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The terrorist attacks in the USA
A personal view


Dr. Peter Jarman, TFF Associate, York, England

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)


My first reaction was of incredulity: was I watching a movie or was this real? This was real. I was mesmerised. Then one of the Trade Centre's towers collapsed. I fell deeply silent within myself, and an awareness of the suffering and grief all this was causing gripped me. Very many people are in deep grief for very many innocent lives have been lost by this act of terrorism, which was a dreadfully evil act. I uphold these people and all those in the administration of states who are responsible for responding to this crisis.

Terrorism is indeed a threat to civilised societies and democracy and the following reflections should not be perceived as diminishing this conviction.

My Buddhist training helps me to examine the causes of suffering and these include those causes of terrorism that are not entirely irrational. There is some basis for the anti-American and anti-British feelings especially in the Arab world, but I am unaware of any evidence that any Arabs are implicated in this catastrophe. These feelings may arise through our failure to be even handed over the rights of Palestinians and Israeli Jews, or to respond effectively to the great suffering of Iraqis over ten years following the Gulf war, or through the aftermath of the imperial domination of the Arab world by the West.

I hope that the terrorists will be apprehended. I hope and pray that the US/NATO response will not be to take military action that will aggravate these ill feelings and kill more innocent civilians. Better still would be pursue means of addressing the underlying causes of ill feelings towards Britain and the USA through alleviating poverty and distress, and endeavouring with more vigour to ensure that the Palestinians for example enjoy their birthright of a home of their own. I am mindful however that Britain and the USA have engaged in military actions during acts of war that have taken many civilian lives, sometimes deliberately so and not simply as collateral damage.

I query whether the terrorist attack can properly be regarded as an act of war: I presume that acts of war can only be perpetrated by nation states acting on their own or in collusion with others. Defining the attack as an act of war leads to the military being placed on a war fighting posture, and this could pose more dangers than benefits. The terrorist attack was to my mind a war-like act requiring a different response to an act of war.

I am anxious that rather than addressing the causes of unrest in the world today, the British and American governments may increase this unrest by military actions. Phrases like 'we will smoke them out' are not those of enlightened statesmanship. The military responses to a single isolated nationalist who assassinated Crown Duke Ferdinand in Sarajaevo was World War I. I shudder to contemplate what might be the effect of a military response through Pakistan to Afghanistan in response to the actions of what might be less than a score of hijackers



© TFF & the author 2001  


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