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The Cynic, by Michele Kaplan

“Supporting the Terrorists”
Wrong Question, Right Response

I was reading David Corn last night, who wrote a brief post (“Pro-life? Not when it comes to Lebanon”) on his blog which can be summarized as follows: How can Bush, at the same time as he is vetoing stem cell research out of a concern for “life”, condone the bombing of innocent civilians in Lebanon? In the middle of the post, Corn adds the parenthetical, and to my mind superfluous line, “by the way, Hezbollah’s actions, which target civilians, are also immoral.” Well of course.

But after reading the post and seeing that Corn has an astonishing 846 comments attached to it, I rolled my eyes, knowing exactly what was going on. Here is a sample comment:

“Why is it, when the Lebanese people and government actively help Hezbolla and Hamas attack, and kill innocent civilians and soldiers, you blame the victim for fighting back against a vicious aggressor like the Lebanese people, government, Hezbolla and Hamas ? Why is it, that American Liberals always take the side of the Terrorists, no matter who they kill? Why is it that American Liberals think terrorists should be allowed to kill women, children and soldiers at will, without consequence?”

Now, I did not read all 846 comments. And certainly the majority of comments to Corn’s article were supportive of his point. But I read enough of the comments to know that the one above has friends. And let’s face it: the author is simply repeating what he has heard over and over again on Fox News and coming out of the mouths of the Tom Delays and Dennis Hasterts of the world.

Whenever and American liberal writes about Israel, there is a tendency to include a statement that the actions of the terrorists are wrong also. As I said above, that seems superfluous to me, because it’s obvious. Of course terrorism is wrong. I read quite a few liberal blogs and liberal pundits. Never, ever, have I read one who advocates the targeting of Israeli civilians by Lebanese, Syrians, Hezbollah, or anyone else. Never have I read a statement that the Israelis deserve to live in constant fear.

And yet, any criticism of Israel or her military response is met with charges of anti-Semitism, or in the case of the philosopher quoted above, “siding with terrorists.”

It’s too bad we are not at war with straw men. We would have won that war long ago. There is not a straw man left who has not been decimated by the great thinkers of the right.

When a writer criticizes the Israelis, or the Americans, for their response to Al Qaeda, or Hezbollah, is it because he or she is engaging in a debate on what should be the appropriate response of a civilized people to uncivilized acts. There are some of us in the United States who believe that an inappropriate military response to a terrorist act in fact creates the conditions for more extremism in the world and, by extension, more terrorism. That is not a difficult concept to grasp, and this position has the added benefit of having Iraq as a concrete example to prove the point. Iraq was a response to terrorism, but certainly not the right response—certainly not an appropriate response to attack a country which was not connected to the terrorist attacks of September 11--and the result has been a weakened US capacity to respond to other threats around the world, and, as many experts in terrorism have said, a new breeding ground for terrorism in the Middle East. Far from helping to stabilize the Middle East, the American offensive in Iraq has actually destabilized it, as many of us on the left thought it would.

So the question is not should we respond to terrorism. It is not, do the terrorists have a point. The question is, what is the right thing for us as supposedly civilized people to do in response? Should we support a highly technical and vigorous military response which has the same effect as terrorist acts, i. e., the killing of civilians in the name of furthering a political agenda? Or should we as civilized people demand a more focused, more precise, and more humane response which does not unite our terrorist opponents and swell their ranks, giving us more of them to fight in the future? And which does not give the terrorists a claim to moral equivalence in their own barbaric actions?

Should we, as civilized people, stand up and oppose military action which takes as its ostensible goal the rooting out of terrorism but may in fact have a larger, more cynical and destructive goal in mind?

Those are the questions people like David Corn are asking. Simply put, isn’t there a better way? It will be a great advance in our discourse when those on the right no longer disingenuously equate these kinds of questions with “supporting the terrorists.”


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