Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Be Careful What You Wish For

By DJBongHit in Culture
Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 11:45:29 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Reactions to the Sept 11th attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have been varied, but there are 2 common threads which run through almost all of them. People are calling for retribution, and people are calling for increased security. Both of these reactions have the possibility of backfiring and causing even more serious problems than we saw during the attack.

The call for retribution is a very understandable one; this attack on our country is estimated to have killed thousands of citizens (with some estimates being as high as 20-60,000) and shattered the lives of countless others. It was an extremely traumatic event. However, knee jerk reactions calling for military retribution and people demanding to see a crater where Afghanistan once stood are both premature and uncalled for. The fact is that nobody knows yet who was behind the attack. If it was, as many have speculated, Arab terrorists, they were striking back against U.S.-backed campaigns against them; if we retaliate, we are no different than they are. We would be retaliating for an attack on us which was a retaliation of an attack on them. When would this cycle end? Would we expect them to simply give up?

No, military retaliation does not strike me as the best solution in this case, especially considering the likelyhood that this was not an attack from another nation, but simply from a rogue terrorist organization. However, whoever was behind this needs to be found, and needs to be punished accordingly. But causing yet more innocent civilian casualties would not be a proper response.

And as for those who claim that Palestinians or Egyptians are monsters for dancing in the streets upon hearing of this attack, how quickly we forget; the same types of reactions were seen in the United States when we began bombing Iraq in 1991. The only difference is that Iraq never directly attacked our country, while we have been supporting (and in some cases carrying out directly) attacks on middle eastern countries for quite some time now. It was only a matter of time before somebody struck back, and if you were in their situation, you'd be celebrating too. But that's beside the point.

What really scares me are the people calling for increased security measures; I don't think they know what they are asking for. Life in Israel, where they have accepted increased security as a way of life in a futile attempt to protect against terrorism, is far less pleasant than life in the United States. Israeli citizens must carry an identification card at all times and present it for many day-to-day activities. They are required to provide their unique numerical identifier for such common activities as ordering a pizza. Their cars and persons are searched upon entering a shopping mall. They must keep receipts for every little purchase and be able to prove their whereabouts at any time. Armed soldiers abound. (NPR, Sept 12, 2001)

And what does this get them? Safety from terrorist attacks? No - they still live from day to day fearing for their lives, and fatal bombings in which civilians are killed are common. It is clear that no amount of security precautions will be able to prevent such attacks, but this incident provides the perfect excuse for our government to intrude into our lives and track our movements. Those on Slashdot and other places who are worried about online privacy implications are missing the forest for the trees; our entire lives stand to be turned upside down, never to return to normal.

These types of measures will almost certainly be supported by the American people, but we cannot let this happen - Democracy should not be tyranny of the majority. And they are simply quick fixes - band-aids over festering, infected wounds. They will not solve any problems. We must instead attack the underlying problem - that is our foreign policy. I will not suggest a solution to this problem, as I am not educated in these matters. However, it is obvious that we simply cannot go on meddling in other countries' affairs all the time without repurcussions.

Just something to think about.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Slashdot
o Also by DJBongHit

Display: Sort:
Be Careful What You Wish For | 46 comments (23 topical, 23 editorial, 2 hidden)
Effectiveness (3.75 / 4) (#11)
by Neuromancer on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:19:43 AM EST

1) Hrmm, if we don't fight back, we will show the world that terrorists can pick on us. Soon, people will be blowing up buildings because their dogs didn't win in a dog show.

2) We know they were arabs on at least one plane because a passenger called from the plane and said so. Does this mean that they were all arabs? Not necessarily, but we know that an entire plane's worth was, and according to estimates it was about 6 per plane.

