Published on Wednesday, September 3, 2003 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune
If Our Leaders Had Seen 9/11 as a Crime Against Humanity
by Lowell O. Erdahl
Reacting to 9/11, our leaders declared us at war and took the road more traveled by -- the road of a primarily military and essentially unilateral response. Billions were immediately added to the military budget and we began speeding down the road of violence and war.
Sept. 11 was used as a marketing device to sell a basket of questionable products, including not only two preemptive wars but also an untested missile defense, denigration of the United Nations and of governments that refused to join the coalition of the bribed and bullied, resumption of efforts to develop more effective tactical nuclear weapons, and a host of measures deemed essential for homeland security.
Although all this evoked the overwhelming support of Congress and the cheers of millions of flag-waving Americans, I believe that there was from the start another road "less traveled by" that would have been a far wiser way. Imagine the difference it would have made if our leaders:
• Had understood and proclaimed 9/11 not as a war against the United States but as a crime against humanity.
• Had grasped the reality that international terrorism is a global problem that requires a global solution.
• Had affirmed the United Nations and promised additional support to help make it a more effective means of creating and maintaining global security.
• Had not said to the nations of the world, "Are you with us or against us?" but "We will stand with you in a united effort to confront and eradicate terrorism."
• Had affirmed the International Criminal Court and pledged our support to enhance its ability to deal with terrorists and others who commit crimes against humanity.
• Had supported other international agreements such as those designed to protect the environment and diminish racism.
• Had been honest in answering the question, "Why do they hate us?" instead of arrogantly asserting that they hate us because we are so good, so successful and so free.
• Had been willing to confess and to change policies, especially concerning the Middle East, that have been less than perfect and have evoked understandable resentment.
• Had redirected those added billions for the military into efforts to drain the swamps of poverty, hunger, illness, oppression and despair that are the breeding ground for more hatred and terrorism.
• Had declared that our borders are open to international inspection and that we will significantly reduce and, within a global security system, eventually eliminate our own weapons of mass destruction.
Many will say that such imagining represents the height of naive daydreaming and that the only way to victory over terrorism is to march on down the road we are now traveling. Maybe so, but maybe not. What awaits us at the end of that road? Might not our national security and the long-term well-being of the human family be more likely enhanced by taking another road less traveled by?
Whatever the certainty of our convictions, each of us and each of our leaders needs to seriously ponder these words of ancient wisdom: "Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death" (Proverbs 16:25).
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