Letters From the Editor

What I’ve Learned

Sadly, not much. I spent yesterday afternoon, as seen by my link progress below, reading as much as I could (and there were many things I read that I didn’t feel like linking: columns too short-sighted or venomous, or simply repetitive, academic papers too difficult and contextual to process) about the backdrop to our national tragedy. I received lots of emails with recommendations for what to read and I appreciate every one. I couldn’t stop reading: I was never anxious, short of attention, or bored. I felt like Larry, in Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, reading the entire day away in a Chicago library. I still can’t stop; it’s 1:08 pm right now and the last time I checked the clock it was ten-something. This morning, though, I got an email asking what I’d learned so far, and I figured I could take stock for a moment.

I repeat: very, very little. I’ve mostly studied, so far, modern Afghani history and the U.S. (and Saudi and Pakistani) involvement in its evolution. The only thing I’m pretty sure of is that a nuclear assault on Afghanistan will not prevent a similar attack in the future. I hope that such a motion is unlikely, but given today’s news in which Bush, in broad terms, declares war on someone, and Powell’s recent comments that all manners of force will be considered, we have to think of all scenarios. Why do I think a ‘paving’ or ‘flattening’ of Afghanistan is a bad idea? Because it is not Afghanistan that we are against; it is the occupying power of Afghanistan, the Taliban (or Taleban), that has become our visible foe, a power that is forcibly against its own citizens. A nuclear annihilation of Afghanistan, as far as I can tell, will not ensure that all terrorists that have supported the WTC-razing will be wiped out or cut-off. For all we know, it will make them stronger. But then again, the U.S. might drop one bomb there and one bomb somewhere else.

I have a strong feeling that we will go to war against Afghanistan, because it is the home of the Taliban, no matter how long that group has occupied and ruled the country (for further details on this, read through the links I listed in my note from yesterday). I am neither for nor against this action; I can’t make a decision right now. I’m still too involved with the immediate devastation to be thinking clearly. How some people can declare holy war disgusts me. I had dinner last night with my parents and the conversation was mostly political. My dad has a friend who’s an international managing editor for a major weekly magazine and he said that we’re in a stage of fueling right now, that the first step is to make the plan, the second to execute the plan and line up one’s allies so they can begin their roles, and the third to fuel the plan, that is, to begin moving troops and hardware towards the target. The step after that is pretty obvious.

Saddam Hussein sent a letter to America today, describing the attacks against the WTC and Pentagon as ‘evil’ but also burning most of his ink to remind us that we had it coming, that we have acted before with might instead of wisdom, and that the violence against us is now deserved. His vehemence and self-righteousness is not unlike people on our side who believe, absolutely, that they are right and just in the advocacy of killing. But, they probably have a lot of reasons for wanting blood. And in many ways, I don’t blame them. What if my family was on the missing list? How would I feel? I can’t even imagine.

I received an email yesterday from a guy I went to high school with who asked that I be quiet if I disagree with American policy at this significant time. He said that we can either be for our country or against; that there is no space now for critical thought applied against the given direction. I consider myself a great lover of this country and I feel, very strongly, that he is wrong, that now is a very important time to think for yourself, to consider the effects of what you say, to be mindful of emotional impulses as well as rational ones, to weigh the arguments. He might say that at a time of war, if you think too much you’ll be killed when you have to make a decision. I might say, I haven’t been drafted, yet.

It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m still here, reading, thinking, looking for clues and stories. Again, let me know of anything you think I should read.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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