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The US, Afghanistan and Terror

These comments originally published in: CuS (Christ und Sozialist) 3/2001 are translated from the German. Terrorism cannot be overcome with bombs. What was utopian, political solutions like a Palestinian state,is an urgently necessity (cf. Benjamin Barber, Maria Mies and Frederike Haberman). You can no more win a war than win an earthquake!(J.Rankin)
The US, Afghanistan and Terror

[These comments originally published in: CuS (Christ und Sozialist), 3/2001 are translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.brsd.de/CuS_Aktuell/.]

Walter Jens, German writer and literary scholar:

"Our republic cannot survive in the long run without an enlightened opposition. What is most important in my eyes is critical and not servile solidarity with those sensible Americans who reveal from week a self-critical, reasonable America, not only the arrogant, self-righteous America insisting on its omnipotence. Tens of thousands demonstrate in the US that war can never be a solution. This should also happen in Germany led by an opposition that is slowly forming.

Opposing pictures are clear. Lessing granted equal rights to Christians, Jews and Muslims in a humane and witty way. Was `Nathan the Wise' a utopia? Certainly. But it was more than a utopia. Otherwise this play would not have been banned for twelve years in Germany. This utopia remains politically explosive and indispensable today more than ever like the saying from Goethe's `western-eastern Divan (ottoman)': `What a colorful community! Friends and enemies sit at God's table.'

When Goliath fails, David's hour comes: the hour of a clever lad faithful to principles who fights secretly - supported by empathy for those abandoned by power - instead of proclaiming general messages that hurt no one to people far removed `out there'."

Volker Rittberger, political scientist:

"Nothing else is left to a liberal society than developing political programs that knock the bottom out of fanaticism.

This means taking seriously the potential for conflict in poorer countries. Even if one can't get them materially out of a scrape, one may not only reduce them to their own misery. That was the humiliating and misguided policy in the past."

Peter Lock, peace- and conflict researcher:

"By hunting for Bin Laden, one pretends to fight terrorism. The causes of terrorism are eclipsed. First of all, the present form of economic globalization passes by the interests of a majority of the world's population. The unrelenting polarization of individual incomes, the structural inability to conquer hunger in the world and finally the erosion of the rule of law and the increasing importance of violence as a regulative of economic activities often escalating to belligerent activities are sure indicators. These developments dramatically intensify in worldwide youth unemployment that affects far more than half of the rising generation in many countries who must organize their lives in informal and criminal areas. A realistic political project that offers perspectives for overcoming this catastrophic intergenerational apartheid is not in view. [... ] There isn't even discussion on overcoming this state of affairs. Effective control of terrorism assumes an understanding for the social conditions that will produce this terrorism even when the cells of Bin Laden have been long excavated. Politics must concentrate on becoming open for dialogue with the people excluded from world society. This assumes that the life- and survival perspective of people have priority, not economic regulations."

Noam Chomsky, linguist and prolific author of over 50 books including "Manufacturing Consent" and "The New World Disorder":

"Like many other terms of political discourse, the term `rogue state' is used in two ways: first propagandistically to describe chosen enemies and second states that do not feel bound to international rules and agreements. The most powerful states fall under the second category as far as domestic political restrictions are not imposed on them. This is confirmed by history.

Even if international rules and agreements are not strictly fixed, there is still a certain measure of agreement on general guidelines. In the epoch after the Second World War, these guidelines were partly codified by the UN Charter, decisions of the International Court and different agreements and treaties. The US does not feel bound to these norms and does not need any pretext any more for their violation since the end of the Cold War which gave the US worldwide supremacy. This fact has not remained unnoticed. In the report of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), March 1999, we read: `International law is less highly respected in our land than at any other time in this century.' The editors of the professional journal of ASIL complained that Washington's disregard of contractual obligations has increased `in an alarming way'" (from: War Against People. Human Rights and Rogue States, German edition September 2001).

"Everything now depends on how the US government reacts. If it grants Bin Laden's prayers and carries out a massive attack against Afghanistan or some other Muslim society, then what Bin Laden and his allies seek happens - a mobilization against the West. This is the same dynamic known from Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Palestine. Massive attacks strengthen the repressive forces on both sides. Simply overlooking the reasons and responding to terror and violence leads into the well-known cycle of violence. Everyone familiar with Bin Laden knows that he hopes for this cycle of violence.

The suicide assassins are a category in themselves. They are people recruited and trained, armed and supported by the US government and Pakistan's secret service in the 80s to inflict the greatest possible harm on the Russians" (Taz interview, September 20, 2001).

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy US Secretary of Defense:

"What is central is not only arresting people and calling them to account but raiding the places of refuge, smashing the support systems and ending states promoting terrorism."

John Bolton, US under-secretary for arms control

"Rogue states must know that they risk being obliterated if they attack the US or one of her allies."

