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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 their aftermath.

16. Globalization, Modernity, and Fundamentalism. Submitted by UCSC graduate Andrew Buchwalter, Department of Philosophy, University of North Florida.

15. At War With Utopian Fanatics. Submitted by Alan Richards, Professor Environmental Studies.

14. An Eternal War of Mind-Sets. Submitted by UCSC graduate Paul Markowitz.

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 College.

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 Relations.

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 Environmental Studies.

2. "Condolence." Submitted by John Brown Childs, Professor of Sociology.

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 pioweb@cats.ucsc.edu and it will be posted below. Thank you.

Globalization, Modernity, and Fundamentalism
Andrew Buchwalter
October 25, 2001
(version of a paper presented to the University of North Florida Philosophy Department Open House)

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 of globalization.

At War With Utopian Fanatics
Alan Richards
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 fantasies.

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, as well.

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 at once.

An Eternal War of Mind-Sets

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 mythos.
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 in centuries.

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 American ideal.

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.

Nick Ellis
UCSC Alumni

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 all hope.

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 ever known."

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 be done."

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 standing.

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 by?

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.


Paul Ortiz
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.


Wes Scott
Director, Transportation and Parking Services

The Trap

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 point.

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 time.

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.

Coleen Douglas
University Relations

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 in Afghanistan.

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 years.

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 htaci@msn.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 Arab Republic!

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 in Afghanistan.

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 September 2001)

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 with violence.


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, jbchilds@cats.ucsc.edu.

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 into hatred.

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 wisdom.

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).

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