11 Five Years:
9 Problems, 11 Solutions
Oberg, TFF director
Lund, Sweden - September 10, 2006
happened five years ago and changed the world. But for the wrong reasons.
The biggest problem is not 9/11 but 10/7: October 7 when the Bush administration
started the “war on terror” in a mistaken or deliberate attempt
to capitalize on that fateful day: 9/11. But their deficient and opportunistic
interpretation of the event has created a world much more unstable than
any time since 1945.
Deficient? Opportunistic? If you think these are strong words, please
look at the recent Discovery-TIME
Magazine opinion poll.
49 per cent of the American people think that the Bush administration
has used the threat of terrorism or the terrorism alerts for political
reasons! (45 per cent do not think so). The same poll shows that only
23 per cent of the Americans think the U.S. will win the war on terrorism
within the next ten years or so. And 54 per cent think that the U.S. in
Iraq hurts, rather than help, that war.
This is what the Americans think. How much larger percentages do you think
you would find around the world, then, on these questions? It’s
time for celebration: the credibility and legitimacy of the world-dominating
U.S. Empire is over!
Mainstream media will not commemorate October 7. Neither will they March
20 when the Iraq war began. Our leaders, in spite of all their talk about
democracy, civilisation and human rights, would not even think of observing
3 minutes of silence for the innocent dead in Afghanistan and Iraq, proportionately
hundreds of times bigger human catastrophes than 9/11.
Today’s “humanism” marches in soldiers’ boots.
Our leaders are not evil of course, probably not even cynical. They may
even believe that they do good. Remember Tony Blair on Kosovo’s
bombing – I had not read all the books about it, but I thought we
had a good case. No, they have lost their moral and intellectual compass
since the triumphalist interpretation of the fall of Communism.
We desperately need other angles today. Here follow some different perspectives
as an alternative to the mainstream, unbearably self-pitying commemoration
Indeed, September 11 was an appalling day for those who lost their lives
and those who lost their loved ones. In spite of that, it is high time
to get its proportions right, recognise the intellectual and moral blunders
in its wake and devise new policies.
The 9 problems
1. It was not a war and the American monopolization of the sorrow
and “response” should have been opposed
No soldiers or uniformed people committed the terrible crime on September
11, 2001 that killed close to 3000 people. No weapons were used, no border
transgressed. It was a criminal act, but not a war and responding with
an out-of-proportion “war on terrorism” represents an opportunistic
taking advantage. Among the killed were people of about 80 nationalities.
If the Bush administration is so concerned about “American”
lives, it would do something about the 30.000 Americans who are killed
annually by guns in the hands of fellow American citizens and about the
100 times worse problem: obesity. Around 300.000 Americans die annually
because they are too fat.
2. There was only “who?” did it and “how could
they do it?”, never really “why did they”?
There was an obvious message sent by attacking Wall Street and Pentagon
and presumably having planned the White House too. It was an attack on
the economic, military (and political) centres of the United States in
particular, on the Empire, on U.S. foreign policy.
Believing it was a declaration of war on all the West was, again, nothing
but a convenient exaggeration serving to legitimize the “war”
that was chosen as the response. The attack on 9/11 was hardly an unprovoked
attack, it was a response to American post-1945 foreign policies.
In addition, no one is fighting terrorism (the "Why?"
question). They are all chasing, arresting, bombing and killing terrorists.
3. Terrorism was defined inadequately
Governments, authorities and international organizations, including –
sadly – the United Nations panicked and chose a definition according
to which only non-state actors can conduct terrorist policies. Of course,
governments can be terrorist too, and they are. So this definition is
biased, serves only to define anyone “we” don’t like
4. Terrorism was and remains a minor threat
According to State Department’s website at the time, terrorism killed
about 400 people and wounded 700 per year worldwide before 2001, with
Columbia as an important scene.
A global problem that affects 1100 people a year must come very far down
the list of threats and preventable deaths. The risk that you or I shall
be hit by a terrorist act presumably is about the same as you or I shall
be murdered by our best friend. Compared with the 100.000 who die unnecessarily
every day on Earth because they lack clean water, medicine, shelter, clothes!
Compare with aids, overdevelopment-caused deaths, with cancer and traffic
accidents and you will see the obvious: Terrorism is an tiny global issue
not worth a fraction of the money and media attention combating it receives
these years! We are wasting time and resources dearly needed for much
more important problems.
5. It ruthlessly exploits fear, builds on “fearology”
The open society should be strong enough to protect itself. Powerful people
tell us that their mission is to protect us. They know no limits –
while keeping on conducting general policies and special wars that will
have only one effect: provoking more terrorism. Fearology is the new ideology
of the West and it is likely to have much more self-defeating and dictatorial
– potentially fascist – long-term effects than the old Cold
War ever could.
6. The war on terror stands in the way for dealing with real problems
Conservatives and neo-liberal governments clamp down on humanist values,
on development aid and on solidarity. Others, such as Nordic social democratic
parties abdicate their responsibility to combat such terror-promoting
policies. The more unequal the world gets and the more unfair it appears,
the more we help terrorism and other extremism grow (whether or not their
argument about acting on behalf of the dispossessed is part of their propaganda
or seriously meant). Aren’t we proving the terrorists right - that
right underneath the shining surface of Western culture, racism, fascism
and imperialism rears their ugly heads?
7. The war on terror creates the terrorism it is supposed to stop
It isn’t that terrorism has not been diminished. The problem is
that the “war on terror” has had one crystal clear consequence,
namely that of boosting the motivation and determination of ever more
terrorists. For instance, there were no terrorism in Iraq before 2003
(except you may say, that of Saddam). Today it seems to be the Number
One meeting place for terrorists.
It risks closing the open society and diminishing democracy
It’s frightening to see how fast civil liberties and humanitarian
conduct has been undermined. Western society is revealed to have only
a thin layer of decency. When threatened it accepts blatant human rights
violations, breaches of international law, the norms of the UN Charter,
etc. The right to privacy is violated on a daily basis – all in
the name of fighting terrorists and protecting the citizens. Huge money
is earned on cameras, security arrangements, electronic surveillance,
private armies, checking of electronic profile, etc.
There is no IQ so low that it cannot invent a risk to air travellers or
customers in the shopping malls and, thus, we must all be checked, treated
as potential criminals. Regrettably, people seem grosso modo
to accept it even though it threatens to close us all off from free social
communication, instil fear and make everybody suspicious of fellow human
9. It has undermined humanism and international law
Panic politics after September 11 has had devastating consequences upon
law, accountability and human rights. People can be detained, arrested
and killed in actions supposedly aimed to foil terrorist plots. In the
past we could feel reasonably sure that what elected leaders told us was
most of the truth; now no more.
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