The Misguided War on Terrorism

In recent days newspapers in several countries have been carrying large ads directed against suicide bombers. This is unlikely to be of much help. In their summit talks, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair should direct their attention towards the root causes of this dreadful form of terrorism

By Kaare Willoch | 2004-01-01 12:00:00

Nuclear weapons are an element of one party's crushing superiority in the Middle East. The West -- with good reason -- seeks to prevent other countries from acquiring them. But the USA refuses to hear criticism of Israel's nuclear arsenal. On this subject Amir Moussa, leader of the Arab League, has said "this is a double standard which will destroy the war on terrorism."

During a recent visit to Oslo former President Bill Clinton stated that "in a world where it is impossible for us to occupy, capture, or conquer whoever aims to harm us, we need to work harder to achieve a world with more friends and fewer terrorists." Opinion polls show failure in this respect. Over the last two years the percentage of the population with a favorable view of the USA has fallen from 61% to 15% in Indonesia and from 52% to 15% in Turkey.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the New York Times early in 2002: "What Osama Bin Laden failed to achieve on September 11 is now being unleashed by the Israeli-Palestinian war in the West Bank: ´a clash of civilizations.'" But in order to prevent more disasters, one must also heed Paul Krugman's warning that "the USA will lose the fight against terror if the Americans don't make an effort to understand how others think."

We should be grateful to the leaders of France and Germany and almost the entire range of Christian denominations (with the exception of the leader of the White House prayer group) who emphasized that this war was not a war between religions and was not a "crusade." But, regrettably, their opposition to the war has not sufficed to eliminate the perception of an aggressive Western world, a perception originating with the Crusades and reinforced every day with television images from Palestine and Iraq.

One cannot expect non-Westerners to consider it a more heroic act to bomb Palestinian homes from airplanes than to blow oneself up. And if we're shocked about suicide bombings, others may note that US-financed missiles and shells are inflicting a much higher death toll on innocent civilians. It is only natural that many outside the West believe that we are against only certain forms of violence and condone our own use, and our allies' use, of far more lethal ones. The Western leaders must turn their attention to the root causes of terrorism, and take action to eliminate them.

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2004

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2004, page 27. Some rights reserved.

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