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War, Religion, and Publishing

I've deliberately held off commenting on the horrific attack America has experienced because I wanted to let my emotions subside a bit and be able to think about the "who, what, why, and how" of this new "Twilight War" that is now upon us with a vengeance.

What follows is a series of my thoughts on the subject of war, religion, and the role of publishing and publishers:

1. Islamic terrorist led by the likes of Osma bin Laden and succored by the governments of such nation states as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and others hold the same relationship to Islam as Torquemada's Inquisition did to Roman Catholicism, or the Protestants that burned and hanged women (and men) as witches while fervently believing they were doing "God's Will" had to Christianity.

It is a relationship held in shame, disrepute, and disavowal by the vast majorities of Catholics and Protestants today.

For more than five decades I have been a serious student of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and a number of other religions and philosophies. Each of them have at their core an admirable set of recommendable virtues and behaviors designed to make the world a safer, happier place for the human race.

And every single one of them, without exception, has had their fanatical fringe groups led by charismatic lunatics waging blood and horror against those that held differing views of politics and theology. -- Even the Jews had the Irgun and other splinter groups in the Zionist movement to establish and secure the nation of Israel as a haven for persecuted Jews elsewhere in the world.

Religion is quite as capable of being perverted from its life-affirming goals as any other human ideology. Therefore it behooves the rational mind to perceive and understand the difference between the believer and the demagogue; the faithful and the fanatic, the Christian and the Klu Klux Klan; the Muslim and Hammas.

It is especially ironic when one notes that all three "sister faiths" (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) have at least one thing in common -- an injunction to their adherents for justice, forgiveness, and peace.

Osma bin Laden and the thousands of others like him are to Islam what Jim Jones and David Koresh are to Christianity. Never forget that, and the coming "Twilight War" will avoid the kind of excesses that have plagued unnecessary and counter-productive, religion-based confrontations both here and abroad throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.

2. America has been at war with religious-based and politically-based terrorist organizations and individuals for many years now. For more than two decades, our embassies and citizens have been attacked (sometimes with lethal consequences of horrendous proportion) by individuals and groups willing to die in their attempt to kill us and to destroy our abilities to effect changes in the world which they deem antithetical to their own purposes and beliefs.

Up until now, the usual response (assuming their was any) by the American government in place at any particular point within this time frame has been diplomatic (complaining in such forums as the United Nations); tit-for-tat limited military missions (often ineffectual, occasionally misdirected); and the erosion of personal liberties here at home (such as are imposed when going through airport security routines).

We didn't go to war in the Gulf to roll back the forces of evil and make the world safe for democracy. We went to war in order to prevent someone else from controlling oil supplies (and hence the economies) for Europe and ourselves.

Otherwise we would not have left Sadam Hussein and his enablers still at large and in charge of Iraq, but secured him (assuming he survived) to stand trial for war crimes in a reconvened Nuremberg.

The Gulf War was not a war for ideology, but for economics. But it did have one particular side affect -- it preempted Iraq from continuing to conduct a well funded research enterprise into the development of nuclear and biological war weapons of "mass destruction", and put a crimp into Iraq's usefulness as a training ground and refuge for international terrorists.

If and when America decides that another nation (e.g., Afghanistan) was an enabler of the "Twilight War" of terrorism conducted against us, we had best be prepared to conquer the country as we had once conquered Japan -- and then to remake that country into the image of a democratic, constitutional state where all its citizens (and with respect to the oppressions of the Taliban government, the Afghan women!) are equal under the law and the religious has no compulsory sway over the secular. -- Remember that the Japanese considered their emperor as, quite literally, divine until General MacArthur compelled Hirohito to announce that he was, in fact, just a man.

3. This Twilight War we are about to engage in will not be easy, quick, clean, or cheap. It will cost us lives, treasure, deprivation, and war-time limitations on how we live and work and travel.

The death toll will be horrendous, both here at home and in far-flung countries. Terrorist organizations are designed to withstand individual cells being compromised. Terrorists are superbly dedicated combatants. This time they came at us with pocket knives and jumbo jets -- and thousands died. Next time it they may well use biological weapons in a thermos jug or nuclear devices in a suit case. And there will be a next time -- a whole lot of next times, and we could die in the hundreds of thousands, even millions.

I see this war stretching out for at least another decade. The Viet Nam war lasted for a generation. They are still fighting in Northern Ireland after decades of bombings, assassinations, and terrorist attacks perpetrated by both Protestant groups and Catholics groups against their neighbors and children.

The price of freedom is more than eternal vigilance. It is also a price paid in blood and treasure, sacrifice and dedication, and on occasion, even the suspension of some of those ideals and ethics we so cherish and promote in times of peace.

4. I personally think Osma bin Laden and his enablers have made a strategic mistake. The same mistake the Japanese Generals made in 1941. They woke a sleeping tiger called America. If September 11th hadn't happened, we would have gone on ineffectually drifting through the Twilight War already in progress and largely ignored the events abroad in other war ravaged nations like Israel and Afghanistan.

But the tiger is awake now.

5. One of the first casualties of all wars has been personal liberty. And this one will prove no different. We are already seeing it in the form of dramatically increased security measures for airports. I believe one of the bills being introduced in Congress next week will have to do with funding for the massive increase of Federal Marshals so that an armed federal marshal can be placed aboard every domestic commercial flight.

There will be other infringements in the areas of personal privacy (e.g., electronic surveillance and "material witness" warrants). And there is more to come as we are again and again subject to the attacks that I think are inevitable as the enemy strikes back.

I admire the true pacifist. One of the women in American political history is the female senator from (if I remember correctly) Wyoming who was the sole and single vote against a declaration of war when President Roosevelt asked for it after the event of the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor. She is reported in her biography as simply being unable to cast a vote for war regardless of the provocations. She held that firmly to her idealism and her principles.

But I do not share that idealism even while I respect it. I remember the lesson of British Prime Minister Chamberlain who waved a white document declaring he had achieved "peace in our time" through appeasing another fanatic -- Adolf Hitler.

Appeasement (and idealist-based pacifism) won't stop international terrorism anymore than it did the Nazis and their Axis allies. Military intervention followed by the reconstruction of rogue nations into functioning democracies (including the remediation of genuine ethnic grievances) will.

6. One of the bulwarks of defense for personal liberty is "Freedom of the Press". Normally that phrase conjures up images of newspaper journalism (and in this electronic age, the news media). But Freedom of the Press also includes writers and publishers engaged in the production of magazines, newsletters, and books.

What you and I can do, as active members of the small press publishing community, in the direct defense of America throughout the coming years of the Twilight War are to write, publish, market, (and review) good books on all those subjects and topics that interest us most. From cookbooks to biographies to novels to what-ever-you've-got, the free and vigorous publishing of worthwhile books is the activity of a civilization and a people that still has its moral compass -- despite whatever bloody actions we as Americans must pursue in order to defeat an enemy bent on destroying us and what we hold most dear -- our lives, our families, our ideas, and our ideals.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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