There is scarcely a calamity, an injustice, or an act of outright barbarism occurring anywhere on earth, that Leftists cannot somehow trace to the doorstep of the United States. In their view, all attacks against our country are understandable, if not laudable, retaliatory strikes against an aggressive, arrogant nation that has too often tried to bully the rest of the world. Conversely, any American response – be it with military or law-enforcement measures – is seen as a form of aggression that will only provoke further anti-Americanism and thereby perpetuate "the cycle of violence."
A leading proponent of this view is the outspoken Medea Benjamin, who in 1988 founded the activist organization Global Exchange, and in 2000 was the Green Party candidate for US Senate in California. In her view, America’s war on terror is, itself, a form of terrorism. Late last year Ms. Benjamin took a group of Americans, each of whom had lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks, to Afghanistan to meet people whose relatives had perished in the US bombing campaign there. She returned from that trip weighted down with photographs and heart-rending tales of Afghan children who had been injured, killed, or orphaned by the war. "We must insist that governments stop taking innocent lives in the name of seeking justice for the loss of other innocent lives," she said.
This remarkable characterization of the US military effort implies, of course, that the Bush Administration defines justice, at least in part, as the retributive taking of innocent lives – rather than as an effort to bring down deadly terrorist networks like al-Qaeda. Benjamin’s other planted axiom is that merely because some innocent Afghans were killed by American bombs, the events that brought about their deaths were morally equivalent to the attacks of 9-11. Strangely, however, she has not a word to say about the Taliban’s culpability in forcing the war by refusing to hand over bin Laden and his henchmen – as President Bush demanded – during the weeks preceding the American air strikes.
Instead, Ms. Benjamin asserts that Bush "has responded to the violent attack of 9-11 with the notion of perpetual war . . . a war in Afghanistan that included dropping over 20,000 bombs, many of which missed their targets and led to the killing and maiming of thousands of civilians." Global Exchange, she explains, "hired a survey team in Afghanistan that documented over 800 civilian deaths and many more wounded." Yet she does not acknowledge that this number is remarkably small, given the massive firepower dropped upon this nation of 26 million people. Had the US been truly careless or malicious, casualties could easily have numbered in the millions.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that some non-military targets were bombed by mistake, and Leftists like Ms. Benjamin can allow no American error to go un-condemned – no matter how noble our nation’s intentions might have been. Thus Global Exchange has pressed the US government to create a fund that would pay $10,000 apiece to Afghan victims who need medical care, help in rebuilding their homes, and compensation for the loss of a caretaker or breadwinner.
Naturally, Benjamin makes no demand that Americans who lost loved ones on 9-11 receive reciprocal restitution from ousted Taliban leaders – or even from Saudi Arabia, the land from which fifteen of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers hailed. Nor has she issued any call for other Arab nations to help Afghanistan. As always, America is expected not only to climb unaided out of its own dark pit of tragedy, but to rescue everyone else as well. In the condescending paternalism typical of the Left, nothing is expected – or even asked – of other nations. Even though much of Afghanistan had been rendered a virtual wasteland by twenty-three years of war that had killed and maimed untold numbers of innocents, Benjamin holds only America’s military campaign accountable for the unintended damage it inflicted.
Like any good Leftist, Ms. Benjamin predictably advises us to examine "the root causes of resentment against the United States in the Arab world – from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil to our biased policy towards Israel." Presumably it is unjust for our country to show "bias" favoring the Middle East’s lone friendly democracy, a nation that has repeatedly been assaulted by neighboring armies and legions of suicide bombers. Presumably we ought to demonstrate equal affection for nations and peoples that wish to see "infidels" like us obliterated.
The bombings, says Ms. Benjamin, have "made Afghans so upset that some [have] talked about waging a jihad, or holy war, against the United States." "If the Muslim world sees the United States as willing to bomb but not feed people," she adds, "it will deepen the suspicion and mistrust already felt by millions . . . that the United States doesn’t care about the lives of the Muslim people." Never does she mention that since the 9-11 attacks, Americans have led the world in sending money, food, clothing, and medicine to needy Afghans. Charities, churches, concerned organizations, and private corporations from coast to coast have raised enormous sums to help those people living in the very land that harbored the masterminds of the 9-11 attacks. What other nation on earth has ever demonstrated such generosity in the wake of such an atrocity?
