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September 11/October 7, 2001

And its Aftermath:

Three Discourses


Johan Galtung

dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies
Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network

TFF associate

June 18, 2002

USA, the West and the Rest after September 11/October 7, 2001: a Midterm Report (1)


1. Three Discourses: Terrorism, State Terrorism and Retaliation

There seem to be three discourses, competing for attention, to come to grips with September 11 (terrorism in New York/Washington, killing about 3,000) and October 7 2001+ (state terrorism in Afghanistan, killing about 5,000) (2), summarized in the Table.

The first is the terrorist discourse. Inspired by fundamentalist Islam, the shahadah ("I testify that there is no God but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is his prophet") and the sword; the flag of Saudi Arabia is a perfect symbol. To bring Allah's justice to America is one element. Another, articulated by bin Laden, is revenge for humiliation: "What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years". Sykes-Picot; Balfour.

The second is the state terrorist discourse, articulated by fundamentalist USA. Thus W.J. Bennett, on behalf of Americans for Victory over Terrorism: "We are a target not because of anything we have done, but because of who we are, what we stand for, what we believe, and what our nation was founded upon: the twin principles of liberty and equality". Charles Krauthammer in Washington Post: "America won the Cold War, pocketed Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic as door prizes, pulverized Serbia and Afghanistan and -- highlighted Europe's irrelevance with a display of vast military superiority". Behind this geo-fascism one can sense Zbigniew Brzezinski's The Grand Chess-Board: America's Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. And underlying that "a nation under God"; and the whole tradition of the Pilgrims.

Acquaintance with these discourses is indispensable to understand the mental frameworks within which motivations--and capabilities--emerge. As pointed out in the opening of the manifesto by 120+ American intellectuals "The central fallacy of the pro-war celebrants is the equation between "American values" as understood at home and the exercise of United States economic and especially military power abroad."

And this is where the third rational analysis discourse for peace action, with peace journalism, takes off. That discourse will include diagnosis of why 11 September and 07 October happened as parts of a retaliation cycle and to use that revenge for other purposes. It would include prognosis of what will happen, like rejection of fundamentalism on both sides and of US policy abroad and at home, not because of military overstretch but because of too much military capability and excessive use. It would include suggestions for therapy, for instance culturally as dialogue among moderates and between them and their fundamentalists; economically by taming the major "axis of evil", the World Bank-IMF-WTO triad (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2002); politically through conflict resolution in the Middle-East/West Asia; and militarily through US massive base withdrawal and defense of homeland security, at home.

Washington and Islamic fundamentalists today suffer rapidly growing opposition, governmental and nongovernmental, in the West and in the Islamic world. When these four forces find each other in a unified opposition to fundamentalism things will change.

9-11 and 10-7 pried the world open. The mega-contradictions of class, gross political, economic, military and cultural power gaps among and within nations are there for us all to see. To narrow those gaps is the longer term, indispensable, remedy.


USA fundamentalism

Puritan roots

Rational Analysis for Peace Action

Peace Journalism

Islamic fundamentalism

Wahhabite roots

Diagnosis of terrorism

"Evil axis"
Other is Evil

Retaliation cycle
Violence-breeds-violence logic;
Both are Victims

Justice to USA
Let them suffer our suffering
Other is Evil

Prognosis for terrorism

Will continue unless crushed militarily

Continues unless: Conflicts solved
Cycle exit found

Must continue till Islam/Arabs are respected

Therapy for terrorism
and state terrorism

BY WAR against Al Qaeda, Taliban, host countries

Mobilize against fundamentalism
Change policies

BY VIOLENCE till USA pulls out economically

Key focus
Expertise consulted

The Other Actor
Muslims& Arabs
Cultural Fundamentalism


(Bypassed by modernity)

The Relation
between Actors Economic Military Political Cultural Fundamentalisms

- US-Saudi-Arabia
--Iraq, Iran

(No dialogue)

The Other Actor

USA & Christians
Economic and Military
"more than 80 years"

(Invaded by Westernization)


Terrorism can be eliminated like Nazism and Communism

State terrorism breeds terrorisms
Root conflict:
Class struggle

Provoke USA and USA provokes by repressing
General Revolt


War a success:
Al Qaeda out
Vertical org
Taliban down
No US losses

War a failure:
Al Qaeda escaped
Horizontal net
Talibans marginal
5,000 Afg killed

War a holy duty:
Afghan camps for
Chechnya jihad
Kashmir jihad


None, this is struggle for survival;
you are with us
or against us

Used to limit human rights;
Used as a pretext economically, oil
militarily, bases
Eurasia control

None, this is struggle for survival; of
Muslims against the infidels


2. Terrorism as Discourse.

That one person's terrorist is the other's freedom fighter is well known. Thus, Hitler's minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, frequently used "terrorism" as defamation of his enemies:

30/01/1943: "We have been fighting against this terrorist Jewish idea of conquering the world".
18/02/1943: "-Bolshevism is not only a terrorist theory but also a terrorist practice". "As national socialists it has been our duty to warn against the effort by international Jewry to throw the European continent into chaos through the terrorist military power of Bolshevism". "This terrorist Jewry has turned two hundred million people in Russia into their servants"
05/06/1943: "We also have to undo the often very heavy effects of the British-American air terror".

Sounds familiar, only with Muslims for Jews and Islam for Jewry, in other words the two religions that challenged the Christian claim to have both Messiah and the only one God. And yet the term "terrorist" is descriptive of something, and something important.

The problem dissolves by distinguishing between terrorism as tactic and as goal in itself. Definitions of terrorism include [a] violence against civilians (unarmed, innocent, bystanding) and [b] for political purposes. Whether perpetrators of the terror are in uniform (state terrorists) or not (non-state terrorists) is of minor importance from a victim point of view. Uniforms do not legitimize violence against civilians, nor does their absence--referring to maxims of guerrilla warfare.

But what is that political goal beyond the tactical use of terrorism in the sense [a,b] above? To produce a change, bringing in a new regime/rule, ruler or rulers opposed to status quo, or to prevent a change, protecting that status quo. A terrorist does not see terrorism as a goal in itself. But how do the terrorists think that their atrocities can bring about the desired political goal?

