copyright 2001 by Kent Madin (
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If you are a fervent pacifist, click here. 
An epidemic, not a war
Written  in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia  September  14, 2001

Dear friends,
The terrorists have defined the game and we are reacting.  They are clever, patient and creative.  They planned their attacks for months and executed them with  great effectiveness.  They are not stupid, so they have made plans for the expected American military response.  An attack on Afghanistan is exactly what the terrorists want.  It will strengthen and swell their small but fanatical ranks.  What better opportunity to destabilize Pakistan, foment a coup and establish another Islamic fundamentalist state.  Imagine several divisions of US troops as hostages in an Islamic state which holds nuclear weapons!

Instead, bomb Afghanistan with butter, with rice, bread, clothing and medicine.  It will cost less than conventional arms, poses no threat of US casualties and just might get the Afghan populace thinking that the Taliban leaders don't have the answers.  After years of drought and with starvation looming, let's offer the Afghani people the vision of a new future. One that includes full stomachs.

Barrage them with information; video players and cassettes of world leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, condemning terrorism.  Carpet the country with magazines and newspapers showing the horror of the acts committed by their "guest".  Blitz them with laptop computers and DVD players filled with a perspective that is denied them by their government. Saturation bombing with truth will mean that some of it gets through.  Send so much that the Taliban can't collect and hide it all.

The Taliban are telling their people to prepare for Jihad. In response, let's give the Afghani people their first good meal in years.  Seeing your family fully fed and the prospect of a stable future is a powerful deterrent to martyrdom. All we ask in return is that they, as a people, agree to enter the civilized world.  That includes allowing international law to run its course.  Let's offer them a  helping hand into the 21st century.

In responding to terrorism we need to do something different.. something totally unexpected..something that addresses the root of the problem instead of exacerbating it.  We need to be wiser and more clever than the terrorists.  We need to define the contest on our terms, not theirs.   We need to take away the well of despair, ignorance and brutality from which the Osama bin Laden's of the world water their gardens of terror.

We have the technology... do we have the compassion?

Kent Madin   Ulaan Baatar Mongolia

Some comments against these idea and my response:

>From: "Susan G" <email suppressed>
>To: <>
>Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 15:41:05 -0400
"In response to your idea...  what planet do you live on?  Is New York City in the country you live in.  Is Washington your Capitol?  Or do you live somewhere else?  Maybe you live on the planet called "Unrealistic Idealism" that hasn't been identified yet.  Innocent CIVILIANS are dead.  People just like you and me are dead!  These terrorists are not and never will be civilized.  The terrorists and the members of their networks will not feel any differently about US citizens, Jews, and Christians because of our outpouring of rice, bread, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, DVD's and home computers.  They hate us, do you understand that.  They think we all should die.  They are not reasonable people that can be reasoned with.  It is really heard to believe but it is very true and very real.  This is the world we now live in.  Unrealistic solutions of "let's bomb them with good intentions" is what has gotten us in this mess in the first place.
>Our prayers should all be with the good Muslim people in the Middle East that have been fighting for the pure principals of Islam.  But this is for their good too, maybe someday they can be free like us.  This is the most necessary fight we as a civilized society have ever undertaken, it is an unsure future for all of us.  But in it's purest form this is a struggle between good and evil, right and wrong.  It must be done this way.  There are no and should not be any alternatives."

Dear Susan,
Is every Afghani a terrorist and therefore evil?  Have you considered that
whoever did this didn't stop planning with the horrific events of Sept 11?  Is
it not likely this is just a way to bring the enraged bear (or eagle) out where
it is vulnerable?  Our government is reacting exactly the way they want us to
react.  THEY are defining the game board, and we are walking right into it.  My
point in my piece is not that I have some "pie in the sky" idealism about
feeding hungry people and making the world a happy place.  When you get things
for free, they are like drugs: addictive, not constructive.  But to a starving
people the offer of help can be a more effective political and social lever than
the threat of war and death.  My writing comes from a pragmatism about warfare
and a cynicism about politics.  What does our enemy want and need from us?  The
want and need us to act just the way they have depicted us to their Muslim
brethren.  They need us to reinforce the false notion of America as the Great
Satan, complete with overbearing military might.  If we do that we play into
their hands.

