2005-06-17 / Columnists

The Progressive

By John Paul Culotta

 On Memorial Day, President Bush stated that the sacrifice of our troops in Iraq, which he clearly implied was pivotal in the war against international terrorism, was not in vain.

He spoke of a soldier who wrote him, who in his missive stated that our incursion in Iraq will be noted by historians as a “ golden moment ” in our history.

It is imperative for all Americans to support our men and women in the armed services when they are in harms way. Considerable amounts of treasure and blood have been spent since September 11. It is imperative for all Americans to evaluate the veracity of the President’s analysis of the current situation in the war against terrorism.

While the emphasis in recent years is to concentrate our attention against international terrorists, it would be foolhardy to neglect the domestic terrorists of both the right and left who are capable of serious damage to our lives, economy, and democracy. Recent FBI intelligence reports indicate there are many such groups in these United States. We need to remember Okalahoma City and the Unabomber. With full knowledge that I am not a historian, I am compelled to be a witness to my perception that the first causality in any conflict is the truth. We are compelled to evaluate all facts regarding our invasion of Iraq without international mandate and the war against terrorism.

How does a country safeguard its borders? What are the objectives of our foes? Are we equipped to survive economically and as a free society if we continue as a nation to use the tactics we are using now?

All wars in our collective history have had critics as to the reasons for the conflict and the methods used to secure the best possible outcome from the bloodshed. Our first war as a people was the war for independence from the yoke of the British crown. Many historians will inform their readers that the majority of the colonists were opposed or at best indifferent to the struggle. In fact, it would appear most were people in New York loyal to King George. Lincoln and many in Congress were opposed to the war with Mexico. Many northerners were opposed to the Civil War that secured the union. There were violent draft riots in New York City.

In recent memory, my generation was severely divided by the conflict in Vietnam. We now see the Second World War as the last good war. We tend to forget the opposition to that conflict before the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the conflict there was considerable political discussion regarding the military tactics used. Many people will still argue that Roosevelt’s insistence of unconditional surrender prolonged the strife and bloodshed. President Roosevelt promised that no American boy would be sent to fight on foreign soil, while at the same time preparing for war against Hitler. These facts illustrate that a national debate regarding the sacrifice is a part of our national tradition. Any implication that a debate is disloyal is an attempt to sabotage the democratic process.

When we were brutally attacked on September 11, most of the world was ready to stand with us in our campaign to eradicate radical terrorist groups. Soon after the attack there was a biological attack on the United States postal system and some media outlets. A few weeks ago, the New York Stock Exchange was briefly closed for business because of an electronic problem. There is no indication that this was a terrorist act but it illustrates the vulnerability of our economic system.

As I write this column there has been no resolution of the anthrax attack on the postal system and the media outlets. Al-Quaeda appears to be operating with some success overseas. Bin Laden may still be alive and functioning. Newspapers have commented on the openness of our health care delivery and food delivery system. Terrorists must be aware of the vulnerability of the delivery systems when we are so open.

Our borders are porous.

Believing that the people serving us at restaurants, mowing our lawns, and working at dangerous construction sites are probably here without proper authorization proves that point. Nuclear weapons left in the former Soviet Union are probably being sold to international criminal as I write. Our nation’s refusal to abide by the Geneva Conventions may give credence to the belief that we are now the new bully of the globe. Many civil rights militants see an increased assault on civil liberties by the proposal to increase and continue the privacy provisions of the Patriot Act.

Amnesty International and the Red Cross have criticized the treatment of prisoners we hold in more than a dozen sites across this globe. After the Second World War goodwill towards the United States was enhanced in the former Axis powers when the people learned of the generous dignified treatment we gave captured prisoners of war.

If the war against terrorism is a war for the hearts and minds of the people of the Islamic world how will this nation be served by ignoring the Geneva Conventions? Our incursion in Iraq does not address domestic terrorists, the decrease in goodwill across the world to our foreign policy, our lack of closure in the anthrax attacks, the vulnerability of our health care and food delivery system, our porous borders, the international black market in weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration’s attempt to increase big government’s need to invade our privacy, and our treatment of prisoners.

President Bush needs a loyal opposition regarding the tactics he is using in the war against terrorism. His policies must be improved upon or the sacrifices being made will be in vain.

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