Terrorist Crisis directory
Terrorist Attacks: A UCSC Forum
Since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Currents has published
a number of articles (see web site) providing information
related to the attacks. This page is home to an online forum expressing the
feelings or views people have about the attacks and the world events occurring in
- 16. Globalization, Modernity, and Fundamentalism. Submitted
by UCSC graduate Andrew Buchwalter, Department of Philosophy, University of North
15. At War With Utopian Fanatics. Submitted by Alan Richards, Professor
14. An Eternal War of Mind-Sets. Submitted by UCSC graduate
13. A letter from a UCSC graduate. Submitted by Nick Ellis.
12. A letter from a UCSC student in Egypt. Submitted by Anna
Spurlock, UCSC student.
11. An apt quote from Carl Sagan. Submitted by Bob Giges, Porter
10. A letter from Tamim Ansary, an Afghani-American writer. Submitted
by Judy Yung, Professor of American Studies.
9. Critical Tasks in Front of Us. Submitted by Paul Ortiz, Assistant
Professor of Community Studies.
8. Words of Encouragement. Submitted by Wes Scott, Transportation
and Parking Services.
7. The Trap. Submitted by Edmund Burke, Professor of History.
6. A point of view not represented in the U.S. press from the man who
has interviewed Osama Bin Laden, Robert Fisk of the Independent (London).
Submitted by William Scott, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
5. Love Travels Swiftly. Submitted by Coleen Douglas, University
4. A letter from Suraya Sadeed, born in Afghanistan, now an American
citizen. Submitted by Heidi Renteria, University Relations.
3. The Complexity of Terrorism. Submitted by Alan Richards, Professor
2. "Condolence." Submitted by John Brown Childs, Professor
1. How Did We Get Here? Where Are We Going? Submitted by Alan Richards,
Professor of Environmental Studies.
If you are a member of the UCSC community and would like to submit a message to
this forum, please email your message (however brief) to firstname.lastname@example.org
and it will be posted below. Thank you.
Globalization, Modernity, and Fundamentalism
October 25, 2001
(version of a paper presented to the University of North Florida Philosophy Department
Any discussion of the September 11 acts of terrorism must at some point also consider
the sources and root causes of fundamentalist terror. This is a difficult topic,
and one readily open to misunderstanding, for it implies not only that there must
be an explanation for the events of Sept 11 but that such events can be condoned
and justified. The events of September 11 cannot be condoned or justified. The
attack on commercial and government office buildings, whatever their symbolic significance,
with hijacked commercial airliners occupied by regular passengers was a horrific
act betraying shocking disregard for human life. It can claim no legal or moral
legitimacy and its perpetrators must be held accountable.
At the same time, however, we do ourselves a disservice if we assume that bin Laden
and his Al Qaeda network comprise an isolated cult of demented fanatics whose actions
are simply bizarre or irrational and not amenable to any wider comprehension or analysis.
We must recognize instead that the actions of September 11 do give expression, perverse
and malignant though it is, to what for large numbers of people not only in Islamic
countries but elsewhere in the so-called Third World are profound levels of anger
with and hostilities toward the West and the U.S. in particular. Accordingly, if
we seek to win the war on terrorism, it will not suffice just to focus on bin Laden
and Al Qaeda, important though that is. Instead, we must probe the wide reservoir
of discontent characteristic of so many in the world today and that impels some to
see fundamentalist terrorism as a possible response and solution.
In what follows I shall undertake such a probe by placing the events of 9/11 and
their aftermath in the context of current discussions of globalization, probably
the defining phenomenon of the world today. Globalization is an ambiguous and multifaceted
phenomenon. On the one hand, it represents a positive development, as it both connotes
and facilitates those mechanisms of greater interconnectivity desirable for peoples
and individuals who, their considerable differences notwithstanding, occupy the same
planet and share a common world. Forces of globalization now make themselves felt
at virtually every level of societal life. At the economic level globalization means
the greater exchange of goods and services in a way not impeded by borders, tariffs,
and protectionism. At the level of technology, globalization means new tools for
the exchange of ideas. This is represented most clearly and symbolically with the
ascendancy of Internet and the World Wide Web, but it is evident with all those forms
of telecommunication that promote increased global dialogue and the expanded dissemination
of information, something especially important to those whose access to that information
has heretofore been significantly restricted. At the political level globalization
means a greater commitment to human rights as a universal or global norm, one which
can be invoked to challenge the repressive laws and practices of any one society.
It also evident politically in the increasing emergence not only of institutions
that have international and transnational mission and structure but in forms of political
deliberation and action that supplement the traditional focus on state and local
matters with attention to broader regional and global concerns. At the cultural
level globalization means a greater consensus on certain shared values, like freedom,
democracy and human rights; it means as well increased consciousness of global
membership. Two hundred years ago the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant described
a cosmopolitan consciousness as one in which "a transgression of rights in one
place in the world is felt everywhere." Today--and the global reflexivity occasioned
by the events of September 11 attests to this--we see emergence of a global public
sphere in which citizens of the world are increasingly linked and indeed defined
by a consciousness of common challenges and the need to address them.
There is however another, darker globalization, one that is felt with special acuity
by peoples of the Third World. This negative side of globalization is discernible
at all the societal levels noted above. Thus for many economic globalization does
not mean increased liberty and opportunities for participation in world markets,
but, with the increasing dominance of multi- and transnational corporations, further
subordination to forces and powers beyond their control. Similarly, for many globalization
does not mean greater share in the worldís wealth and resources, but increased poverty
and degradation vis-à-vis affluent nations. It is commonly assumed that
globalization is accompanied by a decline in global poverty, and yet since the end
of the Cold War the number of people subsisting below the poverty line ($560 a year
or $140 at current exchange rates) has increased--from 1.2 billion in 87 to 1.5 today
to a projected 1.9 billion in 2015. Globalization has done little to alter the fact
that 34,000 children under age five die daily from hunger and preventable disease.
Technologically globalization does not only mean opportunities for increased communication
and information and concomitant possibilities for individual and societal empowerment.
It also means possibilities of greater surveillance, propaganda and indoctrination.
In addition, it means that people without access to the appropriate technological
tools and countries without the necessary technological infrastructure will be placed
even more out of the communicational loop than they already are.
Politically, globalization, far from championing a truly universal notion of human
rights, is seen as foisting on non-Western societies a specifically and narrowly
Western view of norms and values, one not only alien to local practices and traditions
but with little relevance for current social conditions. Political globalization
also means the emergence of transnational institutional structures that are increasingly
remote from the individuals they may claim to serve--certainly a problem for any
global commitment to democratic participation. For many, political globalization
is also regarded as yet another ruse by which current world powers further consolidate
what is already their global dominance.
Culturally, globalization is regarded as a mechanism of homogenization and standardization
that destroys local and regional culture, practices, and tradition. This has been
variously conveyed by the terms McWorld, McDonaldization, or Disnification or even
McDisnification, and it has triggered response even in First World countries, as
was the case when French men and women attacked a McDonalds restaurant for its assumed
assault on French culinary culture. More sinisterly cultural globalization is perceived
as a new type of colonialism--a Coca-colonization, in which consumerism, as reflected
in not only in instantly gratifying fast food restaurants, but in the indulgent,
hypercommodified lifestyle disseminated through American films and television programs,
is propagated world wide, often for cynical business reasons. This phenomenon is
especially problematic for some non-Western cultures, where consumerism dramatically
conflicts with religiously based forms of life and for which neither the consumer
goods nor the means to obtain them are readily available.