By making people rise against their rulers, or, the opposite: by scaring people so that they do not rise against their rulers.

The first theory assumes that the victims see the situation the same way as the (state) terrorists do: your rulers are so bad that they forced us to do this; remove them and we shall stop immediately. More likely, the victims will see the (state or not) terrorists as the problem, and see the link to their own leaders as indirect or missing. Maybe as point 2 on the agenda. They will rise or bear grudges against the terrorists. And yet this kind of stupid theory was underlying the Allied bombing in Germany and Japan, the Baader-Meinhof RAF (and Brigate Rosse), the killing of civilians in the Gulf and Yugoslavia wars and September 11 and October 7. Terrorism will continue till that hypothesis is out.

The other hypothesis is better: people may for some time be terrorized into submission. The Prince may stay in power because he is feared rather than because he is loved, as Machiavelli advised. Authoritarian regimes are usually based on this, as opposed to totalitarian regimes, democracies and anarchies. But people are known to rise against autocracies. Or they collapse by their own weight, through demoralization. They are not eternal.

By this terrorism definition the 20th century with a civilian toll in warfare increasing from 25% to above 75% was terrorist. If a victory can be won through internal revolt caused by external terror, then killing civilians is rational precisely because they are defenseless. By bombing from high altitude the military can also be turned into lame ducks. And the pilots are invulnerable, defying all classical rules of courage, honor and dignity. This is the coward victory, hiding deep in cave pits and high in cockpits.

The other problem is that there could be retaliation against own civilians, by the same flimsy theory. And that is an element of what happened on September 11. And probably also on October 7+.

The first encounter the USA had with Islam was similar: the blockade of the Mediterranean coast, then known as "the Barbary Coast" (today Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), ordered by Thomas Jefferson in 1801. The enemy was referred to as a "treacherous set of villains". Their crime: not piracy as was alleged, but that they defended themselves against trade, then (as today?) a criterion of civilization, the opposite of barbary. "US agents turned to covert action--marched across the desert from Egypt with several hundred Greek and Arab mercenaries and eight US marines and covered 500 miles in 50 days" (WP 10/03/02). Then, as today, the USA decides herself where her interests are located.

To what extent terrorist tactics were used in this the first of well over 200 US interventions abroad is unknown. But when the term is used today, in the discourses mentioned, it is less to describe a tactic than to defame those who use it as barbarian, villains. As "evil-doers". And evil they are, using such tactics against human beings. But, if "terrorist" is the last word in the analysis, with no effort to understand motives, then it does not bode well for dialogue, conflict transformation, reconciliation, peace. The step from "evil-doer" to "vermin to be exterminated" is short, and is taken by Goebbels, as also by Bush and bin Laden.

One general hypothesis may be that terrorist tactics is violence to retaliate, fueled by anger, with no holds barred. Human beings will generally not resort to terrorism as the first step. The violent prehistory may include structural violence. And another general hypothesis would be the opposite: violence fueled by greed, a calculated strike in cold blood to force capitulation, like what the West often did to colonize, telling themselves they were fighting beasts. But what, then, causes anger and greed?

Why do human beings use violence, in general? An effort:

Table 1. A Typology of Violence




revenge OCTOBER
conquest SEVEN +



decision mechanism


Violence may be used to produce a result, for oneself, or for a collectivity to which one belongs. Revenge and conquest are such results. They are self-oriented. The end reward is supposedly a feeling of satisfaction from revenge and a booty--political, economic, military, cultural--from conquest. Violence as punishment may serve deterrence as an end, warning the same perpetrator not to repeat and/or others not to do the same. There is no booty accruing to the executor of the violence. But violence as decision mechanism may be working according to "winner takes all". Violence for conquest incapacitates the other side so that the booty is up for grabs, it differs from violence as decision mechanism if the culture designates the winner (far) short of incapacitation, and the violence stops.

Then there is violence as a goal in itself, as consumption rather than to produce anything. We assume this to be a rare case. "Justice" has been put in this category, at the collective level, as an expression of the will of higher forces. It is not revenge to satisfy the sentiments of mundane actors, nor is it punishment designed to deter. Justice simply is, in and by itself.

September 11 is seen as an Act of Justice, bringing Justice to the US essence, its economic and strategic centers, to force them to submit to stay off dar-al-Islam, Allah's lands. And October 7 is seen as revenge and conquest, doing the latter under the pretext of the former (and punishment, and justice). How? Why?


3. Fundamentalism as Discourse.

This is where fundamentalism enters, like terrorism a term for Other. Self is seen as moderate/proportionate and rational. Psychologically fundamentalism polarizes, dehumanizes Other and bolsters Self. Whether terrorism is triggered by anger or greed fundamentalism produces the necessary numbing and legitimation.

The world is right now in the clutches of two fundamentalisms pitted against each other. Relative to the world population these are small groups, with Wahhabite Sunni Islam and Puritan Protestant Christianity, both some centuries old, at their core. But they have powerful weapons at their disposal: suicide bombing with the use of airplanes as bombs and carpet bombing with the possible use of nuclear bombs. We are dealing with deeply rooted pathologies which for individuals are diagnosed as narcissism and megalomania cum paranoia. But at the collective level they still pass as expressions of devotion and patriotism. In sick national cultures.


Here is a definition of fundamentalism with seven elements:

1. Chosenness. The idea built into the national narrative that the nation is chosen by transpersonal forces, such as Yahweh for the Jews and the successors, God and Alla'h.

2. Glory. The basis is usually a myth combining a glorious past with a glorious future once the problems of the more dubious, even ignominious, present have been overcome.

3. Traumas. The shocks, mythical or not, suffered by a nation, leaving deep wounds, festering in the collective subconscious, to be drawn upon, particularly by leaders with similar wounds.

4. Dichotomy. The tendency to divide everything, like world space states and nations, into two parts, with sharp borderlines.

5. Manicheism. The tendency to attribute only Good qualities to Self and only Evil qualities to Other. God vs Satan.

6. Armageddon. The tendency found in the abrahamitic religions to envisage a final battle between God/Good and Satan/Evil.

