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October 26, 2006 - Pasadena Weekly (CA)

The Fuzzy World Of Terrorism

In A War In Which Anything Goes, The First Casualties Are Truth And Civil Liberties

By Hannah Naiditch

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Our country is in crisis and the voices calling for us to take our country back again grow louder every day. Homeland security is a hoax. Our borders are porous, our ports are run by other nations and our planes and nuclear plants are easily accessible to potential terrorists.

Our public schools are failing, and for a growing number of young people a college education is out of reach. The gap between the rich and poor is widening and the wall between church and state is eroding.

Most worrisome of all, our Constitution is in deep crisis and our republic may not survive. Our Constitution, the Geneva Convention, the United Nations and international law are ignored as we are gradually turning into a police state.

People can be imprisoned without being charged. Our phones can be tapped without a court order. Our government can check what books we buy or loan from libraries, "sneak and peek" rules allow the FBI to break into homes without letting the homeowner know that they have been there. Even our elections, which are an intricate part of a free society, are subject to fraud.

How did it happen? It all started on Sept. 11, 2001, when we were traumatized by a horrific sight. Two planes -- first one, then the other -- crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Both towers collapsed and disappeared in a cloud of dense smoke. Television showed this scene over and over again, until it was permanently ingrained in our brains.

Fear and raw emotion ruled while reason took a backseat. It was this event that turned Bush overnight into a very powerful commander in chief, accountable to nobody while Congress went into a coma.

We could have declared Sept. 11 a crime against humanity and promised that there would be greater security and that those guilty would be brought to justice. Instead Bush declared a "war on terror," a historically unprecedented and constitutionally unacceptable term. He should never have gotten away with it.

By declaring war on terrorism, he essentially declared war on the whole world, more a concept of science fiction than reality.

Since our president declared a war on terror, dormant sleeper cells in more than 60 countries have come alive and bombs are going off all over the world. Ominous warnings by Arab nations that attacking Iraq would open the gates of hell seem to have come true.

We were attacked before, in 1993, when a truck exploded in an underground garage of the World Trade Center. Six people were killed and more than a thousand wounded. It made the news for several weeks, but nobody declared war.

Many countries from the Philippines and Russia to Britain and Spain lived with terrorism for years, but none of them declared war. There have always been wars, but they were fought between nations. Sooner or later one nation would surrender and that would be the end of it.

However, a "war on terrorism" falls into the same category as a war on poverty, or a war on crime, or our long and futile war on drugs. These are wars that have nothing to do with bombers or warships or missiles.

The United Nations has never defined terrorism. It cannot be done without implicating most nations. And one man's terrorist will always be another man's freedom fighter.

In World War II, both the Axis powers and the Allied forces terrorized civilians. Germany used terror when it bombed civilian (as opposed to military) targets in London, and when its army encircled Leningrad so that no supplies could get in. That city was under siege for almost three years, and as a result about one million civilians died of starvation and exposure to the bitter cold of the Russian winters.

The Allied forces used terror when they firebombed Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo. When two nuclear bombs were dropped, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki, at least 200,000 civilians died. That was terror too, the kind that will haunt us for years to come.

By accepting the concept of a military "war on terrorism" we subject ourselves to daily warnings and reminders from our government that "we are at war," intimating that therefore anything goes. And civil liberties and truth have always been the first casualties of war.

Hannah Naiditch is a former teacher and a longtime political activist.

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