[Last update: 26 September 2001]

What Should the US Do Now?

by doug foxvog

The peace camp is challenged, "you have been telling us what the US should not do, but not what it should do. We cannot just sit back and do nothing. What would you suggest, if not a military response?"

This is an extremely important question, and has both a short-term and a long-term answer.

The US has come to a terrible decision point. We could treat all countries with respect, negotiate terms for countries to assist us in our investigations, and ask for foreign assistance in tracking down leads and suspects in order to capture anyone who may have been in on the planning or who had prior knowledge of these attacks. After the capture, we would have a trial (preferably in an international court newly set up by the United Nations Security Council with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity), and those convicted would be sentenced to life without parole.

Our second choice is to lord it over the world, militarily attack poor Islamic countries around the world, with each attack engendering further counter attacks on US citizens. Not only would such a choice result in continuing deaths of innocent civilian in our own country as well as in the countries we attack, but it would earn us the eternal enmity of the families of the civilians who died in our attacks, and that of most of the 1.2 billion Muslims on the planet.

Let us bombard Afghanistan with wheat for the 5 million Afghanis facing starvation. Include other goods, such as blankets, tents, cooking oil, appropriate medicines. The NGOs have stopped delivering food to the starving because of the threat of war. Show the Afghan public we don't oppose them, bring them more relief than they ever got. But be culturally sensitive: no Bibles, no Barbie dolls, no booze. Ask the UNHCR and Red Cross what is needed & include that in the airlift. Congress has appropriated up to $20 billion to defeat terrorism. There should be no financial constraints on the humanitarian airlift. Such bombardments would eliminate far more terrorists than conventional (or biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological) bombing ever would.

In the short term we must go after those responsible for the planning and implementation of these criminal attacks in order to assure the security of U.S. citizens without destroying the safety or security of innocent people at home or abroad. Since we wish others to follow international law, we must follow it ourselves. Since we do not wish our own civilians endangered, we must act without endangering civilians of other countries. We must treat other countries with respect, asking for, not demanding, assistance.

In order to go after those responsible we have to identify them. This requires a massive effort at investigating all leads, at home and abroad. We should ask assistance of countries where those leads extend, providing the national governments with sufficient evidence to convince them that their investigation is warranted.

We must freeze the assets of individuals indicted for these crimes and of organizations run by them or which knowingly financed their operations. We should ask other countries to do the same, providing them with sufficient evidence to convince them that such an action is warranted.

We must bring the case and evidence to the Security Council so that it can determine the appropriate response in light of its analysis of the evidence. Only the United Nations can authorize a member state to go to war (except in immediate defense against an attacking force, which does not apply in this situation) in accordance with the UN charter, which is a treaty which the US has signed and is thus "the supreme law of the land".

We should ask the United Nations to set up a special court to consider crimes against humanity, just as they did for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. We should bring our evidence before such a court, and anyone who is convicted of responsibility for the attacks should be jailed for life without parole. On such a court, no judges should be from a country which is a party to the dispute (e.g. US and Afghanistan). There should be at least three judges of three different nationalities, religions, and "races".

The US must treat the UN and the new International Court for Crimes against Humanity with honor and respect. We must not show disrespect by bribing or threatening member nations or jurists.

In the long run, the best way to deal with terrorism is to address its root causes.

"Perhaps some terrorism would exist even if the grievances of the people of the Third World were dealt with -- grievances that lead to anger, despair, frustration, feelings of powerlessness, and hatred -- but certainly the ability of those who would commit terror without grievances to recruit others would be tremendously reduced."

To show the world that we truly oppose terrorism, we must oppose terrorist acts committed by our friends and allies as well as by our opponents. We must not only insist that Israel cease its assassination campaign, but must swear out warrants for the arrest of those who planned and ordered such assassinations before the international court, ceasing any financial aid until those charged are turned over for trial. Even closer to home, we should provide to the court, all records on our funding, instruction, and management of the Nicaraguan contra terrorists to the court, as well as accurate records of what instruction was given was given to those Latin American troops at the School of the Americas who later were involved in death squads, massacres, or military coups. We should hand over whatever evidence we have about the training, funding, or other assistance given by the US or any other party to UNITA in Angola, the MPLA in Mozambique, or the right wing paramilitaries in Colombia.

We should pass laws that US corporations must pay a living wage to all employees abroad, release no more pollution than they may in the US, and provide their workers the same labor rights as workers in the US enjoy. We must forbid US companies exporting goods and chemicals that have been banned for sale or use in the US. We must remove IMF structural adjustment requirements that nations cut their funding for health care, education, or food security.

With people around the world already commiserating with the American public, this is a rare opportunity to ease the antipathy felt by many towards our country. If we make it clear that the United States respects other nations and is working to end perceived abuses, the reservoir of potential terrorist recruits is likely to significantly dry up.

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