It is time to mourn and reflect, not anger and retaliation

We have all watched the reports of the events of September 11 in the USA . We must all morn for the loss of life that this represents.

We cannot, however, allow ourselves to think only of hatred and retaliation, for we would become no different than those who have been at the root of this ongoing violence.

Even before we know who is behind the events we have people inciting racism, often against Muslim people who are part of one of the largest faiths in the world. I hope that people will listen to the Muslim American Leaders who Condemn the Attack.

I have read today one article from Salon entitled "Purge our society," online bigots shout Post-disaster threats and expressions of racism bubble up on the Web which indicates that this problem is already on the rise.

Another good article for activists to read is: "We owe our dead : Please, first, I don't want to hear how America has reaped what it has sown... "

My thoughts go out to the families and friends of the victims of this violence, wherever in the world those victims happen to be.


Comments

    from the not-entirely-ironic-dept [76]
    by Krishna E. Bera on Wednesday, September 12 @04:47PM
    Just in case we missed it, Tuesday the 11th was the United Nations International Peace Day.

    The question is "why" [78]
    by Julien Lamarche on Friday, September 14 @07:49PM
    [This letter has been previously posted on IMC Ontario and Octopus Books. I realise that it is lacking certain elements such as oppression by neo-liberalism and involvement of other countries, including Canada, in war making efforts. It is intended for the non-activist population]

    The question is "why", not "who"

    Like many people, i was confused over the recent events taking place in the United-States on tuesday september 11th. The confusion was not due to a lack of understanding, but simply due to the scale of these events. In fact, i was not surprised by what happened.

    To understand my lack of surprise, it is important to re-center the debate arround the question "why did it happen?" rather then "was it right", "who did it", "how should we react" or more stupidly "should we react using military force?". Before I continue however I want to make it clear that this is not an attempt to justify ("to make it right") what has happened. No militarilization is good militarilization. It is rather an attempt to explain why it has happened and let the chance to north amerciain society to look itself in the mirror.

    Contrary to what "democracy" and "freedom" should stand for, the use of force has been long associated with US policy, especially it's foreign polilcy. If Plan Columbia is about drugs, then why did a member of the Canada Colombia Solidarity Committee in Ottawa said that the armies were located arround the oil rigs rather then the plantation fields? Why did NATO made civilian casualities on its war on Yugoslavia? Why did the US kempt bombing Vieque in spite of the will of the people and formal requests from the Government? ( http://vermont.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=827&group=webcast )

    It is in fact not surprising that this had happened when we read a statement from the War Resisters League: "The policies of militarism pursued by the United States have resulted in millions of deaths, from the historic tragedy of the Indochina war, through the funding of death squads in Central America and Colombia, to the sanctions and air strikes against Iraq. This nation is the largest supplier of "conventional weapons" in the world - and those weapons fuel the starkest kind of terrorism from Indonesia to Africa." ( http://www.warresisters.org/attack9-11-01.htm) Who did this did not start a war, the US was doing it all the time.

    Indeed, rarely has a statment reach such a level of hypocrisy when Bush said: "Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended". A country that is for freedom would be for pushing for agreements that would further the peace cause. No one is indeed free when countries are being militarized. The US never went into this direction for peace. Écrik Martel from L'entremetteur, the student newspaper of the Collège de l'Outaouais, questions: "Why is the US absent from the 1997 convention banishing land mines, absent from the 1994 convention banishing usage of children in war or work, absent from the global banishment of nuclear tests, absent from the United Nations 1966 convention on economic and social rights, absent of the 1979 convention of women rights, absent of the OAS 1969 convention on human rights, absent on the additional protocols of 1977 adding civil population rights in time of war to the 1949 Geneva convention and absent on the 1982 convention on rights of the sea, etc." In fact, it is going in the other direction with it's anti-missle defense project. This project would'nt had stopped what happened, and neither is any military strike going to acheive results.

    There is clear evidence that it is involved in human rights abuses in latin america. School of the Americas Watch claims: "The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American soldiers in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. Graduates of the SOA are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. " The organization has a whole web site dedicated to the cause at http://www.soaw.org/ .

    The human casualties have certainly been something we wished never happened and neither is this text an attempt to justify what was done. It is however an attempt to make people realise that many other casualties have happened because of US foreign policy, and that these casualties have probably been the motive for these events. Continuing to control the world through military force and economic neo-libarilism will only help in making terrorism seem like a recourse.