Against this backdrop we can understand some the discontents discernible among many
people in the world today. Many of these--and mostly in Third Worldóare confronted
only with the dark underbelly of globalization. For them globalization, be in its
economic, technological, political, and cultural manifestations--is largely an alienating,
uprooting, or disorienting phenomenon. Together with the West that is seen to guide
it, globalization is regarded less as a source of profit and welfare than of loss
and despair. It is thus not surprising that many might find comfort in what might
be perceived as the negation or repudiation of globalization--a premodern, fundamentalist
religiosity contraposed to hedonism, individualism, pluralism, democracy, gender
equality and anything else that might be associated with modern secularism. It is
also not surprising that they may reserve special enmity for the US, now the one
global superpower. Nor is it surprising that, for some, the level of despondency
is such that they see themselves as having nothing to lose but to flail away against
the West. In the 30's Hitler tapped into discontents associated with changes accompanying
early 20th century modernity by appealing to a putatively pure and uncontaminated
concept of race. A related dynamic seems evident with Osama bin Laden. While certainly
sophisticated in the uses of modern scientific and informational technology (something
of course also characteristic of the Nazis), bin Laden similarly appeals to a supposedly
pure and uncorrupted vision of Islamic identity which he invokes to enlist into his
cause individuals already disposed to regard the West as the source of their discontents.
To be sure, the point should not be overstated. In some Arab countries, where democratic
institutions are in short supply, many of the problems in question are the result
of corrupt and tyrannical oligarchies that exhibit little interest in the welfare
of their citizenry but are only too happy to encourage anti-Westernism and anti-globalization
in order to deflect attention from their own wretched conduct and conditions. Nonetheless,
for many--in what is becoming a mini-global culture of its own, Western initiated
globalization serves as the real source of their discontents. Besides, even if
many problems do stem from the practices of corrupt and repressive regimes, those
regimes are themselves perceived, often correctly, as serving the global designs
of multinational corporations and Western industrial powers.
What is to be done? We might answer this question by recalling a well-know statement
of the American philosopher John Dewey. According to Dewey, the problems caused
by democracy can be solved only with more democracy. In the same way we might say
that the response to problems induced by globalization lies not in its restriction
but its extension and further development. Let us again consider the economic, political,
and cultural dimensions of globalization.
Thus economically, an increased effort must be made to achieve social justice on
a global scale. The ever-expanding chasm world-wide between wealthy and poor countries
has to be narrowed. That the biggest problem for many in the Third World is hunger
and starvation, while for us it is obesity is a situation that cannot stand. What
is needed, however, is not just increased foreign aid, though that is desirable;
nor is it just relieving Third World debt, though that is desirable; nor is it just
some redistribution of the world resources, though that, too, would clearly be desirable.
Greater efforts must be made to support and fortify social structures--e.g., health
care and education, as well as legal and political institutions--which enable individuals
and societies themselves to master and assume control of the conditions of their
existence, economic and otherwise.
Politically several steps are needed. First, greater efforts must be made to foster
and ensure international cooperation. This is especially the case for the US, which
not only sets the example by virtue of its dominance but even now remains inclined
to unilateralism. In this regard, this country should become habituated to paying
its due to the United Nations; it should rescind its opposition to an International
Criminal Court, the treaty on germ warfare, and the nuclear test ban treaty; and
it should rethink its willingness to jettison international agreements, like the
ABM treaty. In the wake of the events of September 11 such measures are clearly
in our national interest, even when that interest is construed narrowly. It is also
the case that we might better defuse the tensions that now find fateful expression
in a possible clash of civilizations through efforts that concretize and further
legitimize the ideas of a world community and a genuine international order.
Perhaps more importantly we need to develop and fortify structures of global governance.
Global governance connotes forms of politics that aspire to greater inclusiveness
and comprehensiveness than that allowed by internationalism, indispensable though
the latter nonetheless is. Whereas internationalism remains focused on relations
between individual states, global politics seeks to accommodate impulses that bypass,
supplant, or transcend the nation-state and its system of relations. It focuses
inter alia on: transnational political legal and political institutions; transnational
social, political and cultural networks and movements and networks, globally significant
local concerns, and locally significant global concerns. Global governance can
assume many forms: a reformed and more democratized United Nations, one no longer
dominated by the Security Council; an international court of law with power to enforce
its verdicts; global or regional parliamentary institutions comprised of directly
elected world citizens; and non-governmental organizations (such as Greenpeace and
Amnesty International). In a world where economic, technological, and cultural forces
increasingly challenge the idea of national sovereignty, such forms of governance
will become increasingly indispensable to any legitimate account of democratic representation.
Yet more inclusive structures of governance are especially needed to enfranchise
those who see themselves unrepresented and oppressed by authoritarian regimes, anonymous
multinational commercial concerns, distant international institutions, and alien
cultural forces. Not only might such forms of governance provide a means for those
dispossessed to voice grievances; by expecting people to express such concerns through
what would have to be structures of democratic decision-making, they would also inculcate
appreciation for those institutions of deliberative and pluralistic public discourse
that stand as an alternative, and can serve as an antidote, to fundamentalist intolerance.
Culturally, we need at the very least to be more accommodating of and sensitive to
indigenous practices and traditions. Let us take one simple example. In an effort
to show solidarity with the Afghan people, the U.S. government engineered, prior
to the military operation, foods drops. This action was no doubt course well intentioned,
yet dropping peanut butter in toothpaste-like tubes, with plastic utensils, and accompanied
by instructions in English, French, and Spanish likely did little to forge mutual
understanding with those whose diet consists of meat, rice, and beans, who eat with
their fingers, and speak the Dari or Pashto language.
Perhaps more significantly, we need to realize that for many the American way of
life is not the best way of life, that the dissemination of Western values and ideals,
however salutary in many respects, can also be quite destructive. New York Times
Foreign Affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, a proponent of what he calls "The
Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention," claims that hostilities have not
and will not exist between countries that share common economic and cultural values.
While there is no doubt some truth to this assertion, it is also the case, as already
noted, that the one-sided assertion of alien cultural values, especially those linked
to aggressive consumerism, can have effects on any culture that are profoundly disorienting
and not at all conducive to conflict prevention. If we are truly serious about global
cohabitation, we must display greater appreciation of and openness toward indigenous
forms of cultural self-definition, just as we must also strive to keep our own culture
open to foreign and diverse impulses. In world inexorably driven to increased connectivity,
little choice exists but to embrace and cultivate more varied and variegated forms
of cultural reciprocity.
In this regard a comment is perhaps in order regarding President Bushís claim that
in the war against terrorism people are either with us or against us. While understandable,
this sentiment it is not altogether productive. Here we can leave aside the usefulness
in a multilateral undertaking of a polarizing language tinged with self-righteousness.
Instead, it is important to note the existence world-wide of many groups and individuals
who, while opposed to Islamic militancy, also harbor deep reservations about U.S.
foreign policy and a globalization process they construe as "Westoxification"--and
they should not be presented with rigid alternatives. Moreover, there are many
groups--one thinks of advocates for women's rights in Islamic countries--that are
generally committed to Western notions of human rights but recognize that they can
advance such commitments only by integrating concepts of rights into cultures whose
traditions and practices are in many respects distinct from and even opposed to those
in the West. If we are serious about rooting about terrorism worldwide, we must
avoid dictating solutions, while also seeking to support the diverse and indigenous
ways in which fundamentalism might be challenged. This in any event seems advisable
for a global coalition that seeks to be both global and a coalition.
