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Vengeance Begets Vengeance

I am in shock. For an entire weekend I shut out the World Trade Center bombings and their aftermath. If anything, the War on Terrorism was an abstraction, not cold-blooded reality.

I must have come close to thinking about Afghanistan a few times. At my friend Bart's house, I found myself chanting "War, war, war, peace, peace, peace." But those words were meaningless. At the Islamic food store down the road, I thought about the way the storekeeper addressed me as "Brother," and thought that I had been mistaken for a Muslim again. But that too was an abstraction. I did not relate it to the dangers of looking like a Muslim these days.

I did not glance at a paper. I did not access the Internet. I was oblivious, because I wanted to work on my thesis.

Today, I go to the library, and I log in to check my e-mail, and Yahoo! tells me that the U.S. and Britain have been bombing Afghanistan for three days. Michael Moore sent out a newsletter sarcastically congratulating "George II" on his achievements. The library is hosting a talk by some journalist who will talk about "The New War."

This is war. Our countries are at war. My country may not be at war officially, but Canada does whatever the U.S. says, so we are condoning this war even if we don't participate.

War. War war war war war war war.

The U.S. says that it is not attacking civilian targets, because even the U.S. knows that nobody wants to see Afghani civilians die. That is of little consolation. Do you remember hearing that first plane pass overhead after September 11? Do you remember how you felt? Now think of air-raid sirens going off in the middle of the night, and take comfort in the thought that you are not a target.

And if you are killed anyways, they will call it "collateral damage." Collateral damage is a part of war. Everybody knows that.

This war is just as far away as the bombings in Yugoslavia. This event is distant. A bunch of fundamentalist Arabs who are nothing like us are getting bombed. We are safe here. War is elsewhere. Afghanistan is so weak it is bound to fall soon.

Nobody likes the Taliban very much. They oppress their people. They destroyed Buddhist statues. They wanted to segregate their citizens based on race. The Taliban is bad. It is okay to bomb the Taliban. Afghanistan's citizens (like the citizens of all those other backwards Arabic countries) want the Taliban out anyways. They want to live as we do, as Americans with free speech and capitalism. It's okay to bomb the Taliban. Waging war on this backward government will solve everything.

Let's not be naive. I do not think that either George Bush or Tony Blair actually believe that war is going to make the problem go away. If I was a leader of the U.S. or Britain, I would probably make just as poor a decision. The situation is complicated: if you don't bring the bombers "to justice," then future bombers will get bolder. If you do bring the bombers to justice, you ingrain hatred and create more bombers down the road. What to do?

Just let's not talk of peace. Peace is naive. Those terrorists don't want to listen to reason anyways. You're not going to achieve peace with these terrorists. Let's choose war instead.

In times of war, it is difficult to think of peace.

In times of peace, it is difficult to think of war.

What to do?

Is there no better way than this?

Maybe we are just reaping what we have sown. Maybe we have created this situation with our repressive policies. We can't turn back the clock, as so many leftist activists would have us do.

The pundits are talking about Pakistan, and whether to send ground troops to Afghanistan, and how many casualities the U.S. is willing to take in its War on Terrorism. Nobody is talking about peace, or a third way that would not entail bombing others.

How many lives will we need to take to earn our vengeance? 6000? 60 000? Just Osama bin Ladin?

What's preventing Afghanistan (or the terrorists) from retaliating? What's preventing Taliban sympathisers from crashing more airplanes into our buildings, or gassing our subways, or bringing the superflu into our countries?

What happens if the pundits are right, and Pakistan is overthrown by Taliban sympathisers, and the Free World (tm) has to deal with an angry nuclear power?

Is there no better way than this? We have had 60 years to figure out a solution. Hitler has been gone for fifty years. We've had despot upon despot to practice our tactics of peace upon. But we always choose war.

Boom boom boom.

At least we've made it official now.