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Commentary: A War on Injustice

By Bruce Mitchell

Buffalo, NY – At this point in each school year, I teach non-violent conflict resolution skills to our intermediate level students. The students learn to resolve conflicts in a manner that acknowledges and respects the wants and needs of all disputants. In fact, quite a few students become adept at these rudimentary peace-making skills. But I grow concerned that the lessons become increasingly irrelevant as the nightly news bombards us with incessant stories about chronic conflict and unceasing violence.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This truism has no better illustration than the ceaseless maelstrom that has consumed the Middle East and has influenced international relations and American foreign policy for generations. Civilization, as we know it, is at a crossroads in this blood-soaked region. Ancient hatreds, fueled by religious intolerance, oil, and super-power hubris, threaten to draw the world into a global conflict.

Regardless of one's revulsion at the grotesque images of suicide bombers and at the horror of commercial aircraft being turned into guided missiles, one cannot deny the very real relationship between terrorism and injustice. Pundits argue ad nauseum about violence and non-violence, secularism and fundamentalism, occupation and liberation. They perpetuate the closed thinking that meanders endlessly on a closed circuit -- visiting and revisiting familiar accusations, worn rationales, and tired rhetoric.

We argue about specific solutions when we have not even reached a consensus on a goal. The President states that we must fulfill "our mission." Didn't he proclaim "mission accomplished" on the flight deck in May 2003? Who among us can forget the cheers that greeted the statement, "We got him." One can wonder endlessly, what exactly is our mission in Iraq?

Call me (and the millions who oppose this war) naive, idealistic, or overly optimistic. But do not call me unpatriotic, uninformed, or unworthy. I believe that the fundamental values of our nation are built upon one underlying (and undying) principle -- justice for all. The popular media gives scant reference to the outspoken, informed few that discuss the Middle East with a single, constant goal in mind: justice for all peoples of the region. Whether they are Sunni or Shiite, Muslim or Jew, Arab or Persian, Palestinian or Israeli -- they are all crying out (and dying) for justice. We must listen to all of their voices and afford each constituency its due process. Only then will the bitterness abate and the hostilities cease.

Our "War Against Terrorism" has cost billions to date. All the while, the Constitution has been abused, bruised and battered. Our national identity and hard-won international goodwill has been hijacked and tarnished by a powerful few. The Bush administration is caught in a no-win whirlwind of competing and often contradictory policies and positions.

Draconian and highly cosmetic anti-terrorist actions are ill conceived, illogical, illegal, and mostly ineffective. Terrorism will not succumb to military might.

Terrorism, in all its guises, is barbaric and unacceptable. However, it is a symptom of a greater malady, it is not the disease. While our elected officials would have us believe otherwise, injustice, in all its forms, is the true disease. Let us martial our many resources to fight the disease. Let us find a cure.

King dreamt that "one day justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." The United States is in an historically unique position to effect a "bright day of justice" in the Holy Land. Only when we declare and wage a "War on Injustice," will we truly defeat terrorism.

Listener-Commentator Bruce Mitchell is a school counselor and coach in Hamburg.