The Many Faces of
by F.H. Knelman, Ph.D., October 2001
We cannot minimize
the horror of the recent acts of terrorism in the U.S. The individual
loss of a loved one multiplied 5,000 times over adds up to an
arithmetic of terrible sorrow. You cannot fight what you consider
injustice by acts that are themselves extreme violations of justice.
Indiscriminate violence is the terrible curse of the mind of the
terrorist. All acts of terrorism must be totally rejected as illegitimate
means of struggle, because they fail the principle of discrimination.
Indiscriminate violence in times of war or peace violates this
principle. Resistance to injustice that discriminates has always
been historically justified. The Geneva Protocols relating to
war demand that the essential discrimination between combatants
and non-combatants be rigorously maintained. The most serious
and significant violation of this protocol was the bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with a total of 200,000 prompt deaths
of civilians and the decades-long delayed torture of radiation
effects. This was committed by a so-called civilized people.
Thus we must not let the larger perspective
be carried away on the flood of sympathy. While it is totally
unacceptable to use unjust means to fight injustice, this does
not make the injustice disappear. By all the criteria of current
social indicators the U.S. is an unjust society compared to the
rest of the highly industrialized Western world.This is manifest
in structural terrorism against the poor, other minorities and
persistent racism. "Hate acts" against Moslem Americans
have already multiplied, including the bombing of mosques.
All major religions contain elements of forgiveness
and vengeance. At the same time, all major religions have a fundamentalist
or exclusionary group who embrace fanaticism. The current horrendous
acts of terrorism were obviously carried out by this kind of extremist
position. The evidence to date is that the culprits were Islamic
fundamentalists. However, if you have read my book on Ronald Reagan,
you will see that there are high-ranking U.S. Christian fundamentalists
- Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their ilk - who believe a great
war between good and evil will take place - Armageddon - and that
only "true" Christians will ultimately survive. They
have prepared to fight that war in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Falwell and Robertson have now revealed their twisted minds by
suggesting that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. were a form
of divine punishment for its tolerance to secularism, feminism,
homosexuality, etc. Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has
operationalized programs to fight and win a nuclear war with Russia
through a preemptive disarming strike against all Russian missile
sites on land, on and under the oceans and in the sky. The talk
about rogue states as the reason for a National Missile System
(NMD) is an outright deception. Russia is the only country that
threatens the U.S.¹s global hegemony. The above strike would
lead to fifteen million civilian Russian deaths or two and a half
holocausts. This is an act of extreme terrorism which I have documented
beyond any possible dispute. The International Court of Justice
has concluded that such a threat is a violation of International
Humanitarian Law. Perhaps the NMD system will shoot down hijacked
planes on U.S. territory, a costly exchange of human life.
Returning to the events in New York City, if you
had read a novel in which some nineteen persons hijacked four
civilian jumbo jets, one terrorist on each of the hijacked planes
having been trained in an accredited school for flying these jets
and that all nineteen were prepared to die in their acts of terror,
you would have had to conclude that this plot was farfetched.
The amount of detailed planning and the level of organization
to accomplish such a task is mind-boggling. They had to do this
with primitive plastic weapons, break into the cockpit and keep
the flight crews and passengers under control.
Returning to my earlier theme that we must retain
a larger perspective on terrorism, the blockade of Iraq has led
to an estimated death of some one million of its citizens, mostly
children. This is also an act of terrorism. Even in the war against
the scourge of fascism, the allies used unacceptable means insofar
as they violated the principle of discrimination by the mass bombing
of Axis cities which, in any case, later proved to be counter-productive.
The U.S. has consistently supported right-wing leaders in Central
and South America who carried out reigns of terror. Using the
current U.S. argument that countries that harbour terrorists are,
themselves, guilty proves the guilt of the U.S.
We must also adjust our perspective to the realities
of a unipolar world and the singular force of Pax Americana. The
current political solidarity is politically correct, but cannot
cover up the profound and persistent political differences that
divide the U.S., a division that will outlast such solidarity.
Congress, by giving George W. Bush carte blanche to retaliate,
has assured the perpetuation of violent response. It has been
reported that only one member of Congress voted against this blanket
In conclusion, the U.S. is now reaping and will
continue to reap what it has sowed. The scars of the Middle East
wedded to Islamic terrorism and Israeli intransigence will never
put an end to their acts of terrorism until some final peaceful
solution is achieved, creating a Palestinian State (with no armed
forces) and making Jerusalem an international city. These are
minimum requirements. George W. Bush will not solve the problem
but exacerbate it. In many ways he is the problem. We can now
all see that the NMD policy cannot protect the American public.
Some time in the near future terrorists will explode a small suitcase
nuclear bomb in a major U.S. city. And a ground war in Afghanistan
could not only unite Islamic fundamentalists but prove to be a
second Viet Nam, as the Soviets learned.
The U.S. could yet be the victim of blowback for
having supported the Taliban in that war. Blowback is the phenomenon
of supporting regimes who later become your worst enemy. Blowback
could also haunt the C.I.A. for its legion of dirty tricks, including
murder, throughout the world. Even now there is a case pending
against Henry Kissinger for the murders in Chile of the head of
the military and the democratically-elected president. This launched
the Pinochet reign of terror. The U.S.'s major Arab ally is Saudi
Arabia, hardly a model of democracy. Then, of course, there was
the Iran Contra affair, illustrating that the CIA is not above
making deals with terrorists, including those from Islam. In fact
the CIA is a terrorist organization, not unlike its counterparts
in almost all countries. In this way the terrible events in New
York were truly the reaping of what was sowed. The tragedy, of
course, is the slaughter of the innocents.
There is still the opportunity for positive defensive
measures. All civilian air carriers could implement some simple
reforms following El Al's procedures, i.e. carrying an armed sky
marshal aboard and having cockpits on large passenger planes sealed
off from crew and passengers. This would prevent hijackings. Together
with a permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, this will
help. But ultimately U.S. policy will have to undergo radical
change from the new imperialism of its present posture to a true
democratic society dedicated to peace and justice. This will involve
a fundamental change in an American culture of structural violence
and a self-image of being Number One. And under the present administration,
this is less likely than ever.
All of this does not preclude
the legitimate task of identifying dedicated terrorists and preventing
further acts of terrorism. But if this is attempted through excessively
violent means, it will prove counter-productive and only perpetuate
the dynamics of violence.