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What is the true meaning of Council action?

Jim Mellander
Monday October 22, 2001


I am writing to express my disagreements with all of the published letters in the Friday, October 19, 2001 issue of the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

I recognize that Ms. Maio, being a politician, may wish to hide behind the literal wording of the resolution, as passed, but as many who condemn the current U.S. Government action state, perhaps we should look deeper for root causes. So lets examine the meaning of the resolution:  

Although not explicitly stated, there is a clear implication that the City Council believes (Part five) that America's usage of Middle Eastern oil is a contributing factor to the attack, and that our failure to eradicate the miseries of the Third World (Part 4) are also part of the root causes for this attack. There is no other rational explanation for the inclusion of these sections in the resolution, although the root causes argument is bogus (see below). The mildness of the wording of these sections tends to hide the clear implication that the council believes that the United States is partially responsible for the attack of Sept. 11. 

Once having established the backdrop against which the resolution is written, the meaning of Part two (ask our representatives to help break the cycle of violence, bringing the bombing to a conclusion as soon as possible, avoiding actions that can endanger of the lives of innocent people in Afghanistan, and minimizing the risk to American military personnel), comes into a different light than its carefully selected, non-confrontational wording. This is in fact, a clear condemnation of our bombing campaign, under which, unfortunately, innocent civilians are killed. 

Ms. Maio, maybe the media see the true meaning of the resolution, rather than the Clintonesque spin put on by Berkeley politicians. Berkeley would probably not receive any more national scorn than it already has by explicitly stating what is obfuscated in the resolution, that you do, indeed, condemn the bombing campaign. Have the courage of your convictions, and be honest about it. 

Although generally, I agree with Ms. Carroll’s sentiments in her letter, I disagree that all government officials should necessarily rally around the president in this time of national crisis. Fortunately, the vast majority have, but even Berkeley public officials enjoy the protection of the First Amendment. American blood has been spilt to purchase these freedoms, and likely will be spilt in the future defending our freedom.  

Of course, politicians (in Berkeley especially) must make sure that their public statements are politically correct, hence the watering down of the true sentiments of the City Council. 

I certainly applaud Mr. Azevedo’s efforts to learn to be peaceful within himself. Unfortunately, the hope that this will eventually lead to a peaceful world is naive. Each generation has had to learn the same lessons as past generations in the spiritual and emotional realms, as each person grows on the path of wisdom individually, initially from a childish perspective. Perhaps if the human life span was extended, the wisdom accumulated painfully through time might be better conserved. In the meantime, there are numerous examples of children with every advantage of parenting and education who have turned into monsters, thus turning back the cause of creating a peaceful world. 

Finally, the shrill, hysterical tone of Mr. Hartenstein’s letter impressed me as much as, I imagine, Sen. Feinstein. Although Mr. Hartenstein hasn’t seen evidence that bin Laden is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, that certainly doesn’t mean that such evidence doesn’t exist. It would be foolish for our leadership to unnecessarily tip our hand as to the evidence available, especially while our criminal investigation and military activities are in progress. Furthermore, bin Laden’s previous crimes are well-documented and, of themselves, deserve harsh punishment. 

Our government’s stated policy is a generalized war on terrorism, which eventually should, and hopefully will, cast a wider net than on just those specifically involved with the 9/11 attacks. The war will also target those states which foster terrorism. 

Mr. Hartenstein would have us believe that the U.S. is one such state. This seems eerily like an aspect of ‘Battered Wives Syndrome,’ in which the victim of domestic violence blames herself for the attack, rather than directing the justified anger outwards. This sort of introspective, self-defeating behavior is also evident in the search for root causes of the attacks, which always seems to come down to such fatuous phrases as “U.S. Imperialism” and “Give Peace a Chance.” 

Berkeley has an incredible number of therapists (I’ll not speculate why), whose profession includes the searching out the ‘root causes’ of their patient’s neuroses. It is interesting to note that while the individual search for root causes often takes years or decades, media pundits on Sept. 12 already were solemnly describing the root causes of the terrorist attacks. This suggests that the therapists may be ripping off their patients, or that the search for root causes is much more difficult than anyone admits, or (my guess) both. In any event, conflicts between the Arab world and the Western world predate U.S. intervention (check out these years: 1453, 1683, 1912). Any assignment of a root cause that doesn’t include the events of those, and many other years, will require ignoring significant facts that bear on this centuries-long conflict. 

The search for root causes will certainly take place, as historians piece together the history of these days, but it shouldn’t be used as as an excuse for inaction in the face of clear and present danger. I believe we must use our greatest gift, the rational facility which distinguishes us from all other creatures, and lies dormant in all too many people, to make judgments of right and wrong to chart our course towards a more just future. The Sept. 11 attacks cannot be judged as anything other than pure evil, despite any appeals to cultural relativism. This evil must and will be eradicated from the globe. 


Jim Mellander 

El Sobrante