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Past Issue
22 October 2001

Northern City Journal
(ISSN 1528-9575)
Vol. 2, No. 43

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Needed: A Declaration on Terrorism

We need a declaration of terrorism that's as convincing as it would need to be if we were bombing American targets to ferret out terrorists hiding in the hills and mountains.

by Jerome F. Winzig

The American Declaration of Independence begins with these words: "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation."

The Declaration enumerated the values -- the "self-evident truths" and "unalienable rights" -- in which the Founding Fathers believed. The Declaration then went on to list 27 particular ways in which the King of England had violated those truths and rights, and further described the ways in which the American Colonies had sought a resolution.

As the United States wages war against the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and the Al Queda terrorist organization in Afghanistan while many around the world are skeptical of our actions, the words of our own Declaration of Independence should inspire us to write a Declaration on Terrorism, one that reiterates the values we hold dear and makes a clear case against those against whom we are waging war.

In response to a reporter's question on October 14, President Bush said the Taliban should turn over Osama bin Laden. He then added, "And there is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty. Turn him over."

Our Founding Fathers knew that words do matter. They did not assume that the world knew the rightness of their cause, but instead deliberated carefully on stating their purpose. Perhaps the U.S. government knows the full extent of guilt for the horrific attacks of September 11. If it knows, then now is the time to make the case. Not to convince the Taliban, or Al Queda, or other extremists. But to convince the millions of good, decent Muslims and others around the world who are skeptical of American foreign policy.

Most importantly, we need to make the case to the Afghan people, who are now paying a heavy cost for this war. We need a Declaration on Terrorism that is based on principles and evidence that will convince the Afghan people that this war is worth the cost.

Such a declaration will not be easy. If it were, it could not be worth the effort. It will require serious examination of what we really value in our foreign policy. For example, Osama bin Laden's first target has always been the 6,000 princes of his native Saudi Arabia, whose lavish lives come at the expense of their own people. Those princes know it too, which is why it seems likely that much of bin Laden's financial support comes from those same princes. The declaration should state where we stand with Saudi Arabia and make it clear whether our need for oil trumps more important values.

America's Founding Fathers knew that in order to succeed they needed more than military success. They knew they needed to articulate a set of beliefs that were so precious and so clear they could convince the skeptics in the American colonies and sway the opinions of people in other countries so they would side with the American colonies.

Their declaration "that all Men are created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" rings true today. If we believe those words, then our new Declaration on Terrorism needs to be clear and convincing.

If the people of Afghanistan are not our enemy -- and they are not -- then our declaration of what we are doing and why must be as powerful as it would need to be if those bombs being dropped on Afghanistan were instead being dropped on parts of America to ferret out terrorists in our own hills and mountains, and if innocent American civilians were fleeing to Canada and Mexico for their lives.

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