Sure, we aren't going to really bomb them with butter and DVD's.  But we need to
be smarter and more creative than they are.  Most importantly we need to do
something unexpected, out of the box. We need to be the ones who create the
playing field on OUR terms.  How about offering to feed and shelter every
Afghani who wants to leave Afghanistan in the next 5 days?  Tell the Pakistani's
and the Uzbeks to open their borders and we will pick up the tab for the food
and shelter (still cheaper than war).  THEN go in and strike the Taliban if
necessary and support the reinstatement of the Afghani government that is
recognized by all but three nations in the world.

Are you confident in the military regime in Pakistan being able to withstand the
street riots and potential coup that may well arise if we use Pakistan to attack
Afghanistan?  Has it occured to you that as long as the terrorists have been
planning what they did on September 11, they may also have been planning for a
coup in Pakistan?

Do you want to live in a country like Israel, where security is a numbing
constant of life?  And what security?  So we keep them off the commercial
planes, what's to keep a suicide bomber out of the grade school that your kids
attend?  What's to keep a suicide pilot with a Cessna full of  explosives from
flying into a nuclear power plant?  Sure, we may get Osama bin Laden and lots of
his buddies and we may roll up much of the terrorist "cells" but if we don't do
something about the conditions that foster that kind of fanaticism it will never
go away, it will only get more ugly.  And if we meet that terror with terror it
will make us more ugly.  We will look in the mirror and see the visage of our

Military action may make us feel good for a while, but it will sow the seeds of
a cycle of terror of which we have only had a hint.  On September 11 our concept of
security changed forever.  Off the shelf technology has turned anyone willing to
die into a weapon of mass destruction.

Kent Madin

I am not a pacifist.  Please do not use what I wrote to promote a totally non-violent point of view.  I would gladly push the button to give the bin Ladens and the Talibans of the world first class ticket to Paradise, courtesy of the USAF.  My purpose in writing the piece was to illustrate the need to respond to a new paradigm with new thinking.  Bombing with butter seemed like that absolute last thing that anyone would ever have expected.  And I think just doing something unexpected helps us regain control of the agenda.  The fact that feeding people is a good thing reinforces that effectiveness of doing something "out of the box".

Links to more articles that I think everyone should read.

"War" is an inaccurate way to describe what we face.  I think that a public health model is more
accurate.  We have seen an outbreak, an epidemic, of a disease called terrorism.  It is especially awful because it has mutated to include spectacular attacks on civilian targets.  It should be looked at like a disease.  1. The germs of this disease are endemic to all societies. 2. We can vaccinate with education.  3. We owe it to ourselves and our health concerns to take action that reduces the likelihood of an outbreak.  That, like response to many diseases, may mean a change in our lifestyle. 4. We need to identify the conditions which allow this disease to reproduce and thrive and we need to spend our money in efforts to mitigate those conditions.

Finally, following along with that disease metaphor, I think I heard about the first example of America's  intuitive "anti-virus" response.  On a flight last weekend the captain's message was:
"Folks, we have checked this plane with a fine tooth comb and I can assure you there is no bomb aboard.  If someone stands up and claims he is going to  hijack this plane, you all just jump on him  and hold him down.  These are tough times and we are all  in this together.  For the duration of this flight at least, we have to rely on each other.  Now, before we  take off, turn to the person in the seat next to you and introduce yourself.  Thanks for choosing Delta  airlines."

The first casualties have already been bagged and the fact they were civilian makes us all combatants.  Demonstrating our "Americanness" to each other, in the mundane and ephemeral community of an flight departing Denver, is our best defense against terrorism.