Monday, January 30, 2006

Where's the difference?

"Bin Laden was a self-mythologized figure of no historic standing until George W. Bush designated him America's equal by defining 9/11 as an act of war to be met with war, instead of a crime to be met with criminal justice."

-James Carroll, The Boston Globe, Jan. 30, 2006
This quote got me thinking again about being "at war," and the President being a "war President." The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was an act of terrorism carried out by a small group of people in order to effect political change. So were the attacks of 9/11. Why was one an act of war, and the other not?

Exercising my infamous hyperbole, why didn't we bomb wherever we thought McVeigh's associates could be hiding? Why didn't we round up all their families and associates, and imprison them without representation at secret sites until they divulged all they knew? Why wasn't the OKC bombing the beginning of the "War on Anti-Government Extremism"? This of course would result in the routing and killing of hundreds of militia members across the nation. After all, their anti-government views are an imminent danger to the society.

Why didn't this happen? Where's the difference?

UPDATE: More thought-provoking stuff on war here and here at Digby's place. One snippet:
The fevered one-handed war blogging and the endless evocations of pre-9/11 and post 9/11 thinking reminds me of nothing so much as people who are hooked on a stimulating drug.


Anonymous said...

In my mind, the difference would be an individual committing a crime, like the Oklahoma City bombing, versus a terror organization supported by other governments with training camps in those countries, such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. I'm pretty sure Afghanistan wasn't going to extradite Osama and his followers to the United States so they could stand trial.

Common sense says to stop the threat where it starts. Although, I suppose if you think there is no threat or the odds are low that threat will personally touch you, that wouldn't apply.

Thomas More said...

I see your point. But I think it's a big leap from some guys in caves to being "designated as America's equal," as James Carroll said. And if we really wanted to end state sponsorship of terrorism, we should have bombed and invaded Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.

This line of argument isn't about how the threat doesn't exist. It's about putting that threat into a logical and reasonable context, something that the horror of 9/11 makes difficult if not impossible for most people.

Anonymous said...

So are you saying we should have gone after Saudi Arabia? I'm unclear. Or any action was just too much? Attacking Saudi Arabia would certainly disrupt oil supplies. That wouldn't be good for anybody. Iraq was thumbing its nose at sanctions and UN inspectors. They were certainly acting like they still had WMD and chemical and biological weapons. They were harboring terrorists. If we were going to start somewhere, Iraq seems like a good place. Doing nothing except trying to shore up homeland security was certainly an option.

I've also read that Iraq was the last piece to surround and contain Saudi Arabia militarily, but I really don't know much about that. Sounds like wishful thinking.