Are We Any Better? [Archives:2001/50/Focus]

December 10 2001

Haitham Al-Kibsi*
[email protected]
I can’t help but wonder about what’s going to happen in the days to come. On one side, we have America that has declared war on all terrorism existing in the world. On the other hand, we have Afghanistan, fighting back with jihad. America will not tolerate an attack on its “freedom.” The Taliban will die before giving up bin Laden. America says that the rest of the world has two choices – support the terrorists, or support us. Afghanistan is still rejoicing in Goliath’s fall. I could go on, but for the sake of saving time let me get to the point – what’s wrong with this whole picture?
It’s one thing to go to war against terrorists, but it’s a whole new ball game when you try to drag the rest of the world into the ditch. Bush, as you all know, has been busy meeting the worlds leaders, asking them to support America. He’s going to stop these evildoers and “smoke them out of their holes.” Fair enough. He declares that either the world is with America or it is with the terrorists. Come again? That’s what’s wrong with the picture.
For those of you who haven’t been to the Third World, let me paint a pretty picture for you. Poverty takes on a new meaning – poverty is NOT living in a trailer and being able to subscribe to only the basic movie channels, or having to drive around in a run-down Cavalier from dumpster to dumpster. In the third world, that would be called a good life. Countries like Yemen are still fighting to feed the population, reduce mass illiteracy and curb the ridiculous levels of corruption in the system. Terrorism is way down there on the list of problems, even though they get to see their fair share of it. But if we don’t support America, we are harboring the terrorists, of course.
Let me divert from the topic a bit. Someone brought up an interesting question today. It went something like, “So, you’re saying we should just take these attacks and not react?” That’s the first time I stopped to think about another alternative. This far all I have been fixated on is that war is not the end solution to this problem. I never once stopped to think what could be a better solution. So, what could a better decision be?
I think this whole charade would come to an end if American troops were taken out from the Middle East. Isn’t that one of the Republican campaign promises – increased security at home and decreased foreign intervention? I guess it’s not as important as playing the game of politics, right? And of course, that totally messes up the business of war. But really, the news channels have been chanting that the Middle East hates America for invading their countries with troops. Don’t you think it would do us good to bring them back home?
If you’re wondering why I never beat down on the terrorists, it’s because they don’t know any better. Take an illiterate person, give him purpose, means to carry it out, and what you get is a kamikaze. I won’t tolerate hate comments about religion, because Islam has nothing to do with this. Don’t even get me started on organized religion. That’s a completely different story and I don’t care to bore you with my philosophy of spirituality. Let’s just stop at the fact that this whole episode has nothing to do with religion. I keep seeing these TV show hosts talking loosely about Muslims and religious tension and it makes me want to wash their mouths out with soap. Whenever I talked about something that I had no idea about, I was spanked by someone. It worked. I don’t rant extempore make-believes.
The only bright thing I have seen yet is the anti-war student rallies on campus. It’s true that an eye for an eye just leaves everyone blind. I don’t want to get into the same old yadda of how America’s freedom has been attacked, or how we shouldn’t be tolerating this kind of terrorism. If you want to hear that kind of stuff, I suggest you switch on CBS because Dan Rather does a great job of dramatizing this situation. I would, however, like to mention how this useless loss of life hurts me. I am the sort of person who hates violence, despises militaries, and sneers upon anything political. So this episode, if nothing else, has strengthened my belief that the root cause of violence such as the attack on the WTC towers, is politics.
For the past few days, I have been watching and trying to keep up with what’s going on and what might happen next. I watched Bush’s speech from the lawns of the White House. It was anything but motivating. I am not one to extend my support to any particular political party in America, but the past few months have left me wondering whether the current administration is capable. Some of you are probably disgusted with where my thoughts are going already. Don’t be. It’s simply my opinion and I don’t intend on imposing it on anyone. I don’t even claim to be a political guru or master of current world affairs.
Right now, I am quite confused about America’s decision to wage war on bin Laden. I really can’t decide whether it is the apt action to take or not. The current missing count is 5097 (maybe more) people, all innocent people. The fact that I have relatives who were in immediate danger enrages me too.
I really wonder whether “an eye for an eye” is really what America should pursue. The fact remains that a lot of this animosity has risen from the fact that American troops are in territories that they shouldn’t be in. What the world and America needs to understand is that the Middle-Eastern countries still function under staunch religious modes and very outdated ideas. It is a known fact that many people around the world are pissed off about America’s involvement in the Middle East. It would be unfair to treat this whole event as something surprising, because frankly, who didn’t see this coming in some form or another?
Today, according to Time magazine, 71% of the people who were questioned about this issue replied that they wanted war, and didn’t care if civilians in the enemy territories died. What makes America any different from any other country then? Where are all those people who preach compassion and forgiveness now? I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I was always brought up to believe that this country was indeed the land where dreams came true. And today, I believe that with conviction. I attribute this country’s greatness to its fairness (granted this doesn’t hold true in every avenue). And in all fairness, what action is being planned in return for these acts doesn’t portray America’s greatness.
It’s sad that innocent civilians have to bear the brunt of something that started due to politics. Lives have already been lost, and I for one don’t want to see a war. I don’t even want to see America dispatch troops to chase the “evildoers” out of their caves. All this can do is aggravate the situation. I’d rather see the administration take some time to catch their breaths, and pray for compassion. This is definitely one situation where we can avoid striking while the iron is hot. It’s so true that haste makes waste.
Right now, every second person I meet is furious and wants war. It’s unnerving to see the society wandering with this thirst for revenge. One of my friends is a Marine officer trainee, and he too favors a more peaceful reaction. Lives have already been lost, and a war against terrorism will simply result in more lost life. I have seen terrorism up close in Yemen, and it is not a myth that terrorists are fanatics. They readily die for their cause. And that is the simple reason that will definitely claim the lives of many more Americans – the Americans who will fight this war.
What occurred on the eleventh arose from the illiterate and uneducated actions of the terrorists. I don’t know if this is any better than an educated and literate response of violence.

*Mr. Haitham A. Al-Kibsi is the Managing Director and Founder of Mtiaz LLC, a prominent company based in Sanaa.