7. Repression/Projection. A psychological syndrome repressing, denying, the bad qualities of Self (such as excessive violence in thought, speech and action), and attribute them to Other.


Point for point this applies to both of them, making them each other's mirror images with exchangeable scripts (Osama Bush and George bin Laden) and implacable enemies. Armed with suicide bombs and carpet bombing the result is already catastrophic.

The Saudi Arabia state religion is Wahhabite Islam, a purist Sunni Islamic movement, from Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, 1703-91. (3) Wahhabism has several important aspects in this connection:

First, all Saudi territory is a mosque, a Sacred Land of the two holy cities (Mecca, Medina) and the two holy mosques (third is Al Aqsa in Jerusalem). Alla'h chose an Arab. Mohammed, as rasul, Prophet, making Arabs Chosen People. "Let there be not two religions in Arabia" was Mohammed's deathbed injunction. Wahhabism sees itself as the one, also turning against other Muslims (eg. Kerbala in 1801).

Second, a very high level of asceticism, returning to the original strength of Islam, the "Golden Age": no music, no silky clothes, no decoration of mosques, no alcohol and tobacco.

And third, frequent use of capital punishment, bringing justice to perpetrators by putting them to the sword; symbolized by the green Saudi flag with the sword surrounded by the shahadah.

Saudi-Arabia is based on cooperation between the Royal House and the high clergy of Wahhabism. Most inhabitants are Wahhabites, like the Saudi ambassador to England who April 13 published a poem praising suicide bombers. Bin Laden is a Wahhabite. So are the Talibans. And in many other terrorist Islamic groups Wahhabism is an element. Obviously, the oil in Saudi Arabia and the US role (from the first drilling for "black gold" by Standard Oil in 1933 via the Roosevelt-Ibn Saud agreement in 1945 up till today) with all the wealth that followed is in flagrant contradiction with the first and second of these tenets; asceticism and only one religion.

What remains is Wahhabite brutality, especially against women. What the Talibans did in Afghanistan at the level of economic misery the Saudis have done and do at a level of wealth that masks some of the ugliness. Few human rights arguments used against the Talibans do not also apply to that major supplier of oil for the West in general, and the USA in particular.

We would expect true Wahhabites to be of the opinion that the USA is driven mainly by economic and strategic, material concerns, as witnessed by the oil concessions and the military bases in their holy land. The choice of targets September 11 follows. We would also expect that their expectations were deeply confirmed when after the October 7+ killing in Afghanistan the USA (UNOCAL) gets oil pipe-lines and a military base (Kandahar).

Prejudices confirmed are no more prejudices; they constitute knowledge according to normal science. And will strengthen their resolve enormously, as already revealed in the public opinion data showing 90-95% support of Al Qaeda among Saudi youth after the war in Afghanistan. No doubt the linkage between oil (UNOCAL), oil infrastructure (Halliburton) and arms industry interests (Carlyle group) and the present US leadership provides extra confirmation, not only of Wahhabite but also of marxist/leninist assumptions about class and the economy-politics-military interface.

Generally, it is very unwise to confirm the theories of one's enemy. A wiser strategy would have been to declare that the USA will stay off Afghanistan economically and strategically. But then wisdom is a scarce commodity, and particularly with the present US leadership, strongly fueled by greed.

And no doubt also by anger. They did not bring September 11 upon themselves. But they certainly knew how to make use of it.

The similarity bordering on identity with US Puritanism, a purist movement in Protestant Christianity, is obvious. The first Pilgrims, referring to themselves as "Saints" and to the rest of the world, including the Quakers for instance, as non-believers, were also in possession of a Sacred Land, they themselves being the Chosen People, living off the Jewish archetype, with Cotton Mather, Endicott and John Winthrop among their spiritual leaders.

The asceticism was proverbial. And so was capital punishment, for instance against Quakers and the 20 "witches" in Salem 1692.

Laden nor George W Bush live in ascetic poverty. (4) But they see their own land as sacred, their people as holy, use religious idiom and are very facile with the life of others, easily taking life as when Texas under a duly elected George Bush as governor held the US death penalty record. Civilian deaths 9/11 and 10/7+ were simply "collateral damage".

Richard Drinnon summarizes in his famous Facing West (5):

To their minds they were the only carriers of the last best hope of the Protestant Reformation. Hence, while the English Puritan version of the Protestant ethic was harshly intolerant, the New England variation was even more so. The tempers of Winthrop and Endicott were more hairtrigger sensitive than Cromwell's when someone threatened to defile their holy mission. Abroad, to be sure, Cromwell hunted down the Irish, but he still fell short of the unyielding fury the Saints turned on the New England specimens of those "differing little from beasts", those "savages" who had both a different color.

These fundamentalisms emerged at considerable distance in space, only one century in time but, importantly, as reform movements in two of the abrahamitic religions. The third one, fundamentalist Judaism and its offsprings, is presently at work massively killing Palestinians after Nazi Germany committed genocide against them. Like turning against Afghanistan after having been hit by Saudis. Using terrorism and anger to mask occupation and greed for land.


4. Why US Interventionism?

The thesis is not that US interventionism, 35 (assassinations)+11 (torture)+25 (bombings)+67(global interventions)+23 (perverted elections)=161 cases of political violence (6) is only fueled by anger and greed, legitimized by fundamentalist tenets. We are also talking about cool calculation, except, of course, when somebody hits back (Pearl Harbor and September 11 and before that slave and native revolts, Nat Turner 1831 and Wounded Knee 1890). Almost all of the "interventions" are compatible with the class conflict between and within countries hypothesis. Interventions take place to establish, maintain or reinforce bridge-heads for US imperial activity, fueled by greed economically, protected militarily, legitimized culturally. And much of that legitimation derives from the Puritan pathology in the US civic culture.

Two alternative hypotheses to explain this activity, clash of civilizations, and promotion of democracy/human rights should be explored. How would the intervention pattern and US politics have looked to confirm these hypotheses? Obviously very different.