    Julien Lamarche
    Ottawa, September 12th

    And if the answer was not retaliation?... [82]
    by Dominique Boisvert on Wednesday, September 19 @12:37AM
    AND IF THE ANSWER WAS NOT RETALIATION?


    Let's be clear. NOTHING can justify the horrible deadly attacks against the United States on September 11th. But these attacks took place and now the most pressing question facing us is: What will we do?

    Retaliation, not suprisingly, seems to be on everyone's mind. President Bush has declared the first war of the 21st century. He has evoked the struggle of Good over Evil. He has promised to venge, with force, the loss of thousands of innocent American lives. He has sought and obtained, in this struggle against terrorism, the cooperation of his NATO allies.

    However, retaliation is perhaps not what is called for in these dramatic circumstances. Instead of adopting the attitude of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", is it not possible, despite the overpowering sadness caused by this horrible carnage, to remain cool-headed? Is it not possible to distinguish, as Elie Wiesel does, between anger and hate, and to choose that which is just rather than that which will please public opinion? Should not our representatives act with wisdom instead of applying a band-aid solution? Is that not the true sense of leadership that we expect from our heads of state?

    Launching one, or several, devastating attacks against terrorist targets, be they authentic or alledged, is a quick and easy solution, especially if it is carried out using military hardware such as missiles rather than soldiers: it is rapid, it is spectacular, and it causes enormous damage. As a result, public opinion is impressed and satisfied.

    Unfortunately such a course of action entails two drawbacks. It not only does not solve the problem but actually makes it worse. The events unfolding every day in the Middle East offer us living proof of this. Disease is cured by attacking its causes, not its consequences. Furthermore, the escalation of violence, which both adversaries consider perfectly justified, kindles an unending spiral of death.

    While the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington are totally unjustifiable, they are not gratuitous. The fanatical hate that some people harbour against the United States, and the West in general, has historical roots: political colonization, economic exploitation, cultural hegemony, military domination, broken promises, overturned or imposed governments, the use of double standards, etc. We must admit that many peoples around the world have legitimate grievances. We seem to have forgotten, all too easily, that our sworn enemies of today were but yesterday our allies. We are the ones who created, trained and armed the power of Manuel Noriega in Panama, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Oussama Ben Laden in Afghanistan.

    Indeed, we must struggle mercilessly against terrorism, against ALL types of terrorism: the terrorism of the poor, so often spectacular and blind, the terrorism of the powerful, more sophisticated or targetted, the terrorism of stateless organizations, and the terrorism of nation-states, be they enemies or allies. Terror, like vengeance, is ALWAYS unjustifiable.

    Therefore, the appropriate response to the horrors of September 11th is not, and cannot be, retaliation. No "military strike", no matter its size, intensity or target, could attain the goals for which any and all political and military decisions should strive: to meet the targetted objectives, and to contribute to improving the situation, not making it worse. "Military strikes" may comfort national or western egos, demonstrate military superiority and satisfy the desire for vengeance. But they will never bring back the thousands of lost loved ones, and they will not address the causes of terrorism. On the contrary, they will generate even more heat to fuel the infernal spiral of violence.


    WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

    1. Declare collectively, loud and strong, our firm commitment to struggle relentlessly against violence and terror, wherever they come from. For our american neighbours, this means two things: discontinuing the pursuit of unilateralism which, up to now, the Bush administration has favoured, and committing itself to a multilateral approach, not only when it suits their fancy, as in the case of terrorism, but in all of their international policies.

    2. Be coherent in our political interventions and stop using double standards, especially regarding human rights, the rule of law, and the resolutions of the United Nations (for example concerning Israel, China, Africa, etc.).

    3. Prioritize the struggle against the profound roots of terrorism. Reducing political, economic and social injustices, contributes directly to diminish tensions and impoverishes the soil in which terrorism grows. This will not solve everything, but prevention is always the best remedy against desease.

    4. Maximize the use of the judicial system and the rule of law in eliminating terrorism and neutralizing individual terrorists: the strict enforcement of current and future national and international criminal codes, the eventual restriction of some of our present rights and freedoms for greater collective protection, etc. As with all crimes, we must learn to effectively reprimand dangerous or inacceptable behaviour without, at the same time, demonizing those involved. If not, nothing is gained and the causes of such behavior remain untouched.

