The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Reality and consequences

In his opinion piece on March 19, Joseph Goddard lambasted Barack Obama for remaining affiliated with a “radical minister” who, among other things, “implied that the United States got what it deserved on Sept. 11.”

No country deserves a terrorist attack. By its very nature, a terrorist attack is a brutal and violent affront both on human life and on the stability of a society – in this case, our society. But no country exists in a vacuum and we should not be so naive as to think that this country – our country – is any different. Sept. 11 was a direct result of the United States’ actions and policies in the Middle East, dating back as far as we have had political and economic ties to that area.

Seeing Sept. 11 and subsequent incidents with terrorists and insurgents since that day as events in which we have no culpability is a mistake. That way of thinking represents a serious misunderstanding of the history of Middle East-United States relations, and a fatal misperception of the perspective of millions of Middle Easterners and Arabs around the world. I use the word “fatal” purposefully, because this administration’s mishandling of those relations and their intentional slanting of facts has led to many, many deaths. American deaths, yes, but Iraqi, Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese men, women and children have also paid for this country’s policies in the Middle East. Violence in those countries is directly tied to our actions and the decisions of our policymakers. Not all violence, all the time. But a lot of it, a lot of the time.

When speaking about Sept. 11, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright said that “the stuff we have done overseas is brought right back into our homes.” Our country does not exist in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences, and those consequences can affect the lives of ordinary American citizens. Those citizens might be soldiers redeployed, again, and taken from their families to fight and die in a failing war. Those citizens might be, like my father, civilians working with the military overseas. They might be children in daycare or firemen on the job, killed in a terrorist attack in an American city.

Implying that the United States deserved a terrorist attack is something entirely different from saying that our actions have consequences. We are not immune to the radical and powerful forces that exist in this world. We, as individuals and as a nation, have a responsibility to ourselves and to the greater global community to act in a way that takes those forces into account.

The weight of history – its lessons and its warnings – is ignored at our peril. We may wish that every country and every person loved America. Our government can act as though it is untouchable, as though what the world thinks is not affected by every foreign policy decision made in the last 60 years – but that is an incorrect assumption and one that has proved very damaging for both our safety and our reputation.

The Rev. Wright said some inflammatory and divisive things. It is right that his comments are inciting discussion and debate, and starting a much needed conversation about race relations in this country. But don’t include Wright’s statement about Sept. 11 on the list of outrageous things he has said. He is right. Goddard’s interpretation of Wright’s statement is not right, but Wright is. He was not implying anything. He was saying that we should have been more careful, more aware and more educated in our approach toward the Middle East.

It is not enough to simply be correct in our motives and actions. We must know the consequences of our decisions, the way they will be perceived by the world at large and also by small factions of wrong but violent people. If we do not, if we ignore history and forge ahead, secure in our moral superiority and sure of the inviolability of our “way of life,” we will fail. We have, in fact, failed.

The “change” that is necessary, that has been necessary, is in the humanity and hindsight that we bring to our foreign policy decisions, and in the way that those decisions are discussed in our media. There is no vacuum, only reality. It is time we start living in it.

Jamila Benkato is a junior history and religious studies major. She can be reached at [email protected].

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