The Two Way Street

Politics for a New Generation


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Ding Dong the Witch is Dead?

Osama Bin Ladin has been killed, say senior white house officials

Waiting for Obama to speak on Bin Ladin's death

When the twin towers fell, I was only in 1st grade. The photos that evoke tears in so many Americans, in all honesty, never registered to me emotionally; I look at them the same way a modern Christian looks at a cross (an image meant to create shock and horror, since it was a form of execution), I know what it’s supposed to symbolize, and yet I have no emotional reaction them. I remember my mom trying to explain the even to me, mentioning words like “Taliban” and “Terrorism”, none of which meant a thing to me at the time, as we pulled out of the circular drive of my elementary school. It was all a blur of strong parents wiping away tears and omnipotent teachers breaking down in front of their classes, who hadn’t a clue what was going on. Some of the older kids were informed of what had happened, but maybe they thought it would scare us too much, or maybe they figured we’d never really get it (which we didn’t), so they left it to our parents, all of whom picked us up early after school to tell us what had happened.

Obama's address to the nation streaming live on msnbc.com

When I first heard the news of Bin Ladin’s death, I was overjoyed. A news junkie enjoying a quiet evening, I received a breaking news tweet saying that obama had called an emergency press conference to announce something related to foreign policy, I opened up my laptop and began searching for live streaming footage from the White House. Upon seeing on CBS News’s website that Bin Ladin had been killed, I immediately called my family, and began to rejoice, as would be expected. I’ve been waiting for this day more than half of my life, and to see it finally come is an experience beyond words. From the “War is Not the Answer” signs that popped up in yards and on bumper stickers, to the capture of Saddam Hussein (and the talk of why Bin Ladin still hadn’t been found), up until today’s events, I’ve been waiting for this moment to come. But as a lot of people, myself included, are forgetting, is that this evil man was a person, that his wasn’t the only life lost, including that of a woman used as a human shield. There is no victory without collateral damage.

Anyone else see the iconic tea party "Don't tread on me" flag in the crowd?

I can’t help but wonder that the death of a human, no matter how terrible he was, can elicit such massive celebrations. I wonder if this is how supporters of Al Qaeda reacted to the news of the 9/11 attacks. When we forget the humanity in us, the humanity in each other, we see things like the horrors of September 11th. It’s natural for one to take some sort of comfort in the death of an enemy, but as we’ve seen over the past 10 years, the hatred of a particular, extremist group of Muslims has often grown and been distorted into a categorical hatred of all Muslims within the United States, outlining the hunger for an us-versus-them (or U.S.-versus -them) mentality among low-education Americans. We also forget that suicide bombers were once ordinary people: the easiest way to get an education is some Middle-Eastern and Southwest-Asian countries is though extremist organizations looking for recruits. In our War on Terror, both sides have lost track of our humanity, and the humanity of our opponents. Forget about Osama Bin Ladin, Terrorism, and Radical Islam: forgetting the significance of a life is what caused 9/11.

Check back in for more updates on the Bin Ladin story; results; repercussions; predictions.

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BASTARDS?

The cover of the examiner from 9/12/01

Nine year ago today, the cover of the San Francisco examiner read in bold, capital letters BASTARDS! At the time, this seemed reasonable. People read the enormous letters as a collective speech bubble above the head of America. They were depressed, they were terrified, but most of all, they were furious. They were furious with Al Qaeda, furious with the middle east, furious with the TSA, furious with the CIA, and furious with God for letting something so tragic and horrific happen to America. As the smoke and debris from the burning symbol of American capitalism smothered the financial district, and anger previously unknown to the nation boiled under its skin. The subtitle, beneath the giant bold letters, beneath the plumes of fire and ash exploding from the building, nestled between thick black lines, sat the words they should have read, the words that, nine years later, commonly sit upon our tongues, the words, that at the time seemed insignificant but now stand as tall as the towers once did: “A Changed America”.

Today a common reference point for our lives, 9/11, stands as the day we lost our sense of security. It was the first attack to the homeland, aside from the distant Pearl Harbor since the war of 1812, since America became a world of power, since America transcended the status of “nation” to become an idea. And we, cowering in the proverbial corner, realized that this idea was being attacked, and, brought America to her feet to stand up for our ideals and way of life. But, rather than seeing the smaller red letters at the bottom of the page, we stood up, the big, black, bold anger running through us, and with the enormous insults and anger running through our bleeding red, white, and blue veins, we lost sight of what the terrorists were attacking: freedom.

9/11 is often referenced as the end to privacy. From the Patriot Act, to taking off your shoes, sweaters, bags, hats, and jewelry at the airport, to various 4th amendment violations for those accused of terror, we’ve allowed our privacy to be invaded to epic degrees to avoid a reprise of that horrific day. But beyond our privacy, beyond abandonment of 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights for those suspected of terror, lies another, perhaps worse change that 9/11 has brought us: many of us live in fear and hatred of Muslims. While the cover of the examiner may have been referring to the select few radicals who planned and executed the hijackings, Far too many Americans took this to mean the entire religion, took the radical fringe to be the entire religion, and their anger at the injustice festered into a deep-seated hatred, scape-goating the entire Islamic religion for the actions of a few deeply disturbed, brainwashed lunatics, allowing them to transcend the entire religion’s history of peace, love, and tolerance. Among the graves of the many unfortunate victims from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of heroes in Pennsylvania lays, with no headstone to mark it, with its loved ones in denial of its death, lays America’s tolerance.


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An Unequivocal Argument Against Use of “Enhanced Interrogation” Techniques

When a prisoner is water-boarded, a wet rag is placed over the mouth or face and water is poured through into the throat to simulate drowning.

