Before reacting in anger to the horrible attack by terrorists on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, the people of the United States and others need to reflect carefully on what are the real causes of terrorism and what are the best solutions to this difficult problem. To answer a devastating terrorist attack with more terrorism will likely cause continuing terrorism. Certainly mass murderers must be brought to justice, and the entire world should unite in that effort. The intelligent question is how that justice can be brought about without making the problem worse. The statement by President Bush that no distinction will be made between the terrorists and those who harbor them may resonate with angered people, but it indicates at best a lack of subtlety and at worst a dangerous escalation that could punish innocent people who were in no way responsible for the crimes. Certainly the question of complicity must be examined; but surely there is a different response warranted for murderers or for those who have passively tolerated their existence. Let us not repeat the mistake of punishing an entire country for the crimes of individual criminals as the United States has done recently in Iraq and Yugoslavia on many occasions.
Talking of war is a dangerous escalation of rhetoric. We need to examine the terrorism of our own government as well as that of others. The United States has been supplying Israel with weapons in its continuing attacks against Palestinians fighting for their rights and homeland. Both the Palestinians and the Jews are using criminal methods, which are not to be condoned; but we must examine our complicity that makes many people, especially Muslims, hate the United States with such vehemence. If the United States truly believes in freedom and democracy, as its leaders so often state, then we should support the efforts for an international court of law for the world. The faulty election process in the United States has made many people realize that this society has lost much of its democracy, which is increasingly controlled by the wealthy corporations that dominate the media and the corrupt elections. The latest attempt at world government, the United Nations, is dominated by the five original nuclear powers, does not represent the people of the world but only the national governments, and is not democratic since the Security Council can be blocked from acting by any one of those five nuclear powers.
In the short-term the important principle here is justice. If President Bush truly wants to bring the criminals to justice, then he will support fair trials for individuals rather than a lynch-mob mentality that would punish not only individuals but innocent bystanders as well by military means. Justice is best achieved by enforcing individual responsibility by an unbiased judicial process under the constitutional guarantees of law. No nation or group of nations has the sovereign right to arrogate to themselves the punishment of human beings outside their borders without any legitimate judicial process.
The best long-term solutions are a democratically elected world government in a constitutional and federal system that will preserve the rights of all while bringing effective law enforcement everywhere in the world based on universal laws rather than by the military force of the most powerful nation-states. If we go on failing to work for real justice of all people, then the terrorism is likely to continue, because the people who feel oppressed by the super-powerful United States and its ally Israel will use whatever means they can, including suicidal missions, to fight back. At a tremendous military disadvantage, a handful of daring people used only knives and their adversary’s jetliners to destroy thousands of innocent people and part of the infrastructure of world trade. Will police-state methods of searching at airports be able to prevent all such acts in the future? Perhaps the next terrorists will use martial arts with no weapons at all, or they might use chemical or biological weapons.
Ultimately we need to learn how to make peace and establish justice, not by adopting the terrorist methods of the criminals, but by protecting everyone’s rights, learning how to share our wealth rather than merely exploit people, and trust in democratic institutions that recognize the votes of all. We need a steady process of disarmament with very careful inspection so that no individual, group, or state can terrorize other people. Finally, we need a democratic world government that can enforce law fairly for all, not a group of powerful nations imposing their selfish will with national military forces.
This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.