3) Afghanistan seems to have a penchant for harboring terrorists. I suppose that you would have no qualms over a terrorist attacking the US because we harbored a terrorist who attacked their terrorist group. Cute.

come on... (4.25 / 4) (#12)
by Danse on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:31:16 AM EST

Brilliant. Add all your circumstantial evidence up and it points to what exactly? That the hijackers were from somewhere in the middle east. Possibly from several different countries. Probably not backed by any government. Bin Laden? Maybe. Maybe not. You want to kill more people in Afghanistan just because you think someone there attacked us? Even if we can confirm that Afghanistan is harboring the terrorists, does that make killing civilians there any more justifiable in your mind?

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Wait wait wait (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by Neuromancer on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:51:15 AM EST

I didnt' say afghanistan is harboring these terrorists. The US has already put troops there because they harbor terrorists, anti-american terrorists.

Bin Laden has ALREADY successfully attacked the US. He took credit for a certain ship off a certain coast, maybe you've heard about this incident.

What am I saying? I'm saying that EVEN IF THIS ISN'T BIN LADEN, he's ALREADY ATTACKED US before. Harboring him is no more permissible than harboring whoever did this.

Perhaps you should read more carefully before slamming an argument.

[ Parent ]
ok (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by Danse on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 02:25:07 AM EST

I'm not saying that it's ok to harbor him. I'm saying that the prevailing notion that we should bomb the hell out of Afghanistan for harboring him is stupid and just as wrong as destroying the WTC.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Yeah, BUT (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by Neuromancer on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 04:18:15 AM EST

Yeah, but they've been talking about it in congress if you watch cspan.

[ Parent ]
well... (3.00 / 1) (#33)
by Danse on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 03:36:09 PM EST

That doesn't surprise me a bit. Too bad most Americans don't pay any attention to the crap our government pulls with other countried 99.9% of the time. We must be the most apathetic population on the planet. We take very little control and no responsibility for the actions of our government. None of this surprises me.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Security isn't one I've heard. (3.33 / 3) (#17)
by Sheepdot on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 02:39:04 AM EST

I've heard retributions and such, and I think if we can find those responsible and "responsibly" bring them in, we'll be fine. I have nothing against taking those responsible to the UN to then rot away in prision and never become the martyr so many of them (OBL comes to mind) would love to be.

I have *not* heard great cries for increased security, but rather a concern for why at least a handfull of these known terrorists (reportedly some were known) weren't already in lists that the commercial airlines would be able to check against.

Then again, forgaries may have been used to get these folks on the planes to begin with.

DJBongHit, I highly respect your position on issues as you and I have very similar political views, but I wouldn't cry wolf on a premonition just yet.

I do suggest we progress cautiously, and be consistently acting as watchdogs for our lives and liberties. I know it may seem like Big Brother is coming, but as a whole I've been *very* impressed with the way things have been handled considering the scope of this situation.

That, and I strongly feel the current adminstration is fully capable (With Cheney and Powell how can you not be?) of handling this situation in a very sufficient, yet appropriate manner.

Still, I appreciate the post. You're a great guy, indeed a hero to me and my roommates. (We're the ones that asked you the question about drug testing and how long it took to wear off)

If we retaliate... (3.33 / 9) (#19)
by seebs on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 03:01:31 AM EST

The "no better than they are" thing is bullshit, and it's *stupid* bullshit. If we attack military targets and terrorist groups, I think that's a fair bit different from carefully targeting civilians, as such, with the intention of getting as many innocent bystanders as possible.

Terrorism is not the same thing as legitimate gripes about policies. Terrorists should be killed for the same reason rabid dogs are, and that's *not* the same thing as what they do. Execution is not murder; putting down dangerous animals is not slaughter of innocents.

suggestions (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by alprazolam on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 11:35:46 AM EST

people aren't saying that we should not attack terrorists. there are people here suggesting that we completely destroy afghanistan, palestine, and pretty much the whole middle east. the us needs the afghanistan government to help find bin Laden. if all the afghani citizens are killed, and bin Laden has moved somewhere to hide, we'd never know it.

[ Parent ]
As long as we're clear on one thing... (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by hjones on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:43:05 PM EST

We do not target civilians. No carpet-bombing Kabul. We target combatants, while taking reasonable precautions to minimize civilian casualties.