To be sure, the proposals outlined here will be of little use in dealing with bin
Laden and Al Qaeda. However, they can serve as means to address those whose anger
and despair might otherwise render them susceptible to the lure of fundamentalist
terror. In a world where globalization is now an inescapable reality, the problems
of globalization can be countered through increased participation in its reception,
definition, and realization. Globalization is itself the solution to the aporias
At War With Utopian Fanatics
October 31, 2001
(for Middle East Policy)
On September 11 the United States was attacked by utopian fanatics, followers of
a movement inspired by an exceptionally narrow interpretation of Islam. Why does
this movement enjoy so much sympathy in the Middle East? The answer, of course, is
profoundly complex. Social, economic, political, and cultural factors, interacting
over many decades, have spawned this particular phenomenon. Space permits only a
sketch of some features of this twisted landscape, followed by a few brief comments
on possible responses.
Please note that understanding in no way condones the murderous actions of September
11th. Historians who study Nazism do not justify Auschwitz, and students of Stalinism
do not exonerate the perpetrators of the Gulag. Understanding is simply better than
the alternative, which is incomprehension. If we fail to grasp the forces behind
the attacks of September 11, we will fail to respond wisely.
Most fundamentally, the Middle East finds itself enmired in the "modernization
process". Changing from a society inhabited by illiterate farmers, who are ruled
by a literate, urban elite, into an urban, mass-educated society with an economy
based on industry and services has always and everywhere been deeply
traumatic. Worse, this transition has always and everywhere spawned grotesque
violence. The modern history of both Europe and East Asia, the only places in the
world where this transition has been more or less successfully accomplished, often
reads like a horror novel: World Wars I and II; Stalinís Gulag, and Hitlerís Holocaust,
or Japanese fascism, the Chinese revolution, the "Great Leap Forward" and
its attendant famine, and the Cultural Revolution. American experience has also been
bloody: the extermination of Native Americans, the racial violence of slavery and
Jim Crow, and the more than half-million casualties of our own Civil War. Why should
we expect Middle Easterners to do better than Europeans, Americans, Japanese or Chinese?
Much of the violence of this transition has been perpetrated by utopian fanatics,
a category which includes fascists, Nazis, Leninists, and Maoists--and the followers
of al-Qaeda. Like their earlier cousins, todayís Islamist fanatics have "imagined
a future", in this case the "restoration" of the (imagined) conditions
of life in 7th century Arabia. Like all fanatics, they believe that they enjoy a
monopoly on truth, and that those who disagree with them "are not merely mistaken,
but wicked or mad". Like all fanatics, they believe that there is only one goal
for humanity, and they are ready to wade "through an ocean of blood to the Kingdom
of Love". Fanatics have always built towers of skulls as monuments to their
Such movements have their greatest appeal when the dislocations of the transitions
to modernity are most acute. Only the slaughter of World War I and its chaotic aftermath
allowed the Bolsheviks to seize power in Russia; Hitler is inconceivable without
the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression; famine, governmental collapse,
and the horrors of the Japanese invasion set the stage for Mao. The Siren Song of
fanatics become most seductive when economic, political, social, and cultural crises
combine, and when people feel that they have been repeatedly humiliated.
The Middle East today is riven by just such a crisis. The utopian fanaticism of al-Qaeda
is nourished by the deep despair of huge numbers of young Middle Easterners, two-thirds
of whom are below the age of 30, half of whom are younger than 20 and 40% of whom
have yet to reach their fifteenth birthday. For the first time in history, many of
these youths have received some education. Although they have enough education to
make the old, difficult, dirty jobs unsatisfying, they have not acquired the skills
to perform successfully in the modern hyper-competitive global economy.
Massive unemployment has ensued. Because governments have failed so miserably in
nearly every aspect of economic policy, the unemployment rate is usually in double
digits, and real wages and living standards have declined for more than a decade.
In some countries, levels of unemployment are similar to those seen in the United
States only during the worst days of the 1930s. After ten to fifteen years of governmentsí
tinkering with economic policy, in no country has the rate of economic growth been
sufficient to reduce unemployment and to raise living standards significantly. Such
a failure has spawned profound discontent.
But, of course, the discontent transcends economic hardship. Youth politics have
always and everywhere focused not merely on material goods, but also on questions
of identity, justice, and morality. (Consider the politics of American "Boomers"
during the 1960s.) Impatience--and Manichean thinking--are among the burdens of youth
politics, whether in Berkeley or in Cairo. And, as criminologists tell us, the resort
to violence is also overwhelmingly a youth phenomenon.
The discontent of these young people is exacerbated by the fact that most of them
now live in cities--cities which are crumbling. For example, Karachi, which had one
million people at the time of independence, now contains 11 million people, and will
grow to perhaps 20 million by 2015. The managers of such cities are completely overwhelmed.
The systems providing water, electricity, transportation, health care, and education
are all swamped. The one place in the slums which is cool while the outside is hot,
the one place which is clean while the outside is filthy, the one place which is
calm where outside is only chaos--is the mosque. Government policy has played an
important role here: government incapacity, and the "abandonment of public space"
to private, Islamist schools, clinics, hospitals, and welfare agencies, have done
much to advance the fanaticsí cause.
Middle Eastern governments are overwhelmingly unelected, unaccountable, and corrupt;
they provide no legitimate outlet for youth discontent. Unsurprisingly, these governments
are widely despised by their young peoples. The old ideologies of these governments,
largely varieties of nationalism, are also perceived as failures. The old ideology
has failed to deliver either material goods or a sense of dignity either at home
or abroad. The half-century failure of Arab states to resolve the Palestinian situation,
and the inability of Pakistan to ease the lot of Kashmiri Muslims have contributed
to the evident corrosion of regimesí legitimacy in the eyes of youth. Nationalism
has not disappeared; it has been assimilated into the Islamistsí discourse. And,
as George Orwell once said, "the nationalism of defeated peoples is necessarily
revengeful and short-sighted".
Some observers may object that, so far as we can tell, most of the criminals of September
11th were privileged and educated. This fact, however, is entirely consistent with
the above analysis. Orwell once quipped that "revolutionaries can always pronounce
their aitches". Revolutionaries are often, even typically, from relatively privileged
backgrounds. Lenin was no muzhik. Mao tse-tung was the son of a rich peasant.
Yet the conditons of Russia and China in their respective youths profoundly shaped
their perspectives. People who knew Mohammed Atta in Germany heard him speak of the
"fat cats" running Egypt. It is entirely unsurprising that the "shock
troops" of a revolutionary movement are educated and privileged. It would be
quite a-historical to argue that their existence--and their appeal--is independent
of the social conditions of their societies.
How can we best combat this menace? In the short run, we can and are taking concrete
steps at home and abroad to protect ourselves. Having no military expertise, I will
leave comment on the current campaign in Afghanistan to others, but the signs as
of this writing (October 31) are not particularly encouraging. In the longer run,
we must find ways of addressing these deeper forces if we are to enjoy security.
We must find ways to reduce the appeal of utopian fanatics. What might be done?
We should approach this problem with considerable humility. Take the economic crisis.
A strong case can be made that Middle Eastern economies have failed thanks to institutional--and
political--deficiencies. Outsiders can do very little to promote institutional change,
as the U.S. found, to its dismay, in Russia and elsewhere. Similarly, resolving the
deep cultural crisis of contemporary Islamís confrontation with modernity can only
be done by Muslims. Non-Muslim Americans are largely by-standers in this process,
Largely--but not entirely. We can, indeed must, refrain from actions which provide
arguments to the fanatics, and which discourage those Middle Easterners who would
respond differently to the crises facing their societies. Here, of course, our foreign
policy can play a role. We must press on with seeking a settlement to the conflict
between Israelis and Palestinians. The Mitchell Report is an obvious place to start,
and any resolution will be, to say the least, enormously difficult. But we simply
have no choice but to try. It is quite impossible for the United States to have peace
with young Arabs until this situation is resolved.
