Johan Galtung on "Democracy Now!"

This is a portion of Amy Goodman’s interview with Johan Galtung, which aired on April 17, 2012.

By Amy Goodman (interviewer); Johan Galtung (interviewee) | 2012-07-23 11:48:31

AMY GOODMAN: As the trial continues in Norway, we turn now to a Norwegian who’s regarded as the founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies. Johan Galtung is founder and head of Transcend International. His granddaughter was on the island when Breivik attacked. Johan Galtung joins us now from Minneapolis.

Welcome, Johan Galtung. And how is your granddaughter?

JOHAN GALTUNG: She is doing fine. She’s a strong young woman, a wonderful person. Well, the mass murderer is now in court. There’s a lot of talk about his psychology. Much more interesting are his deep political motivations. And in order to get into that, you can start with the date he chose—22nd of July. Twenty-second of July, 1099, the Knights Templars liberated Jerusalem for the Christians, later on for the Jews. The 22nd of July, 1946, the King David Hotel was exploded by Jewish terrorists. Some of them later became prime ministers of Israel. So the day is not quite by chance. He has deep anchorings in Judeo-Christian mythology and the myths of the Knight Templars. He is well-read-an intelligent man, autodidact, very hard-working. And the nonsense that he was paranoid schizophrenic, they got rid of, and they have declared him normal.

GOODMAN: Your granddaughter, Ida, escaped with her friend by covering themselves with a green jacket, hiding right at the feet of the assassin, of Breivik?

GALTUNG: On the other side of a boulder, and he was standing, shooting their friends. She understood that the danger was running. I haven’t met [Breivik] personally. I would very much like to have a dialog with him to try to understand his thinking. He lives in his own world. You should not construct him as a Norwegian or as a member of a right-wing Norwegian party. Maybe his Freemason affiliation was more important. Not the Freemasons as an organization, but I’m thinking of the loyalty oaths. He probably has a number of solidarity, loyalty networks that are obscure and hidden. Being well versed in history,…he has links to Judeo-Christian history, to the Crusades. And I think he lives partly in the past. He’s enacting the past. I don’t think there are many people like him….

We have to dig into the realities in this. Take my country, Norway. You have empty churches and overfilled mosques. Why is Islam so attractive? And what is failing in Norwegian semi-secularized Christianity? I give you two words about Islam: togetherness and sharing. Look at how they pray. So tightly together, you cannot have the two genders next to each other. They’re in separate rooms. Look at how Norwegians pray. Isolated. On their knees, perhaps, but isolated. … Islam has a “we” culture. We, also in the US, have an “I” culture. Now, sharing, zakat, to lift up the poorest-10 percent of your income. … So there is a big attraction in Islam, at the same time as much of the West has a spiritual emptiness. Let’s face it: We have to do something about it. And the way to do it is not the Breivik approach, and it’s not killing Afghans or Iraqis.

GOODMAN: Talk more about this parallel you’re making … with Norway part of the NATO team in Afghanistan.

GALTUNG: I’ll tell you the result of my talking with Taliban. They know that it is a lost cause, they have no chance at all. You have to understand what kind of country Afghanistan is. As Taliban tell me, it’s a very decentralized country, 25,000 autonomous villages, and let us say six to eight nations, depends on how you count it. And I remember when we in Transcend, an NGO for mediation, had our first effort there in February 2001, long before 9/11. Then, I was asking myself, “What country does this remind me of?” And the answer was Switzerland. Switzerland is a very federal country with very high autonomy down at the local community. And Swiss policy is to be neutral, non-aligned, and to be a very deep federation. I think Afghanistan’s future will be heading in that direction.

The Taliban tell me, “We hate secularism. We hate people coming, trying to win hearts and minds by digging wells and giving us water not blessed by Allah.” Of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Afghanistan may be among the countries with the highest percentage of Muslims. To win heart and minds through secular activity is a nonstarter.

Now, in addition, they hate Kabul as an overblown capital carrying the illusion of a unitary state. It isn’t. I think they would prefer to see a very small center of the country and very high level of autonomy.

They are tired of being invaded. It started with Alexander the Great. Afghanistan is where he became Alexander the Small. And they were invaded by the Mongols, three times by the Britons, one time by the Soviets, and now by the US-led coalition, the NATO forces. So, for them, this is also a fight against being invaded.

And finally, very important, the Durand Line drawn by the British Empire through Pashtun territory, 40 million Pashtuns, maybe the highest minority in the world without a state. They don’t recognize that Durand Line at all. They are not foreigners crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. They’re in their own territory, Pashtun territory. Now, how to solve that one? By having a Central Asian community, making the border irrelevant. So, a Central Asian community, a deeply federated Afghanistan, neutral, non-aligned, with security forces from Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations Security Council. That’s the future.

GOODMAN: Talk about what’s happening in Syria.

GALTUNG: With due respect for Kofi Annan, I think they’re putting the cart before the horse. Syria is run by an Alawite Shia dictatorship, headed by Assad. [If we] introduce democracy …and let a Sunni majority have the power, it will be a majority dictatorship. The Shias are afraid of it. The Jews are afraid of it. The Christians in Syria are afraid of it. The Kurds are afraid of it. They are scared to death by the prospect of democracy in the sense of the dictatorship of majority. …

The solution, in my view, would be a federation, a federated Syria. They’re heading in the same direction in Iraq, but there the Shias are in the majority, 61 percent. So then you have two countries-one Sunni, one Shia-neighboring countries. It couldn’t be worse. And this is the outcome of US foreign policy.

Now, the Ba’ath parties that were running the two countries dictatorially, they were an effort to get away from that by secularizing Islam. This is much more complicated than I say, but let me just put it that way. OK, that didn’t meet with West’s approval. Instead of helping them, they were killing them and executing Saddam Hussein. They would probably like to do the same with Assad. This is not a way to peace.

The way to peace is a federation, linkage with neighboring countries, peacekeeping forces-not by NATO […but] by Islamic countries in cooperation with UNSC. But have a solution before you talk too much about ceasefire. People are not giving up their arms if they don’t see a solution. Why should they? They are fighting for their lives, and they are scared to death by what might happen. So you have to be closer to a solution. Put the horse before the cart….

GOODMAN: Johan Galtung, my final question goes back to your book, The Fall of the US Empire-And Then What? … You say you’re talking about the fall of US empire, but possibly the blossoming of the US republic. Explain what you mean by that.

GALTUNG: An empire is not just a question of military interventions. …. It’s a combination of economic, military, political, cultural politics coming together, and it seeks elites in the imperialized countries that are cooperating with the US-reliable elites. When I talk about the fall of the US empire, those elites are disappearing. You don’t find them in Latin America….Like me, they love the US, but they turn their back on US foreign policy. And you find them all over the world. That’s the US empire falling.

And at the same time, you have this blossoming-the Occupy movement is a sign of it-innovative, fantastically cooperative, horizontal, not trying to manipulate the world from above. Washington could learn a lot from the Occupy movement…

So in the book I said: By 2020 it’s over. And I look forward to the US, instead of intervening militarily, starting to solve conflicts. You have so many bright people in this country, so many well-educated people. In solving conflict, you have to talk with the other side….You have to sit down with Taliban and al-Qaeda people….You have to sit down with Pentagon people, State Department people. And you have to ask them, “What does the Afghanistan look like where you would like to live? What does the Middle East look like where you would like to live?” In at least 3,000 dialogs since I started about 55 years ago…I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t have some valid point.

Adapted from

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2012

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2012, page 22. Some rights reserved.

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