I know you didn't suggest any such thing, but I want us all to be explicit that it's ruled out. I bring this up because some friends of mine have suggested just that, and it troubles me.

"Nietzsche is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we -- we small-minded weaklings, we still have to vanquish his shadow too." - The Antinietzsche
[ Parent ]

One problem... (3.50 / 2) (#45)
by physicsgod on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 01:03:59 AM EST

When the Rules of War started to become customary the protection of non-combatants was easy to agree to since one could easily tell who was and wasn't a combatant, e.g. if it's under 4 ft or wears a dress it almost certanly isn't a combatant. Today in the age of guerilla warfare it's hard to tell innocents from those hiding among them. In a sense it's almost the fault of the guerilla's, by hiding amongst the civilian population the guerilla endanger them, since any committed adversary is going to destroy all the sanctuaries of the enemy. Certainly is an interesting ethical problem.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Retaliate all you want (4.40 / 5) (#41)
by quartz on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 02:16:46 PM EST

If you think terrorism can be eradicated, you're an idealist. If you think any amount of security measures will keep terrorists out of the USA, you're wrong. Terrorism is like crime, it's everywhere and it's impossible to control.

That said, the war option is as good an option as any, given that the US has enough military power to pretty much do what it damn well pleases - as long as it doesn't upset a few select countries like, say, China, which is unlikely in this particular case. You can bomb Afghanistan as much as you like, but the only thing this will accomplish is to make Americans feel good having their revenge. This may or may not be a worthy goal, I'm not the one to judge. But one thing is certain: no amount of war mongering is going to stop terrorism, nor keep it out of the USA. So, to everyone who supports the war option: war is not about stopping terrorism. It's about revenge, pure and simple. If that's what you want, cool. But please don't get your reasons mixed.

Pretty much the same thing goes for the "security tightening" approach. Tightening security will make some people feel good, will inconvenience other people, and will totally and utterly fail to stop terrorism. Again, if your reasons for supporting this are purely emotional, fine. But don't pretend there's any reason in any of this.

If you expect arguments for my thesis that terrorism cannot be stopped, ask yourselves, did the war on drugs stop drug usage? No. Did the war on crime stop crime? No. Did the war on racism stop racism? No. And the list goes on. My mind is open, though. If you can give me ONE, just one example of widespread "homo homini lupus" type of violent and hateful behavior that has been successfully eradicated through violence - or any other means, for that matter - I'll abandon my argument. Oh, and also remember that this particular breed of terrorist - the Muslim terrorist - is unimpressed with death; death is a good thing as far as he's concerned. So don't think that by killing some of them, you'll scare the others - it doesn't work that way.

Finally, as an aside, I've always wondered why politicians are given so much attention in times like this. The media can't seem to get enough of their declarations. In my very humble opinion, what people need right now is to overcome their emotions and get back to thinking rationally - because when you act according to your emotions instead of your reason, you often do things you regret later on. But politicians don't have anything to do with reason. They can't speak reason. By the very nature of their profession (they always need to taylor their speech for an awfully large audience) they speak in symbols. Powerful symbols designed to appeal to people's emotional side, not to their reason. But hey, it seems that's the way human nature works: people need to act their emotions first, and THEN go back to reason. Oh well.

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
[ Parent ]

appeasement and enforcement (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by merkri on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 04:47:06 PM EST

I really shouldn't let myself get involved in these discussions, but I feel that I have to express myself in this case.

I agree with you that an appropriate response to Tuesday is more complex than simple indiscriminate retaliation.
I hope that a good deal of diplomatic effort will go into the response to this, including building a criminal case before an international body. I also believe the best possible outcome is one in which punishment for these acts comes from within the Muslim community. In this regard, reserve on the part of the U.S. may be most ideal, letting the U.S. give lawful, civilized Muslim governments and groups a reason to ostracize, isolate, and punish the perpretrators of terrorism themselves.