Our policies toward the Gulf also cry out for revision. Our policies toward Iraq,
however understandable their goals (depriving Saddam of WMD), have contributed to
deplorable conditions there, and have made us appear arbitrary, capricious, and cruel
throughout the region. If Saddam remains in power (which seems likely), there will
be no alternative to negotiating with him.
Such negotiations would be greatly aided by a rapprochement with Saddamís principal
regional enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Improved relations with Iran would
transform the regional balance of power. It would also dramatically change our posture
in the wider Muslim world, precisely because Iran has already been through an Islamic
revolution. Needless to say, "it takes two to tango" here, and hard-liners
in Iran (and in the U.S.) will continue to oppose improved relations. But perseverance
could have a very high pay-off.
Finally, U.S. energy policy has long been stunningly myopic. Both the Saudi government
and many privately wealthy Saudis have, for decades, spent untold millions of dollars
disseminating their rigid interpretations of Islam. Oil wealth has funded the madrasas
and other institutions which have produced many a young fanatic. This is most
unlikely to change. Nor will an important source of this wealth--Saudi market power
over short-run oil prices--diminish: the volume and variability of their production,
their enormous reserves, and their low production costs guarantee the continuation
of such power--so long as demand remains strong.
Here, however, we can do much. One need not fully accept Shaykh Yamaniís assessment
to realize that the appearance of hybrid cars on the market (in an environment of
exceptionally low oil prices) augurs ill for the long-run importance of oil
in transportation--the sector which accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. petroleum
consumption. As Amory and L.Hunter Lovins have shown, vastly more oil can be saved
through energy efficiency than by the administrationís quixotic, spoils-system-driven
calls to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Whatever is happening in the
Middle East, we should promote such energy conservation for environmental reasons.
The deepening crisis of the sputtering transition to modernity in the Middle East
gives us another good reason to behave sensibly.
We do not need a "Manhattan Project" to do this; the technologies necessary
to save huge amounts of oil are already available. All we need to do is to encourage
what is already happening in the marketplace. We could raise federal gasoline taxes
by $0.25 per gallon, or we could raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
Raising CAFE standards by 5% per year for a decade could save 1.5 million barrels
of oil a day by 2010 (we now import about 2.5 million barrels a day from the Gulf).
This is certainly possible even without hyper cars. Widespread adoption of the latter
could reduce oil consumption much further. We have heard much about "asymmetric
warfare" recently. Why not play to one of our greatest strengths, the inventiveness
and energy of American technological entrepreneurs?
One may object that the widespread adoption of energy conservation measures could
impoverish the Middle East. But oil wealth has done much to damage the transition
to modernity in the region (as the "Rentier State" argument rightly asserts).
The end of the oil era already looms. We should have encouraged its demise decades
ago. We should certainly do so now.
In summary, the youth bulge and its attendant unemployment, the politics of identity
so typical of youth, the failure of old ideologies, the rise of a movement of utopian
fanatics, the specifics of American foreign policy, and the myopia of American energy
policies-- all came together on September 11. We must find ways to reduce the appeal
of the fanatics and to insulate ourselves from them. The task will be long and difficult,
and we should expect reverses. But we have little choice but to try. We should begin
An Eternal War of Mind-Sets
By NEAL GABLER
Senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, author of "Life the
Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality."
October 7, 2001
AMAGANSETT, N.Y. -- Everyone seems to recognize that the war launched against the
United States on Sept. 11 is something new. Unlike past conflicts, there is no identifiable
enemy army, no state to bombard or invade, no territory to conquer, no clear objective
the attainment of which would allow us to force surrender and declare victory. In
truth, we have no idea what our enemy hopes to accomplish. That is because this strange
and awful conflict isn't ideological, as the Cold War was, or religious, as the brush-ups
in Northern Ireland are, or ethnic, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo were. This may
be the very first war to be fought over epistemology. As such, it may be terrifyingly
intractable. Epistemology is the branch of science and philosophy that concerns knowledge,
specifically, how we know what we know.
There are many "ways of knowing," but the religious historian Karen
Armstrong, in her recent study of religious fundamentalism, "The Battle for
God," identified two primary systems that have special relevance for the current
conflict. One she called "mythos." With its roots in ancient times when
gods, heroes and other fanciful forces provided the answers for the questions of
existence, mythos relies on intuition, superstition, emotion, tradition--on non-rational
ways of knowing. You could call it a form of art. The other system is "logos."
As the name implies, logos relies on reason and logic, on what we call rational ways
of knowing. You could call it a form of science. Our new war is a battle between
mythos and logos.
Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and their Muslim fundamentalist allies live within mythos
and have subordinated themselves to it. They see themselves not as individuals with
wants and needs, which is a relatively modern notion, but as operatives of Allah.
For them, everything is religion, everything faith. In fact, they don't acknowledge
any other legitimate way to look at the world. They are essentially premodern and
ahistorical, believing only in what has been passed down to them by Allah; in the
madrasas, the Muslim religious schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, students are
strictly forbidden from learning anything except the Koran, that is, anything except
When zealots talk about bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, it is futile not
only because the Taliban are already there physically but because they are also there
epistemologically. The spiritual and the rational can coexist, as they do in
almost every society, but Muslim fundamentalist terrorists don't see it that way.
As premodernists, they believe the two mind-sets are mutually exclusive; their grievance
is that their way of thinking is being destroyed by the inundation of Western influences,
which globalization has made it impossible to escape. They don't want our reason;
they demand blind faith. They don't want progress; they demand tradition as prescribed
by the Muslim fundamentalist clerics. But since they aren't pluralists and since
they don't believe in tolerance, personal choice or persuasion, all of which are
rationalist notions, their only option is to eradicate logos itself before it eradicates
them. Their mission is to rescue the world from rationality and restore it to religion
as they interpret it.
In effect, they are attempting to turn back the clock to the time when reason wasn't
empowered, and they are trying to purify the world of its putative secular taint,
which is why they are always invoking the name of Allah to justify their crimes.
Terrorism isn't their way back into the world, as it is for most terrorist groups
trying to win recognition or gain some sort of advantage. For Bin Laden, terrorism
is a way of destroying the world that has marginalized him.
Since it has had little to do with Bin Laden or his minions, the United States seems
to have gotten entangled in this struggle largely by association. America is called
the "Great Satan" by its enemies in the Islamic world because, as the predominant
Western power, it is both the symbol and the agent of logos. America exports secularism
in its popular culture, in its scientific and technological achievements, in the
rationalism of its economic institutions, in its higher education, which has attracted
students from around the world, including Islamic countries, and in the realpolitik
of its foreign relations, which depends on a cold calculation of self-interest. It
is the latter that seems to aggrieve Muslim fundamentalists the most; they believe
that America supports corrupt regimes--those that suppress fundamentalism--in the
Islamic world out of its own narrow needs.
Perhaps the single greatest expression of the American mind-set, though, is the country's
system of government. To devout Muslim fundamentalists, one of the most abhorrent
effects of rationality has been the growing secularism that has separated religion
from power throughout most of the world. They insist that Islamic governments
be based on the sharia, or Islamic law.
But nothing could be farther from the American system, which has become a beacon
to much of the rest of the world. Born of reason, America, through its economic,
intellectual and military might, is the logos capital of the world, which presumably
is why it is the primary target for the Islamic fundamentalists. Weaken it, and you
weaken the source, chief beneficiary and leading example of Western rationalism.
Weaken it, and you strike at the heart of rationalism.