Ulla Schmidt, SPD:

"Barbarism must not be answered with a new barbarism. Terrorism can not be defeated with bombs. We must do something against the crass injustices in the world."

Johannes Rau, President of Germany:

"Whoever really wants to defeat terrorism must knock out the bottom from the prophets of violence through political actions." (September 14, 2001)

Susanne Buttner, asylum pastoress:

"When the dreadful news from the US slowly came into our consciousness over the television screen, were struck by incomprehension. The perpetrators for whatever motives systematically killed thousands to strike the heart of the enemy. With all analysis and criticism of the dominance conduct of the states of the rich world and with all signs of growing fanaticism, no one could have imagined something like that. Seeing people leaping from the burning towers or envisioning mountains of dead was apocalyptic. Again and again, the question arose: how many could still be saved? Remembering this initial feeling will be important in the coming weeks: sympathy for the victims.

It seems the world should now be finally divided in the good, the civilized, and the evil, at least potential terrorists. Who is this `We' that claims to represent the civilized world? How civilized is the logic of this world of dominance and submission in which such a catastrophe is possible? Who, for God's sake, are the `others'? The people of Afghanistan? The Islamic world, the Arab world? The Palestinians already feel they are mercilessly already on the `wrong' side. The general military offensive against their population is now completely legitimated with the struggle against international terrorism.

Nevertheless sympathy with the victims must remain the leitmotif. Mourning over the dead must lead to a solidarity with the living, the future victims that this madness threatens to claim. No bombs should be dropped on Kabul, Bagdad or anywhere else." (September 13, 2001)

Gabriele Gillan:

"All persons are equal. But do we experience a massacre of Africans or Arabs as the same catastrophe as a massacre of Europeans or US-Americans? Isn't crude association regarded almost as normal in Africa or the Middle East? Can we understand when an African or Palestinian regarded a bloodbath in Europe or in the US as an obvious product of a civilization that produced Auschwitz and Hiroshima?

Do we refuse to understand that the terror is a desperate response to the division of the world in poor and rich, slaves and rulers, not only a malicious answer? All persons are equal. Still the history of America's conquest is a long bloody history up to today including the disregard of human rights and the misuse of power: the genocide of Indians, the oppression of blacks, Hiroshima and Vietnam, Chile and the Middle East, the refusal of debt cancellations and environmental conditions. Everywhere in the world, people live in a situation of permanent humiliation and economic disaster. [... ]

Why do we shed bitter tears on these days? For whom or what do we give moments of silence, hold funeral services and cancel garden parties, sports events and budget debates? Why do we interrupt election campaigns? Why do we put subdued music on the turntables of radio stations? Do we really mourn the dead in the US? When did we ever react this way to the bombardments of Kurdish villages, to the mass dying in starving Africa, the killing of Palestinian children, the massacre on the Plaza of Heavenly Peace, the bloodbath of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the people in Jerusalem torn to shreds by suicide assassins or to the 1994 genocide in Ruanda when a million women, men and children were murdered? Do we experience contempt for humankind day after day? What shocks us so much in these days? The foreboding that the spiral of violence and counter-violence can hardly be stopped before the doors of the `First World'?

The world has not changed through the collapse of the World Trade Center despite the incessant repetition of this meaningless phrase in the last days. The silhouette of New York has changed. Otherwise the world has remained the same. Everywhere there are problems for which no one has or even pretends to have a solution, the same wars, the same hunger, the same hopelessness... The dramatic attacks in the US have not changed anything. They only show that increasingly refined weapons systems in possession of Nato or other states give rise to increasingly sophisticated terror actions. The declaration of war against the US has a prehistory. Terror actions of this kind arise on a political, social and ideological breeding ground, in a climate of hatred, intolerance and racism. When Chancellor Schroder now speaks of a `declaration of war on the whole civilized world', he continues the division of the world. Whoever does not belong to us is uncivilized. No, the world has not changed. Unfortunately it is just like before. [... ] How can we better commemorate the many dead, the countless victims of senseless violence and targeted terror than with the common effort that actually changes the world?!"

Orhan Pamuk, Turkish writer:

"In the meantime everyone knows that the artificially produced conflict between `East' and `West' is deepened and terrorism is benefited when the American military bombs innocent persons in Afghanistan or elsewhere to soothe its own population. Questioning the American domination over the world or the death of people killed with incredible unfeeling is morally unacceptable today. However millions of people among the poor of the world are furious at America, marginalized nations that can not determine their history themselves. Is this a blind rage? We are not compelled to always agree with this indignation. In many countries of the Third and the Islamic world, anti-Americanism diverts from the absence of democracy and increases the power of the local dictator. No one who strives for secular democracy in Islamic countries is encouraged when America establishes close contacts to closed societies which like Saudi Arabia act as though they had sworn to show the world that Islam and democracy are incompatible. A superficial anti-Americanism as in Turkey helps to conceal that the ruling elite through fraud and incompetence squanders the money received from international financial institutions and that the disparity between poor and rich in the country has reached an intolerable level."

