by Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer
The world will never be the same again after
attack on the economic US, the military US, the foreign policy
US, and on human beings like all of us. We embrace the victims
of the violence, of all violence, in deep grief, and express our
hope that perpetrators will be brought to justice.
A violence at this level can only be explained
by a very
high level of dehumanization of the victims in the minds of the
aggressors, often due to a very deep level of unresolved, basic
conflict. The word "terrorism" may describe the tactics, but like
"state terrorism" only portrays the perpetrator as evil, satanic,
and does not go to the roots of the conflict.
The text of targets reads like a retaliation
for US use of
economic power against poor countries and poor people, US use of
military power against defenseless people and US political power
against the powerless. This calls to mind the many countries
around the world where the US has bombed or otherwise exercised
its awesome power, directly or indirectly; adding the 100,000
dying daily at the bottom of an economic system identified by
many with US economic, military and political power. Given the
millions, not thousands, of victims it has to be expected that
this generates a desire for retaliation somewhere, some time.
The basic dividing line in this conflict is
countries and of people. It is not civilization, although US
sense of mission, manifest destiny, and Islamic sense of
righteousness are parts of it. Right now the confrontation seems
to be between the US/West and Arabs/Muslims. But this may also
be a fallacy of misplaced concreteness: the latter may possess
more intention and more capability than other victims of the
enormous US/West violence since the Second world war. We should
neither underestimate the extent of solidarity in the "rest of
the world", nor the solidarity of the world upper class: the
West; and build solidarity with victims everywhere.
In placing the horrendous attack on the US
in the context of
a cycle of retaliation, there is no element of justification, no
excuse, no guilt-attribution. There is only deep regret that
this chain of violence and retaliation is a human fact. But it
may also serve to make us break that vicious spiral.
There has been an outpouring of sympathy and
offers of help,
even from governments with whom the US has had differences, like
Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and Libya. There is an overwhelming
desire to end such atrocities, in the way piracy on the high seas
largely ended when all governments began to cooperate in opposing
it and pirates lost their safe havens.
More stringent security measures like guards
tighter surveillance of communications and sharing of
intelligence can make some difference, but they do not go to the
root. Bombing Afghanistan may kill some terrorists, but will
also kill innocent civilians, and is likely to recruit many more
who are willing to become "martyrs."
We need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction
stringent international verification, or they will be used sooner
or later by terrorists, because they are not deterred by the
threat of retaliation.
With talk of Crusades from the USA, and of
the fourth stage
of jihad, Holy War, from Islamic quarters, the world may be
heading for the largest violent encounter ever. The first jihad,
against the Crusades 1095-1291 lasted 196 years; the Muslims won.
The second, against Israel, is undecided. The third, against
communism in Afghanistan, supported by the US, ended with Soviet
withdrawal and collapse. Some Muslims are willing to die for
their faith, expecting to go to paradise. Yet most Muslim
clerics have stressed that the Koran prohibits the taking of
innocent lives. Equating all Muslims with terrorists would be
like equating all Christians with the Ku Klux Klan.
To prevent a slide into a large war with enormous,
widespread suffering, the US, everybody, should not rush to
action. There is a need for deep self-reflection, seeking to
identify the conflicts, the issues, solve them, reconcile.
Dialogue and global education to understand how others think, and
to respect other cultures, not debate to defeat others with
stronger arguments, can lead the way toward healing and closure.
Governments in the West, and also in the South,
relied upon to do this; they are too tied to the US and also too
afraid of incurring US wrath. Only people can, only the global
civil society. What is needed as soon as humanly possible is a
massive peace movement, this time North-South. It worked last
time, East-West. The future of the world is more than ever in
the hands of the only source of legitimacy: people everywhere.
A Chinese proverb says, "If a spear is sticking
body, it is not enough to break off the visible part. Unless the
tip is removed from inside the body, a festering wound will
persist." As painful as it is for many at this time of tragedy,
if we want to succeed in eliminating terrorism, we must
understand its sources and remove the causes of extreme hatred
that drive some people to commit mass murder and suicide.
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.