Justice, not violence, is the path to peace

By Jesus Rivas

Now that the hunt for Osama bin Laden is over, I hope we can move forward for the well-being of our country, and learn from this experience.

Recall that bin Laden was a monster of our own creation. U.S. intelligence officers recruited him, trained him and provided him with the resources and expertise to become the cold-blooded murderer he was. It was considered a good idea at the time, when he was intent on fighting people we did not like. However, when the situation changed, his interests changed, and we know what happened.

Unfortunately, we have not learned much from this experience. CIA operatives and U.S. Special Forces are now training and equipping Libyan rebels so they can defeat the boogie monster of the month, Moammar Gadhafi. No second thought is being given to what will happen 10 years down the road when our current "allies" decide to bite us in the behind.

Because the 9/11 attacks were so atrocious, there was no real debate or discussion of the reasons we got attacked. President George W. Bush explained: "They hate us because we are free." This phrase was catchier than it was accurate, but unfortunately that is where most of the analysis ended.

Some people went a bit further to propose that the reason for the attacks was to destroy the CIA headquarters that dealt with Middle Eastern affairs, located in the World Trade Center, so the deaths of 3,000 innocent people were some sort of "collateral damage."

Of course, if we really want to find out the reasons for the attacks, we can simply listen to bin Laden's own declarations a month after 9/11, when he was celebrating the damage done to the U.S. economy.

He estimated that, by then, our economy had lost half a trillion dollars due to the stock market collapse, problems in the airline industry and other factors related to the attacks.

Whatever the goal, there is no doubt the 9/11 attacks were barbaric acts, born from an abhorrent ideology that is incompatible with a civilized world. We need to make sure bin Laden does not win.

Bin Laden gets a bit closer to victory when we resign our principles and values and embrace his techniques and styles. When we ignore the human rights that we have championed over the years, when we torture people, when we create secret prisons off the radar of justice, bin Laden scores another victory.

In 2005, estimates were that the war in Iraq had caused the deaths of 400,000 to 600,000 innocent civilians. Notice that this represents almost 200 times more innocent deaths than those from 9/11. Politicians and pundits brushed aside these figures, arguing that they were acceptable casualties in the pursuit of a greater goal. When we show callous disregard for the deaths of innocent people in other countries, bin Laden wins again.

Nowhere is bin Laden closer to an absolute victory than on the economic front. The bipartisan warmongering in which we have engaged since 9/11 has cost us well over a trillion dollars. This figure more than triples when we include the costs of caring for our veterans' short- and long-term needs.

In the meantime, the country sinks deeper and deeper into an economic abyss of no return, bringing it to the verge of economic and social collapse.

Because of our out-of-control military spending, we are giving up basic services Americans need. We are laying off police officers, firefighters and teachers. We are giving up on our school systems, betraying our promises to our youth. We are selling out Medicare and dismantling Social Security, which amounts to defaulting on the social contract we had with our senior citizens.

There is simply no way to fix the economy with the constant escalation in military spending in which we are engaged, but no politician dares to go against the military-industrial complex.

Now is a good time to reevaluate and make drastic changes in our international policies. Bin Laden will only be defeated when we understand that we can bomb the world to pieces but we cannot bomb the world to peace. Violence does not lead to peace, justice does.

Jesus Rivas of Somerset is a former Herald-Leader community columnist. Reach him at anaconda@prodigy.net.