For the clash of civilizations hypothesis to gain in credibility there would have to be heavy cultural/civilizational targeting, hitting mosques, people praying, religious leaders, art treasures, memorials. No such activity has been observed. To the contrary, no massive refusal to grant immigration visas to Muslims has been observed and the USA has been admirably open to people of other creeds and to their religious practices and artefacts. This may change, but so far there is no evidence to support a clash of civilization hypothesis. The USA fights "socialism", but that is hardly a civilization; in addition, the economic aspect of the general class conflict hypothesis fits the data very well.

The "promotion of democracy/human rights" hypothesis may receive some confirmation from US acts of commission, but is then clearly disconfirmed by US acts of omission. If promotion of democracy and human rights were the guideline, then

- the Batista regime in Cuba would have been intervened as much as the Castro regime;

- the Somoza regime in Nicaragua as much as the Sandinista regime;

- the military dictators in Guatemala as much as Arbenz in 1954;

- the Jimenez regime as much as the Chavez regime in Venezuela;

- the Saudi Wahhabite regime as much as the Taliban Wahhabite regime in Afghanistan;

- Israeli action against the human rights of Palestinians/Arabs as much as any Palestinian/Arab act;

- Libya under King Idriss as much as under Qaddafi;

- Kuwait under the al-Sabahs as much as Iraq under Saddam Hussein;

- the Shah regime as much as Mossadeqh and Khomeini;

and so on and so forth - there are many such paired comparisons.

What stands up very well against the data is a systematic effort to protect and promote US economic interests against governmental or popular forces that might be contrary to those interests, whether in the name of governmental nationalization or popular movements with redistribution one way or the other on the program. And then the military deployment pattern, including bases abroad, to protect and promote those economic interests.

In short, economic and strategic interests, against Article 3 of the Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Human Rights of 16 December 1966 which stipulates that proceeds from natural resources have to accrue to the people of those countries (the USA has not ratified that crucial element in the International Bill of Human Rights since it obviously gives people's needs higher priority than the free flow of factors and products).

Of course, the rhetoric justifying intervention, for the public at large in the USA, and abroad (except for the missions to governments behind closed doors) will be phrased differently. Of four classical Western patterns, anti-Judaism, anti-Islamism, anti-communism and anti-terrorism (from the days of the French revolution), the US rhetoric used anti-communism for a long period (and may do so again). Today ample use is made of anti-terrorism, and may add (is already close) anti-Islamism. The USA has an anti-semitic past, but stays away from anti-Judaism/semitism, so far.

Some other elements have also been picked up to justify military action, such as environmentalism and humanitarianism. Unfortunately for the USA, the record of action for economic and strategic interests accompanied by generally acceptable rhetoric is too long and too well-known for such spins to convince others than the very gullible, or the chronic america-philiacs.

A low estimate of the number killed in the interventions after the Second World War might be 6 million in the overt action by the Pentagon and 6 million in the covert action by the CIA+ (the possible target of the fourth September 11 plane?) (7) That gives us 12 million. To that should be added the victims of structural violence. At least 100,000 die from basic needs deficits due to seriously flawed economic structures every day; a part of that is attributed to the USA, also because of the tight relation to the economic "axis of evil" cited above. With 10 people as a low estimate of the bereaved for each person killed we can talk about well above 100 million, maybe half a billion, with strong anti-USA emotions. Somewhere in this hatred a thirst for revenge is burning. But it took Islamic fundamentalism to convert anger into action. And Christian fundamentalism to be blind, deaf, numb to US action. Only saying, "But we are a free country!" (8)


5. What Would a Rational Analysis Look like?

Any rational analysis of September 11 would take as point of departure two buildings as representing US economic and strategic interests, and the (reported) national origin of the 19 perpetrators: 15 of them Saudis, the other 4 also Arabs. The hypothesis that some Saudis have something against US economic and strategic activity seems plausible and should have been a centerpiece of any analysis of 9/11. Of course, in no way should analysis stop at that point. When A is violent to B then we should also analyze A for generally violent tendencies, and B for general victim traits that do not relate to A.

There is some validity to analysis of criminals in general (relative deprivation, for instance) and victims in general (making themselves too available, for instance). But in no way should that kind of absolutist analysis be permitted to stand in the way of relational, reciprocity-oriented analysis, exploring the concrete relation between A and B. To talk about "Islamic fundamentalism" and "envy of US/Western civilization" with no word wasted on A=15 concrete Saudis and B=very concrete, symbolic buildings is feeble-minded.

The abrahamitic religions are more actor-oriented; daoism and buddhism more relation-oriented. The same can be said about psychology vs sociology. What is needed is both. We need insight into what moves key actors like Al Qaeda and the USA, and we have to analyze their relation. September 11 was not a clash of civilizations but of two fundamentalisms within them, and follows logically from the premisses of those fundamentalisms. The same goes for October 7+. That being said, most of the content of the first and the third columns in the Table is self-explanatory; a question of spelling out fundamentalist logic. And this will continue till the second column becomes discourse dominant and non-fundamentalist actors become dominant actors.

As to the discourse: this is best seen from the media, to be dealt with in the next section. A general theory will run something like this: what is among people (like that Gallup poll) yesterday will be in the media today and be picked up by politicians tomorrow. As a general trend, no doubt with very many exceptions. Thus, media could cut down the lag by reporting peace-oriented voices in the population, like the demonstrations in New York April 5 and in Washington outside the White House April 20 2002 (not in the IHT, but on Japan's NHK/TV).


Here is a double-tracked prognosis:

TRACK I: The War on Terrorism will continue, if not the full scale of (around) 60 organizations in (around) 60 countries (9) , then some of it; right now Palestine, Pakistan and the Philippines [3P]. Iraq follows? (10) No operations will be at the Afghanistan level, partly because the US economic/strategic interests were paramount as a part of the general Central Asia geo-strategy and had been planned for a long time, and partly because the impact of September 11 was fresh, could be used and the consciousness of US(-supported) atrocities was low.

- Israel-Palestine is the mini-version of USA-the World and difficult for the USA not to support with tanks and helicopters etc. at the same time as this is where the coalition is breaking up, and not only in the Muslim world, and not only in the streets;

- Pakistan may be carried over into the much more important Iran and release fully the potential of shia Islam;

- Philippines will spread from the jungles of Basilan (11) and Muslim insurgency to get their lands back mixed with Abu Sayyaf banditry to the politics in Manila and this effort to bolster a flagging economy.

