Weekly News Review Archive

28th September, 2001

Comment: We are all terrorists now

This week we saw the announcement of the introduction of an EU arrest warrant, a move which takes part of the criminal justice system entirely out of the realm of democracy. Necessary, we are told, to combat terrorism.

It saw the heads of state and government convene for a special emergency meeting in Brussels to declare their support for the United States in whatever measures it cares to take. The basis of this declaration is clearly bogus, referring to sections of the UN Charter which it is obvious do not apply to the current situation.  Necessary, we are told, to combat terrorism.

It saw the introduction in the UK of draconian new measures which are necessary, we are told, to combat terrorism.

It saw Danish federalists call for the overturning of their country’s opt-out from EU militarisation and internal security policies.  You have guessed the reason they gave, haven’t you?

Since the WTC attack we have seen preparations for what may turn into a world war, accompanied by all the familiar baggage of such a process:  violent attacks on people perceived to be potentially in sympathy with the enemy; suspension of civil liberties; harassment of oppositionists, pacifists, and anyone else who does not toe the line; the implosion of the least radical and durable elements of the opposition; cynical manipulation of popular fear and anger by the right, including the pushing through of ‘fast track’, which gives the illegal occupant of the White House dictatorial powers over trade agreements;  and the allegation that anyone who is not for terrorism is against it. 

Since the destruction of the Soviet bloc and the realisation that China was turning into one hell of a potential market, right wing politicians and media hacks have been desperately searching for a scare word to replace “communist” and “Red.”  “Terrorist” fits the bill beautifully, of course, but until the WTC attack applying this label to people who did not, at the very least, use violence against other people to pursue their political ends would generally have been seen as absurd.

Now, that’s changed.  Bush says anyone who isn’t for the US and NATO, whatever they may do in response to the terror of September 11, is against them, and thus for the terrorists.  Right wing British newspapers The Times and Daily Telegraph carry vicious attacks on the mildest of critics of American warmongering, accusing them of giving aid and comfort to mass murderers. Belgium’s agriculture minister calls opposition to genetic modification “intellectual terrorism”. And, you can bet, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Spectre would rejoice to see the perpetrators of the atrocity in New York apprehended and, after due process, dealt with, though not, we would add, through the barbarism of the death penalty.  We would also like to see behind bars those responsible for greater acts of terror then even this: Henry Kissinger for his bombing of Cambodia and numerous other crimes; Margaret Thatcher for the Belgrano war crime; Clinton for ordering the bombing of Sudan’s only pharmaceutical factory;  Bush and Blair for continuing the genocide of the Iraqi embargo and bombings – the list is long.

 But, of course, violence committed by states and those who run them doesn’t count as terrorism at all. The death penalty is not terrorism. The racist attacks that have occurred against Muslims and other people of colour in the US and elsewhere are not terrorism. the fire bombing of  mosques in the Netherlands have yet to be termed such by police or politicians, however sincerely they may have condemned them. Shooting people to steal from them is not terrorism, unless you want the money to further a political aim. Even entering the Swiss Parliament and murdering one’s colleagues isn’t terrorism.

Terrorism is not simply violent atrocity. It is political violence carried out, usually outside the aegis of the state (exceptions to this are occasionally made, as for Milosevic) and by people you don’t agree with.  “Their” bombing of the WTC is therefore terrorism, whilst “our” bombing of Iraq and Yugoslavia, is not.  Serbs were terrorists, Kosovans not.  Nazi atrocities were state terrorism, Hiroshima and Dresden weren’t. 

Terrorism is a flexible, slippery and often convenient label.  If NATO leaders were genuinely interested in building a united front against it they would be doing all they could to come up with a precise, limited and effective definition. The people who bombed the WTC were terrorists. Those who write articles saying that such acts do not occur in a vacuum and maybe the US ought to take a look at why it is so hated by so many people, are not. Distinguishing between them should not be so difficult. Instead, the right and its media deliberately blur the lines. They do this because their political aims go far beyond what is stated, and have nothing, ultimately, to do with guaranteeing the safety of their peoples.

