Strange Bedfellows

Life continues to stimulate my imagination. I could not help but wonder this morning, could Malcolm X could have led the war on terror. I mean, he was a tremendous orator. Seriously, I had an undeniable urge to do a little research this morning. Below are Malcolm’s words in 1965:

No, since they federal government has shown that it isn’t going to do anything about it but talk, it is a duty, it’s your and my duty as men, as human beings, it is our duty to our people, to organize ourselves and let the government know that if they don’t stop that Klan, we’ll stop it ourselves. And then you’ll see the government start doing something about it. But don’t ever think that they’re going to do it just on some kind of morality basis, no. So I don’t believe in violence that’s why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love, not love of those things down there, no. So, we only mean vigorous action in self-defense, and that vigorous action we feel we’re justified in initiating by any means necessary.

Malcolm X, delivered February 14, 1965, at the Ford Auditorium Detroit Michigan

Allow me to make a slight adjustment and apply the language again. Let the United Nations replace the federal government and the Klan become Al Qaeda, and read the passage again. Since the United Nations will not do anything about terrorist threats, it’s our duty to act, and we will do it by any means necessary. Actually, Malcolm sounds milder than George Bush did when he laid out his vision for attacking the terrorist in 2001.

We will direct every resource at our command every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of war to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network.

Now this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success.

We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest.
And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. Our nation has been put on notice, we’re not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans.

President George W. Bush, delivered September 20th, 2001 to a joint session of Congress

Not that far apart, huh? Every resource at our command, by any means necessary, both men spoke from the same core belief system, the enemy is less than human and should be treated as such. Reading President Bush’s words with the hindsight of the last five years’ activity makes me think we underestimated him when he said, “to the destruction” did we know then he meant annihilation of people in multiple countries, without permission of their own countries. If all members of Al-Qaeda gather at one spot on the earth, say the equivalent of an annual convention, do you think President Bush would drop a nuclear bomb to kill, say 300,000 people at once. Would you? If it were only 100,000 Al-Qaeda members and 200,000 civilians dying in a city of 1,000,000 would you still drop the bomb? Given the level of torture that we have conducted, I don’t hesitate to believe the Bush administration would drop a nuclear bomb.

Unfortunately, this scene might face someone sooner than we think. The New York Times ran an article on August 10, “US Backs Free Elections, Only to See Allies Lose,” which sets the mood of many in the world all too clearly. The US sees friends and enemies and that is it. The rest of the world sees and increasingly spoiled country. And people are increasingly willing to upset the spoiled USA not a healthy environment. The call for free elections in Pakistan, is surly a mistake for this country. A mistake that potentially creates the very thing feared, communities, areas, or safe havens for those who want to plan attacks on us or our friends.

A few weeks ago, Senator Obama received flack for his willingness to meet with other leaders without preconditions. A red flag warning should be going off, because the Democratic Party influencers do not really see things differently from the Republicans. To worry about the President being used as propaganda, is a mindset fearful of losing—influence or power maybe—or of being taken advantage of. It is a feeling feared by those who must have control to be fulfilled. Yes, the USA is acting like a Control Freak.

We recognize these people at work, pushy, single focused, will step on others to achieve their goals. We recognize them in relationships, bossy, manipulative, and selfish. There are volumes of books designed to help control freaks relax and become more empathetic, and gargantuan numbers of books helping the rest of us deal with control freaks. I’ll be the first to admit, helping a person loose or mitigate a control freak behavior, is one thing, but adjusting a nation is quite another. Leadership is instrumental, but clearly it is not enough. One thought might be the nation categorizing other countries in a broader sense than friend or enemy. It’s just too simplistic a view of relationships. But it is a natural extension of the theme that all countries should be equal.

What we need are categories of countries. In that way, we can better set expectations of relationships and boundaries. As individuals we have boundaries and expectations that differ among, family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, associates, colleagues, customers, vendors, strangers, homeboys, and others. In these many complex schemes, we have disputes and we tolerate differences. Yet with other countries we try to say with us or with the terrorist, or worse yet we tell others how they should run their lives, adopting our view of human rights, democracy, or role of religion. Good attentions aside, forming a view of what is the right way to live, and adopting a mission to spread the view, is the action of religion. It is the action that historically has supported war. Although the stated purpose of spreading democracy is to prevent war, it very likely our actions are leading us on a path to war.

Yes categories of countries or affiliations, forces us to accept a category in a legitimate role, without a reason to fight war. I suggest

  • Friend sharing and protecting
  • Trusted trading partner
  • Skeptical trading partner
  • Nontrading, but helping
  • Nontrading, not helping
  • Enemy

And yes, I’d be happy if every country would have a similar scheme, but realizing this vision requires we contemplate the end of two institutions as we know them at this point: The United Nations, and the World Trade Organization. Do we dare make the call to action? Does one of the candidates have it in them to match the bold steps creating these institutions?

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