Violent World, The Middle East's Zones of Conflicts, and Terrorism Spilling
Over into the West.
on a Problem and Suggestions for a Just Solution
is as American as apple pie, an old saying goes. But violence is as much
part of human history as apple pie, or kindness or poetry. It has its specific,
modern, “American” traits in US society and US politics. However, this
does not mean that other, again socio-culturally and historically specific
forms have not existed and do not exist in other parts of the world. Violence
is part of us. Some define it as an “anthropological” fact, an innate capacity
or trait of the human species. Others have said that history is a history
of class struggle. Its forms change, the antagonistic clashes persist;
under different conditions, in different times, in the context of different
social formations, their meanings and their impact vary – but as we look
back we see traces of conflict between rulers and ruled, exploiters and
exploited as far back as historical source material (both written and non-written)
enables us to ‘reconstruct’ our past. Mankind’s past. Man-unkind’s past,
all too often. No, we are not always kind. Certainly not those in power.
And those bearing the yoke, those who periodically throughout history,
have revolted? We would be kidding ourselves if we thought they were different.
As anybody, they were capable of the best and the worst. It was a matter
of luck, of chance almost whether the worst came out into the open or remained
hidden, somewhere at the back of the mind. Overwhelmed by all that enabled
a woman and man “to be good,” “to be loving.” Sometimes, the odds are against
becoming like that. Sometimes not.And the historical circumstances, as
well as chance, play a big role in this lottery. We may think we are free,
free to be good. Yes, we are – if the circumstances are alright. If we
had a loving mom and dad, for instance. If we did not live through a time
of warfare and brutal cruelty that can deform the psyche of a man, a women.
If we were not forced to fight for a crust of bread, in order not to starve.
You can add to this. A simplified picture, as everyone knows. The issue
is touchy. There is some amount of freedom to say ‘No,’ even when you are
tortured, some have said. It may well be true. In the case of some. Others
break, or turn insane.
“class issues” were so often, and still are at the root of ‘internal’ violence,
outright wars were most often – at least in modern times – driven by politico-economic
clashes of interest. But don’t be mistaken: the governments of hegemonistic
states on an expansionist course usually represented the dominant social
class and its interests. There were those “at home,” in the “mother country,”
who profited from slave trade, from slavery, from colonialism and so on.
There are those “at home,” especially in the US and the European Community
plus Japan (the G-7 countries, as they are called) who profit enormously
from “globalization” and neo-colonialist schemes. The present support for
the regime of Kabila jun. is just one example. The intervention in Afghanistan
and Iraq are other examples. The way ‘first world’ capital brought about
the so-called East Asian Financial crisis of the 1990s is yet another
today has many forms. Economic aggression can mean hunger, starvation,
avoidable illness and death for millions. Cultural aggression wipes out
languages, mores (not all of them ‘stupid’ and ‘backward,’ as the apologists
of ‘worldwide’ Western cultural dominance want to make us believe). As
for the unofficial and official American military form of violence, so
often exerted by US governments after World War II was over, it is probably
the most dominant form of violence practiced in the world today. Since
1991, it is the almost unchecked ‘hammer’ that is swung by the only
remaining superpower that remains after the so-called ‘Cold War’ has come
to a close. If something can hope to check it at all, it is not a second,
competing superpower anymore. It is public opinion, worldwide and in the
US. Certainly, such contemporary military violence is different from that
of the Mongol Khans whose armies swept across Central Asia hundreds of
years ago. It wears a democratic garb while the governing ‘elites’ of the
US break some rules and keep others. No doubt about it, if you think of
the illegal war waged most recently against Iraq, in breach of United Nation
rules. No doubt about it if you think of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other
‘detention centers’ where torture is being practiced. These camps do not
reach by far the extensions and horrors of Auschwitz. But they are related
to it. It’s sadism again, it’s human beings turned into sadistically mistreated
flesh, it’s a denial of every little remnant of human dignity. US military
intervention in world affairs, in the post World War II era, has always
been portrayed as defensive, as securing peace and democracy, even as a
means of last resort, employed to protect and extend human rights. It has
been whitewashed by the dominant media and by the various ideologues heard
so often and so prominently thanks to them.
is perhaps necessary to recall some details of this ‘democratic’ violence
exerted by the self-proclaimed stalwarts of ‘human rights’ in Washington.
was America and Britain the forces of which intervened in the Greek civil
war at the close of World War II.
