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We had been warned that much of the world despised America. We tuned out -- until killers delivered to America its most tormented day since Pearl Harbor.

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Mainstream columnists and chattering heads on the tube have drawn the line. Once sensible to the point of timidity, every newspaper and network is dominated by out-and-out ranting. Calls for immediate and overwhelming military action (and to hell with those who get in the way) are the rule of the day. Alexander Haig opined that to debate the morality of our attacks killing innocent bystanders or to bemoan diminishing our liberties was to "quibble. Quibbling, Haig is clear, is just downright un-American.

After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Big Brother's acolytes in Congress and law enforcement were quick to push through the 1996 anti-terrorism act. Although it obviously did little to deter last week's events, it did unleash the FBI to infiltrate groups, to undermine due process and to engage in odious affronts to the Constitution -- such as using "secret evidence to toss people indefinitely in jail without disclosing evidence, accusers or charges. The next anti-terrorism law will be a blitzkrieg on remaining safeguards for liberty. Guilt by association, speech, writing and even thought -- that's what awaits an unwary and fear-driven nation.

Here's what I hope: We have an immediate job, to bring those responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington to justice. By justice, I mean that we should respond to crime as a nation built on law. Former President Carter said last week we should reply to the villains with restraint and intelligence -- not through massive and poorly targeted military belligerence whose "collateral damage will provoke only more hostility toward America. He recommended employing political and economic pressures to force the surrender of, presumably, bin Laden and friends. If force is needed, Carter said, it should be restrained and multinational, a firm but civilized statement of the world community.

The trouble is that we've been hijacked by politicians and a corporate environment that have little use for Carter's wisdom or American principles. We don't tell the truth, we spin. Justice is relative (largely to race and class). Tolerance is less and less tolerated. Fair play is a joke. Equality remains elusive. And the people who should be defending our personal liberties -- the government and cops -- constantly try to chip away at rights.

There's only one road to peace: making peace. We'll never get there by killing for peace.

We need to run off the Albrights and Falwells, and stop listening to fools like Rush Limbaugh and corrupters of the Constitution like Oliver North.

We need to question authority. Renowned historian Howard Zinn explains: "The images on television horrified and sickened me. Then our political leaders came on television, and I was horrified and sickened again. They spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment. I thought: They have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity.

We must take a hard look at the special-interest brothel our political system has become. Americans think they're "free and have "choice because there are 200 brands of breakfast cereal on the shelves. Yet, when it comes time to have real options -- on Election Day -- the candidates are indistinguishable and subservient to the same moneyed powerbrokers.

If we stand for democracy, we can't support brutal dictatorships. If we stand for human rights, we can't be pals with governments that murder en masse their own citizens. If a Castro is evil, so are our newfound friends the Chinese. If we despise a Hussein or a Gadhafi, we should be equally dismissive of the Pinochets, Somozas and other client butchers of the United States. We cannot be the quartermaster for regimes when they commit atrocities and attempt genocide on peoples under their rule. We cannot afford another Vietnam in Colombia.

We need to use our massive clout to bring a just peace to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict -- recognizing that Israel will not have security until Arabs have justice.

While it would be ham-fisted on our part to dictate the form of governance to other nations, there is no need for the United States to bestow friendship and largesse on what we call "moderate Arab regimes but what are really brutal authoritarian, even medieval, violators of their own citizens' rights. Likewise, with Israel, we must not allow silence to be interpreted as acceptance of the use of torture, mass reprisals, assassinations and expansion by "settlement.


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