The Renegade Rip

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A semester ends — our new lives begin

AMHERST, Mass. (U-WIRE) — The final months of 2001 are not ones that will be forgotten anytime soon. Just as our parents will never forget where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot, our generation will never forget where we were when we heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Some of us were at home, preparing for what we expected to be another routine day of academics, while others were in the middle of classes that suddenly seemed meaningless.

While this has been a difficult time for us all, it must be exceptionally different for the Class of 2005 — this year’s freshmen. The beginning weeks of college are always stressful, and for the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history to occur six days into the semester was surely harrowing for many incoming students. Yet the University of Massachusetts has proven resilient, and many who were present at the post-Sept. 11 vigils have said that they were among the most touching moments of campus-wide unity in our history.

Students waited in line to donate blood, collected money for relief funds, and held moments of silence for the victims of the attacks. A general dialogue about the validity of our nation’s military response has occurred on campus, and UMass is indeed one of the few places in the United States that has allowed anti-war protestors a voice.

Throughout the rest of America, there have been many positive responses. The rescue workers of Sept. 11 have been rightly hero-ized, and many politicians, particularly Rudy Guiliani, have performed beautifully. Outbursts of patriotism have occurred in all corners of the United States, and residents of New York say that the city has a newfound sense of politeness and hospitality.

There has, however, been a much darker side to our response to Sept. 11. Muslim-Americans have been subjected to all sorts of discrimination, including editorials in leading newspapers suggesting that they should “endure the angry stares” they receive from passers-by. Immigration policies have come under attack, and the rate of anti-Arab hate crimes has soared.

The actions of Americans in the wake of the attacks have highlighted both the positive and negative attributes of human nature. We have found a new sense of togetherness, and an understanding of what is truly important. Interest in international relations has greatly increased, and we are finally beginning to recognize the importance of other nations’ views toward America. But we have also become increasingly willing to abandon our civil liberties, and to blame racial and ethnic groups for the actions of individual terrorists.

The clichÇ that we “will only be letting the terrorists win” if we don’t resume our normal lives has been repeated time and time again in the wake of the attacks. But in many ways our pre-Sept. 11 lives were banal, and unfocused. Gary Condit and Chandra Levy were the top newsmakers in the summer of 2001. In our response to terrorism, we should go out of our way not only to try to resume peaceful lives, but also to concentrate on important issues.

In 2002, let us make sure to understand the world around us, rather than assuming an “America is always right” posture. And let us not forget that appreciation for civil liberties is what sets us apart from the world’s dictatorships.

‘Let us begin’

MINNEAPOLIS (U-WIRE) — The United States can wait no longer to step between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Bombs continue to explode in the West Bank, killing mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, civilians and soldiers alike. The two sides’ historical and current actions give no signs the killings will ever stop. And for those who question whether this is a U.S. problem, the answer came Wednesday when the FBI reported that members of the Jewish Defense League attempted to blow up a prominent Los Angeles mosque and kill a U.S. congressman of Middle Eastern descent. The plague of hatred has spread into our country and has become our problem.

According to The New York Times, one of the would-be terrorists said the bomb was to be a “wake-up call” and that he wanted to “hunt down” Palestinians to prove the Jewish Defense League was “still alive in a militant way.” Had they succeeded, some militant U.S. Muslim group would have likely retaliated, splitting apart our country like the hydrogen nucleus of a triggered atomic bomb.

Before U.S. lands are set ablaze by the rampant hate that burns through the blood of Palestinian and Israeli terrorists, the United States must establish containment. Initially, they tried to do that by supplying the Israelis with superior weapons. It didn’t work. The Stanford prison experiment provides an empirical reason why. Unchecked power leads to abuse. However, if the United States provided a military presence it would not be unchecked for two reasons. One, we would have every eye in the world watching us, waiting to scream foul. And two, the United States’ own system is constructed to provide a check against perverse power.