was the same alliance which was pulling the strings when the freely elected
Prime Minister of Iran was toppled in the ‘50s.
was the US which invaded Guatemala and toppled President Arbenz.
was the US which put down the revolt of the populace against unjust social
relations in the Philippines when a prominent feature of these social relations
was a scandalous concentration of land ownership in a few hands. (The so-called
Huk rebellion was vanquished and yet, other revolts flared up again and
again, until today.)
was US capital and US hunger for uranium which, thanks to collusion with
the Belgian government and the Belgian ‘Union minière,’ were wiping
out democratic beginnings in the newly independent Congo republic in the
60s, using every dirty trick in the book to achieve the assassination of
President Patrice Lumumba. (As early on as 1945, a Rockefeller had a stake
in Katanga mining.)
was the US which accepted the Fascist ‘Franco dictatorship’ of Spain as
an ally after the war against Hitler Germany and militarist Japan had ended.
And, mind you, it accepted so many other right-wing dictatorships, from
Thieu and Diem in South Vietnam to Stroessner in Paraguay. The US government
triggered the coup d’etat against Greek democracy in the 1960s, against
the freely elected government of Chile in the 70s, against Turkish democracy
in 1980. It supported the Batista dicatorship in Cuba, the Somoza dictatorship
in Nicaragua. It backed the coup d’etats in Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay.
It favored the assassination of President Allende, the ‘disappearances’
and the torture. And it had not hesitated to invent the Tonking incident,
in order to ‘bomb North Vietnam back into the stone-age.’
list can be continued, of course. Who backed cruel regimes like that of
the late king of Morocco or of a ruler like Ibn Saud? Whose advisers stood
by when political foes of Central and South American dictators were subjected
to “water boarding” or tortured by electrical gear made in USA (incidentally,
by Westinghouse, as Harper Magazine reported, in the case of Guatemala’s
‘treasury police’)? Whose military advisers and secret service personnel
watched approvingly when some 500,000 victims of Suharto’s military coup
d’etat were put to death in Indonesia?
only a few years ago, wrote Yes, one minute of silence for the victims
of violence that died in the World Trade Center of New York. If that’s
what you want, in New York. But hours of silence for others, years for
others, 500 years of silence for all those who suffered and died at the
hands of Spanish conquistadors, Portuguese invaders, Dutch and French and
British slave traders, and of all the soldiers and mercenaries of modern
colonialism and hegemonism.
is not difficult to see the point.
much violence, throughout history. Why? Why now? “When will they ever learn?”
the words and melody of a song asked. Was that in the sixties?
are those who will tell us that some violence meant a break-through for
democratic rights. 1776. 1789. 1861-1866, 1910. 1911. 1918. 1949.
You can debate the issue. If you want.
are those who say it was right to overthrow Batista, it meant a break-through,
real social progress. You can debate the issue.
saw violence as justified when Algerians rose in revolution against French
colonialism. Yes, they had a good reason – as had those who rose against
apartheid in De Klerk country.
are those who say, such fights although they are justified will always
result in the death of innocent victims. Bystanders, so-to-speak. The Allied
commanders who fought Hitler Germany, who fought Imperial expansionist
Japan, who bombed Berlin and Dresden and Hamburg, and Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
Tokyo, say the same. Today, they say “collateral damage.” The Israeli politicians
and Israeli military leaders will say the same, or something of the sort,
about the dead civilians of Qana, the dead children of Beirouth.
terrorists who wage attacks against civilian targets in Europe or elsewhere
might say the same. Or very nearly so. “You kill our innocent civilians,
we kill yours. Mere retribution.” What a stupid “game”! What an understandable
justification. They feel like that, at least some do, in countries like
attacked Lebanon. Just as many Israelis honestly feel that “the” Arabs
want to annihilate them and are therefore entirely ready to commit another
genocide. “Another Shoah,” in their political idiom.
course, the rules and basic legal foundations of “international law”
(a legal body of texts produced, mainly, in the West) are invoked against
such “revenge,” such indiscriminate terrorism as was evidenced, for instance,
in the train bombings in Madrid. If US planes are strafing an isolated
farm house in the Iraq countryside, a clearly civilian target, it is a
“deplorable mistake” for some, a war crime for others. But it remains,
in the eyes of politicians and lawyers and Western media, nothing more
than a sad exception in what is otherwise considered as “an ordinary war.”