    5. Start moving away from our attitude of self-sufficiency and opening up to the reality of the Other. We westerners often consider ourselves the center of the world. The time has come to learn to look at the world through the eyes of the Other, to learn to walk, if only for a moment, in the shoes of the Other. This is an essential prerequisite for understanding different mentalities and cultures, for developping authentic tolerance and for creating the conditions for peaceful co-existence.

    6. Give up the idea that force and violence are necessary to rectify wrongs and to impose "our" justice. Force and violence have never solved problems over the long run. At best, they have resulted in shallow or temporary victories, and in some cases they have even rendered the situation worse. The wars of the 20th century have abundantly born witness to this and the Gulf War is just one of the more recent demonstrations. At this the beginning of the 3rd millenium, the United Nations has invited us to develop a culture of non-violence as one of the best ways of guaranteeing peace. It is time to put this into practice.

    7. Contribute with our every action, word and attitude to building a little more peace, justice and hope. Each of us contributes, a thousand times every day, to improving the world or deteriorating it, to making it more open, more tolerant and more fit for living, or, on the contrary, more individualistic, more competitive and more threatening. The necessary struggle against terrorism must, of course, be managed by the nation-states, but it also belongs to each and every one of us. Through the many choices we make every day we can contribute to the dynamics of life rather than the logic of death.


    This may not seem like the appropriate moment to suggest such an unpopular, long term course of action. Nevertheless, NOW is the time, more than ever, to resort to reason rather than emotion. NOW is the time to be courageous, to demonstate leadership and creativity rather than succumbing to the intincts of vengeance and retaliation.

    In every conflict, even from a strictly military point of view, victory often depends on the capacity to take the initiative and surprise the opponent where he expects us least. Today, everyone is expecting, as something totally inevitable, that the Americans, possibly with the help of other nations, launch a military attack against the enemy. As the enemy in this case is hard to identify, the chances that there will be numerous innocent victims will be all the greater. It is precisely for these reasons that we must surprise the adversary by changing the battlelines.

    Showering Afghanistan or any other country with missiles will simply multiply the death toll and cultivate hate, without proving or solving anything. We already know that the United States is the biggest military power in the world, that they have bombs and that they are not afraid to use them. We also know that this did not prevent the terrible attacks of September 11th but rather nurtured the hate that made them possible. Is it not time to learn from the past and to modify our course of action?

    Stopping the spiral of violence is an urgent task for which we are all responsible, wherever we are.


    Dominique Boisvert
    7281, 19th Avenue
    Montreal H2A 2L6
    (514) 376-8047
    email : domfeldi@internet.uqam.ca
    (written in French on September 13th
    and kindly translated by a group of friends)

    from the not-entirely-ironic-dept [76]
    by Krishna E. Bera on Wednesday, September 12 @04:47PM
    Just in case we missed it, Tuesday the 11th was the United Nations International Peace Day.

    The question is "why" [78]
    by Julien Lamarche on Friday, September 14 @07:49PM
    [This letter has been previously posted on IMC Ontario and Octopus Books. I realise that it is lacking certain elements such as oppression by neo-liberalism and involvement of other countries, including Canada, in war making efforts. It is intended for the non-activist population]

    The question is "why", not "who"

    Like many people, i was confused over the recent events taking place in the United-States on tuesday september 11th. The confusion was not due to a lack of understanding, but simply due to the scale of these events. In fact, i was not surprised by what happened.

    To understand my lack of surprise, it is important to re-center the debate arround the question "why did it happen?" rather then "was it right", "who did it", "how should we react" or more stupidly "should we react using military force?". Before I continue however I want to make it clear that this is not an attempt to justify ("to make it right") what has happened. No militarilization is good militarilization. It is rather an attempt to explain why it has happened and let the chance to north amerciain society to look itself in the mirror.

    Contrary to what "democracy" and "freedom" should stand for, the use of force has been long associated with US policy, especially it's foreign polilcy. If Plan Columbia is about drugs, then why did a member of the Canada Colombia Solidarity Committee in Ottawa said that the armies were located arround the oil rigs rather then the plantation fields? Why did NATO made civilian casualities on its war on Yugoslavia? Why did the US kempt bombing Vieque in spite of the will of the people and formal requests from the Government? ( http://vermont.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=827&group=webcast )

    It is in fact not surprising that this had happened when we read a statement from the War Resisters League: "The policies of militarism pursued by the United States have resulted in millions of deaths, from the historic tragedy of the Indochina war, through the funding of death squads in Central America and Colombia, to the sanctions and air strikes against Iraq. This nation is the largest supplier of "conventional weapons" in the world - and those weapons fuel the starkest kind of terrorism from Indonesia to Africa." ( http://www.warresisters.org/attack9-11-01.htm) Who did this did not start a war, the US was doing it all the time.

