The west shares
the blame: By rejecting all that is alien to its culture, the
industrialised world has helped terrorism, argues Baltasar Garzon
by Baltasar Garzon, Oct 3, 2001
By the time this
article is published, the armed assault on Afghanistan, the Taliban
regime, Osama bin Laden or his followers may have already begun.
For some, it seems, they are all the same. But not to speak out
against this is either a serious mistake or guilty acquiescence
of the bellicose plans proclaimed repeatedly by US leaders.
The west's quiet acceptance, particularly
among European countries, pains me. It should fill all of us with
despair. Yes, there are big speeches and important agreements
are signed. But ultimately, the west accepts - and even takes
part in - the violent response.
That the US was going to react as it says it will
should come as no surprise. But the submission of other nations
was difficult to foresee. It is alarming that countries such as
France and Spain have not raised their voices to say "no":
to reject the violent solution as the only available option; to
uncover the big lie of a "final solution" against terrorism.
I live in a country that has been fighting terrorism
for 30 years and that daily clamours for the rule of law as the
best means to confront it. What is not possible is that Spain
should now put on a military helmet and pledge unlimited support
for the hypothetical bombardment of nothing; for the massacre
of poverty; and for a breach of the most fundamental logic, which
proves that violence begets violence. The spiral of terrorism
is fed by the number of dead counted among its victims.
It has been said of terrorism, particularly the
Islamic or fundamentalist kind, that it is a widespread threat.
But it is a phenomenon that has been helped by the west's rejection
of all that is different from its own culture or "civilised
The west and its political, military, social and
economic hierarchies have been more preoccupied with the abusive
and shameful march of production, speculation and profit than
with an adequate redistribution of wealth. It has favoured a policy
of social exclusion over integration and progressive immigration.
And it has insisted on maintaining - and insisted on payment of
- external debt instead of using those funds in the same countries
it is now asking for help and understanding. For all those conscious
mistakes, the west is suffering the terrible consequences of fanatical
Lasting peace and freedom can be achieved only
with legality, justice, respect for diversity, defence of human
rights and measured and fair responses. It is impossible to build
peace on foundations of misery. Above all, it should not be forgotten
that there will come a time when justice is demanded of those
responsible for these mistakes and the loss of a historic opportunity
to make the world more just.
I am not thinking here about the justice demanded
of those who masterminded and carried out the tragic events of
September 11. That is the remit of national or international justice,
as well as the intelligence and police services that have to compile
the evidence. This is necessary if a fair trial is to take place.
It is not sufficient to say: "I have the evidence but I cannot
make it public for fear of endangering my sources." That
is not a serious approach - it is simply illegal.
Of course, everyone has already established the
guilt of Osama bin Laden and, as the indisputable leader of Islamic
fundamentalist terrorism, he probably is guilty. We should not
forget that we are dealing with a horrible crime - but the response
nevertheless requires due process. In its haste to eliminate Mr
bin Laden, the west seems to have forgotten this fact. And that
The justice I am talking about is that which should
be brought to bear not only on the Taliban for its brutal and
oppressive regime but also on the leaders of western countries,
who, irresponsibly and through the media, have generated panic
among the Afghan people. Faced with the prospect of imminent invasion,
this panic has forced them to flee towards supposed security and
freedom. In reality, however, it merely drives them towards what
is certain to be a human catastrophe. Who will answer for these
deaths? Who will answer for the forced migrations? In all probability,
the death of a few thousand Afghans will be of no interest to
these leaders because, for all the grand speeches, their fate
is already sealed.
The response that I seek is not military. It is
one based on law, through the immediate approval of an international
convention on terrorism. Such a convention should, among other
things, include: rules governing co-operation between police and
the judiciary; rules that enable investigations to take place
in tax havens; the urgent ratification of the statute of the International
Criminal Tribunal; and the definition of terrorism as a crime
The time has come to look at the principles of
territorial sovereignty, human rights, security, co-operation
and universal criminal justice through the same lens. That, and
that alone, should be the aim of the coalition of countries against
*Baltasar Garzon is Spain's leading anti-terrorist
judge. A version of this article first appeared in El Pais.
©The Financial Times Limited