Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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A call for reason

“War is an evil inasmuch as it produces more wicked men than it takes away.”

— Immanuel Kant

The phone rang at 8:35 a.m. I checked my voicemail. My friend Rufus had called. He said to turn on the TV.

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I turned on CNN as the second plane hit the South Tower. A blaze-orange plume burst out tinged with the carbon-rich smoke of thousands of gallons of fuel turned into an ideological incendiary device. I woke up my roommate for the most surreal day of my life.

The tortured history of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, made for a hard time in coming up with the right tone for my thoughts.

I am angry, because fundamentalists (of any creed) can hate and destroy with seeming impunity.

I am saddened for the loss of life in New York, Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania countryside.

I am outraged at the misconceptions and misleading rhetoric that has developed in this country’s discourse.

I am encouraged that the global community and the American people really have their hearts in the right places.

I am positive that the liberal (small “l”) values of America are indeed worth fighting for and pose a threat to fundamentalists of any stripe.

Since the attacks, many Americans asked themselves some tough questions. Are we safe? Will our support systems (family, government, jobs) survive this shock? Would it happen again?

The sad thing is we have no idea. The government has no idea how dangerous the current situation is. We are not infiltrating cells of terrorists. Our intelligence agencies are not set up to do this, and encouragement of it will be difficult and costly. Instead of focusing on these threats (or improving our security at home by funding hurting state budgets), we look overseas to those who are different and lash out.

I believe that after Sept. 11 the United States should have reached out to its allies and countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. We should have held extensive international dialogues establishing why exactly the United States would be justified in intervening in Afghanistan, acted multi-laterally and with the knowledge that we had exhibited our resolve.

In fact, we did this, barely, but then made two of the biggest mistakes in American foreign policy over the last 10 years.

First, we lost our resolve in Afghanistan faster than you can say “Tora Bora.” It grows worse by the week. The warlords who have always run most of the country have consolidated their power. Poppy production is at the highest level it has been in years. Aid workers are terrorized. The Taliban is reconsolidating.

Then we walked away from a job half-done to engage in another military excursion.

The very last thing the United States should have done to promote security in this country post-Sept. 11 was invade Iraq. There is simply no justification for it, other than the removal of Saddam Hussein on a matter of principle.

Of course, this was not what the war was fought for.

The war was fought to remove or destroy weapons of mass destruction that don’t seem to exist. The war was fought to improve the approval ratings of a hapless president who appeals to the bloodthirsty and the vengeful mindset of a public ill at ease. The war was fought to consolidate American power in the Middle East with little thought to the long-range impact. This war was created by lying to the public, ratcheting up fear and manipulating the facts. It is a travesty.

The hope, if you could call it that, of Sept. 11 was that a country founded on the principles of equal rights, justice and freedom would defend them in a manner that would define those principles themselves. We would be just in our treatment of the wrongdoers, because their violent extremism cannot be answered in kind. We would be thoughtful and deliberate in our actions while theirs were intolerant and rash. After all, a terrorist extinguishes his legitimacy (though not his effectiveness) in the fiery ends of his terrible means.

To say the world has changed since Sept. 11 is absolutely true.

The course for America set by our president over the last two years should shame anyone who cherishes the values upon which this country was founded. We have been belligerent, reactionary and close-minded. We have refused the advice or help of our allies and forged a course that is clouded with violence and will have a long-term negative economic impact.

Conservatives will tell you (and they did in spades post-Sept. 11) that liberals hate America. I don’t, not in the least. That’s oversimplified nonsense from the same people who believe you’re either with us or against us.

I believe in reason and thoughtful action, something this administration is lacking in spades.

Rob Deters ([email protected]) is a second-year law student.

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