It is the epistemological nature of Bin Laden's type of terrorism that makes it so
insidious. When one is fighting for territory, ethnic dominance or even ideology,
the terms of battle are relatively clear. In this new war, our enemies have many
targets, virtually anything and everything American, but unlike other terrorists
whose aims are obvious if no more legitimate, these terrorists have no targets of
their own to hit and no stated objective, no demands to be satisfied or denied. More,
the enemy isn't easily identifiable. Unlike other terrorists who can be denoted,
the new enemy is a way of thinking. And because this enemy is mythos, a non-rational
way of knowing, one cannot negotiate or reason with its proponents. Indeed, the seeming
irrationality of the terror, the randomness of it and its disconnection from any
goal, is precisely why it is so unsettling. It doesn't make any sense.
That is also why one must take the long view of our current war, as our enemies no
doubt do. The terrorists aren't likely to destroy logos, but neither are we likely
to destroy their mythos, even if we wanted to and, as rationalists, we don't. Instead,
they will, in intelligence parlance, keep sending "sleepers" here, infiltrators
who pretend to share a modern, secular way of thinking about the world as a way of
extirpating it. And we will continue to use all the rationalist tools at our disposal
to root them out, though we are fighting fanatical epistemologists, not just terrorism.
We may catch Bin Laden and we may smash terrorist cells around the world, but, unfortunately,
that isn't likely to end the battle over which way of knowing will prevail. You can
measure this war not in weeks or months or years. You can measure this one
A letter from Nick Ellis, a UCSC graduate
Thursday, October 11, 2001
The student body of UCSC live in a relative microcosm of the world. Here exists,
it seems, an alternate reality, where the utopian ideal is preached, but never lived.
It is never lived because it is not, and never will be, possible.
Today I happened to drive by the base of campus, and had the disheartening experience
of witnessing some fashion of war protest. It would seem a vast number of UCSC students
willfully partake in their freedoms as Americans to peaceably assemble, yet choose
to protest the fashion in which those freedoms are obtained. These students insist
on perpetuating their false reality in which no human sacrifice, good or bad, is
ever necessary in order to live as free citizens in a democratic country.
Indeed, the birth of this nation came about as a result of war. This war, as in every
war since the beginning of time, saw the deaths of individuals on both fronts. Since
that time, our freedom has been sustained by individuals fighting for the rights
that all of us share today. These brave soldiers chose to sacrifice their lives in
order to preserve ours.
There is no reality in which a utopia exists. There is no reality in which wars aren't
fought to preserve a way of life, and there is no reality in which the unfortunate
loss of innocent life doesn't come to pass.
On September 11th, our nation was attacked. For whatever reason - religious, political,
or otherwise - one group of individuals chose to wage war in an attempt to destroy
our way of life and, therefore, immorally advance theirs. This action demands response
and it is our duty as Americans to take whatever steps necessary to preserve the
The reality is this: our action against the Taliban government IS NOT about racism,
nor is it about the murder of innocent civilians, nor is it about hate. It is about
responding to an attack and destroying the enemy. Indeed, the U.S. is the largest
supplier of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Afghanistan who are as much victims
of the Taliban rule as we are of the terrorists the Taliban chooses to harbor. Individuals,
here or abroad, who choose to engage in violent or racists acts against innocent
people, Afghan or otherwise, are despicable and should be dealt with appropriately.
The Taliban and its followers, however, are not innocent.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "In the truest sense freedom cannot be bestowed;
it must be achieved." Instead of fooling themselves, the protesting UCSC masses
should return to reality and support the men and women who will give their lives
so that they can continue to live theirs.
A letter from a UCSC student in Egypt
My name is Anna Spurlock. I am a UCSC student on EAP in Egypt right now. I have been
trying to get a hold of the City on the Hill Press to write a letter describing my
experience as a white female American in an Arab country during these unsteady
times. I have not, however, been able to contact anyone. I think that it is very
important, especially after hearing about what's been going on there, to get my point
of view across. I don't know who else to contact but I thought that maybe you could
forward my letter to the campus newspaper or put it on the website or something.
If not I understand, I don't want to bother you.
Anyway, here's the letter I wrote:
I have hope. I am a woman. I have fair skin and light hair. I am American. I
am in Egypt.
Egypt is an Arab nation. The people here look like Arabs. The people here speak Arabic.
The people here are just like the people in New York, just like the people in Israel,
just like the people in Afghanistan. We all love, we all hate, we all fear, and we
A candlelight vigil was held at The American University in Cairo to commemorate the
victims of terrorism worldwide. I stood among faculty and students from America,
Egypt and Palestine among others. Students spoke the words of the Dalai Lama, Nelson
Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. We held our candles close, guarding our flames
like flickerings of hope against the threatening winds. When one's candle blew out,
another offered up their own flame to renew that of their neighbor. Three students'
beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace floated up into the air to mix with the evening
call to prayer from the nearby mosque.
I have hope. I have hope because in the mornings my bowab (doorman) smiles at me
and says "As-salaamu alaykum" (peace be upon you). I have hope when I share
a smile with a woman in the subway, and when men kindly help me to cross the street
or with directions. I sense in the hearts of Egyptians the same hope that I have...
the hope for peace. We all love life, we all fear hate, and we all have hope.
No one deserves to be judged and abused on the basis of skin color or religious practice.
We must remember that America was founded on the fundamental right to practice religion
freely. As a white woman in an Arab world I can say that, after all the United States
has done to this part of the world, if Egyptians can still treat me with such kindness,
than we must do no less for Arabs in America during these distressing times.
An apt quote from Carl Sagan
"We succeeded in taking that picture [of the Earth from the space probe Voyager],
and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it,
everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.
The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies
and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator
and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love,
every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every
teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader,
every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust,
suspended in a sunbeam...
"The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers
of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph
they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless
cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable
inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings,
how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings,
our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position
in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light...
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity
-- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to
save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling,
and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no
better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our
tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately
with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've
A Letter from Tamim Ansary, an Afghani-American Writer
I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing
innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're
at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later
I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must
And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan,
and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going
on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my
mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that
something must be done about those monsters. But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not
Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult
of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political
criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden,
think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the
Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing
to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would
exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats
nest of international thugs holed up in their country.
Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is,
they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the
United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan-a
country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has
been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines,
the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the
Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble
is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer?
They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles
of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut
them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the
Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have
the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some
of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs.
But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the
criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause
with the Taliban-by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.
So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and
trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When
people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're
thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly
to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people.
Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying.
And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan
to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops
to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely.
The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand
You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.
And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. That's
why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. He really
believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he
can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the
west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left
to lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view.
He's probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but
the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who
has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
Critical Tasks in Front of Us
It seems to me that there are at least three critical tasks in front of us. 1)
We need to do everything possible to assist the victims and survivors of the September
11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 2) We should oppose the Bush
Administration's call for the U.S. to return to the days of "frontier justice."
The primary targets of "frontier justice" in the 19th century were Native
Americans, African American slaves, and Chinese immigrants. Today, the victims are
almost always poor people, people of color, and immigrants. 3) Let's create a world
where acts of brutal violence no longer occur, a world where people are not displaced
and herded into poverty and refugee camps.
I served in the United States Army from 1982 to 1986, as a paratrooper and combat
radio operator. Almost the first question I was asked when I arrived for a tour of
duty in Central America was: "Why does the United States hate us?" In Panama,
the U.S. funded and staffed the School of the Americas, a place where students throughout
the region were taught the tactics of torture and "counter-insurgency."