    Indeed, rarely has a statment reach such a level of hypocrisy when Bush said: "Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended". A country that is for freedom would be for pushing for agreements that would further the peace cause. No one is indeed free when countries are being militarized. The US never went into this direction for peace. Écrik Martel from L'entremetteur, the student newspaper of the Collège de l'Outaouais, questions: "Why is the US absent from the 1997 convention banishing land mines, absent from the 1994 convention banishing usage of children in war or work, absent from the global banishment of nuclear tests, absent from the United Nations 1966 convention on economic and social rights, absent of the 1979 convention of women rights, absent of the OAS 1969 convention on human rights, absent on the additional protocols of 1977 adding civil population rights in time of war to the 1949 Geneva convention and absent on the 1982 convention on rights of the sea, etc." In fact, it is going in the other direction with it's anti-missle defense project. This project would'nt had stopped what happened, and neither is any military strike going to acheive results.

    There is clear evidence that it is involved in human rights abuses in latin america. School of the Americas Watch claims: "The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American soldiers in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. Graduates of the SOA are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. " The organization has a whole web site dedicated to the cause at http://www.soaw.org/ .

    The human casualties have certainly been something we wished never happened and neither is this text an attempt to justify what was done. It is however an attempt to make people realise that many other casualties have happened because of US foreign policy, and that these casualties have probably been the motive for these events. Continuing to control the world through military force and economic neo-libarilism will only help in making terrorism seem like a recourse.

    Julien Lamarche
    Ottawa, September 12th

    And if the answer was not retaliation?... [82]
    by Dominique Boisvert on Wednesday, September 19 @12:37AM
    AND IF THE ANSWER WAS NOT RETALIATION?


    Let's be clear. NOTHING can justify the horrible deadly attacks against the United States on September 11th. But these attacks took place and now the most pressing question facing us is: What will we do?

    Retaliation, not suprisingly, seems to be on everyone's mind. President Bush has declared the first war of the 21st century. He has evoked the struggle of Good over Evil. He has promised to venge, with force, the loss of thousands of innocent American lives. He has sought and obtained, in this struggle against terrorism, the cooperation of his NATO allies.

    However, retaliation is perhaps not what is called for in these dramatic circumstances. Instead of adopting the attitude of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", is it not possible, despite the overpowering sadness caused by this horrible carnage, to remain cool-headed? Is it not possible to distinguish, as Elie Wiesel does, between anger and hate, and to choose that which is just rather than that which will please public opinion? Should not our representatives act with wisdom instead of applying a band-aid solution? Is that not the true sense of leadership that we expect from our heads of state?

    Launching one, or several, devastating attacks against terrorist targets, be they authentic or alledged, is a quick and easy solution, especially if it is carried out using military hardware such as missiles rather than soldiers: it is rapid, it is spectacular, and it causes enormous damage. As a result, public opinion is impressed and satisfied.

    Unfortunately such a course of action entails two drawbacks. It not only does not solve the problem but actually makes it worse. The events unfolding every day in the Middle East offer us living proof of this. Disease is cured by attacking its causes, not its consequences. Furthermore, the escalation of violence, which both adversaries consider perfectly justified, kindles an unending spiral of death.

    While the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington are totally unjustifiable, they are not gratuitous. The fanatical hate that some people harbour against the United States, and the West in general, has historical roots: political colonization, economic exploitation, cultural hegemony, military domination, broken promises, overturned or imposed governments, the use of double standards, etc. We must admit that many peoples around the world have legitimate grievances. We seem to have forgotten, all too easily, that our sworn enemies of today were but yesterday our allies. We are the ones who created, trained and armed the power of Manuel Noriega in Panama, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Oussama Ben Laden in Afghanistan.

    Indeed, we must struggle mercilessly against terrorism, against ALL types of terrorism: the terrorism of the poor, so often spectacular and blind, the terrorism of the powerful, more sophisticated or targetted, the terrorism of stateless organizations, and the terrorism of nation-states, be they enemies or allies. Terror, like vengeance, is ALWAYS unjustifiable.