The USA is engaged in Mission Impossible. Islamic militancy is diverse, ideologically rather than vertically inspired and the US/West approach produces more terrorist militancy than it eliminates.

That "terrorism produces state terrorism" is obvious, in the sense that the evidence is openly available. This shows up not only as a violent counterattack also killing civilians, but as enormous increase in Pentagon budget and readiness to use weapons of mass destruction, as witnessed by the targeting of seven countries (how many civilians?) for nuclear attack.

That "state terrorism produces terrorism", is less obvious in the sense that the evidence is not openly available. Terrorists cannot disclose their budgets but use secret financial operations; they cannot leak memoranda but try to hide them as well as possible. Their motivations are carried in their hearts and their brains, not in their memoranda. The only thing that shows is action, the rest is conjecture. And even action may have to wait for a long time, for instance till the anti-terrorist measures have been relaxed after the initial shock. Thus, the state terrorist production of terrorism has to be seen in a longer time perspective. Intergenerational transmission of terrorist motivation should not be underestimated; the Palestinian refugee camps being obvious transmission mechanisms.

Will there be new attacks on the USA, and/or the West in general?

Above September 11 is seen as bringing Justice to America; and Justice was served by the attack, exhausting the motivation of that group which may have annihilated all traces by annihilating itself. But other groups, generated by the disproportionate and misguided US atrocities in Afghanistan may want to punish America, revenge or even embark to destroy America. The flying bomb approach, far beyond the imagination of "experts", has been exhausted. But they may once again out-trick unimaginative experts. Suicide bombers from countries hit by the USA/Israel and economic boycott are likely. So are nuclear responses, planned for the "outer axis of evil", from 3 to 7. (12)

That kind of response, basically as God=USA's punishment would be similar to what happened August 6-9, 1945 in Hiroshima-Nagasaki. And September 11 can certainly be compared to Pearl Harbor, and also to kamikaze (13). The eclectic combination of Emperor cult, state shinto, confucianism and zen buddhism generated willingness to give up one's own life with certainty, not only with the high probability of the usual combat soldier. But there is a very important difference.

Those young Japanese were not motivated by three generations in refugee camps and two generations of US interventionism killing millions. They were not suffering from PTSD, collective or individual or both - creating disorders where suicide is easily embedded, even without the support of a fundamentalist creed. Again, the more US/Israel atrocity, the more PTSD, the more suicide. Suicide bombing is not only a way of deploying explosives and attain martyrdom. It is also a way of committing suicide when despair is soul deep.

In other words, the logic of the two fundamentalisms will continue. They are both well coded, programmed and trained. And they will both hope for dissent, even uprisings in their favor.


TRACK II: The War on Freedom (14) will continue. The massive, Christian fundamentalist right (but not of the Falwell-Robertson more lunatic variety) also makes use of the window of opportunity created by September 11 to attack freedoms gained after hard struggle against those forces. US Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) mentions the erosion of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments, together major parts of the human rights package. (15) The saying "Military justice is to justice what military music is to music" is belittled by the Guantanamo process: this is not music=justice at all but a travesty. What is left to defend against terrorism? Why confirm their hypothesis that there will be massive oppression?

A major aspect of the war on freedom is the war on livelihood. "We Demand Money for Jobs, Education, Housing and Health Care--Not for War & Corporate Giveaways!", the April 20 demonstration in Washington, summarizes the issue. "They have refused to increase unemployment insurance for 100,000 travel industry employees and 400,000 workers in other sectors who lost their jobs" (as a result of September 11). (16)

Then there is the failure to comply with the Geneva Convention, focused on the 299 prisoners reported held in Guantanamo and 240 in Afghanistan - reported by Amnesty International (17) and all over.

These factors fuel the rapidly increasing, ever more vociferous opposition in the USA. The experience of the present author after talks and interviews in a September 11 struck and partly stunned USA is a deep distrust in their own media ("We are being systematically lied to") and a yearning for a deeper diagnosis-prognosis-therapy than they are served by their leaders. Richard Perle: "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, just wage a total war."

This opposition can rapidly attain Viêt Nam war dimensions. Conventional mainstream analysis is afraid of imperial overstretch relative to military capability and over-reporting of US atrocities. In fact, it may work exactly the other way round: it is military over-stretch and media under-reporting that make people stand up.

Abroad the coalition shows important cracks, not only in the Middle East Muslim/Arab countries, but also in NATO. Most important is the clear Saudi disinvitation. also claiming that the USA has broken the promise by Bush Sr in 1990 to vacate Saudi Arabia when the "job was done". The Saudis say the job was to liberate Kuwait, the USA that "the unfinished war"--often repeated by CNN to prepare world population--"must be finished by toppling Saddam Hussein".

Given the position of Saudi youth (96% of educated 25-41 years old supported in October 2001 "bin Laden's cause") major uprisings are possible. The Royal House fights for its life with peace proposals.

Tony Blair is under considerable pressure including threats of resignation of cabinet members and survey majorities against invading Iraq. And European NATO members worry about the absence of a clear exit strategy; a clear definition precisely of when the job is done.

In a survey in Britain, Italy, Germany and France (18) "disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling international policy" is (partly much) higher than "approve" in the last three. Very strong majorities in all four said "he makes decisions based entirely on US interests", and "the USA is not doing as much as it can to bring about a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians". Demos all over. And rise of non-fundamentalist Islam all over, but under-reported.

Imagine that before the end of 2002 government and non-government opposition, in the West and in the Islamic world, are mutually visible to the point of coalescing. Will the USA go alone even if compelling alternatives (a Middle East Community for Israel-Palestine, pulling out of Saudi Arabia, peace dialogue with Iraq/Iran) are available? Possible, but if proofs of failure also are available, at considerable risk. Even to the point that Bush/Cheney just may not complete their (unelected) terms, having become a liability to be impeached away on the basis of high level economic (not sexual) misdemeanors.