A Panamanian gentlemen confronted me one day. He asked how I would respond if a stranger
opened up a school in my home neighborhood that handed out assault rifles to teenagers,
and taught them how to assassinate members of the community. This was the beginning
of my political education, the day I lost my innocence, so to speak, about the role
that the United States plays in much of the world.
The United States can strike a crushing blow against terrorism by ending its role
as the world's largest trafficker of weapons. Each time the U.S. supplies arms to
one regime to overthrow some other regime those decisions cost human lives here and
abroad. The U.S. can make the world and its own citizenry much safer by cooperating
with the international community to end the production of land mines, chemical and
biological weapons, as well as space-based weapons. Either the U.S. protects and
enhances human life or it continues to build a reputation as a purveyor of violence
in the world.
The U.S. government should assume control of airport security. Pay the people working
in that stressful occupation $20.00 an hour with full benefits. If the U.S. government
is going to bail out the airline industry it should do something for the workers
of that industry. What is more important: the doctrines of privatization and "less
government" or the protection of human life?
We must begin to take Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy of non-violence seriously.
For the past two centuries we have been among the world's most ardent students of
war. It is time to become practitioners of peace. Let's create a permanent peace
movement this time, and turn our swords into plowshares.
Assistant Professor of Community Studies
Words of Encouragement
The events of the last week are no doubt affecting us all. Many of us are asking
ourselves what now? How do we behave in this new era of terrorism that has been handed
to us by those that despise us. I see many people fearful of the future and unsure
of what to do now.
I cannot express strongly enough that I feel that this is a time first to mourn
for the dead and to assist those who are hurting and then it's time to move on. The
primary goal of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of it's victims. It's
easy to see that these people have been successful. Our airports were closed for
days, people are pulling money out of the banks, some price gouging was witnessed
but so far hasn't gotten out of hand. As long as we live in fear and live our lives
in a fearful way the terrorists have won.
I want to see these people punished for their crimes and I will be the first to
admit that I am angered by what has happened. But I am unwilling to allow them to
alter my life. I will not allow these ruthless killers make me any less of a free
man than I was last week at this time. I vow to be unafraid to travel, to invest
in the future and to enjoy the present.
I send you these words of encouragement so that you might consider what we want
to allow the terrorists to accomplish in our lives. Thomas Jefferson said that "any
man who is willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither". These
words are as meaningful today as they were over 200 years ago, lets not let them
win. May God bless this country.
Director, Transportation and Parking Services
By Edmund Burke, III
Professor of History, UCSC
In the wake of last week's diabolic attacks on New York and Washington, Americans
are still afraid. So we tighten security, stay away from large gatherings and hunker
down as the FBI deploys a huge force to track down the terrorists who may still be
among us. Calls for vengeance are deeply understandable, in view of the trauma we
have all undergone. Bin Laden and his twisted ilk are indeed despicable, and merit
chastisement. But what if this is precisely what the terrorists want? What if a sustained
military intervention in Afghanistan and potentially other states in the Middle East
and South Asia is what they counted on? There is reason to believe that the attacks
on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon may in fact be a cunningly laid trap.
Since the end of World War II, the U.S. military has developed a sophisticated and
powerful force capable of a variety of missions. The Gulf War, in which US troops
suffered fewer than 1500 casualties against an Iraqi army which (on paper at least)
was a formidable opponent, is a central demonstration of our awesome capabilities.
So there is every reason to have confidence that our forces once committed, can accomplish
what they set out to do. But this is not the point. The real event is not last week's
attack, it is our response to it.
That response has been scripted in advance. And this is what the authors of last
week's attacks count upon. Whether it takes the form of Rambo-like ground missions,
or of aerial attacks with technologically sophisticated bombs and rockets (it will
probably be both) is not important. The thing to focus on is that warfare (as Clauswitz
used to remind us) is above all an act of politics. And it is here that those who
understand the impact of Americaís past interventions have a right to be deeply concerned.
It is not a sign of weak-kneed pacifism to raise questions about the wisdom of embarking
upon a major military response. If the enemy were a state, and not a state of mind,
we might have more confident in a prescription of the usual remedies: "Take
ten missiles in the teeth, and call me in the morning." We need instead to reflect
upon how past US actions have forced large numbers of people (and not only the ignorant
losers) in the Middle East and the Third World into a despair so deep theyíd do something
as appalling as last week's atrocity.
At this point, we have a choice. We can pursue our scripted military options. We
can put the hurt back on "them." (But there are 1.2 billion Muslims. Just
who are the fanatics? How will we isolate them without destabilizing half the governments
in "the Crescent of Crisis" and disrupting world supplies of oil?) This
is the road we have taken time and again. In the end, as numerous well informed critics
have stated recently, it only generates more hatred and political anger and despair.
Or we can do as many leading American and foreign statesmen have urged which is to
identify the threat for what it is: the actions of a fanatical criminal gang. This
strategy would combine global law enforcement collaboration plus moral and religious
combat. It would compel the Bush administration to drop its war rhetoric and instead
treat its hunt for bin Laden as a criminal investigation. We should brand bin Laden
and his associates as mass murderers who are sought for trial and punishment under
U.S. law and order a massive global manhunt to capture bin Laden and all of his associates,
wherever they dwell. Basically, we need to criminalize the behavior, and distinguish
it from the beliefs of ordinary Muslims.
The effort should not stop there. The second thing we need to do is to change our
behavior. By converting the effort from a military intervention, to bringing the
perpetrators to justice, we will also establish the basis for credibly convincing
Muslim clerics to condemn bin Laden as an enemy of true Islamic belief. The vast
number of Muslims who are repelled and horrified by the death of so many innocent
people in New York and Washington. But American bullying will not encourage them
to speak out. Only by eschewing a military intervention can we may hope to prevent
the recruitment of additional volunteers into terrorist networks.
I want the campaign against bin Laden to succeed -- both in a practical and a moral
sense. Battle cries like that of Sen. Zell Miller, who called on the U.S. Thursday
to "bomb the hell out of Afghanistan" for harboring bin Laden, may make
us feel momentarily elated. But in the long run, it is only the pursuit of justice
that can secure a peaceful world. The best way to accomplish this is for the U.S.
to treat bin Laden as a criminal fugitive, not an enemy of war.
A point of view not represented in the US press from the man
who has interviewed Osama Bin Laden, Robert Fisk of the Independent (London)
Submitted by William Scott, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Having been in Europe during and immediately after the attack, I had more than ample
opportunity to read the foreign press. Robert Fisk, the award-winning journalist
for the Independent, provides perhaps the most deeply principled analyses
of these events that I have come across in the press. I have only been back for 24
hours, but have yet to find anything of this sort in the US media. Hence I am providing
these as an information source.
Two articles struck me as particularly noteworthy. Links to the full text of each
are given below the lead paragraphs:
1. How can the US bomb this tragic people?
23 September 2001
We are witnessing this weekend one of the most epic events since the Second World
War, certainly since Vietnam. I am not talking about the ruins of the World Trade
Centre in New York and the grotesque physical scenes which we watched on 11 September,
an atrocity which I described last week as a crime against humanity (of which more
later). No, I am referring to the extraordinary, almost unbelievable preparations
now under way for the most powerful nation ever to have existed on God's Earth to
bomb the most devastated, ravaged, starvation-haunted and tragic country in the world.
Afghanistan, raped and eviscerated by the Russian army for 10 years, abandoned by
its friends--us, of course--once the Russians had fled, is about to be attacked by
the surviving superpower.
