Tragedy of a tragedy.
and repressive globalisation
Professor, Belgrade University
and senior researcher at the Institute for European
With Miroslav Pecujlic, Faculty
of Law, Belgrade University
America has experienced a horrific tragedy,
thousands of innocent civilians have met a terrible
death. The terrorist acts in New York and Washington have
further extended the boundaries of destruction, setting
in motion a new spiral of violence. The world is once
again moving in a dangerous direction.
1. Terrorism -
Terrorism undoubtedly is one of the most dangerous
enemies of democratic order, of decent life itself. It
successfully combines pre-modern fanaticism and the
destructive power of post-modern technology. By killing
innocent civilians it simultaneously destroys the "soul
of society", creating and recreating a state of permanent
fear, provoking and legitimising authoritarian answers.
Spectacular terrorist actions will strongly stimulate
alienated and frustrated individuals to undertake their
personal "wars" in order to settle their grievances.
Responses to this cancerous disease have, by and
large, been inappropriate for at least three reasons.
Firstly, terrorism invariably appears as fanatical
reaction by individuals or small groups ("social
deviants"). But, this is an insufficient explanation of
the phenomena of terrorism.
Secondly, "terrorism" has been inconsistently applied.
The term terrorism has been reserved exclusively for the
official enemy, similar acts undertaken by friends are
designated as acts of freedom fighters, justified
retaliation, or perhaps, as "extremism". Furthermore,
global powers, the U.S. in particular, have appeared as
the supporters, if not creators, of certain terrorist
groups. They provide logistic assistance, training, money
and arms to terrorists if they were the enemy of their
enemy. Furthermore, terrorism has been associated mostly
with (barbaric) groups targeting the civilised West,
while the problem of state terrorism, its victims and
tragic social consequences, has been absolved by powerful
states the right to defend their interests and privileges
by all/any means across the globe.
Thirdly, responses have been inappropriate because a
blind eye has been turned to the deeper ethnic, social
and cultural roots of terrorism. The most widespread form
of terrorism is linked to unresolved national aims and
the denial of a statehood that is violently pursued. The
tragedy in America represents a "novelty" because, for
the first time, the target was not just the U.S. as a
state but as the hegemonic actor of global order. This
signifies a decisive shift from the national to the
global level of terrorism
The repressive, inhuman side of globalisation is a
powerful source of terrorism. Hand in hand across the
planet march the fabulous wealth of the greedy giants,
and the globalisation of poverty. The passive
hopelessness and helplessness is transformed into active
extremism and fundamentalism which constitute the broad
social base of small terrorist groups. In addition, the
aggressive globalisation driving forcefully the world
into a uniform cultural mould, inevitably provokes
Inappropriate answers stem also from the unequal
reverence of human life. The super-rich democratic and
technologically sophisticated West demonstrated in
numerous ways that the lives of the others,
non-Westerners, are of lesser value. It has become an
imperative that the life of a single American
citizen-soldier must not be sacrificed, while at the same
time whole societies may be totally destroyed by lethal
bombing from safe distances. However, the modern
kamikazes, willing to die for their causes, have now
demonstrated, by the great pain they have caused to the
citizens of the U.S., that "your lives are not worthier
than ours, you are not safer than we are." Here lies the
morbid power of terrorism and the limited reach of
self-confidence based on military might.
3. The distorted
logic of Unlimited Justice
It is an illusion and a false expectation that
terrorism can be eliminated by a demonstration of
military force, by war as envisioned by Operation
Unlimited Justice. The planned Operation suffers from
grave inherent contradictions.
The Operation is planned although it still unclear
whether, according to the available evidence, Bin Laden
is the great mastermind and organiser of the terrorist
attacks in U.S., an accomplice or the personae dramatis
is someone else. Organising a great military operation on
inconclusive evidence, will inevitably be perceived as a
war against the Islamic civilisation, generating new
waves of terrorist counter-attacks in unpredictable forms
Since the actors and supporters of terrorism are
globally dispersed, having their secret cells in many
states, the planned military strikes must be selective.
However, which among the terrorist-supporting states will
be punished and which will be called to join the Great
Alliance against terrorism, is likely to be decided as
the result of a "geo-strategic roulette". Thus, the
diagnosis and treatment will be distorted by narrow
political calculations, leaving untouched important parts
of the global terrorist body.
This inconsistent and particularistic approach to
terrorism is, however, the central contradiction
underlying the U.S. call for a "war on terrorism."
Launching the war cry "who is not with us (in this
operation) is on the side of terrorists", the U.S. seems
to forget that until yesterday they have supported, and
financed various branches of the planetary terrorist
trunk. The arch-terrorist Bin Laden represents the vivid
metaphor of the creature who turned against its creator.
When his mujehedeen assassin groups operated in Croatia,
Bosnia, later in Kosovo and Macedonia they did not
encounter any U.S. protest or resistance. On the
contrary, they enjoyed its support.
The enormous cost of the new war will drastically
decrease the financial means for mitigating global
poverty, this crucial source of extremism. It will deepen
the all ready existing human catastrophe of Afghanistan
itself; it will destabilise the region, probably
producing new internal conflicts in a number of
countries, caused by radicalising the divide between the
secular and fundamentalist Moslem populations.
The waves of war consequences may reach the shores of
Western European countries with large Moslem
4. A real tragedy
and its possible misuse
Perhaps the greatest danger is the possibility that
the Global Hawks may misuse a real tragedy in two
directions. Firstly, for their geo-strategic interests
and purposes, i.e. gaining military control over
Euroasia, the huge and virginal space of natural
Secondly, the war operation "Unlimited Justice" might
easily turn into a new breed of world wars, i.e.
prolonged global war-fighting that is likely to result in
an increasingly repressive form of globalisation and
authoritarian global rule.
In other words, a new wave of militarisation and the
creation of a world garrison state in which we may come
to witness global surveillance, an all-inclusive control
of private life, and a drastic reduction in the free
circulation of citizens across the planet, across
5. New principles
For the successful struggle against global terrorism
three principles are of decisive importance.
a. Superior ethics, and strong commitment to the rule
of law in contrast to a political philosophy that argues
that grand aims justify all means, a philosophy which
turns the mass killing of civilians into its conscious
target or "collateral damage".
b. Political principles of universalism in contrast to
particularism and double standards. It must use
principles which give equal treatment to equal tragedies
of innocent civilians, recognise counter-terrorism as
violence and terror too and accept a shared
responsibility for ending every cycle of retaliation.
c. A permanent struggle to narrow the social and
cultural sources that generate extremism, fundamentalism
and terrorism. Security does not lay in a new round of
militarisation and arms races, but in relationships based
on respect for the lives of all human beings, development
of global democracy, increased sensitivity to social
If we uphold relationships that produce distress for
the many and privileges for the few and keep on
developing a world order that runs against the interests
of the weak and the needs of the poor then false security
must be sought in coercion and weapons.
The true alternatives to the present dangerous course
of events lie in the combination of:
a) a "Broad Social Alliance against social, cultural
and political roots of global terrorism, an Alliance for
"globalisation with a human face";
b) a strengthening the international judicial
institutions and procedures; in particular, the
International Criminal Court should have a key role in
dealing with terrorism;
c) a restrained security policy response including
military and police operations against terrorist
organisations but only if based on conclusive evidence
and a UN mandate.
TFF & the author 2001
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