end state terrorism
September 6, 2002
One year ago, two dates punctuated a continuing cycle
of violence and counter-violence: the September 11 attack
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with about
3,000 civilians killed, and the October 7 start of the
attack on Afghanistan, with about 6,000 civilians killed
so far. How can we break out of this vicious cycle?
Some days after September 11, a psychologist gave
advice on CNN to parents with children asking difficult
questions. One young boy had asked "What have we done to
make them hate us so much that they do such things?" A
mature question, unlike the answer: "You could tell your
child that there are good people in the world, and evil -
-". That boy had arrived at the stage of reciprocity on
psychologist Jean Piaget's scale of child development,
seeing the actions of others at least partly as
influenced by our own actions (and vice versa). By
contrast, the psychologist's answer remained at the
earlier stage of autism, seeing evil actions by others as
uninfluenced by anything we do.
Motivation helps explain, but not justify. Hitler's
success can be explained by the humiliating 1919
Versailles treaty, which called Germany alone responsible
for World War I and imposed huge reparations for 50
years. Of course, nothing can justify what Hitler did.
Understanding is not forgiving. But without
understanding, we are condemned to repeat history.
The US media never mention the state terrorism
exercised by the USA on other countries. Since 1945, the
United States has intervened abroad 67 times, causing
twelve million deaths, about half by overt action
(Pentagon) and covert action (CIA). These are practically
unknown to most Americans, and rarely mentioned, with the
notable exceptions of Chalmers Johnson's book "Blowback"
and Bill Blum's "Rogue State: a Guide to the World's Only
Superpower." In addition, 100,000 people die daily in the
world from hunger and preventable diseases in the midst
of enormous luxury and waste.
The targets of the September 11 terrorist attack were
symbolic: the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center,
representing a system of world trade that amasses
unspeakable wealth in a few hands while impoverishing
billions in the Third World.
Bin Laden's statement broadcast by Al Jazeera shortly
after September 11, said, "Our nation has been tasting
this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80
years", referring to the 1916 Sykes-Picot treason,
bringing Arabia under the rule of infidels, breaking the
British promise of independence for the Arab nations in
return for their participation in defeating the Ottoman
Empire; and the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting the
creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Terrorism (carried out be men and women without
uniform) and state terrorism (carried out by men and
women in uniform, a difference of little importance to
the victims) have the following characteristics in
common: they use violence for political ends; they harm
people not directly involved in struggle; they are
designed to spread panic/terror to bring about
capitulation; they have an element of surprise in the
choice of who, where, when; they make perpetrators
unavailable for retaliation or incapacitation.
Wahhabism, a fundamentalist branch of Islam, state
religion of Saudi Arabia, and Puritanism, the civic
religion of the USA, share some common characteristics:
Dualistm, dividing the world into US vs THEM, without
neutrals; Manicheism (WE are good, THEY are evil); and
the inevitability of a final decisive battle to "crush"
them, like vermin (Armageddon). The harder varieties of
the three abrahamitic religions, Judaism, Christianity
and Islam, also share the concepts of being a Chosen
People under God, with a Promised Land; a glorious past
and/or future; having suffered a trauma. They are found
in the rhetoric of both Bush and bin Laden.
Al Qaeda and Wahhabites see the USA as greedy,
interested in oil (world trade) and bases (Pentagon).
Indeed, the USA seized an old Soviet base near Kandahar.
On 30 May 2002 came the signing of the
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline by the two
presidents and the former UNOCAL consultant, now
Afghanistan prime minister, Hamid Karzai. The US totally
confirmed its image.
If the USA had limited itself to a military campaign,
leaving policing to the UN Security Council and the
Organization of the Islamic Conference, without US bases
and leaving rights to oil pipelines to the Afghan people,
they might even have won their war. Now it is lost.
The Islamic fundamentalists' long-term goal seems to
be respect for religious sensitivities. The US seeks free
trade and military protection. Trade with basic need
priority, including religious sensitivities, could
Imagine Bush had said:
Fellow Americans; the attack yesterday on two
buildings, killing thousands, was atrocious, totally
unacceptable. They have to be captured and brought to
justice by an appropriate international court, with a
clear UN mandate.
But my address tonight goes beyond this. There are
serious flaws in our foreign policy, however well
intended. We create enemies through our insensitivity
to the basic needs of the peoples around the world,
including their religious sensitivities. I am
therefore taking these steps: - withdraw our military
bases from Saudi Arabia, - recognize Palestine as a
state, details can follow later, - enter into dialogue
with Iraq to identify solvable conflicts, - accept
President Khatami's invitation for the same with Iran,
- pull out militarily and economically from
Afghanistan, - stop our military interventions and
reconcile with the victims.
That evening, 1.3 billion Muslims would have embraced
America; and the few terrorists left would have no water
in which to swim. It would have taken a speech-writer
half an hour, and ten minutes to deliver it; as opposed
to, say $60 billion for the Afghanistan operation.
Psychologically, this is not easy, but the benefits are
Johan Galtung, a Professor of Peace Studies, is
Director of TRANSCEND, a peace and development network.
Dietrich Fischer, a Professor at Pace University, is
Co-director of TRANSCEND (www.transcend.org).
© TFF 2002
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