However, this is an ideal. Terrorism is such a modern plague precisely because it blurs the lines between criminality and war, between international politics and law. As such, simple comparisons to criminal cases do not apply.

Consider if, is as likely, the Taliban refuses to extradite bin Laden even with a criminal case before an international legal body. What do we do?
Just as in law enforcement, such perpretrators must be taken by force as necessary.

The problem with arguments made by Chomsky et al., that international law needs to be the norm is that not all governments themselves abide by universally or commonly accepted ethical, moral, or legal standards. The reason why the U.N., for example, is essentially uneffective is because not all of the members of the U.N. truly represent what most of us would consider acceptable government.

Thus, claiming that we need to "enforce the law" is implicitly an argument that certain norms and standards--typical of post-enlightenment, typically western civilizations--need to be adopted by all countries.
Thus, "enforcing the law" internationally for all intents and purposes amounts to an imposition of modern western ideals and beliefs, and thus, law becomes an issue of politics. Enforcing the law, similarly, becomes a matter of war.

About your claim that violent confrontation has never rid anyone of anything: this is true in some respects. But no one has ever argued that anyone could rid us from something completely. The point is that we can reduce it into negligibility, marginalize it. The civil war, for example, did not eliminate slavery in this country, but it did dramatically reduce its prevalence and visibility.

The arguments against military retaliation today bear a scary resemblance to arguments made by the world body--especially League of Nation members-- before WWII in response to actions by Nazi Germany and Facist Italy.

Appeasement during the 1930's was more than just letting those governments "have a little of what they wanted". Then, as it is now, it reflected an attitude of "if we aggrevate them, they will only hate us more". This, of course, led to nothing but further incursions and human rights violations. The assumption was, if you reasoned with them and acted reasonable, they would behave reasonably as well. That approach failed completely, and there is every indication it is failing now.

Did the Lockerbie investigation succeed? In many ways yes. However, you also have to recognize that Libya ultimately extradited individuals involved, something we cannot be certain of here with the Taliban. Lockerbie, in this way, is a poor comparison. If every nation harboring individuals involved with the recent attacks extradited the latter to international courts, if the organizations were eliminated in their host countries and members brought to trial, sure, that would be great!

The problem is that will never happen.

Ultimately, I'm not saying that we should indiscriminately launch attacks agains various countries without careful planning, diplomatic negotiations, and legal arguments. However, I think everyone everywhere needs to think carefully about the implications of a law enforcement perspective. We can only truly take such a perspective when everyone agrees to what that law comprises.

[ Parent ]
You can't eliminate much of anything... (4.33 / 3) (#44)
by seebs on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 05:11:03 PM EST

Does the fact that we can't eliminate murder mean we shouldn't pursue killers?

We can't stop all terrorists, forever. We can stop any given terrorists, and we can do so decisively.

[ Parent ]
Follow the Lockerbie precedent!!! (4.57 / 7) (#24)
by bil on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 06:44:59 AM EST

If America has any sense it should follow what happened after the Lockerbie bomb (in which a plane was blown up in midair directly over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing all on board and many people on the ground as well) which was investegate fully following up all leads and then arresting those responsible and putting them on trial. This took a long time because the Libyans wouldn't agree to hand over the suspects for trial in Scotland, eventually they were tried in Holland but under Scottish law. However now it has been done once it should be easier to agree similar terms with whichever country is harbouring those responsible. Not only would doing this bring to justice those responsible and punish them, but it would also show the world that the US is willing to respect the law and operate fairly to all concerned and is above using terrorist tactics against innocent targets (and remember they are inocent untill PROVED otherwise). No knee jerk reaction, no hot blooded response, just cold calm justice.

Of course what I expect to happen is that large numbers of cruise missles will be fired, large numbers of innocent civilians will die and a new generation of martyrs will be created...


Where you stand depends on where you sit...