Some time in the future a turning point in the US consciousness about the US role in the world from early 17th century till today is located; turning from triumphalism and manifest destiny to shame and joining the world as an equal partner. For Germany this was around 1965, for Japan earlier. In both countries some groups are hanging on. And for the USA September 11 may still turn out the be a wake-up call.


APPENDIX: How did the media react?

Too early to tell, of course. But using the first five issues of WORLD PRESS Review (WPR) after 9/11 at least gives an impression. The hypothesis would be that Discourse I does not find its way into the media, that Discourse II is the dominant discourse with Discourse III recessive to start with but then gaining momentum as the absurdity in addressing class grievances with blunt killing power - terrorist or state terrorist - becomes obvious to many or most around the world.

Before we look at the media, what did people in general think on this issue? Fortunately there was the poll by Gallup International in 33 countries right after September 11, between 14 and 18 September. As opposed to US polls people were given a choice: "In your opinion, once the identity of the terrorists is known, should the US government launch a military attack on the country or countries where the terrorists are based or should the US government seek to extradite the terrorists to stand trial?" (the Libya model). And this was a clear majority, around 80% on the average, in (UK 75%, in France 67%); in Latin America well above 80%. Only three countries were in favor of "attack": Israel 77%, India 72% and the USA 54% (these three are also bin Laden's "axis of evil"). No. 4 in favor of "attack": France, 29%.

This is the closest to the interface between two key Western values, "democracy" and "globalization" and it does not support the US-led West. With governments out of synch with the world population where would we expect the media to be located? In general in-between: as nation-state institutions key media would be mainstream, reflecting government positions; as sellers they would also reflect the buyers. In addition there is, of course, the political color of the media.

The reader should be warned that the WORLD PRESS Review selects quotes from selected papers and this author then selects from that.



Le Monde, Paris, 12/9: "In this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: 'We are all Americans!' -- Madness, even under the pretext of despair, is never a force that can regenerate the world. That is why today we are all Americans".

The Guardian, London, 14/9: "The Pentagon had blood on its hands. The World Trade Center was a pillar of mammon. But no one deserved to die in that way".

Granma, Havana, 12/9: "Television channels have also been displaying images of Fidel offering Cuba's help to the American people in these moments of sadness and mourning-".

Ideele, Lima, 13/9: "What good has it done for the United States, having the strongest military in the world, to prevent actions like this? Undoubtedly, very little".

Rzeczpospolita, Warszawa, 14/9: "The first reaction to evil is tremendous anger and the demand that something spectacular be done. But I believe that there are many reasonable people in America who hold the opinion that restraint is in order and that the country should not succumb to impulse". Czeslaw Milosz.

The Island, Colombo, 13/9: "The horrendous attacks in New York and Washington now quite clearly indicate that the world cannot tolerate such terrorist groups anymore, although terrorist group like that of the LTTE exist today due to the munificence and tolerance of European governments".

Liberation, Paris, 13/9: "The hate is total, absolute. -- A terrorist "Hiroshima" is now possible. This is the message of September 11, 2001: America is vulnerable and no holds are barred. The worst has not happened, it is yet to come".

Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, 16/9: "U.S. money helped terror cells, including bin Laden's, flourish in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion".

Gazeta Wyborcza, Warszawa, 11/9: "The attack was the deed of madmen who--killed completely innocent people to achieve ends that-obviously-cannot be achieved that way". Adam Michnik

Mail&Guardian, Johannesburg, 14/9: "Assuming that the killers are Islamic militants - and the suicidal nature of the attack suggests this - it is important to realize that theirs is minority version of Islam. --most Muslims will abhor their tactics. --US politicians immediately suggested that Afghanistan's Taliban movement should be targeted. This represents an obsessive focus on the alleged terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden. Informed by a crude Manichean view of the world as a battle ground between the forces of light and darkness, America's fatal tendency in such situations is to blame "rogue" states and diabolical individuals. --- The root problem is that the United States is hated throughout the Arab world and in many other developing countries for the arrogance of its power".

NIN. Beograd, 13/9: "Americans direct foreign policy and commit violence against foreign countries and peoples in a very tangible way and for their own interests, not always in the name of higher values. America has reaped a whirlwind".

The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 14/9: "This is a country that has come to believe in the ultimate oxymoron: a safe war. -- based on the technological ability to wage a war exclusively from the air. But it also relies on the deep conviction that no one would dare mess with the United States - the one remaining superpower - on its own soil".

Daily NATION, Nairobi, 18/9: "It is not money, military might, a well-funded Pentagon, or the CIA that will save America. Only thoughtfulness and respect for humanity will. The nation must come down and talk to all of us-poor nations and rich nations alike. If we bridge the equality gap we can have a safer world."

Aftenposten, Oslo, 13/9: "Manhattan is silent.--everything was absurd in New York today. --people sat and sobbed silently.--A man two places from me stared at the floor, and I looked at him and he was crying."

Al Ra'i, Amman, 13/9: "We-Arabs and Muslims-sympathize greatly with the victims and families of those killed and wounded, and we feel grief and sadness from a humane perspective. However, it is necessary to distinguish between the American people and their political leadership and their militaristic declarations--and their arrogance in their unparalleled domination of the world.--It is not Islam that is the "Great Satan", nor is it the Arabs. Rather, it is hatred and fanaticism-two of the greatest mental illnesses since the beginning of history-that have dealt us crippling blows".

Japan Times, Tokyo, 14/9: "Even worse than Pearl Harbor".

Lidove Noviny, Praha, 13/9: "The country's attractiveness as an open and prosperous society, offering a wide range of possibilities to capable people from around the world, is not just a positive attribute".

El País, Madrid, 14/9: "Spain has shown its full solidarity. It also suffers the scourge of terrorism, one that does have a name: ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), the Basque separatist organization."

Frankfurter Rundschau, Frankfurt, 13/9: "Europe does not have to fall into the black-and-white mind-set that the United States has come close to in calling some nations 'rogue states' in order to recognize that its soft policies toward certain countries cannot, after Sept. 11, be continued. At the same time Europe needs a strategy for combating terrorism, one that will not push the world into a spiral of uncontrolled violence".

