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Killing’s no answer

John M. Hartenstein
Friday October 19, 2001


The Daily Planet received a copy of this letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein 

Thank you for your letter responding to my concerns. I agree the United States should “respond appropriately”. However, as a nation of laws, seeking to represent freedom and justice in the world, we must approach this problem in a way that upholds those values not only to the world, but also for our own citizens and residents within the U.S. borders. 

We must stop the bombing and killing of innocents RIGHT NOW. We have yet to hear any credible evidence that Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, or the Afghani people had anything to do with the tragedies of September 11. 

Indeed, it is reported in Time magazine that on Sept. 11 before any information was known or evidence had been gathered, President Bush had already telephoned Pakistan’s presiding general to demand assistance in capturing or killing bin Laden. The administration shows no signs of interest in truth or justice, and has shown an incredible refusal to consider any course other than war. “Wanted: dead or alive” is vigilantism; it is not lawful justice. 

You express outrage over loss of innocent American lives; nevertheless, we are taking actions certain to (and which already have) resulted in loss of innocent lives of those in Afghanistan, and which have caused riots around the world which are resulting in more innocent lives being lost. How can these deaths be excused? If the loss of innocent American lives (5,000 claimed; so far only about 500 deaths have been verified) is so great a crime as to demand a response in kind, then certainly the deaths of innocent civilians outside our borders is also not to be tolerated, by Afghans or by Americans. The people of Afghanistan have not declared war on the United States, nor has any government that we deem to be the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Under all rules of our own nation, as well as international law, our war actions in Asia are reprehensible, illegal, and can be seen by ordinary muslims and others around the world only as terrorist actions. You say you are acting to ensure that “the response is deliberate, and carefully targeted so that innocent civilians are protected to the greatest extent possible.” Is it more responsible or compassionate to deliberately push millions to die of starvation, cold, and disease than it is to bomb their homes directly?  

To consider the acts in New York and Washington to be “an act of war against the United States,” you seem to disregard that the United States has been at war with Muslims for decades, particularly in Palestine, but also in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, etc. The U.S. outrage that the war we have been waging for decades has finally come home is misplaced, ignorant, and arrogant. Yes, the United States and its government and people should be outraged; but our outrage must be humane enough to extend to the outrages against innocent people all over the world, whom our directly and indirectly funded terrorism has been killing. While ordinary citizens may be expected to cry out for blood to avenge American deaths wiser heads must call for peaceful means, for upholding laws. This is your duty. 

John M. Hartenstein 

San Francisco