Moreover, the US government has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for this fiscal year alone to help Afghans rebuild their schools, develop an adequate health-care system, vaccinate their children against measles, rehabilitate landmine victims, improve sanitation facilities, repatriate Afghan refugees, modernize agriculture, and restore roads and bridges.
All of the aforementioned issues, of course, long predated the American military campaign in Afghanistan; in essence, our nation has volunteered to clean up the abominable mess that others – many of them Muslims – made for the Afghan population. Added to this, our political leaders have stated ad nauseam that our war is not against Islam, but against terrorism. This message has been repeated countless thousands of times in both the print and electronic media. Yet still, as Ms. Benjamin points out, many Islamic nations perceive the US as being anti-Muslim. There comes a point where we must simply acknowledge that we can do nothing more; we can deliver our message in many different forms, but we cannot comprehend it for those who are unwilling or unable to comprehend it for themselves.
Ms. Benjamin further decries our government’s current preparation for possible war with Iraq. She organized last month’s "peace" demonstration in San Francisco, and was a featured speaker at its sister rally in Washington, DC. "While other nations are desperately trying to come to a deal with Iraq to resume weapons inspections," she says, "the US government opposes any moves that reduce its justification to wage war." She says not a word about the farcical twelve-year history of the inspections process, fraught with Iraqi lies, evasions, defiance, and noncompliance.
"We are . . . determined," Benjamin adds, "to stop the US government from unilaterally dictating to other people – be they Palestinian, Iraqi or Venezuelan – who their leaders should be. This is for the people themselves to decide." This is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order, for surely she understands that the people of Iraq – where political dissent is met with torture, imprisonment, or death – do not choose their own leaders. Benjamin is an intelligent woman who knows better than to believe that Saddam’s recent electoral victory, in which he captured fully 100 percent of the vote, was anything but a sham.
Ms. Benjamin often expresses her desire to build "a world that rejects ethnic and religious divisions, celebrates diversity . . . [and] focuses on building a global community." Carried away by her own flowery prose, she is unwilling to acknowledge that the effort to rid the world of such divisions and to celebrate diversity are uniquely Western concepts – more highly developed by America than by any other nation in world history. By the same token, she is silent about the fact that Muslim lands have shown no similar impulse, plagued as they are by a spirit of cultural and religious intolerance.
Not even the deplorable human rights abuses that occur throughout the Middle East are, in Ms. Benjamin’s mind, any worse than what takes place in America. "When most Americans hear of human rights abuses," she states, "they likely think of atrocities in some far-off country in a forgotten corner of the globe. . . . [But] abuses against individuals’ basic rights also occur regularly here in the United States, and our money-saturated political system hardly deserves the title ‘democracy.’ "
Many of the causes that Ms. Benjamin espouses are Communist in nature. The Washington "peace" rally at which she spoke last month, for instance, was organized by the Workers World Party, a Communist organization proudly dedicated to "fight[ing] against capitalism" in America’s "racist, sexist society." In years past, she staunchly opposed US military aid to those fighting against Communist forces in Central America. More recently, she has worked to take California’s energy production out of the hands of private companies and place it under public control. She favors the creation of a government-sponsored universal health care system funded by taxpayer dollars. She exhorts the US government to lift its trade embargo against Cuba – a nation she notably lauds as a place where people have managed to "thrive despite the odds" against them.
Earlier this year Ms. Benjamin, along with scores of other notable American Leftists, signed a declaration titled "Not in Our Name." This document asserts that the US war on terror poses "grave dangers to the people of the world"; that "war and repression . . . has been loosed on the world by the Bush Administration . . . [in] a spirit of revenge." Again we encounter the ever-recurring theme of the Left: all problems are America’s fault. Benjamin and her fellow signatories angrily denounce the Administration’s "simplistic" characterization of the war on terror as a battle of "good vs. evil." In their view, there is no good or evil. Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill are merely variations on a theme, neither one better than the other.