Outlook, New Delhi, 17/9: "The world's most wanted man now lists his enemies in order of preference: No. 1, the United States; No. 2, Israel; and No. 3, India.--The motivation against the United States is its alliance with Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and its anti-Palestine position. Israel is on his hitlist for Zionism, and India for Kashmir".

The Straits Times, Singapore, 14/9:"Terrorism must be fought globally"



NIN, Beograd, 11/10: "Having faced terrorism at home, we have naturally and sincerely joined...anti-terrorist coalition.. On the other hand, as a country that was cruelly bombed by Americans two years ago...we naturally cannot be part of those who would wildly applaud...the same Americans because they bomb a poor, starving, bigoted people under the pretext of war against world terrorism".

El Mercurio, Santiago, 8/10: "We stand against terrorism.. we stand beside the United States..creating a broad coalition... a new climate of cooperation and unity in a world shaken by the violence".

China Daily, Beijing, 9/10: "Terrorism is the common enemy of the entire human race.--the United Nations should play an important role in the global efforts to fight international terrorism".

Granma, Havana, 14/10: "Now it's a war...whose military operations will make terrorism much more complicated and difficult to eradicate. It's a remedy worse than the illness itself."

Al-Ahram, Cairo, 9/10: "Our wish is that United States win the fight against terrorism. However, we do not want this war to create new generations of terrorists, who would be crueler and more atrocious than their predecessors."

The Straits Times, Singapore, 9/10: "--governments should.. eliminate networks in their midst, cooperate on intelligence matters, and monitor financial transactions to starve terrorists of funds."

Hatzofeh, Jerusalem, 8/10: "The Americans, the only superpower, believe in the primitive idea that murder is revenge. They also haven't heard that "one makes peace with one's enemies"...You don't speak of terrorists-instead you drop explosives on them..The Americans are responding correctly, in a fit manner, a fine and measured we need to behave with respect to our 'Bin Laden'."

The Guardian, London, 8/10: "--what is also lurking here is...a Western fundamentalism. It believes in historical progress and regards the West as its most advanced manifestation.--the only way for other countries to match its achievement is to adopt its political, economic and cultural values.---its roots go back to...Christianity's claim to be the one true faith. The U.S. founding recipe of Puritanism and enlightenment bequeathed a profound sense of being morally good. This superiority now underpins the activities of international corporations and the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment programs." (Madeleine Bunting)

Al-Ra'i, Amman, 5/10: "--Taliban and...Al Qaeda is the direct result of [U.S.-supported] domestic repression of Islamist groups in Arab countries...The solution to all these problems is this: The new 'cold war' against terrorism cannot be one of bombs and missiles but of diplomacy, economic support and investment, and the elimination of the sources of terrorism (such as poverty and repression)."

Khaleej Times, Dubai, 9/10: "The tragedy is that the United Nations is led by a man who conceives his duties as being mindful of American interests and concerns.--he could perhaps be more attentive to the interests..of all members of the world organization." (S. Nihal Singh)

Die Zeit, Hamburg, 27/9: "German Chancellor Schröder has promised the United States 'unlimited solidarity'. Germany would also be willing to take military risks...could deploy its frigate in the Indian Ocean to contribute to putting pressure on Afghanistan. And..minesweepers could be sent to Djibouti to secure sea routes to Europe." (Theo Sommer).

Malaysiakini, Kuala Lumpur, 10/10: "In--this hysteria-Muslims and non-Muslims of the world may well be dragged into a conflict brought about by leaders who do not represent their interests and--they did not even elect." ("Muslims for neither Bush nor Bin Laden", Farish A. Noor)



China Daily, Beijing, 2/11: "Japan's..contribution to anti-terrorism war is positive since terrorism is..a threat to all human beings. But-despite the--pledge to contribute to anti-terrorism, the motivations 'behind the scene' for passing the bill should not be neglected."

Granma, Havana, 9/11: "--explosions powerful enough to kill everything within square kilometers and resembling tactical nuclear weapons in their destructive potential--and thus deliver a victory that will satisfy the expectations of U.S. public opinion."

DAWN, Karachi, 6/11: "The round-the-clock bombing of Afghan cities by the Anglo-U.S. warplanes, and the admission--that it was almost impossible to capture Osama bin Laden or to occupy Kandahar should bring home to Washington--that there was no instant military solution to the political problems in Afghanistan."

Statesman, Accra, 30/10: "Conventional military action is not the answer to this 21st century menace to civilization. The killers who boarded those planes on Sept. 11--were not in Afghanistan at all.--The conditions that breed terrorism will have to be transformed."

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, 25/10: "(Basam) Tibi goes straight to the heart of the matter: 'The goal of the Islamic fundamentalists is to abolish the Western, secular world order and replace it with a new Islamic divine order..The goal of the Islamists is a new imperial, absolutist Islamic world power'."

Le Monde, Paris, 4/10: "The fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis might explain why the CIA and the FBIU did not see the attack coming. Saudi Arabia (was) considered as one of the United States' most trusted allies in the Arab world.-their lack of familiarity with the internal political situation in Saudi Arabia and the motivations of its Islamist opposition".

Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Saudi-owned), London, 30/10: "These idiots", a British professor specializing in Islamic studies said to me, "are writing about Wahhabism while ignorant of it".--an American professor, "if I were to give any of these writers only two basic questions about Wahhabism, they wouldn't know what to answer.--The Kingdom is proud of its strong devotion to---Sheik Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.


Let us now try to extract some carefully worded impressions:

[1] There is much critical commentary, but absence of constructive commentary about solutions beyond "dialogue" and "reduce poverty".(19) Governments looking for advice find war, not peace journalism.

[2] Unqualified support for the USA is rare (Le Monde, The Straits Times, Die Zeit); possibly only in NATO countries (adding Poland and the Czech Republic) as an expression of Article 5, and as an expression of class solidarity sensing that the terror may hit other countries in some of the same political-economic-military-cultural position as the USA. Unqualified support for the terrorist act is not found in the media at all (but possibly in the minds,and the streets).

[3] The more a country has suffered or is afraid of future terrorism, the more sympathy and support of the USA (Israel, India).

