of us: Senator says
militarism is not the answer to terrorism
by Douglas Roche*, October 2001
Is the relentless bombing of Afghanistan justified? My answer
I must immediately couple that answer with my belief
that the criminals who committed the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11 must be apprehended and brought to justice. But that goal does
not justify killing innocent people and destroying the infrastructure
of a country that already has a million refugees.
The alternative to bombing is to send in ground
troops to comb the countryside and all the caves to find Osama
bin Laden and his fellow-plotters. This is not done because the
U.S.-led coalition fears that troops would be killed by the mines
planted throughout Afghanistan.
Thus, air attacks have been chosen as the response
to terrorism. The response is unworthy of nations that pride themselves
on upholding international human rights. For, as the Kosovo bombing
of only two years ago showed, even "smart" bombs cannot
distinguish between military targets and civilians. The human
misery left in the wake of a bombing campaign is horrendous.
The world must move beyond the tears, grief and
anger of Sept. 11 and finally establish a just and stable foundation
for international peace and security.
Let it not be said that I am insensitive to the
thousands of lives lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. I went to New York a week ago, took the subway
down to the financial district and saw the World Trade wreckage
with my own eyes. The devastation was overpowering. Mounds of
debris, six stories high, assaulted the eyes. People were stunned,
just looking at such a grotesque sight.
I then went to the United Nations and talked with
Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs,
who said that, bad as this tragedy was, it could have been worse.
"Consider if weapons of mass destruction had
been used by these terrorists. We need urgently to eliminate all
weapons of mass destruction because they could fall into the hands
The UN leadership wants rapid progress on eliminating
nuclear weapons and is preparing to debate a draft convention
suppressing nuclear terrorism. But unless Canada comes out four-square
opposing all nuclear weapons -- which will offend the U.S. --
our words about keeping nuclear weapons from terrorists will be
I am concerned that the path of militarism is leading
the world to even greater dangers. Nuclear terrorism is only a
matter of time.
We have been attacked. Our first response is to
attack back. Public sentiment, driven by a culture that still
sees war as the means to peace, seeks retaliation. In this climate,
militarism expands constantly.
But Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, sees the
needs of peace and fighting terrorism differently. While the UN
Security Council unanimously passed a resolution expressing "its
readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist
attacks," that is not carte blanche to bomb at will.
The bombing has gone beyond the intent of the resolution,
but Annan cannot stop the use of such military might once unleashed.
What he has done -- and what Canada must insist upon -- is to
include in the implementation of this resolution other means to
combat terrorism. This includes political, legal, diplomatic and
Another Security Council resolution spelled out
a host of actions ranging from police work to cutting off funding
to new communications technologies that must be taken. Rather
than assenting to a bombing campaign, it would be better to concentrate
Canada's resources on security and anti-terrorism measures. The
extra $250 million announced yesterday by Foreign Minister John
Manley announced should be only the beginning. These steps will
be far more effective in rooting out the terrorist cells in many
countries than bombing in the hope of cutting off the head of
a terrorism that has tentacles spread around the world.
It is both ironic and disingenuous to couple the
bombing with dropping food and medicine. This is a chaotic and
ineffectual way of meeting humanitarian needs that are mounting
by the hour. Rather, the international community should be mounting
-- with the same vigour displayed in the bombing campaign -- a
massive assault on poverty. It is the inhuman conditions that
so many millions of people are subjected to that breed the conditions
that terrorists exploit.
Also, as Annan has urged, there must be a "redoubling"
of international efforts to implement treaties to cut off the
development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction before
terrorists get them.
Militarism is not the answer to terrorism. The
building of an international legal system that promotes social
*Douglas Roche is an Independent Senator from
Alberta and the author of "Bread Not Bombs: A Political Agenda
for Social Justice." Senator Roche also serves as an advisor
for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.