By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Certainly Bush must be given credit for distinguishing between Islam and those who pervert its teachings in the name of terror, and for visiting an Islamic center to show good will. What is certain is that a cleverer or more statesmanlike man than Bush could not have stopped the massacre at the World Trade Center. This was not about statesmanship.
Nor, as Christopher Hitchens -- by no definition a friend of Israel -- pointed out in The Nation, would the attack have been forestalled by an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. Accurately for once, Hitchens uses the term fascist to describe the attack, which was planned and perpetrated by people who hate what is best, as well as what is worst, about American life: democracy itself, as expressed in freedom of speech; the separation -- however compromised lately -- of church and state; the guarantee of civil rights; the emancipation of women. Hitchens has been pilloried for his efforts -- nothing riles the dug-in left quite like a member breaking ranks. As far as I’m concerned, he can come to dinner any time, and we can have a lovely fight about American support for Israel, which for all its errors is the lone practitioner in the Middle East of the values he holds dear.
These are trying times for opposition period, and some have called for unity on the left. I, for one, have never been so happy to see the left fractured and divided. The intellectual debate will keep us honest and force on us a discussion we haven‘t lately had of the basic principles of dissent. Some are easy. Right now, the left should be making a stink about the thousands of workers who have been pink-slipped in the last two weeks, not to mention the months since the economic bubble burst, not to mention the poor and oppressed who remain poor and oppressed now, as they were before September 11. But there are more difficult areas for which we need the skills to take stock, and to make critical distinctions between degrees of evil. Right now, if the police want to search your bags in public places, or the government detains a foreign national on suspicion of terrorism by association, or taps into your e-mail, is that a necessary part of security, or a flagrant abuse of civil rights? How are we to move the Middle East debate beyond ”Israel, boo; Palestine, hurray“? Most difficult of all, how is America to respond to the attack?
Having lived through two of Israel’s wars, I find it hard to take seriously the pacifism, however sincerely meant, espoused by Howard Zinn and others. War has been declared on us, and one of the tasks of a mature left will be to decide what counts as an appropriate -- and yes, maybe a military -- response.
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