Wednesday Night #1022 with West Wing

Written by  //  October 3, 2001  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

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Prologue

We have all consumed the news since September 11th; we have probably read every pundit, watched every newscast, clandestinely followed breaking developments on the Internet at the office, and discussed every announcement, move, rumor and conjecture among ourselves.
This Wednesday, today, we are torn between the wisdom of Wednesday Night and the wisdom of West Wing. So we are inviting President Jeb Bartlett, Leo and the team to join us promptly at 9 o’clock. Don’t worry, we won’t miss any part of tonight’s special – and highly informative – program. By taping from 8 to 9, we can assure you of ad-free access to the decision making process at the highest level.
Then we can discuss and debate the events of the West Wing world in the knowledge that we have all the facts in our possession.
Yes, it’s a departure from our tradition, but then if Wednesday Night doesn’t reinvent itself – who will?

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The price we pay for the shrinking of our world due to the technological advances in telecommunications of the past 20 years is that as we review this discussion 4 days later, we do so with the background murmur of constant reporting and commenting of experts worldwide on the military strike against the Taliban to which we virtually woke on Sunday morning, October 7th.

Prodded by the thesis – and some of the thoughts expressed in the highly original special West Wing program screened this evening, the assembled guests (a surprising number of whom had never seen West Wing) contemplated the arguments for and against retaliation against terrorism and the inevitable necessary suppression of some civil liberties, notably the individual’s right to privacy. [Editor’s Note: While in no way wishing to reduce the importance of the Wednesday Night discussion, we would like to call attention to two thoughtful pieces written by U.S. Military officers on this subject.]

The Discussion
On September 12, the world woke up to a new reality following the events of the previous day. To some it represented a great victory over commercial imperialism, to others a great national and personal tragedy that changed their lives for all time. Reactions from those closest to the tragedy range from the acquisition of bottled water and gas masks to unshaken faith in the ability of their nation to overcome all obstacles.
Support for the Americans has come from all nations where the rule of law prevails, among them England, France, Scandinavia, Turkey. NATO has pronounced its intention to stand firm in its policy that “an attack on one is an attack on all”. France, with ties to the Middle East, has been playing a diplomatic role behind the scenes. Those countries which are horrified by recent events cannot help but reflect on their own history, where at one time or another, unspeakable atrocities were committed, hiding under the cloak of religion. Certainly the use of muscle for commercial purposes has not endeared the United States to much of the world. Disputes arising from import duties from Canada (usually won by Canada in arbitration) have not endeared them to many Canadians, their closest neighbours, most important trading partners and (usually) greatest supporters.
The victims of American bombing in Iraq cannot be expected to be supportive of a country that sacrificed the lives of civilians in order to spare those of their own military. While understandable, nothing can possibly justify the unprovoked attack on New York and Washington. On balance, the population of the world of whatever religion or of no religion is horrified by these callous aggressive acts committed in the name of Islam.

The Analysis
Wednesday Nighters joined the rest of the world in formulating an analysis of the problem and devising a strategy leading to its solution. It must be recognized that hatred in the name of religion is not isolated, is unreasonable and is passed on from generation to generation, as is evident for instance in its occurrence between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Celtic countries. Unlike most Christian sects, which have a universal authority, such as the Catholic Pope, the Muslim religion is extremely decentralized, with no single religious head, resulting in diverse interpretations of the Koran, some extreme. Thus, there is no unifying respected Muslim voice to condemn Bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s distortion of the teachings of Mohamed and his successors.

The Proposed Solution

1) President Bush has made a good start. He has obviously chosen his advisors well, is taking their advice and has avoided inflammatory language likely to lose him the support of Islamic nations (Colin Powell’s influence is particularly noticeable in the creation of the broad coalition among a highly diverse group of allies).
2) Large Desert Storm type operations are to be avoided. The attack must be incisive, low-key and designed to do as little damage as possible to the native population.
3) When captured, Osama Bin Laden must be brought to trial, rather than summarily executed. The principal moral argument made by the United States and its allies must be the rule of law as opposed to arbitrary decisions by an unelected oligarchy. However, some objected that to bring him to trial would be to invite prolonged and dreadful acts of terrorism perpetrated by his followers. He would of course, refuse to admit the legitimacy of any tribunal that might be established by the allies and, he would surely become a martyr, no matter how transparent the judicial proceedings.

A massive Marshall-type plan must be implemented for Middle-East countries in order to cut the support from those who would exploit the grievances of the masses by attributing them to religious differences and indifference. [Editor’s note: Commentators on the strike of Sunday October 7th remarked that this was probably the first time that a military strike and a humanitarian relief drop occurred simultaneously.]

QUOTES of the EVENING

* We have had awful stuff in the name of Christianity
* You betray your own values if you kill him (Osama Bin Laden) without a trial
* If we are going to function under a rule of law, we can’t make exceptions
* When only one option is presented, you can’t make a rational decision
* Policies have to change. The people must not suffer for the sins of their leaders
* Bush is good because of the team behind him
* Bush policies will get a big run on the Taliban without having to risk much

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