The Peace Movement is not Na´ve: Punishment, not Revenge
By Bernd Pickert
[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, September 27, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de.]
In his commentary yesterday, Eberhard Seidel reproached the peace movement for much heart, little intelligence and boundless naivete. It assumes the US will plunge the earth into the third World War, wage a war against Islam and exercise speedy revenge. All this is now false. The "flash thinkers" should observe a moment of silence. Who imputes anything to whom here? The numerous calls of the peace movement since September 11 say something different. They warn of the danger of military escalation and the deaths of more civilians if retaliatory strikes and bombardments reach their actual or intended goals. The uniform theme of all the appeals was: "Punishment yes, revenge and retribution no". What is na´ve about that?
Eberhard Seidel thinks that it is a contradiction when the peace movement summons the US not to act rashly without knowing the culprits but present analyses about their motives. He would be right if the peace movement actually attempted this venture. But it did not. "As long as the rich industrial states with considerable structural, economic and direct force prevent helping the starving millions in poor countries, they fertilize the soil from which hatred, fanaticism and violence blind with rage arise", declared initiatives like Pro Asyl and Humanistische Union three days after the attacks. "Not war but just punishment, not new violence but a foreign and development policy that takes the ground from under violence are necessary now." Note well, the peace movement does not demand merely leaving the poor terrorists alone. Rather it urges their punishment. It rightly points out that more must happen than smashing the Ben-Laden network if terror should actually be abolished from the world.
Foreign-, economic-, social-, and development policy cannot combat any terrorist organizations. Police and secret services will be necessary, perhaps even the army. Terrorist organizations only receive massive support, sympathy and ultimately popularity when they proclaim acting against conditions felt to be unjust by many people and against those responsible. Seen this way, combating terrorism only with police, secret service and military means is just as possible as the attempt to prevent migration movements by closing the borders and arresting "illegals". Whoever denies this promotes the oppressor state.
For a long time, the US has acted differently than many feared. Prompt military strikes did not occur. Happily the word "retaliation" has disappeared from the usage of the US government - which can be a result that peace-inspired people everywhere in the world and in the US warned of an escalation immediately after September 11.
But what is the US government now planning? "The Americans have emphasized pursuing their terrorist enemies, not their terrorist friends or those terrorists who slaughtered populations outside the American spheres of influence", wrote Robert Fisk, one of the leading Middle East specialists this week in the Independent. "We are not asked to join a struggle against `world terrorism' but a struggle against the enemies of the US."
US policy in the post-war era has cost more human life than all the terrorist attacks together not including those committed with US support. A peace movement that does not forget that is neither emotional nor anti-American and will not be unhistorical and superficial. No one will deny that the organizations of militant political Islam represent a danger and must be combated. Whoever forgets everything else is really na´ve.