To End terrorism,
End State Terrorism
by Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer*, September
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 achieve both.
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
- enter into dialogue with Iraq to identify solvable
- 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 immeasurable.
*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