THE FOLLIES of the anti-war gay left continue. Though eclectic, anti-war commentators seem to share three things: (1) the idea that bombs won't solve anything, (2) a fixation on the "root cause" of terrorism, understood to be the United States itself, and (3) patriophobia, the irrational fear of people who love their country.
Don't get me wrong. The right to dissent is fundamental and must be protected even in times of great national peril. But we have the right to dissent from the dissenters.
The first anti-war fallacy is the old bombs-won't-solve-anything shibboleth. Consider the words of Surina Khan, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. In an interview for the Boston Phoenix, Khan maintains that "waging war on Afghanistan is [not] a solution." Tommi Avicolli Mecca, in a guest editorial for the San Francisco Bay Times, asks: "What has bombing accomplished?" After four weeks (!), he writes, "we haven't found [Osama] bin Laden [and] the Taliban is still in power."
Bombs certainly won't cure all the world's ills, but they can be a necessary start when you're dealing with madmen. To take just two recent examples, American military force ended Saddam Hussein's designs on neighboring countries and thwarted Slobodan Milosevic's genocide in Bosnia. Both efforts took more than a few weeks.
But suppose bombs won't solve anything. What's the alternative? Khan offers this: "At IGLHRC, we feel that the response to the murder and terror that we saw on September 11 has to be a response of solidarity and understanding."
"Understanding" for bin Laden and the serial killers he trains? "What we are practicing is good terror," bin Laden recently said on videotape, justifying the murder of Americans on September 11. "We will not stop killing them and whoever supports them."
Khan may want to "understand" people like bin Laden, but there is no substitute for eliminating them. Bin Laden has made it clear: it's either kill or be killed. How many Americans have to die before these anti-war leftists get it?
Their second delusion is to insist we address the root causes of September 11. For Khan, herself born to privilege, the "core, root problem" is the "resentment against the U.S. throughout the world" generated by America's selfish failure to "look beyond its own economic interests."
This about a country that rebuilt Europe and Japan after World War II, that intervened to save countless Muslims from Hussein and Milosevic, that has donated billions of dollars in financial aid to help poor nations feed their people and build infrastructure and acquire medicine, and on and on.
If some people around the world don't grasp those facts it's not because we've been selfish. It's because we haven't been touting our generosity.
For Avicolli Mecca, the real problem is world poverty. Yet there are lots of poor people in the world and very few of them become mass murderers. Bin Laden, himself a Saudi millionaire, is exploiting not poverty but the distrust of modernity long smoldering among religious fundamentalists.
Barbarism doesn't have "root causes"; it is humanity's default condition in the absence of civilization.
But even if poverty and resentment explained the existence of worldwide terrorism, that wouldn't disqualify us from punishing terrorists. There's a good historical case to be made that Anglo-American economic strangulation of Germany and Japan contributed to the rise of fascism and led to World War II. Should we apologize to the ghost of Hitler? Should we have responded to Pearl Harbor with "solidarity and understanding"?
The third anti-war cri de coeur bemoans the fact that some gay people actually kind of like the U.S. This patriophobia sees something sinister in the sudden visibility of national pride.
Khan, a Pakistani now living in the safety and comfort of San Francisco, links American patriotism to homophobia. "In the U.S.," she warns darkly, "people who are most active in promoting nationalism are essentially right-wing organizations." Barney Frank, war-supporter and proud American, call your office.
Perhaps the most paranoid patriophobe is Bay Times columnist Kirk Read. Read, who prides himself on "asking hard questions," announces he's "given up on queer folks having radical politics collectively." But, he reports, "it's been truly spooky to walk through the Castro and see American flags in nearly every business window." Viewing the words "United We Stand" on the outside wall of a Castro gym, Read wants to "spray-paint 'Wake Up' on top of it."
My God! Patriotism on unashamed display in the heart of the Castro! What horror is next? Standing for the national anthem?
Read says he's been "clench-jaw pissed off for the past month" - not because thousands of his fellow citizens are dead, mind you - but because he dislikes the calls for national unity, because he's been asked to donate to the Red Cross, and because he continually hears the song "God Bless America." All this threatens to ensnare us in "the mainstream lockstep of jingoism and war mongering."
Now I'm not much of a flag-waver myself, but I don't sniff a Nuremberg rally in every breeze rustling Old Glory. I'm glad the men who fought our wars to preserve Read's right to dissent weren't so easily spooked.
To most gay Americans the U.S. is basically a good country that sometimes does bad things. To the anti-war gay left, however, this is basically a bad country that sometimes does good things. The war has exposed the fundamental cleavage between them and the rest of us as never before.