Anti-war proposal likely to raise ire

October 24, 2001|By Gregory Kane

GUESS WHAT, America? Peaceniks are back. And A. Robert Kaufman is among them.

Marylanders should be familiar with Kaufman. The curmudgeonly Trotskyist is pushing 70. He's been a left-wing activist for years. Although Jewish, he was one of the first who dared propose that Israel allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state. He was against the Vietnam War when it was still popular with most Americans.

In the early 1950s, Kaufman was one of the members of Baltimore's first chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, a noted civil rights group started by the unheralded and little appreciated James Farmer, now deceased.

Kaufman is a frequent candidate for (put name of any public office here) and has, over the years, come up with some provocative proposals. One was to decriminalize drugs and take profits from dealers. He's challenged the city to provide low-cost car insurance for Baltimore residents. (The City Council hasn't taken him up on the idea.)

Other proposals are, as you might expect from Kaufman, straight out of far, far left field. He seriously advocated lowering the voting age to 16.

"There's no magical age," he said several years ago of the requirement to vote. (Oh yeah? Why not make it 8 then?) He also supports another cause now sacred to the left-wingers: enfranchising convicted felons.

But it's Kaufman's latest anti-war suggestions that might raise the most eyebrows -- and hackles.

Kaufman's idea for dealing with remaining terrorists involved in the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks of Sept. 11 is, shall we say (and hope), unique.

Since the mad, suicidal, homicidal maniacs hailed from Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- two countries the United States supports -- the problem, Kaufman says, is clearly our foreign policy. What would Kaufman have us, the ones reeling from the attack that killed 6,000, say to the co-conspirators? First, he would have us plead mea culpa to our awful foreign policy, change it, and then beg forgiveness by uttering:

"We can say, `Look, guys, you won. Now that you've won, we offer you amnesty.'" As a bonus, Kaufman said, Americans should throw in a "financial reward" and perhaps a new identification from the FBI as part of the bargain.

Some peaceniks might call this offering an olive branch. Other Americans will see it immediately for what it is: surrender. Fanatics bomb and murder 6,000 of us, and we cut them loose, pay them money -- as reparations for years of "Western imperialism," Kaufman declared -- and say it's all our fault. They don't answer for mass murder.

These objections were presented to Kaufman, but he stubbornly held his ground.

"The best way to honor those who died in the World Trade Center," he insisted, "is to do the things to prevent more people from dying like them."

Those things involve changing American foreign policy, which Kaufman finds abominable. An example of that policy is our support of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have "absolute terror regimes [that] don't tolerate opposition parties, trade unions or an independent press."

It's a Pollyanna worldview that figures if we simply stop supporting such regimes, ones friendly to us will pop into place. Governments like the ones in Egypt and Saudi Arabia exist all over the globe. If they're overthrown, it will likely be by more people who have no regard for opposition parties, trade unions or an independent press.

While we're at it, we might want to mention why Hosni Mubarak's Egypt is so oppressive. It's because he had a terrorism problem of his own, and dealt with it, critics say, by mass jailings without trial, as well as torture and murder. The reason Egyptians were culprits in the Sept. 11 carnage wasn't because of our support for Mubarak. It was because, through brutal and harsh experience, they learned not to cross him.

Kaufman agreed a change of rulers might make little difference in the nature of the governments we have to deal with.

"They're already monsters," he said of the terrorists who want to force radical, intolerant, fundamentalist Islamic regimes down the throats of Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. "They're at the bottom of the barrel, morally speaking."

Americans may be at the bottom of their barrel and the end of their patience for the "blame America first" talk of the new peace movement. Kaufman is right to criticize America's sometimes abominable past foreign policy. He feels such policies are motivated by class interests, those "rich Americans" he claims control most of America's wealth.

Other Americans see a foreign policy that, whatever its flaws, has resulted in an America free enough for an A. Robert Kaufman to criticize his country with impunity and to put forth the puerile notion that we should reward mass murderers with a reprieve and a heartfelt "Thanks, we needed that."

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