The Shape of the World: Part 5
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GWEN IFILL: And joining me is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine. She’s also editor of the book A Just Response: The nation, terrorism, democracy, and September 11 that will be released this spring. Welcome.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, The Nation: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: I want to read to you what The Nation editorialized on October 1. I assume you had a hand in this, and it’s an interesting way of looking at this. You write: “After the dead are properly mourned after we have reliably established how this happened and who was responsible, then we Americans must undertake a most difficult conversation among ourselves. A true national debate about what sane national security means in the 21st century.” So now a couple of months later, can you say whether it’s happening?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: We have not had a sane full debate in this country about what a sane foreign policy would mean. What we do know is that on September 11th this administration was pushed away from its unilateralist stance. We do know that internationalism, that engagement with the world community, that engagement with treaties that this administration is beginning to shred, Kyoto, the ABM treaty, even torpedoing the biological weapons convention, is not a measure of foreign policy or national security. I want to bring your attention today to the story that we are now the United States beginning to set up permanent bases around Central Asia. This is going on without any discussion in Congress or really in our media, nor have we had a discussion about what a superpower means in a world riddled with nuclear weapons. Why don’t we have a vigorous debate? Some of it is because the Congress has not taken it upon itself to at this stage in the war — and Bush has said we are now moving into the next front, where is Congress in terms of overseeing clarifying the scope of this war, but what we do know is internationalism — is really democratic internationalism is the most realistic, really the most hard headed, sane foreign policy for this period.
GWEN IFILL: Would it be fair to say that the nation generally is anti-war, believes we should not be at war?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I mean what does war, I mean what does war solve? But what I think needs to be done now as we conclude this phase of the war in Afghanistan, we’ve seen the Taliban toppled, there’s still the eradication of the al-Qaida network, but with the United States could do and what Bush talked about early on in this war is put itself at the head of a global initiative to rid the world of poverty, to become part of a development agenda in terms of internationalism. Even people like the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain, Gordon Brown, hardheaded realistic politician, has talked about a development initiative. In western industrialized countries, put up $50 billion — this is 1 percent, by the way, of the 1.6 trillion dollar tax cut just passed by our Congress — to address issues that contribute to the festering crises of global poverty, of the enormous gaps in equality in this world.
GWEN IFILL: At a time when the government is waging what appears to be at least at this point an enormously popular war, you write about moral and legal restraint. We had Robert Kaplan from The Atlantic Monthly on last night; he talked about power first and principles later. Sounds like you’re talking about principles first.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think that is a country that needs to reconcile its professed values with its national interest. And that has been a struggle throughout the course of U.S. History, and it’s something that is now a prime moment to undertake that debate. Of course we want to eradicate world poverty, and of course we have a military budget, do we need more billions at this stage when what we saw on September 11th in a world riddled with nuclear weapons, with 20 people, would three airplanes, probably causing $300 billion worth of damage, does that mean we add more billions to a defense budget, or do we undertake to really address the underlying causes of terrorism around this world, around despair that breeds these problems, and work to address those issues?
GWEN IFILL: But even among the left, the progressive, such as yourself, there is quite as debate going on about whether there is an appetite for this right now, for these kinds of actions right now, whether there should be some sort of effort to explore the roots of anti-American rage in the Islamic world instead of getting to payback, I guess.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Nothing that happened on September, you know, nothing the United States has done in terms of its policies justifies what happened on September 11th. What I do think September 11th leads the United States to o if it’s wise and if it has the confidence of global-leadership is to assess what a humane internationalist policy could be at this stage, moving on so that you begin to diffuse those crises in the world, whether it’s in the Middle East or whether it’s in India, Pakistan, again the confrontation of two nuclear powers. And I think that’s what the United States should do in terms of entering a vigorous national debate. Now, in terms of military force, the nation, yes, supported a measured discriminate use of military force, but unless you work as hard to rebuild Afghanistan and again through the United Nations, the military victory may in a year be virtually meaningless if you don’t have peace brought to that country through development and reconstruction.
GWEN IFILL: You have also editorialized a lot about what’s been happening here at home since September 11th, particularly about the civil liberties debate. Have you gotten response to this kind of argument where you can sense there is some real concern about that abroad and around the country, or do you sense that you’re kind of in a lonely place?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well we know that abroad there is great concern – I mean the Spanish government, which has had a history of dealing with terrorism with the Bask problem, has refused to extradite terrorists because of its concern about the civil liberties situation in this country. And put aside the nations editorializing, there are police chiefs around this country who are opposing Attorney General Ashcroft’s trolling for Arab American men — in any war, civil liberties comes under attack, but to have unreviewable military tribunals, to have warrantless monitoring of attorney-client privilege, to have an administration that refuses to give out information on detainees, something The Nation has joined with others to seek information about, this is in violation of the very principles this country stands for and for which we proclaim we are fighting in this war against fundamentals fanatics who seek a repression of women, of people, and we wish the left — progressive left in particular has stood for the very values of democracy, of opening up countries, of affirmation of the rule of law. If we don’t stand for that, what does America stand for?
GWEN IFILL: Does the progressive left fine itself in a box at a time of war, advocating peace at a time when people are war-like? You’ve written about that.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we’re always the left wing of the possible. We speak for voices that perhaps in several decades will be proved more accurate and more true to the American principles. The right to dissent, speak out is the first American principle. But I have to say if you think about the left and what I has stood for in terms of democracy, internationalism, holding to treaties regarding human rights, I think that the progressive left is part of the American ideal, part of the greatest aspirations of America, and I might add, in terms of Afghan women and the successes we’ve seen of Afghan women returning to schools after the repression of the Taliban, it was the progressive left and the feminist community in this country that spoke out against when this administration paid no heed to those conditions.
GWEN IFILL: You have been unabashedly pro-United Nations — said the United Nations should be taking a lead this. Would it be better in your opinion if the United Nations were left to take whatever retaliation was necessary?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the United Nations needs to be brought in now at every stage of what we call the campaign against terrorism. It is the world body we have. It is a body that was created after other wars, and it speaks to the collective will of the world, and Afghanistan — the United Nations will be sorely needed in terms of reconstruction and rebuilding. And I have to say this administration has talked the talk, but will it walk the walk when it comes to providing the United Nations with the resources that body needs, and might I add, we should use the United Nations and the international criminal court to bring so many of the terrorists to justice.
GWEN IFILL: What about beyond Afghanistan, there’s so much talk right now about Somalia and Yemen and Iraq and other place where is there may be al-Qaida cells. You have written that you believe that a wider war is not necessary.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the The Nation has written that the eradication of al-Qaida is crucial, clearly. But we should move from bombing to a policy of rigorous law enforcement, of coordinated intelligence, of trans-national financial interdiction, and move away from the war bombing model, into a far more coordinated sophisticated model of eradicating these networks. If we move into a war model, we will uproot the very coalition that has proved successful in waging the war in Afghanistan.
GWEN IFILL: As you write these things in an atmosphere or a time of war or whatever you want to describe it, do you feel like you’re blowing it into the wind?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I believe that, as I said, the very values that the progressive left speaks for are ones that are part of the world community and part of the very I deals America stands for. And my only hope is that we spend as much energy in this next period in bringing development, in addressing poverty, and in really bringing the development agenda to the world and spend as much energy doing that as we have in militarizing our foreign policy, and in waging a war that in the end will not help people’s lives as much as other policies.
GWEN IFILL: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, thank you very much for joining us.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.