Bush's War Against Terrorism: Be Cautious!

by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar - muza@po.jaring.my

From the remarks made by President George Bush to the media on 14 May 2002 when he welcomed Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to the Oval Office it is obvious that he has not come to grips with the basic issues involved in the fight against terrorism.

While it is important to get the terrorists and to bring them to justice, it is even more important to address the causes and circumstances that spawn terrorism. Terrorism has a certain ideological foundation and unless we understand this it will not be possible to combat the scourge.

In response to a question from the media, Bush agreed that the root causes of terrorism should be addressed but his subsequent comments showed that he was not prepared to focus upon them. He conceded that a sense of hopelessness could breed terrorism and suggested that education and health care are important in making people feel that they have a future.

But he should realize that not just hopelessness but also powerlessness can give rise to frustration and despair which in turn may induce people to turn to acts of terror to achieve their goals, whether noble or ignoble they maybe. And nothing has made the vast majority of humankind feel so utterly powerless and hopeless in the last few decades than an overwhelmingly hegemonic global system, dominated by the elites of Washington. For the masses in the Arab and Muslim world if there any one situation that epitomizes this feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness, it is the subjugation and oppression of the people of Palestine by a regime backed to the hilt by the sole superpower of the day.

This in fact reveals another fundamental dimension of the ideology of terror as it expresses itself today which Bush has ignored. If the Palestinian freedom fighters, the Tamil Tiger rebels, the Basque separatists and the Irish republicans have on various occasions resorted to acts of terror - that is killing civilians - it is because certain issues linked to sovereignty, identity and land which are germane to the honor and the dignity of their people remain unresolved. Indeed, sovereignty, identity and land are far more compelling explanations of why individuals and groups sometimes seek recourse to terror and violence than poverty or hunger or unemployment.

However, before condemning the violence of those who are struggling to assert their sovereignty and their dignity, Bush should also condemn the terrorism of the powerful actors - the states - that deny them their legitimate rights and freedoms. It is palpably unjust to put the act of terror of a Palestinian freedom fighter in the same category as the act of terror of an immeasurably more powerful and an incomparably more brutal state actor such as the Israeli army. By trying to establish some sort of 'moral equivalence' between the two types of terror one would be guilty of repudiating the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for a homeland.

Indeed, state terrorism is in some respects the factor that forces non-state actors to seek remedies through violence. The United Nations in most of its resolutions on terrorism since 1987 has recognized state terrorism as grave a threat to peace as the terrorism of non-state actors. One cannot expect President Bush to acknowledge this for the simple reason that the United States has not hesitated to unleash terror upon civilian populations in Vietnam, in Nicaragua, in Sudan and in countless other countries whenever it suits its interests to do so. As the distinguished critic, Noam Chomsky, put it recently, " we should recognize that in much of the world the US is regarded as a leading terrorist state, and with good reason."

Given the United States' own terrorist record, it is vital that other nations treat its attempt to mobilize the entire world to fight terrorism with a great deal of caution. Since the US refuses to view terrorism from a comprehensive perspective which not only addresses its root causes but also takes cognizance of the role of state actors, other countries have every right to question its motives. Indeed, many intellectuals, writers and social activists in various parts of the world, including the United States, are convinced that the real agenda behind the US's war against terrorism is to extend its effective hegemonic power over the entire planet.

In order to do this, the US, it is apparent from nearly every major development since September 11, is using its military might to ensure that others submit to its will. What is less obvious at the moment is its endeavor to emasculate independent states and independent minded leaders who are determined to pursue policies which are not subservient to US interests. This explains why the US is busy trying to cultivate lackeys and stooges in certain countries. Unfortunately, there are quite a few pretenders to the throne who are only too willing to become leaders manufactured in the US.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
16 May 2002
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Note by Dr. Amir Ali: I disagree with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar's contention that the 9-11 terror was the work of any Muslim including Al-Qaeda or Osama Binladin. This author believes that the 9-11 terror was the work of the Israelis with the cooperation of key elements in the U.S. Poverty is not the source of terrorism but it is foreign aggression in the Muslim countries' affairs and economic exploitation in the interest of the foreign powers.


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