By Walden Bello, May 3, 2011
In the aftermath of September 11, it could have responded in a way that could have blunted bin Laden's political and ideological appeal and opened up a new era in US-Arab relations.http://www.fpif.org (Foreign Policy in Focus
First, it could have foresworn unilateral military action and announced to the world that it would go the legal route in pursuing justice, no matter how long this took. It could have announced its pursuit of a process combining patient multinational investigation, diplomacy, and the employment of accepted international mechanisms like the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
These methods may take time but they work, and they ensure that justice and fairness are served. For instance, patient diplomacy secured the extradition from Libya of suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, and their successful prosecution under an especially constituted court in the Hague. Likewise, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, set up under the auspices of the ICJ, has successfully prosecuted some wartime Croat and Serbian terrorists and is currently prosecuting former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, though of course much remains to be done.
The second prong of a progressive U.S. response could have been Washington's announcing a fundamental change in its policies in the Middle East, the main points of which would be the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia, the ending of sanctions and military action against Iraq, decisive support for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, and ordering Israel to immediately refrain from attacks on Palestinian communities.
Foreign policy realists will say that this strategy is impossible to sell to the American people, but they have been wrong before. Had the United States taken this route, instead of taking the law--as usual--in its own hands, it could have emerged as an example of a great power showing restraint and paved the way to a new era of relations among people and nations. The instincts of a unilateral, imperial past, however, have prevailed, and they have now run rampage to such an extent that, even on the home front, the rights of dissent and democratic diversity that have been one of the powerful ideological attractions of U.S. society are fundamentally threatened by the draconian legislation being pushed by law-and-order types…that are taking advantage of the current crisis to push through their pre-September 11 authoritarian agendas.
As things now stand, Washington has painted itself into a no-win situation.