Wars are not, they insinuate, in themselves a breach of “international
law.” Those who unleash them, if they win and if, on top of it, they are
anyway the leaders of a powerful nation (as in the case of the present
US government), who is going to take them to court?
however, whether in Kurdish areas of Turkey, in parts of Columbia, in the
West Bank, Sri Lanka, Kashmere, Aceh, Davao, or in parts of Mexico, are
easily criminalized and branded as terrorists. If they wear no uniform-like
garb, only the worse for them. If they kidnap civilians, worse even. If
civilians die by chance in a shoot-out between the guerilla and regular
armed forces, they are to blame. If some target the military in some instances,
and in others they target civilians, this is the worst conceivable case.
outsider to a conflict can at least sympathize with the official view in
the last case where civilians are targeted on purpose, in some strange
game of retribution. We are all civilians, we probably think. It might
be us who die in such a stupid, senseless act of violence.
to the killer, the suicide bomber, for instance, this may not be a stupid,
senseless act of violence at all. He or she sees himself or herself in
a context of resistance. In a context of humiliation and suffering, perhaps.
There is a moment before the moment before the moment when the bomb explodes,
killing innocents. Are they so innocent? he may ask himself. Are they not
part and parcel of a population which overwhelmingly elects and supports
a government which suppresses us? Which kills so many of those of us who
put up a fight, whether by word or deed, against the occupation? And not
only them but innocent by-standers, as well?
come to the point. This author, an outsider, a bystander in a far-off country,
would wish that these suicide bombers choose life. That all the innocent
civilians who were crippled or ripped apart by their bombs had remained
unharmed. However, how easily do we say ‘innocent’? Are only soldiers involved
in aggression, in acts of occupation and repression, are merely such
soldiers, involved in what is an armed conflict with the oppressed, truly
‘guilty’ – if we speak of ‘guilt’? Do only the combatting forces
(on both sides) have blood on their hands? And the populations who support
the government and the soldiers and the war – do they have nothing
to do with it? How ‘innocent’ is, in this case, the civilian population
of Israel? How ‘innocent’ is the population of Europe – a Europe that has
robbed and continues to rob the so-called Third World, that has again and
again carried its wars into foreign, far-away places? The broad masses
of Europe may have profited by it only a little, in comparison with the
dominant social forces. But the standard of life achieved, despite all
that is questionable about it, and perhaps even phony when analysed thoroughly
and in detail, the standard of life was not a result merely of their own
making. And the same goes for America, the United States of America, that
is – and the “American way of life.” In American class society, there may
be places the inhabitants of which can rightly say, “This is the Third
World.” There are eight million Americans who go hungry, day by day, today,
in 2006 – and 30 million more who cannot be sure what they will eat the
next day, and whether there will be something to eat at all. And yet, the
American masses are ‘privileged,’ in comparison with the landless peasants
of Bihar. No doubt about that. They have received their small share. Of
the riches of an exploited so-called Third World. It “trickled down” if
ever something did “trickle down.” The hardhats of New York who supported
Nixon during the time of the Vietnam war were not jingoist for naught.
And the Australian, Belgian, Danish, Dutch, or German racists who want
“foreigners” to be kicked out of the country do indeed defend their tiny
privileges, seeing the “Others” as competitors in increasingly competitive
job and tight housing markets.
question “Who is innocent?” assumes a different quality in view of this.
let’s not kid ourselves. The West is not the only culprit. There are scores
of repressive regimes around the globe, many in the so-called Third World.
Wars, as the one between Cambodia and Vietnam or between India and Pakistan
cannot be blamed simply “on the West.” If the “little man” in Germany was
easily seduced by Hitlerian fascists in the context of the Great Depression
that began in 1928, the ordinary folks of other countries around the globe
have their weaknesses, too. They are not simply fine and beautiful people,
although they have (or may have) their beautiful qualities. Is it unfair
to say that Hindu jingoism brought a perhaps near-fascist, certainly chauvinist
party briefly to power in Gandhi’s beautiful country? Probably not, though
it is unfair to single out India. The suffering of Ibos in Nigeria’s coastal
province, during the now “far-back” civil war, or the more recent clashes
between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria are no fine example of perfect
intercultural, interreligious and inter-regional relations. Although the
heritage of Colonialism and the current neo-colonialist impact made by
corporations like Shell are certainly factors; in other words, the blame
cannot be put solely on an “African” socio-cultural heritage.
this consideration that “we all are guilty, in a way” (no matter where
we live) exonerate Western populations? I think to assume that the Westerners
can get off the hook that lightly would mean that we are putting a blind
eye to a long history of Western dominance and expansionism that continues
unharnessed, in a new context and by relying on new forms.
therefore be a bit more modest in the West. Let’s not shout too loud that
those who die in acts of terrorism committed by enraged or frustrated or
hating youths from the so-called Third World are “innocent civilians.”
