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Commentary: Is It A War On Terrorism, Or A War On Freedom?

By Michael Butler

Buffalo, NY – It is time to drop the rhetoric of the "War on Terror." Instead, we need to use language that helps us remember who we are fighting, what we are fighting for, and to understand the best and smartest ways to fight. We need to join together, as Americans and with other nations, in a "campaign against anti-democratic forces."

It is a military campaign only in very small part; but the abuse of military power is the most counterproductive tactic in our arsenal. Instead, we need to focus on diplomacy, to build a foreign policy that presents not America against the world, but America with the world and for the world. We need to emphasize police work, and the power of our economic, educational and social institutions to build bridges of intercultural dialogue and understanding. Above all, the power of our ideals can move mountains and make friends out of enemies; but only if we live up to those ideals.

Terrorism, whether practiced by al-Qaeda, Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh or the IRA, is ultimately nothing more than the use of violence to achieve political goals. Whether those goals are just or unjust is a different matter; but we will build our best defenses by strengthening our own democratic system. We need to affirm the sense of national community that encourages all of us to take care of and look out for each other, so that we all participate in keeping our country and our communities safe.

Resorting to tyranny, sanctioning torture, suspending the Constitution, imposing forms of martial law, violating the rights of our own citizens and inflicting widespread civilian casualties abroad weakens us morally, spiritually and politically, and will not bring victory in the end.

Listener-Commentator Michael Butler is a local poet whose first collection of works will be published this fall by Foothills Publishing.

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