One of the ideas to come out of Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent warnings about terrorism is that al Qaeda, by plotting a high-profile attack on American soil, hopes to affect the outcome of the US presidential election. For conservatives, the implications of this notion are clear. Republican pundits suggest that any move to oppose President Bush and his war in Iraq constitutes an effort to appease the terrorists.
It is a perverse notion, and one that demands a response from American progressives. Those of us who oppose the disastrous foreign policy of the current administration must make a strong statement both to terrorists who think they would be better off without President Bush and to conservatives trying to manipulate this situation for political gain.
A declaration for a progressive fight against terror would go something like this:
To Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and allied terrorists,
Progressives in the US and around the world abhor you. We will defeat you.
We will defeat you by uniting the world against you rather than alienating our allies with unilateral arrogance. We will defeat you by maintaining a focused, cooperative hunt for criminals who have committed crimes against humanity. We will make stopping your operations an unrelenting preoccupation, and will not divert attention to preemptive wars in pursuit of long pent-up political goals.
We will defeat you by ending the invasions that stoke anti-American hatred and provide you with fresh sources of new recruits. We will defeat you by finding a just resolution to the Palestinian conflict rather than endorsing the extremist policies of Ariel Sharon and his militaristic wing of the Israeli government. And we will defeat you by not forgetting our pledge of aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
We will defeat you by running a fact-based intelligence program, rather than a faith-based one, and by telling the truth to our own people and to the international community. We will not exact revenge against those who expose our lies by outing CIA agents engaged in stopping illicit weapons transfers.
We will defeat you by reversing past neglect of the nuclear stockpiles built up by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, which present your greatest opportunity to acquire nuclear implements. We will invest the funds and the effort required to secure and dispose of this material, placing it out of your reach forever.
We will defeat you by opposing all dictators and not allying with them when convenient. We will support movements for human rights throughout the world. We will stand in solidarity with those building local resistance to oppression. We will aid their efforts to create lasting, participatory democracy in their countries.
We will defeat you by standing up to weapons manufacturers and outlawing the sale of arms to tyrants. We will unequivocally back the principles of the Geneva Convention and will steadfastly work to end all torture. We will reaffirm the mechanisms of international law. We will end US opposition to the International Criminal Court, the Land Mine Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We will recommit the US to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and support a strong UN Small Arms Agreement. We will live up to our commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to take honest steps toward nuclear disarmament, rather than building new and more powerful nuclear weapons.
We will defeat you by eliminating the conditions of inequality and desperation that aid your operations. We will provide real foreign aid to countries in need without demanding that they privatize their economies or allow our corporations to enter. We will create a system of trade based on fair labor standards and strong environmental protections, one that honors diversity and is responsive to human need. We will defeat you by fighting for a world without empire.
We will oppose what you believe in by promoting women's rights across the globe. We will offer assistance to local women's organizations and support active networks of civil society. We will respect reproductive freedom and lift the global gag rule that denies US aid to foreign health organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals. We will promote societies that respect religious pluralism and will not advance theocratic crusades. We will stand for freedom of speech; we will oppose the criminalization of dissent; and we will not impugn the patriotism of those who would criticize our policies.
We will do all of this not for revenge, nor for power. We will not do this in the name of God, although it will be motivated by our deepest faith. We will do this simply for justice and peace, and for a safer world.
Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, can be reached via www.DemocracyUprising.com. Research assistance for this article provided by Jason Rowe.