    Therefore, the appropriate response to the horrors of September 11th is not, and cannot be, retaliation. No "military strike", no matter its size, intensity or target, could attain the goals for which any and all political and military decisions should strive: to meet the targetted objectives, and to contribute to improving the situation, not making it worse. "Military strikes" may comfort national or western egos, demonstrate military superiority and satisfy the desire for vengeance. But they will never bring back the thousands of lost loved ones, and they will not address the causes of terrorism. On the contrary, they will generate even more heat to fuel the infernal spiral of violence.


    WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

    1. Declare collectively, loud and strong, our firm commitment to struggle relentlessly against violence and terror, wherever they come from. For our american neighbours, this means two things: discontinuing the pursuit of unilateralism which, up to now, the Bush administration has favoured, and committing itself to a multilateral approach, not only when it suits their fancy, as in the case of terrorism, but in all of their international policies.

    2. Be coherent in our political interventions and stop using double standards, especially regarding human rights, the rule of law, and the resolutions of the United Nations (for example concerning Israel, China, Africa, etc.).

    3. Prioritize the struggle against the profound roots of terrorism. Reducing political, economic and social injustices, contributes directly to diminish tensions and impoverishes the soil in which terrorism grows. This will not solve everything, but prevention is always the best remedy against desease.

    4. Maximize the use of the judicial system and the rule of law in eliminating terrorism and neutralizing individual terrorists: the strict enforcement of current and future national and international criminal codes, the eventual restriction of some of our present rights and freedoms for greater collective protection, etc. As with all crimes, we must learn to effectively reprimand dangerous or inacceptable behaviour without, at the same time, demonizing those involved. If not, nothing is gained and the causes of such behavior remain untouched.

    5. Start moving away from our attitude of self-sufficiency and opening up to the reality of the Other. We westerners often consider ourselves the center of the world. The time has come to learn to look at the world through the eyes of the Other, to learn to walk, if only for a moment, in the shoes of the Other. This is an essential prerequisite for understanding different mentalities and cultures, for developping authentic tolerance and for creating the conditions for peaceful co-existence.

    6. Give up the idea that force and violence are necessary to rectify wrongs and to impose "our" justice. Force and violence have never solved problems over the long run. At best, they have resulted in shallow or temporary victories, and in some cases they have even rendered the situation worse. The wars of the 20th century have abundantly born witness to this and the Gulf War is just one of the more recent demonstrations. At this the beginning of the 3rd millenium, the United Nations has invited us to develop a culture of non-violence as one of the best ways of guaranteeing peace. It is time to put this into practice.

    7. Contribute with our every action, word and attitude to building a little more peace, justice and hope. Each of us contributes, a thousand times every day, to improving the world or deteriorating it, to making it more open, more tolerant and more fit for living, or, on the contrary, more individualistic, more competitive and more threatening. The necessary struggle against terrorism must, of course, be managed by the nation-states, but it also belongs to each and every one of us. Through the many choices we make every day we can contribute to the dynamics of life rather than the logic of death.


    This may not seem like the appropriate moment to suggest such an unpopular, long term course of action. Nevertheless, NOW is the time, more than ever, to resort to reason rather than emotion. NOW is the time to be courageous, to demonstate leadership and creativity rather than succumbing to the intincts of vengeance and retaliation.

    In every conflict, even from a strictly military point of view, victory often depends on the capacity to take the initiative and surprise the opponent where he expects us least. Today, everyone is expecting, as something totally inevitable, that the Americans, possibly with the help of other nations, launch a military attack against the enemy. As the enemy in this case is hard to identify, the chances that there will be numerous innocent victims will be all the greater. It is precisely for these reasons that we must surprise the adversary by changing the battlelines.

    Showering Afghanistan or any other country with missiles will simply multiply the death toll and cultivate hate, without proving or solving anything. We already know that the United States is the biggest military power in the world, that they have bombs and that they are not afraid to use them. We also know that this did not prevent the terrible attacks of September 11th but rather nurtured the hate that made them possible. Is it not time to learn from the past and to modify our course of action?

    Stopping the spiral of violence is an urgent task for which we are all responsible, wherever we are.


    Dominique Boisvert
    7281, 19th Avenue
    Montreal H2A 2L6
    (514) 376-8047
    email : domfeldi@internet.uqam.ca
    (written in French on September 13th
    and kindly translated by a group of friends)