The result is that a vague, adaptable definition is about to get still broader, to include GM activists who commit acts of violence against potatoes, for instance, and people who write editorials such as this.


More on the WTC

Last weekend saw big anti-war demonstrations across Europe and in the US. In London, Manchester, Glasgow, Berlin, Cologne and other German and British cities, as well as Budapest and Liège, thousands expressed their opposition to US preparations for war.

Meanwhile, Americans are organising in opposition to any military retaliation. Demonstrations and vigils bringing together pacifists, left activists and many who have never previously seen themselves in either role have occurred across the country. In addition to their denunciation of Bush’s warmongering, actions have denounced attacks on Muslims, Arab-Americans, and other people of colour.

Students United for a Responsible Global Environment have an encouraging article about this broad peace movement in the US – “A new peace movement emerges” - on their site It comes from the Washington Post, but don’t let that put you off.  Even tame “intellectual” Arthur Schlessinger, whilst calling Bush’s address to Congress, “powerful” (rather than the seemingly more appropriate “vomit-inducing”) opposed giving the White House Cowboy a “blank cheque”(see it here if you really must)

To get back to reality, look at “A widow’s plea for non-violence”, originally in the Chicago Tribune, and now re-posted on US left website Portside

Amber Amundson, whose husband was amongst US Army personnel killed in the Pentagon attack, presents a powerful case to those who would manipulate her grief to aid their plan to snuff out the lives of many more people who have husbands, wives, mothers, children, friends. “Because I have lost Craig as part of this historic tragedy,” Mrs Amundsen writes, “my anguish is compounded exponentially by fear that his death will be used to justify new violence against other innocent victims.”

The same issues are dealt with in Naomi Klein’s “A Time to Think about Collateral Damage” and Killing Civilians: Behind the Reassuring Words” by Norman Solomon.

“We should take our example not from our military and political leaders shouting "retaliate" and "war" but from the doctors and nurses and medical students and firemen and policemen who have been saving lives in the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are not vengeance but compassion, not violence but healing.”  Read the rest of historian Howard Zinn’s (genuinely, rather according to stooges) powerful plea for sanity.

In case you have a short memory and believe that US state terror is a Republican exclusive, Michel Chossudovsky, earlier articles by whom you can read on our pages, explains how the Clinton Administration gave aid, comfort and much else to violent Islamic fundamentalists as part of its attempt to colonise Bosnia.

or, for the horse’s mouth, to the US Congress 1997 document “Clinton-approved Iranian arms transfers help turn Bosnia into militant Islamic base”

“The attack on September 11th did not happen in a social or economic vacuum,” argues ex-US Army officer Stan Goff. Goff’s point is that we should be stepping up activism to address the roots of what led to the WTC attack, rather than soft-pedalling out of fear or “respect”.  You can read the rest of the former soldier’s excellent article, as well as a number of other pieces commenting on the crisis. Rick Giombetti makes similar points in “Has the Left Unilaterally Disarmed?”:  “Let's not let the September 11 terror attacks be remembered as an American Reichstag Fire, “ pleads Giombetti. “Staying at home and not demonstrating isn't going to prevent fascism.” Amen – just as a white skin won’t ultimately save you from fascists, so this appalling quietism won’t ever save anyone from anything at all.

From Australia, Green Left Weekly this week carries a feature entitled “Oppose War and Racism”: “George Bush has said that the United States will wage a ‘crusade’ against ‘terrorists’. Green Left Weekly explains why this war will pit the rich, privileged and mostly white people of the First World against the mostly dark-skinned people of the impoverished Third World.

Grattan Healy, an article by whom we posted last week, has written a piece simply entitled “USA and UK are just hypocrites”:  “The two nations leading the so-called 'war against terror', the USA and UK, are in fact in the poorest position to be so self-righteous. They are so blinded with rage at these unspeakable attacks, that they conveniently forget that they themselves have committed the most appalling crimes, which remain unpunished”

You can find Healy’s piece at this website or here


If that isn’t enough then, i

n general, http://commondreams.org/ is the best place to go for a range of articles.

