River Wissey Lovell Fuller

This War

December 2001

One Man's View

The attack on the World Trade Centre must rank amongst the world's worst disaters and is clearly the worst ever terrorist action. Of course there have been worse disasters due to earthquakes but never surely so many people killed in such a small area. The horror of the last moments of those trapped in the building and those in the aircraft will haunt us for years. No matter what cause the terrorists thought they were serving they performed the most evil of acts and, if there is a god, he must surely condemn their souls to eternal damnation.

Nevertheless they must have hated the American people before they could bring themselves to do such a thing and one is forced to ask why. It would be a mistake for the Americans to think that this was an attack on their country's values and beliefs rather than their actions past and present. The foreign policies of the USA over the last few decades have offended and hurt many people. Their paranoia over communism led them to support and assist a number of undemocratic and evil regimes, particularly in South America where many thousands of people suffered torture and death for no reason other than their opposition to the extreme right wing dictators. They have been hypocritical at times claiming to be the champions of democracy but only accepting a democratic result in some countries providing the resulting government is to their liking. In Vietnam they fought and lost because the regime they supported did not have the support of the majority of the people. Although they claim to have won the cold war I suspect that the truth is that communism would have died anyway, as it did in the USSR, simply because it was a bad system.

Terrorism generally arises as a result of some perceived injustice imposed on a people. Their natural grievances are seized upon by the men of violence. Certainly in N. Ireland the catholic members of the community had some genuine grievances. The Civil Rights marchers of the 60's had justice on their side but they were met with violence from the 'loyalist' (?) Community which, in turn, awakened the IRA. An oppressed people often feel that acts of terrorism are the only means they have of hitting back.

The terrorists that attacked America were from the Middle East and there can be little doubt that the main grievance that has given rise to this wave of terrorism is the injustice suffered by the Palestinians. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has become very one sided, thanks to their American friends the Israelis are equipped with tanks, helicopter gunships and strike aircraft, the Palestinians try to fight back with rifles and stones but Israeli soldiers shoot and kill stone throwing children. The Israelis occupy land which is not theirs and build settlements for their people on Palestinian land. They make repeated incursions into Palestinian territory bulldozing houses and killing those who oppose them. They have assassinated over fifty leading Palestinians on the excuse that those assassinated were promoting terrorism, but, when just one of their politicians was assassinated, one who promoted very strong anti-Plaestinian views, they went on the rampage and murdered some sixty Palestinians in the ensuing four weeks. In the past the Israelis were complicit in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Chatila camps in the Lebanon. Yet those who criticise Israel's actions are often accused of anti-semitism, which is clearly not true, but this gives the Israelis a shield to hide behind.

Throughout the Americans have supported the Israelis despite their extreme behaviour. When the Palestinians have appealed to the United Nations the Americans have opposed them, even using their power of veto when they could, when the UN have ruled in favour of the Palestinians and the Israelis have been required to leave the occupied areas and cease building settlements they have ignored the UN resolutions and the Americans have done nothing to persuade them to comply. Their hypocrisy is evident when they insist that Saddam Hussein should obey those UN resolutions relevant to Iraq.

Israel stands today as a symbol of brutal oppression, illegal occupation and a challenge to international law and UN resolutions. It is of little wonder that the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim cousins feel that they have a grievance and that some of them should look for ways to hit back.

Whilst I believe that the Palestine problem is the main grievance that has fostered terrorism in the middle east, it is not the only one. There is resentment in some quarters at the way in which the West nurtures the undemocratic dictatorial sheikdoms such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with their poor human rights record. The manner in which many Iraqis suffer as a result of sanctions is also a source of discontent. It is an unfortunate consequence of this feeling of injustice and impotence that some sense of unity has been generated amongst Arab and Muslim communities and, once again, the extremists have taken advantage of the sense of grievance. A further significant outcome has been the emergence of what appears to be a section within the Muslim fraternity, led by fanatical extremists using an interpretation of Islam which, we are told, is not in accord with the true teachings of Islam. These people are endeavouring to create a situation in which the western democracies are at war with all Muslims.

Osama Bin Laden, whom the Americans believe master minded the attack on the World Trade Centre, is a leading figure among these extremists. Understandably the Americans are keen to apprehend him and to destroy his organisation. Whilst some question the tactic and the morality of attacking the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, it can be argued that the Taliban themselves are extremists who are evil in the manner in which they treat women and punish those whom they deem to be offenders, even though the offence may be no more than the individual questioning their teachings or looking to other religions. In this way they are attempting to prevent free thinking. The Taliban are not alone amongst Muslim regimes to violate human rights and commit acts of violence against the innocent. Such behaviour belongs to the dark ages and has no place in the modern world.

It is a mystery to me how any individual can develop a deep faith in any religion in the absence of any proof of the truth of its teachings. Muslim fundamenalists in particular seem to have so much dependence on hundreds of apocryphal fatwas that they have given up the power to think. Such blind faith extends to denying others the right to choose their own faith or no faith and, apparently, to go to the extreme of committing mass murder in the belief that this will somehow win them favour in the eyes of their god.

Good luck to the Americans and their allies, may they succeed in destroying the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden's terrorist organisation. Unfortunately I fear that unless the underlying injustices to the Arab world, especially the Palestinians, are addressed, they will lose the support of fair minded Muslims and removing one terrorist leader will only result in his being replaced by another, the hatred will be intensified and terrorist attacks worsened.

It does now look as though the Americans might finally put pressure on the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories and to accept the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state which, like the state of Israel, will have to have its independence guaranteed. The USA has the power to do this, Israel is the largest single recipient of American aid, receiving something of the order of two billion dollars annually. It is sad, however, that it appears to be only as a consequence of the events of September 11 and the need for the USA to get the support of some middle-eastern states, that the USA seems to have come to the more rational view of the Israeli situation. It is a great pity that they did not take action to curb the Israelis years ago.

Ron Watts

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