How It All Began

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The U.S., after training and egging on the Ethiopians to intervene in the Somali civil war, is now bombing and strafing Somalis. The government "suspects" they might be al-Qaida.

That is a load of horse apples. You can’t identify people, much less their politics, from an airplane or a helicopter. Air power always kills innocent civilians. That obscene euphemism "collateral damage" changes neither the facts on the ground nor the immorality of the act. I assume most Americans still think it is immoral to kill innocent people.

It amazes me how the talking class in this country can agonize, expostulate, groan and moan, condemn and abhor the deaths that result when some desperate youth straps a bomb to his waist and detonates it. Yet, when bombs fall from the sky or are detonated in another country, the talking class shrugs. To paraphrase the poet Gertrude Stein, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb. How it’s delivered is irrelevant. A bomb by any other name kills as certainly.

And what are we doing back in Somalia? Chasing so-called terrorists is the party line, but since when does it require a foreign army, helicopter gunships and bombers to chase down a few al-Qaida people? No, the truth is that we backed the warlords against an Islamic group, and when the warlords failed, we brought in the Ethiopians.

It is true, I believe, that one reaps what one sows, and by the time this administration is out of office, it will have sown so much hatred for America that there will be enough to last for generations.

It all began with one faulty premise. The attack on the World Trade Center was carried out by a single organization, al-Qaida. Hamas had not attacked us; Islamic Jihad had not attacked us; the Taliban had not attacked us; the guerrillas in the Philippines, Somalia, Colombia and wherever else in the world they exist had not attacked us. We had been attacked by one single organization, which had publicly declared war on us and had attacked us before overseas.

President Bush had a choice. He could have retaliated against the people who had attacked us. If he had done that, we would have had one enemy to deal with. Instead, Bush declared a global war on global terrorism. He was, in effect, declaring war on the world. That was the keystone stupid mistake. Invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attack on us, was a second stupid mistake.

Furthermore, terrorism is a tactic. When the Clinton administration decided to bomb Serbia, that was practicing terrorism. If you want to know what real terror is, just wait until, God forbid, you’re on the ground and somebody is dropping high explosives on you. A human being is defenseless against an aerial attack.

You can’t, of course, declare war on a tactic, and at any rate, the cowardly Congress didn’t require a declaration of war, as was its constitutional duty. And that is how we got into the mess we are in. It started with bad decisions, first on the part of the voters, and secondly on the part of the people we elected.

So, never let anyone tell you that elections don’t matter. The day after Election Day, 100 percent of the power resides in 435 congressmen, 100 senators and one president. Their decisions can lead us to doom or to glory, to poverty or to prosperity, to war or to peace.

With our national debt at $8.6 trillion, with our military stretched to the breaking point, with most of the world hating us for our behavior, we don’t have a lot of margin of error left. We’d better do better than voting for Mr. and Ms. Smiley Face.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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