War Needs Clear Goal, Leadership
Ron Paul, a member of the US Congress, spoke the below during a session of the House of Representatives on November 29, 2001.
Define Your Target
by Representative Ron PaulThe terrorist enemy is no more an entity than the "mob" or some international criminal gang. It certainly is not a country, nor is it the Afghan people. The Taliban is obviously a strong sympathizer with bin Laden and his henchmen, but how much more so than the government of Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan? Probably not much.
Ulterior motives have always played a part in the foreign policy of almost every nation throughout history. Economic gain and geographic expansion, or even just the desires for more political power, too often drive the militarism of all nations. Unfortunately, in recent years, we have not been exempt. If expansionism, economic interests, desire for hegemony, and influential allies affect our policies and they, in turn, incite mob attacks against us, they obviously cannot be ignored. The target will be elusive and ever enlarging, rather than vanquished.
We do know a lot about the terrorists who spilled the blood of nearly 4,000 innocent civilians. There were 19 of them, 15 from Saudi Arabia, and they have paid a high price. They're all dead. So those most responsible for the attack have been permanently taken care of. If one encounters a single suicide bomber who takes his own life along with others without the help of anyone else, no further punishment is possible. The only question that can be raised under that circumstance is why did it happen and how can we change the conditions that drove an individual to perform such a heinous act.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington are not quite so simple, but they are similar. These attacks required funding, planning and inspiration from others. But the total number of people directly involved had to be relatively small in order to have kept the plans thoroughly concealed. Twenty accomplices, or even a hundred could have done it. But there's no way thousands of people knew and participated in the planning and carrying out of this attack. Moral support expressed by those who find our policies offensive is a different matter and difficult to discover. Those who enjoyed seeing the U.S. hit are too numerous to count and impossible to identify. To target and wage war against all of them is like declaring war against an idea or sin.
The predominant nationality of the terrorists was Saudi Arabian. Yet for political and economic reasons, even with the lack of cooperation from the Saudi government, we have ignored that country in placing blame. The Afghan people did nothing to deserve another war. The Taliban, of course, is closely tied to bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but so are the Pakistanis and the Saudis. Even the United States was a supporter of the Taliban's rise to power, [received US funding in 2001] and as recently as August of 2001, we talked oil pipeline politics with them.
It has been known for years that Unocal, a U.S. company, has been anxious to build a pipeline through northern Afghanistan, but it has not been possible due to the weak Afghan central government. We should not be surprised now that many contend that the plan for the UN to "nation build" in Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire. The crisis has merely given those interested in this project an excuse to replace the government of Afghanistan.
Why is defining our target so crucial? Because without it, the special interests and the ill-advised will clamor for all kinds of expansive militarism. Planning to expand and fight a never-ending war in 60 countries against worldwide terrorist conflicts with the notion that, at most, only a few hundred ever knew of the plans to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The pervasive and indefinable enemy -- terrorism -- cannot be conquered with weapons and UN nation building -- only a more sensible pro-American foreign policy will accomplish this. This must occur if we are to avoid a cataclysmic expansion of the current hostilities.
It was said that our efforts were to be directed toward the terrorists responsible for the attacks, and overthrowing and instituting new governments were not to be part of the agenda. Already we have clearly taken our eyes off that target and diverted it toward building a pro-Western, UN-sanctioned government in Afghanistan.
We hear the clamor of many for us to overthrow our next villain -- Saddam Hussein -- guilty or not. On the short list of countries to be attacked are North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran, and the Sudan, just for starters. But this jingoistic talk is foolhardy and dangerous. The war against terrorism cannot be won in this manner.
My guess is that in the not-too-distant future, so-called "proof" will be provided that Saddam Hussein was somehow partially responsible for the attack in the United States, and it will be irresistible then for the U.S. to retaliate against him. This will greatly and dangerously expand the war and provoke even greater hatred toward the United States, and it's all so unnecessary.
It's just so hard for many Americans to understand how we inadvertently provoke the Arab/Muslim people, and I'm not talking about the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang. I'm talking about the Arab/Muslim masses.
In 1996, after five years of sanctions against Iraq and persistent bombings, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked our Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, a simple question: "We have heard that a half million children have died (as a consequence of our policy against Iraq). Is the price worth it?" Albright's response was "We think the price is worth it." Although this interview won an Emmy award, it was rarely shown in the U.S. but widely circulated in the Middle East. Some still wonder why America is despised in this region of the world!
It is not our job to remove Saddam Hussein -- that is the job of the Iraqi people. It is not our job to remove the Taliban -- that is the business of the Afghan people. It is not our job to insist that the next government in Afghanistan include women, no matter how good an idea it is. If this really is an issue, why don't we insist that our friends in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait do the same thing, as well as impose our will on them? Talk about hypocrisy! Of course it does distract us from the issue of an oil pipeline through northern Afghanistan.
We need to keep our eye on the target and not be so easily distracted.
Assume for a minute that bin Laden is not in Afghanistan. Would any of our military efforts in that region be justified? Since none of it would be related to American security, it would be difficult to justify.
And remember, to bin Laden, martyrdom is a noble calling, and he just may be more powerful in death than he is in life. An American invasion of Iraq would please bin Laden, because it would rally his troops against any moderate Arab leader who appears to be supporting the United States. It would prove his point that America is up to no good.
It seems that Washington never learns. Our foolish foreign interventions continually get us into more trouble than we have bargained for -- and the spending is endless. I am afraid that we will never treat the taxpayers with respect. National bankruptcy is a more likely scenario than Congress adopting a frugal and wise spending policy.
One commentator pointed out that when the mafia commits violence, no one suggests we bomb Sicily.
If a corrupt city or state government does business with a drug cartel or organized crime and violence results, we don't bomb city hall or the state capital -- we limit the targets to those directly guilty and punish them. Could we not learn a lesson from these examples?
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