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The War on Errorism

Will McAuliffe | Friday, August 25, 2006

Listening to NPR the other week, I heard a short clip of an interview with a man whose home had just been bombed in Lebanon. It summed up my feelings on not only Israel’s latest foray into the war on terror but also the strategies and operations of the United States. In a thick accent he said something to the effect of “I did not like Hezbollah before. But now I have no home, so I will get a gun and fight Israel with Hezbollah.” This man, to me, is the spokesperson for all those who have new-found hatred for the United States and the West since we began waging our war on terror in September of 2001.

The real question is not whether he speaks for those who have recently answered the call of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda or Hezbollah. The real question is: are we listening? Are we listening to this man and the many others whose voices don’t make it onto the radio or any other media outlet, indicating that they have nothing left and have been backed into a corner by our overbearing foreign policy? I think that the attitude of truthiness that has pervaded the Bush administration since long before “Mission Accomplished” tells us that they are not being heard.

This lack of attention to the populations of the Middle East will certainly prove to be one of the most costly strategic mistakes in U.S. military and political history. This region is where the majority terrorists are recruited, trained and harbored. This fact makes it a strategy of ignorance to attempt to bomb terrorist networks into submission by attacking a general population, the most recent strategy undertaken by our buddy Israel. It also makes a travesty of our efforts in Iraq.

The standard of living in Iraq has plummeted since the commencement of our occupation in 2003. Electricity, plumbing and other elements of the infrastructure have not been restored and civil war now looms. However, at this time of defining crisis, calls to pull out or “redeploy” from Iraq grow louder each day. It makes me wonder, what did we think was going to happen? Oh, that’s right. We were going to be greeted as liberators. The thing that puzzles me is this – what did the administration think that such a greeting would produce? Did they think that people cheering in the streets and waving American flags would bring clean water back to decimated neighborhoods? Did they think that the introduction of freedom and democracy would somehow turn all the lights back on in Baghdad? The lack of forward thinking and planning shocks and frightens me. I sincerely hope that this administration will get out of office before it starts any other messes with no plan for success.

The administration’s execution of the post “Mission Accomplished” Iraq also shows a severe lack of understanding as to how terrorism works and where it comes from. Terrorism starts with an idea, a belief that something is so horribly wrong that it must be destroyed, eliminated, and that this thing is so terrible that the loss of innocent life is warranted in its elimination. People do not just wake up with such deep-seated hatred. This hatred is planted, fostered and channeled through a narrow perspective of world affairs, distortion of the truth and, often, outright lies. Clearly then, we see that we cannot prevent all terrorism as we cannot prevent lies from reaching susceptible ears.

However, we can force ourselves to look through this narrow perspective on world affairs and U.S. foreign policy in the hope that it will indicate to us how we can better conduct our war on terror. We cannot rid terrorist leaders of persuasive lies but we can at the very least counter their lies by denying them factual evidence that the West is evil – and also demonstrate that the West can be a positive, healing, peaceful power in an unstable region.

We need to understand that the battlefield on which we will face terrorism is not in the villages of southern Lebanon, the streets of Baghdad or the alleyways of Kandahar; it is in the home of every civilian in the Middle East. The battle will not be won with all the technology that a 425 billion dollar defense budget has to offer us. This battle will be won by gaining the trust of a region that we have intentionally “bombed into the stone age” not too long ago. We must fight this battle with education and understanding. We must fight with the compassion that is necessary to prevent the frustration and ignorance that turns civilians into terrorists. We must actively seek to better understand these cultures, the root causes of terrorism and how to prevent dissidents from swaying others to their destructive, terrorist causes. We must fight our own ignorance as a nation and call for change in the brutal and counterproductive methods undertaken by our forces abroad. To win the war on terrorism abroad, we must first win the war on errorism at home.

Will McAuliffe is a senior Political Science major with a serious love for the Colbert Report and Fox News. All letters of support, disdain or funny Backer experiences should be forwarded to his personal assistant at mcauliffe.4@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.