Published in the Journal & Courier, Lafayette, IN, September 1998

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Will violence beget more violence? The bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have already done so. What about our government’s cruise missile attacks on sites in Sudan and Afghanistan? Is there any reason to think that this cycle of violence won’t continue to escalate?

My heart goes out to all those injured by the original attacks in East Africa. It is tragic that people are killed and injured in such attacks. However, outrage and sadness at the embassy bombings does not justify the military assaults launched by the U.S. government. And, as even the Clinton Administration admits, the cruise missiles will certainly spur further attacks and anti-American sentiment.

Media reports have almost universally accepted the government statements about the nature of their targets. The "terrorist training camp" in Afghanistan was, it turns out actually built by the CIA during its support of Afghan resistance to Soviet aggression. Many of the "terrorists" who the government believes were involved in the embassy bombings were reportedly trained by our CIA.

The Sudan target was a pharmaceutical factory on the edge of Khartoum, a city of over two million people. This attack was based on assertions that the factory was being used to develop chemical weapons. Why haven’t we heard about this earlier? Why weren’t UN inspectors sent in to verify the situation? Sudanese officials have insisted that the factory produced only medicines. If this is in fact true, the destruction of such a health-related facility is truly a crime.

While we condemn other nations for summary justice, we engage in a very aggressive form of such action ourselves. Given all the failures of U.S. intelligence in recent times--shock at the Indian nuclear tests, surprise at the rapid fall of Suharto in Indonesia and more--one should hesitate before accepting that definitive information has been uncovered so quickly in this case.

Perhaps the most important question for us to face as a nation is: "Why would our embassies be targetted for such attacks?" Rather than really confronting this question, which requires some real soul-searching, we vent our anger outwards.

Why do U.S. military forces remain in Saudi Arabia seven years after the end of the Gulf War? Why do we support violations of international law by our allies--Israel is currently the most obvious example--while condemning other violators to starvation and death from easily curable diseases?

Until we take a deep look at our nation’s role in the world, a look which is based on the rights of all people to a life of justice and freedom, it will be easy to justify further military assaults and greater security measures. However, this will never create the sense of peace which we seek.



Andy Mager