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Op-Ed: Duane Sweeney 2001

I have been looking to history as well, and see a number of parallels, some of which I think bin Laden is deliberately invoking.

Briefly, I think he predicted our muscular, good/evil, reactive approach, deliberately setting himself up as a potential martyr and founder of a new warrior religion,

I expect he has videos ready to distribute throughout the Arab world in case he does die, speaking from beyond the grave and delivering his gospel of total dedication and sacrifice to destroy the unbeliever nations.

We are Rome killing Jesus and giving this new church immortal inspiration and credibility.

We will be Rome repressing cells of the new religion and thereby doing their recruiting for them at the same time as we instruct them in how to mutate in ways we cannot keep up with. (Antibiotics and super-bugs)

As we kill innocent civilians in pursuit of our "war" we will be invoking a race war and a religious war simultaneously, given the interpretation that will be put on it.

I believe it is our arrogance and unconcern for the welfare of the Arab people as much as our liberty and wealth that are resented. We have messed with them extensively and they have legitimate grievances which have no positive means of resolution. We keep Iraq as a concentration camp in which half a million children have died of starvation and illness (I know Saddam is largely responsible, but we are the instrument), Palestinians are essentially in a concentration camp supported by the US.

Arrogant unconcern for, political repression of and economic exploitation of subject peoples brings down empires. Rome stood long because it allowed local sovereignty with minimum interference except for tribute.

We are entering a new Crusade, far from home, sending our children to fight for a holy cause good=Christian (as the conservatives like to say) us, bad=Moslem/Arab/ "evildoers" direct quote from our president). This is a comic book mentality of super hero against evil arch criminal.

As we do this we will crystallize the new fundamentalist, anti-American warrior religion around a charismatic figure with centralized aims and decentralized means.

Their organization is modular, redundant, fault-tolerant, infinitely expandable (cells and training camps), viral in propagation (video and other media, personal recruitment, religions schools, etc.), coherent in message (especially once crystallized in the gospel of bin Laden video and audio tapes, a favorite medium in the Mid East), flexible, adaptable and low on the food chain. High tech is optional for them, and we provide it.

Our power is brittle, dependent on the functionality of a global communications and supply system with many points of attack openly exposed. Mid East oil facilities come to mind.

They have a moral and religious imperative, however much we may disagree with it.

We have a flawed moral stance due to our abuse and neglect of nonwestern people, the fact that we are defending our ability to keep using a disproportionate share of the world's resources while millions starve, and our alliances with governments that are out of touch with their populations.

Granted, terrorism is a threat to all governments. However, one man's terrorism is another man's legitimate war tactic. bin Laden is not about terrorism, he is about bringing down America so we can't mess with the Arab world effectively. He provoked us, and our coming overconfident overreaction will make us fall on our faces and we will be beaten to unconsciousness. That is my worst projection, and I give it a good probability. Of course, it will take a while.

So this is a reprise of the Crusades, the creation of a religion-founding martyr with an indelible message for the faithful, Rome against the Christians, the fall of the Soviet Union through economic over extension and its satellites through withdrawal of support by their people, the defeat of America in Viet Nam, the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan, the fall of the British Empire. We are on the wrong side of every one of these.

To truly fight terrorism and not just its symptoms, we would bring our highest national ideals to all people. This would take the ground out from under the war against the west, remove the rationale for joining bin Laden. Hope, expression that counts, something positive to do, opportunity these would be the effective counters, as well as self-defense, of course.

This would be a positive trend in history that is on our side, the steady expansion of the ideals in the founding of America to wider and wider groups: all white men, not just propertied, all men, blacks, women, recognition of rights of Native peoples, civil rights, and so on. I think one thing that drives people nuts about the US is that we have such universal, wonderful ideals but we only apply them to ourselves and our buddies.

We could create world community around these ideals that would counter the world community around resentment of alien exploitation. Since we represent the epitome of both, this will be difficult for us, as difficult as giving up slavery was for the south, perhaps. My sense is that this is really our only way out. It would represent our moving to a bigger game than bin Laden is playing and trumping him, and making our own sacrifice for a higher aim as he is.

Universal principles are universal principles. We have been cheating by applying them differentially, and have gotten rich doing it. Now the price of doing so is coming home to roost, and we have the choice of upleveling our game or of duking it out on the physical level, where we are far more vulnerable than the other side.

That's how I see it, and am open to deeper understanding.


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