Hermann L. Gremliza:

"That omnipotence was a fantasy and its power was only secure when the Soviet Union guaranteed it as its only dependably weaker counterpart was drummed into the head of the United States with increasingly terrible blows since the end of Breschnev. The US is the most feared and hated state of the earth. Its few so-called friends are its most ardent enemies. [... ]

As a dominant power, the Americans have made themselves unpopular now and then for respectable reasons, through their engagement for Israel among Arabs, but mostly for less honorable reasons in Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba, Vietnam and so forth... "

Robert Bowman, bishop:

"When President Clinton explained tot he American people why we bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan, he didn't tell the truth. He said we were the targets of terrorism because we stand for democracy, freedom and human rights. Nonsense! We are the targets of terrorists because our government stands almost worldwide for dictatorship, slavery and exploitation. We are the targets of terrorists because we are hated. We will be hated because our government has committed hateful odious deeds. In how many countries have the representatives of our government deposed leaders elected by their population and exchanged them for military dictators who were nothing but marionettes ready to sell their own citizens to mammoth American corporations?" (Robert Bowman flew 101 combat assaults in Vietnam. Today he is bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach, Florida. His comments on the phenomenon of terrorist attacks on the US appeared in: The Plough, spring 1999.)

Susan Sontag, American writer:

"Two models of interpretation emerged after the attacks of September 11. The first says this is a war triggered by a `cowardly attack' comparable to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which led to the entrance of Americans in the Second World War. The second conceptual model (which finds increasing support in the United States and western Europe) says this is a battle of two rival cultures: here a productive, free, tolerance and secular (or Christian) culture and there a reactionary, self-righteous, hypocritical and revengeful culture.

I reject both interpretations - the `We are now waging war' model and the `Our culture is superior to the others' model - as vulgar and dangerous. This is the mentality of the people who perpetrated this criminal attack and of Islamic fundamentalists. Only a strictly defined military strike can diminish the threat by that movement which has many other leaders beside Usama Bin Laden.

On one hand, the terrorism that realized such a signal success on September 11 is obviously a global movement. This terrorism can not be identified with a certain state or even with devastated Afghanistan as Pearl Harbor was identified with Japan. Like the modern economy, the mass culture and pandemic sicknesses (e.g. Aids), terrorism knows no borders. [... ]

I don't believe that America has provoked the Islamic world for years. America has acted brutally and imperialistically in many countries but has not undertaken any large-scale operation against the Islamic world. With all criticism of the foreign policy and imperialist arrogance of America, the attacks of September 11 were a detestable crime. [... ] Excusing or justifying this massacre by ascribing responsibility to the United States is obscene. Terrorism is murder of innocent persons. In this case, it was mass murder.

The view that terrorism or this terrorism is nothing but the enforcement of legitimate demands with wrong means is untenable. I would like to say very clearly: If Israel would unilaterally withdraw tomorrow from west Jordan and the Gaza strip and a Palestinian state were proclaimed the day after that could rely on guarantees of Israeli help and cooperation, that would not change the planned terrorist projects. Salmon Rushdie pointed out that terrorists like to veil themselves in legitimate demands. The struggle against injustice is not their goal, only their outrageous impudent pretext."

Arundhati Roy, writer in India:

"After the unscrupulous suicide attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, an American news reporter explained: `Seldom have good and evil been as clear as last Thursday. People whom we don't know butchered people we know. And they did this with contempt, gloating and malicious glee.' Then the man broke out in tears.

Here the problem is summarized. America wages a war against a people who it doesn't know (because they are not often seen on television). Before the American government rightly identified the enemy, let alone began to understand its thinking, it cobbled together an `International alliance against terror' with great fanfare and embarrassing rhetoric that mobilizes the armed forces and the media and swears them to the battle. As soon as it goes to war, America will hardly be able to retreat without an exchange of blows. If it doesn't find the enemy, an enemy will have to be constructed for the sake of the angry population at home. Wars develop their own dynamic, logic and justification. Why the war is waged will also be lost from sight this time. [... ]

Before America assumes control of the `International alliance against terror', before it urges (and forces) other countries to actively participate in its almost divine mission - the original name of the operation was `infinite justice' -, a few things should be explained. Is America waging war against terror in America or against terror generally? What is avenged? The tragic loss of nearly seven thousand human lives, the destruction of 450,000 square meters of office space in Manhattan, the destruction of one wing of the Pentagon, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, the bankruptcy of several airlines and the collapse of the New York stock exchange? Or is more involved?

