June 3, 2004

More and more frequently I hear assertions, particularly from persons of a right-wing persuasion, that the United States should have declared war after September 11, 2001. These calls are fervent, but they're not very specific.

There's a hint we should have declared war against terrorism, but since terrorism is a tactic and not a group of people, declaring war on it wouldn't be very useful. Besides, when any government or group uses widespread violence in pursuit of its aims, it's employing terrorism. Since the United States does that regularly, declaring war on terrorism would put us in the silly position of declaring war against ourselves.

Some people seem to think that if you wear a uniform you can't be a terrorist. If that's the case, then maybe neatness of dress or the lack thereof could guide us in who we should declare war against. But we can't really declare war against all slop bags because, again, that would put some of our own guys in danger.

Perhaps we could declare war against the shadowy entity called Al Qaeda. But I doubt Al Qaeda is the kind of thing one can officially be a part of. I don't think there are Al Qaeda membership cards you can rip out of people's pockets. Al Qaeda seems to be more a designation than an organization. To say that someone is Al Qaeda is like saying that somebody on the other side is a patriot or a hero. So, to declare war against it wouldn't achieve anything specific.

Since America is a beacon of good in a world liberally sprinkled with evil, I suppose we could declare war against evil. Yet, the president has said that North Korea and Iran are spokes in the axis of evil, and we can't declare war against them because they might fight back. That would certainly be unacceptable.

Every time I hear Newt Gingrich talk on TV I get the sense he thinks we should declare war on Europe. After all, Europeans are liberal, social welfare supporting, secular pacifists and stand for almost every thing  real Americans hate. But I doubt that even Dick Cheney would advocate declaring  war against the European Union.

So, who are we going to declare war against? We've got to have somebody because the president and all high ranking government officials regularly remind us that we are at war. To be at war, and yet not to be at war with anyone in particular, is ridiculous. Congress might issue a declaration of war against everyone who dislikes the United States and doesn't go along with our plan to spread an American-style economy to every corner of the globe. Yet, that would be to declare war against a majority of earthlings and that might take us beyond even our power.

I think the believers in a declaration of war should return to the drawing boards and mark out an enemy we can actually identify.

©John R. Turner

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