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One Week Later : Standing On the Verge
(Written September 17, 2001)

It has been a week since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and as the world continues to wait for the United States' response, it is still difficult to grasp all of the ramifications of the event.  The US has been placed in a situation that it has never had to deal with, and many are unsure of how to proceed.

The initial reaction to a tragedy of this magnitude is a desire for revenge, and there are many who are no doubt upset that military action has not already been taken.  George W. Bush must be given credit for resisting the urge to leap into a confrontation, because the issues involved here are too complex to be resolved in one fell swoop.

It has been confirmed that Osama bin Laden is the top suspect for these crimes, and considering his history, it is logical to presume he was involved. However, he is just the symbol for a larger issue.  As heinous as his alleged activities are, the true "enemy" is a mentality that views America as a destructive force that must be eliminated.  You can kill individual people fairly easily; changing a worldview requires considerably more time.  

In order to understand why some hold this viewpoint, one does not need to look further than the US relationship with Israel.  Each year, America sends Israel $3 billion in assistance, $2 billion of that being military aid.  The US also acts as Israel's biggest moral supporter, as was recently proven at the Durban conference on racism, when America refused to participate because of language it found offensive to Israel.  In exchange, Israel serves as a lookout for American interests in the Middle East, especially as they pertain to oil. 

This co-dependent alliance makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for the US to act as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.  In the predominately Muslim Middle East, many have seized upon this discrepancy to explain the repeated failure to bring peace to the region.  Extremists have taken this theory to new levels, convinced that America and Israel are joined in a conspiracy to destroy Islam.   Last week's bombings served official notice that they now consider both nations equally responsible for their oppression, and thus subject to retaliation.

For this reason, it is imperative that the United States reconsider its policy in the Middle East.  In the first months of President Bush's administration, he has made it clear that he does not want to deal with the situation, instead preferring to focus on massive tax breaks for the rich and finding ways to undermine environmental treaties. But it clear that unless the Israeli - Palestinian conflict is resolved, the world is headed for a major crisis.  In the interest of global safety, Bush simply must find a way to get both sides to agree to some sort of compromise.

Last week's attacks are also having an impact on a number of domestic issues. With safety and security concerns being mentioned at every turn, life in the US has been permanently altered, but nobody seems to be sure in what ways.

One thing that seems assured is the expansion of police and government serveillance of all persons, "suspicious" or otherwise.  Within hours of the bombings, the FBI visited numerous Internet and e-mail providers and requested permission to install the Carnivore system on their networks.  Carnivore is a program that monitors all communications on the computer server that it  resides on, essentially making everything you do or say accessible to the government. As recently as this year, Carnivore's threat to civil liberty was so controversial that its name was recently changed to DCS1000; in the current environment, not only are Internet companies installing the program, but the government may be emboldened enough to argue for the necessity of the Echelon eavesdropping system that it has so far refused to admit exists.

You can also be assured that military spending will increase to new levels.  At a time when social security, education and environmental issues are facing crucial situations, bet on these topics being ignored for more missiles and guns.   The fact that America already has the world's largest and most sophisticated defense system (and still failed to stop the terrorists) will surely be lost in the furor to "fortify America."

Finally, it is likely that the debate on reparations for slavery has been derailed, perhaps permanently.  Reparations had been assuming a higher profile in the nation's universities, media and community groups, making remarkable progress in a short time.  Now, it seems that even supporters of reparations are shifting attention away from the issue.  It will be interesting to see what effect the impending military strikes will have on people's willingness to open the painful wound of our past.   Historically, civil rights leaders have expected to see racial injustices corrected in the aftermath of war efforts.  But in each case, from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, blacks have found the US still practicing racism despite their patriotism.   If this scenario repeats itself again, it will be definite proof that we have learned nothing from the previous century.         

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker. All rights reserved.    

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