We cannot minimize the horror of the recent acts of terrorism in the U.S. The individual loss of a loved one multiplied 5,000 times over adds up to an arithmetic of terrible sorrow. You cannot fight what you consider injustice by acts that are themselves extreme violations of justice. Indiscriminate violence is the terrible curse of the mind of the terrorist. All acts of terrorism must be totally rejected as illegitimate means of struggle, because they fail the principle of discrimination. Indiscriminate violence in times of war or peace violates this principle. Resistance to injustice that discriminates has always been historically justified. The Geneva Protocols relating to war demand that the essential discrimination between combatants and non-combatants be rigorously maintained. The most serious and significant violation of this protocol was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with a total of 200,000 prompt deaths of civilians and the decades-long delayed torture of radiation effects. This was committed by a so-called civilized people.
Thus we must not let the larger perspective be carried away on the flood of sympathy. While it is totally unacceptable to use unjust means to fight injustice, this does not make the injustice disappear. By all the criteria of current social indicators the U.S. is an unjust society compared to the rest of the highly industrialized Western world.This is manifest in structural terrorism against the poor, other minorities and persistent racism. “Hate acts” against Moslem Americans have already multiplied, including the bombing of mosques.
All major religions contain elements of forgiveness and vengeance. At the same time, all major religions have a fundamentalist or exclusionary group who embrace fanaticism. The current horrendous acts of terrorism were obviously carried out by this kind of extremist position. The evidence to date is that the culprits were Islamic fundamentalists. However, if you have read my book on Ronald Reagan, you will see that there are high-ranking U.S. Christian fundamentalists – Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their ilk – who believe a great war between good and evil will take place – Armageddon – and that only “true” Christians will ultimately survive. They have prepared to fight that war in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Falwell and Robertson have now revealed their twisted minds by suggesting that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. were a form of divine punishment for its tolerance to secularism, feminism, homosexuality, etc. Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has operationalized programs to fight and win a nuclear war with Russia through a preemptive disarming strike against all Russian missile sites on land, on and under the oceans and in the sky. The talk about rogue states as the reason for a National Missile System (NMD) is an outright deception. Russia is the only country that threatens the U.S.¹s global hegemony. The above strike would lead to fifteen million civilian Russian deaths or two and a half holocausts. This is an act of extreme terrorism which I have documented beyond any possible dispute. The International Court of Justice has concluded that such a threat is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. Perhaps the NMD system will shoot down hijacked planes on U.S. territory, a costly exchange of human life.
Returning to the events in New York City, if you had read a novel in which some nineteen persons hijacked four civilian jumbo jets, one terrorist on each of the hijacked planes having been trained in an accredited school for flying these jets and that all nineteen were prepared to die in their acts of terror, you would have had to conclude that this plot was farfetched. The amount of detailed planning and the level of organization to accomplish such a task is mind-boggling. They had to do this with primitive plastic weapons, break into the cockpit and keep the flight crews and passengers under control.
Returning to my earlier theme that we must retain a larger perspective on terrorism, the blockade of Iraq has led to an estimated death of some one million of its citizens, mostly children. This is also an act of terrorism. Even in the war against the scourge of fascism, the allies used unacceptable means insofar as they violated the principle of discrimination by the mass bombing of Axis cities which, in any case, later proved to be counter-productive. The U.S. has consistently supported right-wing leaders in Central and South America who carried out reigns of terror. Using the current U.S. argument that countries that harbour terrorists are, themselves, guilty proves the guilt of the U.S.
We must also adjust our perspective to the realities of a unipolar world and the singular force of Pax Americana. The current political solidarity is politically correct, but cannot cover up the profound and persistent political differences that divide the U.S., a division that will outlast such solidarity. Congress, by giving George W. Bush carte blanche to retaliate, has assured the perpetuation of violent response. It has been reported that only one member of Congress voted against this blanket resolution.
In conclusion, the U.S. is now reaping and will continue to reap what it has sowed. The scars of the Middle East wedded to Islamic terrorism and Israeli intransigence will never put an end to their acts of terrorism until some final peaceful solution is achieved, creating a Palestinian State (with no armed forces) and making Jerusalem an international city. These are minimum requirements. George W. Bush will not solve the problem but exacerbate it. In many ways he is the problem. We can now all see that the NMD policy cannot protect the American public. Some time in the near future terrorists will explode a small suitcase nuclear bomb in a major U.S. city. And a ground war in Afghanistan could not only unite Islamic fundamentalists but prove to be a second Viet Nam, as the Soviets learned.
The U.S. could yet be the victim of blowback for having supported the Taliban in that war. Blowback is the phenomenon of supporting regimes who later become your worst enemy. Blowback could also haunt the C.I.A. for its legion of dirty tricks, including murder, throughout the world. Even now there is a case pending against Henry Kissinger for the murders in Chile of the head of the military and the democratically-elected president. This launched the Pinochet reign of terror. The U.S.’s major Arab ally is Saudi Arabia, hardly a model of democracy. Then, of course, there was the Iran Contra affair, illustrating that the CIA is not above making deals with terrorists, including those from Islam. In fact the CIA is a terrorist organization, not unlike its counterparts in almost all countries. In this way the terrible events in New York were truly the reaping of what was sowed. The tragedy, of course, is the slaughter of the innocents.
There is still the opportunity for positive defensive measures. All civilian air carriers could implement some simple reforms following El Al’s procedures, i.e. carrying an armed sky marshal aboard and having cockpits on large passenger planes sealed off from crew and passengers. This would prevent hijackings. Together with a permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, this will help. But ultimately U.S. policy will have to undergo radical change from the new imperialism of its present posture to a true democratic society dedicated to peace and justice. This will involve a fundamental change in an American culture of structural violence and a self-image of being Number One. And under the present administration, this is less likely than ever.
All of this does not preclude the legitimate task of identifying dedicated terrorists and preventing further acts of terrorism. But if this is attempted through excessively violent means, it will prove counter-productive and only perpetuate the dynamics of violence.