Danish Right calls for end to country’s opt-outs from EU “justice” and militarisation plans

In Denmark, both the far right and pro-EU conservatives have sought to manipulate the outrage and fear felt in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York. Far right People’s Party leader Pia Kiaersgard used the event to call for deportations of people of middle eastern origin.

“This was normal, however,” Danish Socialist People’s Party (SF) Euro-MP Pernille Frahm told Spectre, “but what was less predictable was that Per Stig Møller, who is the spokesman on foreign affairs for the mainstream and pro-EU Conservative Party, would use the situation to call for an end to our opt-out in the justice- and defence areas.”

Frahm pointed out that the opt-outs, negotiated in 1993 in an ultimately successful attempt to reverse the Danish people’s rejection, in a referendum, of the Maastricht Treaty, provided no obstacle to Denmark’s participation in any NATO action “however wise or unwise we think such participation would be.” 

Moreover, she added, “Denmark is participating in police cooperation within the EU, and nothing in the opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs prevents the exchange of intelligence, an exchange which has presumably been taking place since day 1 after the terror attack.

“Per Stig Møller and others are cynically abusing Danish people’s anger, powerlessness and despair for their own political purposes, hoping we will all forget the realities of the situation.”

Pakistani Women Rally for Peace

On Tuesday, a large number of women activists staged a peace rally in Lahore, Pakistan. Chanting slogans against terrorism and religious fundamentalism, they called on the US to abandon its preparations for war. The rally was organised by Women Workers Help Line, the Pakistan Labour Party and the Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights. At a convention of working-class women linked to the rally, Asma Jahangir, former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that “we do not need advice from US to fight against terrorism. As victims of terrorism for a long time, (Pakistani women) know very well what it means to humanity. We have complete sympathy with the victims of September 11th. But we do not want more bloodshed of innocent people.

The rally was heavily policed but without serious incident or interference from law enforcement officers, despite the fact that it was held in contravention of the military regime’s ban on all such actions.

The meeting took the decision to establish a peace camp at the city’s Charring Cross, with a vigil each evening from 17h to 20h. 

(Thanks to Rizwan Atta for this information)

Professors for Peace

A group of US academics has set up “Professors for Peace” with the aim of countering Bush’s war dance. In a letter circulated around universities and other institutions of learning, one of the instigators, Jacqueline Stevens described Profs for Peace as a listserve whose aims included “co-ordinating information many of us may find useful for initiating campus and other efforts to attempt to challenge the current war mentality.  People have been sharing information about teaching ideas, local meetings around the country, as well as brainstorming ideas for national and even global efforts.

Jennifer Terry, normally of Ohio State University - four of whose students were gunned down by National Guardsmen thirty years ago for protesting a previous military adventure – but currently Visiting Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said “It seems obvious to many of us teaching college students right now that they have very little understanding of the history and possibilities of peace movements and that many of them are not so gung-ho about going to war yet they are nearly paralysed and cannot think of alternatives right now.   Also many of them feel personally threatened by the unleashing of bigotry being done in the name of patriotism and national security.  Arguing against an unfocused, ill-conceived, and protracted military mobilisation is now more than ever crucial, as is arguing against the suspension of civil rights, including freedom of speech, in the name of national security.  Ensuring public space for debate is urgent.”

If you are eligible and wish to join, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/professors_for_peace

NGOs slam ineffective EU “polluter pays” proposals

Four leading European environmental organisations have described a long-awaited European Commission proposal for a directive on liability for environmental damage as “fall(ing) far below (what’s) needed for a comprehensive and far-reaching scheme.”

Introducing an 11-page common statement, a spokesperson for BirdLife International, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe and the WWF European Policy office, said that the “proposed liability scheme will do little to protect most of the Environment from GMO pollution, despite earlier promises from the Commission to the European Parliament. It will not even cover damages for organic and non-GM farmers." If the proposal as it stands is accepted, ”the agrochemical industry will be virtually free to contaminate most of the European countryside with GMOs without fear of becoming liable.”

The full statement is available on www.eeb.org and www.birdlife.net