The Taliban, a marginal sect of dangerous fundamentalists, gained power in Afghanistan in 1995. They were financed by the ISI, the old friend of the CIA, and enjoyed the support of many parties in Pakistan. The Taliban set up a terror regime whose first victim was its own population, above all women. Considering the human rights violations of the Taliban, there are few signs that the regime will be intimidated or relent through threats of war to avert the danger for the civilian population. After everything that has happened, can there be anything more ironic than that Russia and America with united forces get down to destroying Afghanistan once again?

Dieter S. Lutz:

"What is the consequence? What are the effects? What will the 21st century bring us, the third millenium after Christ? Perhaps more crimes like those America endured in these days. Perhaps even the `clash of cultures'. Perhaps the war of religions. That cannot be excluded!

The `clash of civilizations' is more likely, the struggle around interests and resources, the struggle of the powerful against the weak, the battle of the rich against the poor. Or according to one's perspective: the desperate struggle of the weak for their survival with the means of the weak, terror. The crimes of New York and Washington are also a warning, perhaps the last warning. They show the darkness of people's hearts (cf. Jeremiah). They demonstrate sorrowfully the vulnerability of the rich and powerful. [... ]

The chairperson of the `UN commission for sustainable development', minister Klaus Topfer, rightly declared: `Militant conflicts of the future will be sparked off by problems of unbearable environmental encumbrances that are exported beyond their geographical borders.'

Nothing seems excluded any more in the future. One of the experts, the chemist Karlheinz Lohs, stated the evidence at the hearing `New Weapon Technologies' of the subcommittee for disarmament and arms control of the German Bundestag on November 9, 1992: `It is my personal conviction as an expert of the toxological scene that the terrorist use of chemical (biological) weapons will be very important in the future.' [... ]


Is this a hopeless situation or is it a typically pre-revolutionary time? Do we stand in any case on the eve of destruction and annihilation? What will tomorrow bring? Not only terrorism and super-terrorism? Perhaps even the Apocalypse? Does only the dissolution of the tangle remain, the sword of Alexander, in view of the political amateurism, Gordian complexity and dramatic shortage of time?"

Jurgen Habermas, philosopher and professor in Frankfurt:

"On September 11 the tension between secular society and religion exploded in a very different way.

The murderers resolved suicide in converting civilian aircraft into living missiles and turning them against the capitalist citadels of western civilization. They were motivated by religious convictions known from the Old Testament. For them, the symbols of the globalized modern age embodied the big Satan. Biblical pictures also obtruded on us, the universal eyewitnesses of the `apocalyptic' events on the television screen. The language of retribution and vengeance in which the American president reacted to the unfathomable has an Old Testament sound. When the deluded assassins set a religious chord vibrating in the interior of the secular society, the synagogues, churches and mosques were filled everywhere. This hidden correspondence did not seduce the civil-religious mourning community in the New York stadium three weeks ago to a standardized attitude of hatred.

Despite its religious language, fundamentalism is an exclusively modern phenomenon... The unsimultaneity of culture and society reflected in the homelands of the perpetrators is a result of an accelerated and radically uprooting modernization. What could be experienced under happier circumstances as a process of creative destruction does not promise any compensation for the grief of the ruin of traditional forms of life in these countries. There is only one prospect for improving human living conditions. The change of mind expressed politically in the separation of religion and the state and blocked by feelings of degradation is crucial. In Europe where centuries were necessary for a sensible attitude to the Janus-two sided face of the modern age, `secularization' is always filled with ambivalent feelings as in the conflict around genetic engineering.

There are hardened orthodoxies in the West and in the Near and Far East among Christians, Jews and Muslims. Whoever wants to avoid a war of cultures must recall the unfinished dialectic of one's own western secularization process."

Micha Hilgers, psychoanalyst:

"The attacks in the US have not only cost thousands of victims. Symbols were struck. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the planned targets of the White House and the presidential plane embodied the superpower seemingly invincible in the Arab world. Beside the horrific civilian and military effect of the attacks, the attacks have a mass psychological function for victims and perpetrators. A permanent and global humiliation of the last remaining superpower was sought. As expected, the shock of US-Americans involves the brutality of the deeds, the immense number of victims and also the sudden discovery of being helplessly delivered up to the attacks of a largely invisible adversary. [... ] With the collapse of the World Trade Center, the protective illusion of a missile defense shield that like the magic cure or potion in myths and fairy tales should make them inviolable or safe and sound against the power of evil also collapsed. From a mass psychology perspective, the attacks realized several goals for the culprits: spreading fear and horror, arousing feelings of powerlessness and helplessness and the threatening loss of face of the superpower."

German information agency on militarization:

"The attacks and their aftermath leave behind shock, helplessness and speechlessness. Whoever imagines that such mega-murders can be justified politically is totally wrong. Every justification, satisfaction or joy is completely out of place. These attacks were contemptuous of humankind and barbaric."

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