this job will put hundreds of thousands of our people to work, putting badly needed paychecks into the grassroots economy and instantly lifting our nation from recession to recovery." We should take money out of the Pentagon budget and put it instead into improving and strengthening our railroads, subway and bus systems and other forms of mass transportation so that this becomes an economical and attractive option for those who drive cars.
Fourth, as we take these steps, we have no reason to continue supporting corrupt, sexist or racist, undemocratic and repressive regimes throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Instead of support to the Saudi Arabian regime, we can tell them that they either move to democratize their country and provide for basic civil and human rights for women, or they can expect no more such support. In cooperation with the United Nations we can end the economic sanctions on Iraq that are the primary reason why somewhere between one-half and one million children have died in the 11 years since the Gulf War. We can take an even-handed approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict, opposing acts of terror from both sides, calling for Israel to end its illegal, 35-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and abandon its settlements, and supporting a two-state solution as the only viable, immediate answer to this escalating crisis. We can be the leader in the provision of financial and human support for Afghanistan's reconstruction, doing so in a way which respects their right to self-determination and not acting in a neo-colonialist, "ugly American" way.
Fifth, we should get serious about the demilitarization of the world, beginning here at home. We should not abandon the ABM treaty, and we should terminate the ridiculous, wasteful and destabilizing efforts to create a so-called "missile defense" system. No weapons or nuclear power in space. We should move towards a reduction of the U.S.war budget with a goal of cutting it in half by 2010, with us taking the first steps but increasingly making reductions in cooperation with other countries, challenging them to follow our lead. We need to stop pushing more and more lethal and expensive weapons systems onto other countries, increasing the profits of war corporations but making the world a poorer and more dangerous place. We should develop a plan for conversion of war industry to peacetime uses and a program to provide new jobs at comparable income for all workers and soldiers displaced by demilitarization.
Sixth, we must live up to our democratic ideals and principles that have never been fully implemented and which are clearly even more at risk because of the sham "war on terrorism." We must roll back the USA Patriot Act with its expansion of the ability of the FBI, CIA and other government agencies to eavesdrop, snoop and secretly investigate those they choose to go after without any court authorization. There should be open, public, Congressional hearings--something which did not happen prior to the passage of the Patriot Act--into this question of what additional tools should be provided to law enforcement agencies to deal with the threat from Al Qaeda or any similar groups. Congress must assert its oversight role as far as war powers and policy, not give a blank check to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to do whatever they wish anywhere in the world. No secret military tribunals. No racial profiling, and firm action against police brutality. There must be due process rights, including access to family members and lawyers, for those "disappeared" into prison as a result of 9- 11.
And if we are truly serious about democracy, the two-party, big-money- dominated, winner-take-all electoral system must undergo a fundamental transformation. We need "clean money" elections, the election of legislative bodies using proportional representation, and the use of preference/instant runoff voting in elections for a single seat.
Finally, and as the pro-corporate World Economic Forum is about to convene at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, our country must turn away from what is called "free trade" and instead embrace "fair trade" and economic and social justice as the ultimate, long-term answer to terrorism. NAFTA, GATT, the IMF, the World Bank, the FTAA, the WTO: all of these U.S.-controlled or heavily influenced trade and finance entities and treaties are about the ever-increasing dominance of huge, dictatorial, destructive corporations over more and more aspects of life for people all over the world. Millions have already demonstrated or taken action in a variety of ways to oppose these processes. The vast, overwhelming super- majority of those actions have been non-violent, certainly non-terrorist. We must continue to build this movement. It is the only hope for an end to all forms of terrorism, government, organizational and individual. We must stop our government from engaging in and supporting repressive, militaristic activity that furthers injustice and corporate profiteering. We need an affirmative program to redistribute wealth and power, including anti-speculation taxes and wealth taxes on millionaires and billionaires. We should support the call for reparations emerging from the United Nations International Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa just a few days before September 11th. We must remove the desperate conditions of life which are the soil from which the terrorism of the powerless grows.
The responsibility is on us, those of us who clearly understand the dangers facing our country and our world because of the Bush-oil-and-war men and an opportunistic national Democratic Party that continues to be virtually unanimous in its support of the sham "war on terrorism." Their militaristic war is only breeding more terrorism, and it's subverting what democracy we still have left. It's time for us to come forward, loud and clear.
(Ted Glick is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network and author of Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society. He can be reached at futurehopeTG@aol.com or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003)
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