Waging war, killing more innocents not answer to terrorism

I join with all Evanston residents in sending our prayers and support to all those who suffered from the horrendous tragedy that occurred on the fateful day of Sept. 11, and our heartfelt thanks to all those brave souls who risked life and limb to help their brethren.

Ana, my 19-year-old daughter, while watching news coverage of the World Trade Center and Pentagon catastrophes, turned to me and asked, “Is this the beginning of WWIII? Are we all going to be killed?”

The next day, Ben, my 13-year-old son, after hearing on the radio that President Bush had labeled what occurred on Sept. 11 “acts of war,” asked me, “Am I going to die?”

In a world filled with greater sanity, love and compassion, such questions would not not be asked. At least, I would like to think so.

In these times of tragedy, sadness and anger, let us remember it is the taking of human life that is at the heart of the matter. Let our thoughts and prayers reach out to all men, women and children who have been killed or will be killed in the name of one “good cause” or another, be they Americans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Israelis, Christians, Jews or Muslims.

For no matter who I am or what country I live in, if my children were to become the victims of violence, my feelings of sadness and anguish would not be lessened if the acts that resulted in their maiming or death were the result of the illegal violence known as terrorism committed by individuals or groups, or the legal institutionalized violence known as war committed by nations.

In fact, as I write these words, I am listening to a reporter on National Public Radio stationed on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan interviewing a young Afghan mother who is attempting to flee into Pakistan with her two children because she does not want her children to die as a result of a U.S.- led attack on her country. She has never heard of the World Trade Center, and doesn’t understand why Americans would want to harm her children. Is this the kind of victory we are to find solace in or support as a loyal American? I would think not.

A hurt or dead child is a hurt or dead child, whether it be the result of a direct action or of “collateral damage,” a bureaucratic/techno term that is Orwellian doubletalk, whether used by Timothy McVeigh to justify the lives taken by him in Oklahoma City as he acted out his anger at the U.S. government, or by military spokesmen describing the frying alive by a cruise missile of hundreds of women and children who had taken refuge in a shelter during a missile attack on Iraq by U.S. planes.

If Bush were serious about hunting down those who trained and supported Osama bin Laden and his organization, he could easily start at home. In the 1980s, State Department and CIA officials thought bin Laden’s fanatical, fundamentalist movement would serve U.S. interests in combating Russian troops in Afghanistan. They funneled money and arms to his cause, and now we are all paying the price.

And Bush would not have nominated John Negroponte as our ambassador to the United Nations. Negroponte certainly knows plenty about terrorism, having been our man in Honduras during the height of the U.S.-trained death squads there, supporting the mass murder of civilians as a way of breaking the will of our enemies.

A balance must now be drawn between bringing to justice the perpetrators of the vicious and horrendous acts inflicted on innocent Americans on Sept. 11 and heeding a world crying out for no more killing for the sake of the children – all children – “theirs” as well as “ours.”

What is the nature of such a balance? To be honest, I, too, am searching for an answer. What I do know is that war is not the answer.

Yes, terrorism needs to be recognized for what is: a grave threat to the peoples of the world, whether committed by “us” or “them.” In deciding upon a course of action to deal with it, let us remember and take heed of these words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

Louis Silverstein, who received a doctorate at the School of Education in 1970, is a professor of liberal education at Columbia College in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]