Only through containment is there any hope of creating peace in the area. Generations have grown up with killings and hatred. Israeli children lose their parents in car and bus bombings. Trigger-happy soldiers shoot innocent civilians. Palestinian children grow up watching F-16s bomb their neighborhoods. They play with discarded U.S. military supplies, which are not always benign. Both sides are emotionally disfigured with loss, pain and ensuing rage. And it’s a perpetual disfigurement, meaning it breeds itself. We must stop that process, extinguish its growth and wait for the fire to run out of fuel. Only when a generation has grown up without terror and hatred as a way of life will there be hope of establishing permanent peace. Stopping the killings is the only means for this process to begin. And the U.S. military can provide that beginning.

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finishing in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” — John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1961.

Scrapping ABM treaty does not benefit national defense

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (U-WIRE) — Although America’s enemies were redefined after Sept. 11, President George W. Bush has continued to pursue an obsolete agenda on defense. While the nation’s attention was turned to the war in Afghanistan, Bush has irresponsibly chosen to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in order to continue testing a costly and unreliable national missile defense system. Bush will soon give formal notice to Russia of the United States’ withdrawal from the pact. While we are not concerned that scrapping the agreement will spark another Cold War-style arms race with Russia, a unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty is the wrong way for Bush to pursue America’s agenda abroad.

We have long opposed abandoning the ABM treaty. A national missile defense has not yet been proven feasible, and many basic tests of the prototype systems have failed. A defense system will also be incredibly costly, and those costs come at a time when the Bush administration is seeking to curb expenditures on important and necessary antiterrorism measures. The administration already has suggested cutting a program to safeguard Russian nuclear material because it is too expensive. Sept. 11 showed that the greatest threat facing the U.S. is not a warhead on an ICBM, but a “dirty bomb” on a truck or a biological weapon in a backpack-and the limited defense budget Bush has proposed would be better spent on immediate threats.

But even if Bush is adamant on testing a new missile defense system, the ABM treaty should be amended rather than entirely dissolved. The pact has been amended before, and this process would be a far better option than the complete abandonment of a landmark agreement that has been the keystone of disarmament policy for decades. The progress made earlier this year on reducing American and Russian nuclear stockpiles appeared to be a step in the right direction, and we are confident that Bush could find a compromise with Putin to amend the treaty. Even if such a compromise is eventually reached, however, it seems that Bush has abandoned the route of negotiation.

Before the leak of Bush’s intended announcement, we had been encouraged at the warm post-Sept. 11 relations between America and Russia. Through a policy of “NATO at 20,” the United States is currently trying to help Russia build a friendlier relationship with NATO, the organization that was founded to contain the Soviet Union and limit its influence.

While the newfound closeness may be part of an effort to maintain good relations with Russia after abandoning the ABM treaty, a consultative NATO role for Russia should be encouraged. Russia is no longer an enemy of the United States, and Russia’s cooperation in the war in Afghanistan testifies to its willingness and potential to become an important partner with the West.

Furthermore, America should do all it can to support the developing Russian democracy. Russia has not yet decided which path to follow, attempting at the same time to sell nuclear technologies to Iran and to sell oil to the West, to preserve its independence as a geopolitical power and to create stronger diplomatic ties, to pursue its war in Chechnya and to adopt international standards of human rights. Russia is not a firm American ally, and the United States must exercise caution as it seeks warmer relations. But giving Russia a consultative role and allowing it to join in the substantive international dialogue is a form of constructive engagement, and it offers the best chance for the United States to influence Russia in the right direction.

Back on the home front, Bush’s approval ratings are still astronomically high. But poll numbers do not give him license to pursue some of his poorly conceived campaign promises, such as drilling in the Arctic or building a missile defense shield. Before Sept. 11, the American people were far from satisfied with Bush and his priorities. His popularity has drastically changed over the last two months, but there has been no indication that the argument for a missile defense has dramatically improved. Americans appreciate Bush’s firm leadership abroad, and he has the opportunity to do much more. But he must not construe widespread support for his present anti-terrorism campaign to represent unquestioning acceptance of his entire political agenda.

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