Winged Monkeys!

Our smoky links to unsavory characters

Look, this whole topic isn't fun for me: I quoted Jesus verbatim a few weeks ago and was paid back in mail calling me anti-Christian; I cite the principles this nation was founded on and get called unpatriotic. I would far rather go back to writing my usual columns full of mirth and sexual innuendo. But it shouldn't be this hard to be understood, so I'll make one more attempt here.

Terrorists are bad. The surviving ones responsible for attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon deserve whatever grief we can lob at them. I hate to disagree with Bill Maher, but the hijackers were the worst sort of cowards, too afraid to question their own bullshit dogma to realize they had no right sacrificing anybody's lives but their own.

They are guilty of heinous, inexcusable crimes against humanity, and it will not subtract from their guilt if Americans do some soul-searching at this crucial juncture and admit that it is hypocritical for us to talk of waging a crusade against terrorism without owning up to the terrorism we've abetted in the world. One man's "freedom fighter" is another man's terrorist, which should be only too clear now that bin Laden has been both to us. To face such truths doesn't mean you're unpatriotic, or that you're practicing "moral relativism," or that you don't love your country. It means that you care. If you can figure out a way to have freedom without truth, you let me know.

It is never, ever in our best interest to support corrupt, undemocratic governments that suppress, torture and kill their own people. That was an obvious truth 225 years ago in Philadelphia, and it is all the more true today. That applies to the Taliban, but also to Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, et al.—and to the "drug war" we're backing in Colombia, where we're supporting a repressive military allied (according to Human Rights Watch) with the death squads who are murdering nuns, human rights activists and workers.

That cannot be reconciled with Bush's bombing-announcement speech this week, in which he said, "If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and killers themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril."

Such hypocrisy is wrong not only because it is, well, wrong, but also because of this iron-clad law: when we don't live up to our ideals, it comes back to haunt us. It may have benefited our arms manufacturers for the United States to be the lone holdout on a global treaty banning land mines. It will seem like less of a good decision if we send ground troops into Afghanistan, where some 6 million armed mines still litter the country from their last war, killing 10 or more civilians per day.

I've been flying a flag since Sept. 11. It is my flag, not just the flag of all the blotto, pump-action patriots driving around frightening elderly Iranians. I grew up loving the flag and its Superman-era message of "truth, justice and the American way." I still believe freedom, truth and justice are sufficiently powerful forces that we should stand by them and not sell them out while cynically sidling up to every unsavory satrap and murderous dictator out there and then acting surprised when the asps turn and bite us.

When they do bite us, do you suppose that we might taste unsavory to them?

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