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Struggle for the Soul of a Nation

Posted by andreas on September 16, 2001 at 14:17:28:

In Reply to: More Better posted by parhad on September 16, 2001 at 13:54:02:

I was asked to forward the piece below.



Struggle for the Soul of a Nation

Published on Saturday, September 15, 2001
Struggle for the Soul of a Nation

By Rahul Mahajan

A couple of articles I wrote recently, condemning the terrorist attacks in
New York and Washington, DC, but also opposing the growing drive toward
indiscriminate retaliation, have generated a flurry of responses.

Many are of the condescending “realistic” kind -- you don’t understand,
you have to be tough with bullies. The considerable majority agrees with me
and expresses hope that peace will prevail.

The most disturbing by far are from self-identified “left-leaning” people
calling for genocide. “I used to think like you before this happened. Now,
I for one can't wait to see the Arabs get what they deserve - to be turned
into charred, bloody corpses...If we can't find them we can just follow
their smell or listen for the sounds of wife-beating.”

“I grew up as a hippie and anti-war protester during the 60's ... but this
is different. The war in Vietnam was immoral and the USA should never have
been involved ... but when you have butchers from Palestine, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Iran and Iraq attacking the United States, it is time to …
obliterate the entire region then when the dust settles and ALL the
murderous Muslims are dead, open the area up for immigration by all the
homeless civilized people in the world.”

A bizarre reincarnation of Hitler’s plans for Slavic eastern Europe and Russia.

How could people who favored and worked for peace and social justice so
dehumanize an entire people? If this is what the “left” is saying, what is
the right saying?

Many have been disquieted by the footage of a few Palestinians, mostly
children, laughing and dancing when they heard of America’s misfortune.
Every time there is danger of people working through their anger and trying
to think beyond it, one of the networks runs the clip again. Many are no
doubt thinking in the back of their minds that Palestinians are subhuman.

Instead, they should reflect on the phenomenal outpouring of racist
virulence we have seen in the past few days in our own country. The
minuscule percentage of Palestinians who exulted at the tragedy is probably
far smaller than the percentage of Americans who would call for massive
terror bombing in the Arab world.

And that, of course, is what we mean by all this talk of going after those
who “harbored” the terrorists -- note that the resolution passed by
Congress authorizes the president to use any force he chooses against these

What does this mean? By living in the same country as the people quoted
above, am I harboring potential genocidists? Are all Americans harboring
the war criminal Henry Kissinger, butcher of Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, and
East Timor? How fine a line is it between killing people based on their
geographic proximity to terrorists and killing them because of the color of
their skin or their ethnic background?

Exterminism is the besetting vice of our country. Most know of the
incredibly thorough genocide of the native population, with up to 98% of
the original population lost. Far fewer know that a Gallup poll in 1944
found 13% of Americans calling for the annihilation of every single
Japanese person after the war was over. To see this crop up again after all
the progress we had made in eliminating extreme forms of racism is
disheartening and frightening.

It is becoming clear that the emerging struggle in the public sphere is not
only about our foreign policy, about whether we will abandon military
aggression and domination in order to work for the security that can only
come from peace. It is also about how we will define ourselves as a
society, both internally and externally. It is a struggle for the soul of

People opposing massive “retaliation” and calling for international
cooperation and the use of legal channels to fight terrorism, and calling
also for our country to rethink its foreign policy, are being called
un-American. We are not.

Instead, we are holding out our own vision of America. It is the America of
those who spontaneously organized to defend their brothers and sisters of
Middle Eastern descent against racist violence here. It is the America of
those who can see past their pain and grief to understand the pain and
grief of others around the world, who can disentangle the few who committed
this act from the 1 billion people of the Islamic world who only want peace
with justice.

We counterpose it to the America of hatred and genocide, to the vision
being put forth of a militarized garrison state fighting an unending “war
on terrorism” that constantly creates more enemies, blights and destroy
more lives, and endangers all of us on the planet.

As Senator Carl Schurz said long ago, “My country, right or wrong. When
right, to be kept right. When wrong, to be put right.”


Rahul Mahajan is a member of the Nowar Collective
( He serves on the National Board of Peace Action
( and the Coordinating Committee of the National
Network to End the War Against Iraq ( (Identification
only). He can be reached at

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