The Lockerbie precedent (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by wiredog on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:25:25 AM EST

After Lockerbie, we bombed Libya.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
[ Parent ]

Good point (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by bil on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:16:53 PM EST

Yeah I had forgotten that, oh well chalk up one more reason for Arabs to hate the US (has anyone any idea how many civilians were killed during the Tripoli bombings, more or less then were killed in the WTC? Although obviously Tripoli dosn't count as terrorism because we had a legitimate greivance to kill people over, whereas terrorists only ever have illegitamate made up ones reasons ... )


Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

I truly hope this was sarcasm on your part (3.50 / 2) (#36)
by core10k on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 06:18:41 PM EST

Although obviously Tripoli dosn't count as terrorism because we had a legitimate greivance to kill people over, whereas terrorists only ever have illegitamate made up ones reasons

[ Parent ]
Yes (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by bil on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 07:07:07 AM EST

Sorry if it wasn't clear, that bit should be read with <sarcasm> tags around it.


Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

Berlin precedent (4.00 / 2) (#40)
by jasonab on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 01:12:27 PM EST

Actually, we bombed Libya after we tied them to the bombing of the Berlin disco that killed American soldiers (1986). We have not bombed them since then.

[ Parent ]
Let the US do exactly what the terrorists want (4.77 / 9) (#39)
by CrazyJub on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 12:59:02 PM EST

Get out of the Middle East. I'm serious, pull all the troops and soldiers from the area. Publicly declare that after you catch ALL the people responsible for Tuesday, you are going to remove all US forces from the area, and encourage your allies to do the same.

Then, a few weeks later....set up an aircraft carrier right in the middle of the gulf and.....open a store. Yes, open a large military department store selling guns and ammo to EVERYONE! You want arms? No problem, we accept gold, oil or Visa.

Then, in a few years after one person has taken over the whole shebang, we come back and open McDonalds and Nike stores on every corner. We give them our television and movies to watch, we give them our music and magazines, we let them onto the Internet and sell them cell phones and RIM devices. We give them Jay Leno and Friends, Eddie Murphy and Jerry Lewis, Bill Mahr and Rosie.

They'll never knew what hit them.

Don't forget, Japan had a 100 year plan to invade the USA, we can achieve complete cultural victory in under 20...25 max. Thier children will speak english, want Barbies for Xmas, wear Levi's and Reebok, watch all the latest episodes of Will and Grace, and wonder all the time why thier parents are so mad.

"Why do you hate America daddy? They are so nice to us. They give us jobs and clothes and multicultural tv programming."

You want a holy war? I give you capitalism in it's worst form. Take everything the WTO is all about, and drop it on them like a carpet...which by the way Walmart is having on special for $29.95.

capitalism in its worst form (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by mattip on Sun Sep 16, 2001 at 09:02:01 AM EST

is exactly what got the west into this mess in the first place. Your plan has been American policy even since Dallas (the TV show). Think about the hate your plan is generating already.

[ Parent ]
In the name of Security (4.00 / 3) (#42)
by odin on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 04:43:19 PM EST

How the United States will react towards security has been my single biggest worry since the attack. Naturally, I expect that airport security will be beefed up. (How many of us have replied "No and No" before we're even asked the questions of "Did anybody else pack these bags?" at the airport?) But I don't expect that these will be the only changes that will be enacted. I, personally, just moved from the state with perhaps the biggest knee-jerk to tragedy, New York, where it is customary to make a law named after a victim, i.e. Megan's Law, and the miraculously failed "Suzanne Lyall's Law". How long before the WTC Law is enacted, and what will it entail? And I know that I for one, do not want to invite the government into my home to determine whether I'm un-American. That perhaps I haven't grieved enough so maybe I too am an enemy of the state. The real way we lose to terrorists is if we allow our fear to infringe the liberties that make us Americans. This is not a perfect nation, and I do not wrap myself in the flag, but I urge everyone to keep a critical eye on the policies and laws to come, and be outspoken if you disagree. Patriotism is not a blind loyalty to one's country, but in trying to keep this country on the right path.

Be Careful What You Wish For | 46 comments (23 topical, 23 editorial, 2 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!