This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 10/1/01
Page A12, Opinion; Copyright 2001 by Beth David

Let us remind ourselves: There is no peace without justice
Beth David is a freelance writer living in Fairhaven.

FAIRHAVEN -- "There is no peace without justice." I don't know who said that first, but it has become my mantra since the violent collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
No doubt, some people believe that justice means bombing Afghani mountain dwellers. Others believe that nothing justifies war. Most others believe something in between.

In 1998, after the United States bombed Afghanistan and Sudan, I wrote an article for these pages. Cautiously I re-read it, remembering my anger at the eager demonization of the "Arab-looking male." I feared that I would need to rescind some statements from that article. But even sadder than that, I discovered that I need not take back a word of it. Indeed, some of it deserves repeating.

The name of the president, et al., has changed, but the observations remain as relevant now as then: We still gain nothing by bombing these people. Osama Bin Laden is still a convenient nemesis -- not quite black enough to stir up U.S. guilt about slavery, but not quite white enough to be spared.

There is no peace without justice. And there is still little justice in Afghanistan.

Feminists have protested against the Taliban from the minute they captured Kabul in 1996. We pleaded for the so-called "international community" to stop these extremists, these ultimate sexists who stopped all education of girls; who stone women to death for showing the slightest amount of skin; who stopped all health care to women because no man is allowed to touch women and women are not allowed to work, even as doctors.

But our great country did not rise up in righteous anger for the women of Afghanistan.

We are lax enough in demanding justice for women in this country. But we are completely oblivious to the plight of women outside our borders. We call it "cultural" that women are not protected by law in "those" places. But let me remind you of our own culture of patriarchal control, and one Nicole Brown Simpson.

Yes, I know, only a flaming feminist could draw a parallel between the Taliban and O.J. So here goes.

If justice had been the goal in that most famous of domestic violence cases, O.J. could not have stood trial for Nicole's murder -- he would have been in jail already for beating her. The same is true of thousands of men who escape "justice" because they target their own girlfriends and wives.

And so, too, had we been fighting for justice in Afghanistan from the beginning, there would be no Taliban rule, no place for bin Laden to hide, no terror in the skies above New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Forget the possibility that bin Laden didn't order this deadly attack. No one will hear it.

Just take it from a wordsmith that "justice" and "war" are not synonyms. We know that violence breeds violence, hatred breeds hatred, and bombs always tear down but never build up.

So when our own bombs stop and our TV cameras turn away, the Afghani rescue workers will sift through the rubble as the proud mujahadeen burn with anger toward the Great Satan.

I am not so naive to think that we won't drop bombs anywhere. But is it asking too much to bomb the right people? Heed this parable from the fierce Ottoman Empire: A tall man was to hang for his crimes. But the building that housed the gallows had a low ceiling. It soon became apparent that the rope could not be shortened enough to carry out the sentence. So the judge decreed: "Find me a shorter man; the law must be satisfied."

If we must bomb people, let it at least be those responsible for this horrible act, and not the poor women of Afghanistan who have not seen daylight since the Taliban forced all homes with women residents to have painted windows so no man could see inside.

There is no justice in that decree. There has been no peace there since. And our bombs will deliver neither justice nor peace.

And so, as I contemplate the meaning of justice, I send out thoughts of peace and hope to all those harmed by this horrendous tragedy, just as I did for my Lebanese cousins during their protracted war, and as I do for both Israelis and Palestinians every day, and as I did for the Afghanis and Sudanese in 1998.

And as I will for whomever U.S. bombs kill next.

Who will join me, I wonder?