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September 11 Five Years:
9 Problems, 11 Solutions

Part 1



Jan Oberg, TFF director


Lund, Sweden - September 10, 2006

Part 2

It happened five years ago and changed the world. But for the wrong reasons. The biggest problem is not 9/11 but 10/7: October 7 when the Bush administration started the “war on terror” in a mistaken or deliberate attempt to capitalize on that fateful day: 9/11. But their deficient and opportunistic interpretation of the event has created a world much more unstable than any time since 1945.

Deficient? Opportunistic? If you think these are strong words, please look at the recent Discovery-TIME Magazine opinion poll.

49 per cent of the American people think that the Bush administration has used the threat of terrorism or the terrorism alerts for political reasons! (45 per cent do not think so). The same poll shows that only 23 per cent of the Americans think the U.S. will win the war on terrorism within the next ten years or so. And 54 per cent think that the U.S. in Iraq hurts, rather than help, that war.

This is what the Americans think. How much larger percentages do you think you would find around the world, then, on these questions? It’s time for celebration: the credibility and legitimacy of the world-dominating U.S. Empire is over!

Mainstream media will not commemorate October 7. Neither will they March 20 when the Iraq war began. Our leaders, in spite of all their talk about democracy, civilisation and human rights, would not even think of observing 3 minutes of silence for the innocent dead in Afghanistan and Iraq, proportionately hundreds of times bigger human catastrophes than 9/11.

Today’s “humanism” marches in soldiers’ boots.

Our leaders are not evil of course, probably not even cynical. They may even believe that they do good. Remember Tony Blair on Kosovo’s bombing – I had not read all the books about it, but I thought we had a good case. No, they have lost their moral and intellectual compass since the triumphalist interpretation of the fall of Communism.

We desperately need other angles today. Here follow some different perspectives as an alternative to the mainstream, unbearably self-pitying commemoration of 9/11.

Indeed, September 11 was an appalling day for those who lost their lives and those who lost their loved ones. In spite of that, it is high time to get its proportions right, recognise the intellectual and moral blunders in its wake and devise new policies.

The 9 problems

1. It was not a war and the American monopolization of the sorrow and “response” should have been opposed

No soldiers or uniformed people committed the terrible crime on September 11, 2001 that killed close to 3000 people. No weapons were used, no border transgressed. It was a criminal act, but not a war and responding with an out-of-proportion “war on terrorism” represents an opportunistic taking advantage. Among the killed were people of about 80 nationalities. If the Bush administration is so concerned about “American” lives, it would do something about the 30.000 Americans who are killed annually by guns in the hands of fellow American citizens and about the 100 times worse problem: obesity. Around 300.000 Americans die annually because they are too fat.

2. There was only “who?” did it and “how could they do it?”, never really “why did they”?

There was an obvious message sent by attacking Wall Street and Pentagon and presumably having planned the White House too. It was an attack on the economic, military (and political) centres of the United States in particular, on the Empire, on U.S. foreign policy.
Believing it was a declaration of war on all the West was, again, nothing but a convenient exaggeration serving to legitimize the “war” that was chosen as the response. The attack on 9/11 was hardly an unprovoked attack, it was a response to American post-1945 foreign policies.
In addition, no one is fighting terrorism (the "Why?" question). They are all chasing, arresting, bombing and killing terrorists.

3. Terrorism was defined inadequately

Governments, authorities and international organizations, including – sadly – the United Nations panicked and chose a definition according to which only non-state actors can conduct terrorist policies. Of course, governments can be terrorist too, and they are. So this definition is biased, serves only to define anyone “we” don’t like as terrorists.

4. Terrorism was and remains a minor threat

According to State Department’s website at the time, terrorism killed about 400 people and wounded 700 per year worldwide before 2001, with Columbia as an important scene.
A global problem that affects 1100 people a year must come very far down the list of threats and preventable deaths. The risk that you or I shall be hit by a terrorist act presumably is about the same as you or I shall be murdered by our best friend. Compared with the 100.000 who die unnecessarily every day on Earth because they lack clean water, medicine, shelter, clothes! Compare with aids, overdevelopment-caused deaths, with cancer and traffic accidents and you will see the obvious: Terrorism is an tiny global issue not worth a fraction of the money and media attention combating it receives these years! We are wasting time and resources dearly needed for much more important problems.

5. It ruthlessly exploits fear, builds on “fearology”

The open society should be strong enough to protect itself. Powerful people tell us that their mission is to protect us. They know no limits – while keeping on conducting general policies and special wars that will have only one effect: provoking more terrorism. Fearology is the new ideology of the West and it is likely to have much more self-defeating and dictatorial – potentially fascist – long-term effects than the old Cold War ever could.

6. The war on terror stands in the way for dealing with real problems

Conservatives and neo-liberal governments clamp down on humanist values, on development aid and on solidarity. Others, such as Nordic social democratic parties abdicate their responsibility to combat such terror-promoting policies. The more unequal the world gets and the more unfair it appears, the more we help terrorism and other extremism grow (whether or not their argument about acting on behalf of the dispossessed is part of their propaganda or seriously meant). Aren’t we proving the terrorists right - that right underneath the shining surface of Western culture, racism, fascism and imperialism rears their ugly heads?

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7. The war on terror creates the terrorism it is supposed to stop

It isn’t that terrorism has not been diminished. The problem is that the “war on terror” has had one crystal clear consequence, namely that of boosting the motivation and determination of ever more terrorists. For instance, there were no terrorism in Iraq before 2003 (except you may say, that of Saddam). Today it seems to be the Number One meeting place for terrorists.

8. It risks closing the open society and diminishing democracy

It’s frightening to see how fast civil liberties and humanitarian conduct has been undermined. Western society is revealed to have only a thin layer of decency. When threatened it accepts blatant human rights violations, breaches of international law, the norms of the UN Charter, etc. The right to privacy is violated on a daily basis – all in the name of fighting terrorists and protecting the citizens. Huge money is earned on cameras, security arrangements, electronic surveillance, private armies, checking of electronic profile, etc.

There is no IQ so low that it cannot invent a risk to air travellers or customers in the shopping malls and, thus, we must all be checked, treated as potential criminals. Regrettably, people seem grosso modo to accept it even though it threatens to close us all off from free social communication, instil fear and make everybody suspicious of fellow human beings.

9. It has undermined humanism and international law

Panic politics after September 11 has had devastating consequences upon law, accountability and human rights. People can be detained, arrested and killed in actions supposedly aimed to foil terrorist plots. In the past we could feel reasonably sure that what elected leaders told us was most of the truth; now no more.

Part 2


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