There are endless reasons not to torture POWs. It’s morally wrong,  extremist groups use it as a recruiting technique, and it gives us a bad reputation internationally. Techniques such as sleep deprivation, 20 hour long interrogations, and, as the demonstration on the right shows, water-boarding, are used to compel prisoners to talk. Techniques such as these are intended to wear down the prisoner until he is willing to give up information, however the prisoner is more likely to lie to the interrogators, putting the lives of those who are tasked with investigation the intelligence in danger, or at least wasting their time and funds. And of course, that’s what they want to happen anyway.

Dick Cheney says that water-boarding is not torture, however, Bush administration officials used a program designated to train soldiers to withstand “torture” in Vietnam and the Gulf War, to develop techniques such as water-boarding, physical violence, and deprivation. Documents show that Cheney himself signed on to the program, in his desperation for info during the year following 9/11.

Politicians such as Dick Cheney now argue that taking enhanced interrogation off the table jeopardizes our chances of receiving information, but that is disproved by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallib, otherwise known as the underwear bomber. Abdul Mutallab was mirandized immediately following being taken into FBI custody, and yet, he continued to talk, telling agents of his connections to Al Qaieda, and the methods they use to train operatives. By bringing his parents to the US to see him, the FBI managed to de-program him and bring him back to less radical beliefs.

Many white, right-wing middle American “patriots” say that Muslim “enemy combatants” don’t have rights because they are not US citizens. They are partially correct. POWs arrested on foreign soil do not have the right to remain silent, or the right to an attorney, whether or not they can afford one, according to both United States and international law. However, the United States signed the Geneva Convention, promising that we would not torture POWs, after seeing our men tortured by Axis forces.

Thomas Jefferson said that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While criminals are imprisoned, their freedom of speech, religion, and of making their own choices are preserved, therefore preserving their ability to pursue happiness. For tortured prisoners, however, this is not the case. Prisoners cannot speak freely, worship their own God, or engage in leisure activity without fear of being hit, malnourished or deprived. Tortured prisoners are stripped of the ability to pursue any form of happiness. And, fighting inequality of colonists versus Englishman, do you think that Jefferson meant only one group of people, Americans, deserved these rights?


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How Russia is Responsible for Al Qaeda, The Taliban, and Every Other Problem in the Middle East

In 2002, the United States invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the radical, newly installed regime that toppled the Northern Alliance the day before 9/11. In December of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, toppling a long-standing, stable monarchy. In the January of the following year, the united states led by senator Charlie Wilson and CIA operatives began supplying the Mujahadeen, or Freedom Fighters with missiles, and then training. Soon, the U.S. was training freedom fighters from all over the Muslim war to combat the Communist Russians. Once the soviet Union finally left Afghanistan, the Afghani Mujahadeen began to morph into a new group, a group that wore black paint around their eyes, grew long beards, and kept their women in burqas. They called themselves the students of Islam, or the Taliban. Many of the out of state mujahadeen, formed another group, Al Qaeda, meaning, The Base. At first Al Qaeda was not pitted against the US, focusing their energy on local governments, but then, in 1995, in the midst of a battle with the Soviets for Saudi oil, Osama Bin Ladin, the group’s leader, was kicked out of Saudi Arabia under pressure from the United States, Upon which Bin Ladin declared war on the US.

There are other connections to other conflicts as well, such as the willingness of the former soviet state to sell arms to the highest bidder, allowing for groups such as Hammas to assemble an arsenal. Old soviet weaponry is all over the middle east in the hands of both governments and extremist groups, some of it sold, others discarded during the soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The first Gulf War was initiated, partially, because George Bush Senior knew that Republicans made popular wartime presidents, and felt that a war would assist his re-election. The conflicts in Iran, as mentioned in a previous article, have increased severity because, first, Russia is supplying Iran with many of its weapons, and supplies for nuclear bombs, mostly because of Russian dependence on Iranian oil. On top of that, not only is Russia supplying Iran, they would also back them up in the case of war with the United States. There are two things to be learned from this history lesson. First, oil is political currency, and second: Russia caused the troubles in the middle east. The collapse of an empire will inevitably end in conflict for the land within, as exemplified in the end of World War I into II and II into the cold war. In the modern world of America, New enemies and demons will inevitably spring from the carcasses of the old, and, unless we change, to borrow the world of Martin Luther King jr, “hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”


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What Obama Only Touched On

Obama barely mentioned the dilemma Pakistan poses to defeating the Taliban and Al Qaida. Because Pakistan is a “sovereign nation,” even though they will not take action to defeat either extremist group, we cannot cross the border and eliminate their safe haven. Last spring, taliban forces invaded south Waziristan, occupying much of the region. Even after most have been driven into hiding in the mountains, Pakistan is still struggling internally, and threatens to split into separate states. Overall, the government is unpopular, and has little control. Worst of all, Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If the government were to fall into the hands of the Taliban, Pakistani nukes could end up in the hands of Al Qaida, and almost definitely be used against us. But every political dealing is double-sided: there is a public and a furtive discussion. Lets hope Obama is more in tune in the latter than his speech demonstrated.


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Splurging on Victory: The Troop Surge II

What is a life worth? Is an American life worth more than that of an Afghan civilian? How many civilian lives are worth one Taliban? How many American lives is victory worth? These are the decisions made daily by the generals who convinced Obama to send more troops. These men haggle over the worths of lives daily, as a buyer and seller haggle over price. civilians, enemies, and soldiers are like  nickels, dimes, and quarters, mere bargaining pieces, chess pawns. But these generals are detached from the grieving families, violent or suicidal PTS victims, not to mention the sufferings on the Afghan side. It isn’t the right of the men safe behind the lines to decide who lives and who may die. My life is not a poker chip. No life is.