2. Osama bin Laden: The godfather of terror?
15 September 2001
The first time I met Osama bin Laden inside Afghanistan it was a hot, humid night
in the summer of 1996. Huge insects flew through the night air, settling like burrs
on his Saudi robes and on the clothes of his armed followers. They would land on
my notebook until I swatted them, their blood smearing the pages. Bin Laden was always
studiously polite: each time we met, he would offer the usual Arab courtesy of food
for a stranger: a tray of cheese, olives, bread and jam. I had already met him in
Sudan and would spend a night, almost a year later, in one of his mountain guerrilla
camps, so cold that I awoke in the morning with ice in my hair.
For those interested in further analyses along these lines, I recommend:
http://www.zmag.org/ZNET.htm as a starting
Love Travels Swiftly
One Friday was set as a day of remembrance. Let us continue to remember who we are
as people on the earth, as people interconnected with the divine and each other.
Our hearts expand out toward each other as they beat to the dirge of the present
In the national cathedral, I hope they connected to god, however they know god. The
divine that holds us close with golden strands of love. Touch one strand and you
see the response of love somewhere else. Love travels swiftly, silently, alert to
the opportunity to give a kind word, to receive reassurance and be held.
We need this love right now, to stream through the eyes of the afraid, direct to
our hearts. When fear starts to billow toward us, threatening to engulf us and keep
us blind, we must see. We must feel. We must understand.
Open our minds to learning. About ourselves, how we react, how we would like to be
reacting. How to forgive ourselves and move on, move forward to bring the love out
in ourselves and all we contact. Breathe in---feel it in every cell. Breathe out---bring
your gifts out and share them with us. We need you. When we can forgive ourselves,
we can forgive others. Each day presents the opportunity to begin anew. Breathe in
love. Breathe out forgiveness. Breathe in peace. Breathe out understanding. Breathe
in each other. Breathe out change.
Suraya Sadeed letter
Friends, the following was forwarded to me by an alumna. I think it's worth distributing,
though our e-mail inboxes may be overflowing with various essays and petitions.
May all beings be peaceful.
Heidi Renteria, University Relations
(A letter from Suraya Sadeed, born in Afghanistan, now an American citizen.
Her foundation, Help the Afghan Children, Inc. Vienna, Virginia, has raised
medical and food aid worth millions of dollars, which she has personally
delivered to the desperately needy inside Afghanistan and to refugee camps
in Pakistan. She returned from Afghanistan recently.)
Sept. 15, 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
It has been five agonizing days. My heart goes out to the families and friends of
the thousands who lost their lives last Tuesday. I love this country and I feel the
pain as much as any one.
I can hardly see the screen of my computer from crying as I am writing--I am crying
behind the closed doors of my office, because I cannot cry outside. Why? I was born
The fear that I have had for years has been realized. I knew that Afghanistan would
have to pay for having Osama Bin Laden as its unwanted guest. The fact that Osama
bin Laden is in Afghanistan has nothing to do with the Afghan people themselves.
He is not an Afghan and, he is not supported by Afghans. He came by force and will
only leave by force. Did the Afghan people invite him? No. Can they remove him? No.
Afghans are terrorized themselves. For the past nine years, I have traveled 17 times
to Afghanistan to deliver humanitarian aid. I have seen the unspeakable pain and
agony of millions who are in constant fear, living a powerless shackled existence
where even learning and showing a woman's face in public is now outlawed. Afghans
did not elect their government, they have no voice.
For too long ours has been a forgotten nation--one that paid a heavy price by fighting
a war for freedom against the invading Soviet Union, which benefited the United States
and the world - a war that helped bring the end of the cold war.
Our small nation sacrificed over one million lives, had 5 million refugees, two million
widows, over one million orphans, over 500,000 amputees. Afghanistan is a country
in enormous pain and is drowning in her sorrows.
A nation that has sought freedom and civility for decades, now has received the title
of "Terrorist nation". I hope the U.S. Government and American people realize
that the people of Afghanistan have been terrorized themselves and kept hostage for
The foreigners who finance and support the operations of bin Laden have now fled
the Capital city of Kabul leaving behind terrified Afghans who look to the skies
in fear, and brace themselves for more war.
Let us hope that the United States Government and the American people distinguish
between the victims of terror, the Afghan people themselves, and the perpetrators
of these unspeakable acts.
On behalf of millions of Afghans I express my sincere sympathy and hope that the
families of the victims find solace in knowing that we share their pain and stand
by them in such times of distress and agony.
Ms. Suraya Sadeed
Help the Afghan Children, Inc.
703-848-0407 or email@example.com
Please e-mail and fax this letter to all who care about world peace.
The Complexity of Terrorism
In addition to our feelings of shock, fear, horror, and outrage, most of us Americans
are also profoundly bewildered by the recent carnage in NY and Washington. As a people,
as a culture, we like our stories simple: cops vs robbers, Jedi Knights vs Evil Empires,
Hobbits vs Black Riders. We donít know why these people did these horrible things,
and we certainly want to get them.
Now, undoubtedly, Osama bin Laden qualifies as a major bad guy. He is a religious
fanatic who is willing to kill thousands for his beliefs. It is hardly surprising
that our government wants to eliminate him. If we are very, very lucky, that is all
that our military will do. But even if everything is contained, we will face huge
difficulties in the coming weeks, months, and years.
One thing that wonít help us is our American penchant for simple stories. Consider,
for example, our governmentís "declaration of war on terrorism". The President
has made clear that we will attack not only bin Ladenís organization, but any "state
which harbors terrorists". The State Department maintains a list of countries
which "sponsor terrorism". It includes Libya, Iran, and Syria and, unsurprisingly,
various commentators have been beating the war drums about such countries.
However, this is just where things get complicated very quickly. Any of you with
computer access, try this: go to the web site of Interpol (the multinational police
agency which fights transnational crime). Check this site: http://www.interpol.int/public/Wanted/Notices/Data/1998/32/1998_20232.asp
You will have just pulled up Osama bin Ladenís "rap sheet". Now
go to the bottom, and notice that TWO governments have issued warrants for his arrest:
the United States (we had warrants out for him long before Tuesday), and the Libyan
Yes, thatís right: that old bad guy, terrorist of the 1980s, Muammar Qadhafi, wants
Osamaís head on a plate, just like we do. Why? Because bin Laden considers Qadhafi
an old-style Arab nationalist, maybe even a Marxist. With fanatics like bin Laden,
if you donít agree with him down the line, you are an infidel. Bin Ladenís boys tried
to launch an uprising in Libya, much to Qadhafiís alarm.
And so it goes. Consider Iran. Unlike Libya, which is a tiny, politically isolated
country (its ruler is nearly universally ridiculed throughout the Arab world), Iran
is a major player in the region. With 63 million people, an ancient, complex culture,
and a large, well-educated middle class, they are a force to be reckoned with. And
yes, their government has sponsored terrorism in the past. But guess what? Iran nearly
went to war with the Taliban last year, because the Taliban murdered some of their
diplomats, and the Taliban persecute and murder the Iranians fellow-Shiite Muslims
Consider, finally, Syria. In 1982, the late father of Syriaís current president sent
his troops into the Syrian city of Hama, and slaughtered perhaps 10,000 people, crushing
an uprising of the kind of fundamentalist Muslims who today might be sympathetic
to the Taliban. The Syrian government, a truly ruthless crew, relentlessly persecute
Taliban-style Muslim political activists in Syria.
In short, no simple stories are available. Middle Eastern politics is a lethal snake-pit,
where a false move, born out of frustration, ignorance, or a very American desire
for simplicity can kill us. If we donít recognize the complexity of terrorism, we
could easily walk into an ambush.
(Alan Richards is Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSC, and is a frequent consultant
to the U.S. government on Middle Eastern affairs, with more than 30 years experience
in the region).