[4] Countries use their history to understand the present (Spain, Sri Lanka; Japan using Pearl Harbor; Yugoslavia recent bombing by the USA)

[5] The more governmental the papers the more against terrorism - governments often being a major target (China, Cuba).

[6] Hard-line US reaction is met with general and deep skepticism; and very few seem to believe in US official communiques.(20)

[7] Little or no investigative reporting can be found; more shock, strong emotional reactions, with more or less profound commentary (Madeleine Bunting is fine but one-sided; Milosz may be right later).

[8] Generally, the media seem to have little contact with Al Qaeda and the US leadership - hence guess-work more than investigation - with the brilliant exception of Al Jazeera TV network.

[9] Over time the critique of US military action, given all the ambiguities surrounding Afghanistan, increases - also with cartoons.(21)

[10] By and large the media correlate quite well with public opinion.

[11] No commentary saw the two sides of the battle in the same light.

The big exception to the last point is not media commentary but the talk given by Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, opening the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Kuala Lumpur. Mahathir's simple definition of terrorism is "people who attack civilians". This was rejected by the foreign ministers, saying "We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in their exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state" (Bangkok Post, 2/4 2002). The controversy might have been avoided had the delegates distinguished between terrorism as method and the underlying motive. "We must win the heart and minds of the people most likely to support terrorism", Mahathir said, and added that Muslims had grievances which were "real and truly unbearable, beyond mere understanding and tolerance".

Summarizing the books published on September 11 (surprisingly few, actually) Gara LaMarche (22) makes the point that:

I must also confess skepticism, after reading so many thousands of words written about September 11, from across the political spectrum, that anyone's view of the world has been very much changed. What strikes me most forcefully is how virtually everyone with an opinion or an orientation has cut 9/11 to fit his or her preconceived agenda.

The advantage of democracy is that media and people generally can see mega-events like September 11 and October 7+ through their prisms, which they always do anyhow and that these prisms are different.

However, some requirements should be added to this, such as sufficient concrete specificity, attention to the particular case. Very few have the details at their command like a Robert Fisk, through deep knowledge and extensive investigative journalism. A world leader.

To that should be added the ability to see a conflict from more than one side. And the ability to make visible actions, words even thoughts that point toward exit from retaliation, solutions, peace.

Conclusion: by and large the media fall short on these criteria.



1. Based on talks given in Norway (Trondheim and Oslo), Nicaragua (Managua), USA (Ft Lauderdale, New York, Washington and Honolulu), England (London), Indonesia (Bali), Japan (Kyoto, Tokyo) January-April 2002, and in many radio and TV interviews. This is a follow-up to "United States, the West and the Rest: Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy", based on talks fall 2001.

2. See <> for updated reports.

3. See, for instance, Paul L. Williams, Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror, Alpha, 2002, pp. 73ff.

4. Thus, George W Bush, a man of substantial means, had hardly been abroad before he became president, not only of the US but of the US empire, to impact dramatically on a world he did not know.

5. Oklahoma University Press, 1997, p. 32.

6. After the Second World War only, see William Blum, The Rogue State, A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Common Courage Press, 2000.

7. CIA has reportedly been mentioned in captured documents earlier. But CIA was hit September 11: "A secret office operated by the CIA was destroyed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, seriously disrupting intelligence operations. - -The station was a base of operations to spy on and recruit foreign diplomats who were stationed at the United Nations" (IHT, 6 November 2002). That an imperial USA bent on world hegemony does such a thing is of course not surprising; a little surprising is the lack of outcry, open protest. And not everybody in the Twin Towers was "innocent, civilian, bystander".

8. The catch-all US formula of "getting away with it" as explored by Blum, op.cit., final chapter (27).

9. Any struggle for the Daulah Islamiah Raya, a pan-islamic federation or state, would actually involve Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and parts of (southern) Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines - seven of the ten ASEAN members (the others being Burma, Laos and Viêt Nam) -- see TIME April 1, 2002. A population of 260 million is very close to the USA.

10. There are, of course, other likely targets. Somalia also has untapped oil and there is the additional factor of US revenge, a very powerful motivator (with people being prepared through the historically totally incorrect story in Black Hawk Down). Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are through basing agreements under de facto US occupation and there are US military tent cities in 13 countries surrounding Afghanistan.

11. See Walden Bello, A "Second Front" in the Philippines, The Nation, March 18, 2002.

12. Of these seven countries (Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea) six are in Asia, reflecting the US NATO-AMPO pincer movement against the Eurasian continent, with 40% of the world population in Russia, China and India alone (India is probably seen as reliably anti-Muslim, possibly on the brink of civil war). Four are predominantly Muslim and three are Arab. Six of the seven have strong state capitalist/socialist parties of which five are in power. Geo-politics, Culture/Race and Class.

13. The number of kamikaze suicide pilots (also of dwarf submarines) was 2,800 in the army and about 1,000 in the navy (there was no separate air force).

14. The title of the excellent publication by Nafeez Mosadeq Ahmed, with the sub-title US Complicity in 9-11 and the New Imperialism, January 2002, at <>

15. In his famous A Prayer for America, <>. "The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear--the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice-President". "Kucinich for President" has been heard and seen in many places.

16. See <>

17.See, for instance, IHT, April 17 2002.

18. See IHT 19 April 2002.

19. Among the ten points in the "Assisi Declaration for Peace" these two points can be found, but in a rich context of "violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic Spirit of religion and we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God". The Declaration was not picked up much by the media, but then it was short on concrete content.

20. A very explicit critique of "Die Herren der Welt", "The Lords of the World", Der Spiegel, 8/2002 triggered a response in TIME March 11, 2002, "How Europeans can be Useful" (by doing the peacekeeping, and the USA does the combat job). Cross-national, even cross-continental, "debates" among media are relatively rare.

21. An example is the cartoon in THE TIMES, portraying Blair as a lion with the well-known teeth, dressed in stars and stripes, being trained by the USA - already with medals from 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. "Very faithful in spite of being treated badly". Reproduced in Der Spiegel, 14/2002.

22. "Six Months On, and Counting", The Nation, April 1, 2002.


© TFF & the author 2002  


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