"Misunderstandings and Misjudgments"
Interview with Johan Galtung
[Johan Galtung, winner of the alternative Nobel Peace Prize and Norwegian peace researcher, regards the Iraq policy of the US as failed. In the Deutsche Welle (DW-WORLD) interview, he urges the West to negotiate with Bin Laden.]
[This April 20, 2004 interview is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.dw-world.de/dwelle/cda/detail/dwelle.cda.detail.art6ikel_dru..]
DW-WORLD: Mr. Galtung, you are considered one of the sharpest opponents of the American intervention in Iraq. Despite the tense situation in the country, the US government is convinced that it has acted rightly. The world has become more secure after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban in Afghanistan. What is your judgment?
JOHAN GALTUNG: The American government has created a virtual reality out of misunderstandings and false assessments. Now it is a victim of its own false information and lies.
Can't you gain something positive from Saddam Hussein's overthrow?
That wasn't so important for the US. The main goals were the control of oil, security for Israel and security of the geo-political important military bases. The cruelest epoch of Saddam Hussein was in the 1980s when he was an allied partner of the US. Then there would have been good reason for an intervention. At that time Hussein acted cruelly against the rebellions of the Kurds and Shiites staged by the US.
The current situation in Iraq is marked by enormous violence. Do you fear that the situation could escalate?
Of course. If the US attacks Nadschaf and kills El Sadr, they will definitely be resisted by the overwhelming majority of Shiites. I believe there is no foolishness that the American government will miss. This administration listens to no one and believes it has a mandate from God. The greatest folly was the war itself. My counter-proposal is organizing a conference like the Helsinki conference for security and cooperation in Europe (KSZE) from 1973 to 1975. There the possibility of establishing Iraq as a federal state with three parts, for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnites could be discussed. However this is not compatible with the mentioned goal of the Americans in Iraq.
Is a comparison of the Iraq with the Vietnam War viable?
Yes, in a certain way. The US makes the same mistakes. The US doesn't understand the situation there. The Iraq intervention will end in a similar way as in Vietnam, with retreat. The allied partners will make this possible without excessive loss of face for the US.
Saddam Hussein's overthrow has not been able to check international terrorism. On the contrary, Europe sees itself as the target of terror. What is necessary now?
A reconciliation between the West and Islam is necessary. There are 1.3 billion Muslims who heave been trampled on and treated like a doormat. However no one has really accepted this cause. Only counterblows and retaliation are discussed. One must be ready to hear and understand Muslim voices. Then one can contribute to peace and Germany's security.
In Part 2, you will learn why Galtung favors secret negotiations with Bin Laden and how the media can fuel more violence.
How can the dialogue between the religions be improved in praxis?
Here is one proposal. Every Friday a leading Muslim could appear on German television introducing a dialogue about the good sides of Islam and Christianity. Moderate Muslims should present their positions, not fundamentalists. There are so many marvelous things in the Koran that are totally unknown in the West, for example Sure 8,61 `When your adversary has an inclination to peace, do the same.' Peace creates peace. I find that beautiful. My proclamation is: Moderates of the world unite, you have only the fundamentalists of both sides to lose.
How far should the dialogue go? Should one negotiate with Bin Laden and take up his latest offer to the West for non-aggression? In a tape recording, Bin Laden declared that a ceasefire or truce would begin when European soldiers leave the Islamic countries.
We need secret negotiations with Bin Laden. I suggested this months ago. The offer from Bin Laden recalls strikingly the solution to the 1962 Cuban crisis. At that time, the Soviet Union told the US: If you withdraw your missiles from Turkey - not many knew of the stationing of missiles in Turkey then -, we will withdraw ours from Cuba. Bin Laden now says the same thing in a certain way.
Do you believe a man like Bin Laden is ready for serious negotiations?
Obviously, speaking with these people is not simple. They feel humiliated by the West. The problem is that both sides satanize each other. The media also plays a role. The media is usually cruel and makes a disgusting contribution to the spiral of violence. With the violent along with the suicide victim and his family, feelings of triumph cover the front pages. On the other hand, peace journalism raises more questions. Firstly, what underlies the conflict and what are the goals of the parties to the conflict? Secondly, is there a possibility for solution? Only reporting that violent persons are violent is not analysis.