To all my fellow human beings now in sorrow and loss (14
My name is John Brown Childs. My ancestors on my mother's side of the family, the
Burrs, are Native Americans of the Massachusett and Brothertown-Oneida nations. My
fatherís side of the family is descended from Africa. The Oneida people are historically
part of the great Confederacy known as the Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse,
or "Iroquois" founded by the Peacemaker, Deganawidah who helped to bring
an end to violence and conflict among certain warring nations hundreds of years ago.
These nations went on to form the Great League or Confederacy of Peace. Recognizing
the terrible consequences of violent death and destruction, the Haudenosaunee warrior
men and women, in the interest of peace and of spiritual well-being, created a Ceremony
of Condolence, some words of which I want to offer at this tragic time of sorrow
and anger. I do not claim in any way to speak for the Haudenosaunee. But I do offer
these excerpts as a descendent of these people who so creatively and wisely dealt
Give us your ears, hear us. We have come to you to lament together, to console
with you over your great loss, your bereavement. We now meet in great sorrow to mourn
together over death. In our grief we will sit together and mingle our tears.
Now we take you by the hand and wipe the tears from your eyes so that you may see
clearly. This we say and do.
Now hear us again, this occurs when one of your number is removed by death. When
a person is in great sorrow his throat is stopped with grief and sadness. We now
take you by the hand and remove the sorrow and obstruction out of your throat so
that you may enjoy perfect breathing and speech.
Now hear us again, this occurs when one of your number is removed by death, it stops
your ears. You cannot hear clearly. Such is your case now. So now we remove the grief
from your ears. We unpluck and clear out your ears, so that you may hear distinctly
when anyone addresses you.
This occurs when one of your number is removed by death, your sight becomes dark.
You cannot see clearly. You are blinded by grief. You lose sight of the sky and are
crushed by sorrow. So now we brighten your eyes again. We remove the mist from your
eyes so that you may see the sun rising above the forest.
This occurs when one of your numbers is removed by death, dark clouds cover the sky
above you and there is no light around you. We place you where there is light so
that you will see the people clearly, and you will not lose the sight of heaven.
We remove the dark clouds from above you so that you will see your duties and perform
for your people as usual.
This occurs when one of your number is removed by death; the Sun is displaced in
the sky. So, now we restore the Sun in his place. You will now see the Sun rising
over the trees in the east. When the Sun arrives at in the sky, he will shine forth
his rays around you and you will see your duties. Your mind will again become easy
and you will perform for your people.
Continue to hear our words. When a person is brought to grief by death, such a personís
place seems stained with human blood. Death has scattered dead bodies around you.
The ashes of your Council Fire are scattered. We wipe off the bloodstains with soft
cloth. We rekindle the Council fire. We now restore you to your place so that your
mind will now become easy and you will enjoy peace again. Now you again will labor
freely for the people.
This occurs when one of your members is removed by death; one is in deep grief caused
by death. The head is bowed down in deep sorrow. As your heads are hanging down with
sorrow, grief, and sadness, we lift up your heads. We therefore cause you to stand
upright again to resume your duties.
Now your children are watching your actions. They may see that you are doing wrong
and taking a course that will cause your people, your children, to suffer ruin. Your
children or your people will warn you if you go astray from your duty, the right
course. They will tell you to return again and labor and legislate for the interest
of your people.
It is said that is bad for one to allow his mind to be troubled too greatly with
sorrow. Because of this one may be led to think of destroying himself. We now put
two poles together. We place a torch or light upon this. We all have an equal share
in this light. If you see anything that will tend to our destruction, you will take
that light and go and warn the People without delay
Now we conclude our speeches.
"Kekuttokaunta" ("Come, let us talk together", in the language
of my Massachusett ancestors)--Prof. John Brown Childs, Dept. of Sociology, University
of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted and excerpted from Wampum Belt by Teyhanetorens, Six Nations Indian
Museum, Onchioyta, New York, 12968 (1972). For other resources see the various works
of Professors Oren Lyons and John Mohawk, (Native American Studies, State University
of New York at Buffalo) and the book Linking Arms Together: American Indian Treaty
Visions of Law and Peace, 1600-1800 by Prof. Robert A. Williams, Oxford
University Press, New York, 1997 and Prof. Taiaike Alfred, Heeding the Voices
of Our Ancestors, Oxford Univ. Press, NY, 1995.
How Did We Get Here? Where Are We Going?
As we all struggle with our shock, fear, pain, and grief over last Tuesday's horrible
events, questions beseige us: How can we understand these heinous crimes? How did
we get here? Where are we going? These are large questions, without simple answers.
How did we get here? Part of the backdrop to the recent tragedy is the despair of
millions of young Muslims. Many of these youths cannot find decent jobs; their standard
of living is often declining, and they are frustrated, despairing, and angry. And
thanks to past population growth, such young people form a majority: most Middle
Easteners are younger than 20 years old. This is part of the backdrop to the ghastly
events of Sept. 11.
It gets worse: The frustration of these young people has few outlets, because their
governments are typically unelected and unacccountable. Indeed, they are usually
corrupt, violent, and repressive. And, our government often supports these dictators,
which is one reason why these young people hate us. Many Muslims are also angry with
us because of our perceived uncritical support of Israel. The recent carnage in Israel
and Palestine is, rightly or wrongly, blamed on the Israeli government--and on us.
The fighting between Palestinians and Israelis--and our perceived bias--forms another
grim backdrop to our current tragedy.
Muslims are also angry at us for our continuing blockade of Iraq. Our government
hopes that the blockade will deprive Saddam Hussein of money to build weapons of
mass destruction. It may have helped to do this, but it has also led to the deaths
of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. We are widely perceived as indifferent,
arrogant, biased, and cruel. Such perceptions, in climates of despair, easily metastasize
Where are we going? The President has said we are going to war. But as General Powell
himself has noted, we are going to war with a specter, with a shadowy enemy who seems
to be everywhere and nowhere. As in Vietnam, the chances of missing the target are
high, and if we kill large numbers of Muslim civilians, many furious survivors--and
young CNN watchers in other Muslim countries--will flock to the fanatics' banners.
Indiscriminate violence will help,not hurt, Osama bin Laden and his ilk. We MUST
resist the understandable desire to "hit someone, anyone"! It is absolutely
vital that we do NOTHING to help fanatics like Bin Laden. Here is where it is crucial
to our interests, and to the memory of the innocent who have died, to respond with
We must remember that nearly one out of every five people on the planet is a Muslim.
The vast majority of them condemn the brutalities that have just been committed in
the name of their religion. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are to Islam as David
Koresh and the Branch Davidians are to Protestant Christianity. It is no more reasonable
to blame "Muslims" for the attacks on Manhattan and the Pentagon than it
is to blame "Protestants" for Waco. The memory of our murdered fellow citizens,
and our own self-respect, demands that we show cunning, and therefore restraint,
in combating fanaticism.
This bloody business will not be over soon, and the potential for "getting it
wrong" is considerable. We will be challenged to respond, repeatedly, with our
best selves: with wisdom and compassion. Finally, we would all do well to remember
how easily pain and fear turn to anger and hatred. Although anger may help us mobilize
energy to protect ourselves, its fire must be very carefully controlled, lest it
leap the firebreak, destroy the innocent, and blow back upon us. As the great Russian
enemy of communism, Alexander Solzhenytzn once said, "If only it were so simple!
If only we could round up all the evil people, and separate them from us! But the
line between good and evil runs through the heart of every person". In the dark
days ahead, we must all patrol this line with vigilance.
(Alan Richards is Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSC, and is a frequent consultant
to the U.S. government on Middle Eastern affairs, with more than 30 years experience
in the region).