They are civilians. They are no “military targets.” Terrorists are no ordinary
combattants spreading ordinary death, including all the “collateral damage”
you can think of. There victims are, to be sure, as innocent or as guilty
as you and me. And they are, by every rational standard Westerners (at
least) can think of, a completely inappropriate ‘target.’ People who deserve
our empathy, as their surviving loved ones deserve our sympathy.
when have we observed a minute of silence for the children of Fallujah?
For the dead buried under the lawn of a stadium in Santiago de Chile? For
those massacred in Shatila, or killed in Jenin?
the silence observed for those killed by Hitler Germany’s henchmen in the
worst genocide ever committed in Europe in modern history seems to be ‘official’
and thus phony and formal, in many instances. Man is a contradictory, flawed
being. And part of the phony game is that those who employed again the
career diplomats of Nazism as democratic diplomats, and surviving officers
of the Nazi army as democratic officers, and Nazi judges as democratic
judges, had the guts or diplomatic cleverness to become one of the strongest
supporters of Israel. In a country like Germany, it is the left today who
questions the way the Israeli army conducts the war in Lebanon. It is the
left who asks whether the occupation of the West Bank does not violate
the rights of Palestinians. Whether the ‘intifada’ is not explained by
the miserable conditions of life in the refugee camps. Whether the repression
of the Palestinian liberation effort is not cruel and unjustified.
course, quite a few among the older generation of German leftists were
killed in, or barely survived Hitler’s death camps. Many had Jewish comrades,
Jewish friends. They were ready to say, in 1945 or 1948, of Jewish survivors
preparing to emigrate to Palestine, “But where else should they go?” It
was a reflection of their fear that racism in Germany (and perhaps Europe)
had not disappeared for ever, with the defeat of Hitler’s regime. It was
a reflection of their fear “that it would all happen again,” sooner or
later. Discrimination, pogroms, killings, perhaps even the worst of the
worse, as experienced in the years just past. Does is explain why they
were blind to what large-scale emigration of these Europeans to Palestine
would mean to the populations native to the place, whether Druse, Christian,
Jewish or Muslim?
as outsiders, we still find it hard to come to terms with what happened.
As Europeans, we (most of us, apparently) so reluctantly accept immigrants.
For a time, the corporations, the “economy” needed them, we were told.
Now, after years of the most meagre growth and exploding mass unemployment,
the general atmosphere, with regard to immigrating “foreigners” is largely
hostile. The governments and the EU institutions deny that European policies
are xenophobic but the fact that they are turning the Continent into a
“fortress Europe” cannot be put in doubt.While the US put up a kind of
“Berlin wall” at the US-Mexican frontier. To keep out “mejicanos.” “WETBACKS.”
“Chicanos.” Unwanted people (though desired as cheap labor, in the fields
of the Central Valley, or in middle and upper class households in need
of a household help, a “maid” as they said in the past).
WE are telling “Palestinians” that they should have gladly accepted immigrants
most brutally persecuted only a short time ago.
one think that it would not be sisterly or brotherly to kick those who
came as survivors of percution and genocide out of the “new found home.”
But neither can it be considered to be brotherly or sisterly if the persecuted
Pilgrims arrive in their New World and kick the “natives” out of their
house. If they did indeed, upon arrival, act and think and feel like the
Europeans they were (looking at the “natives” as backward, and infested
with “primitive,” “medieval” and “inacceptably outmoded” thoughts and modes
of social behavior), they and/or their offspring would perhaps do better
to change their ways and abandon any idea of being a “superior people,”
one might politely suggest, as a fellow European more or less aware of
the persisting European “superiority complex.” Of course, it is hard to
lay aside your gun and take the “Other” into your arms if you fear he may
stab you with a knife hidden under his bedouin’s coat. So images of the
Other (as a barbarian hating you) and of one’s “Self” (as the offspring
and heir of victims slaughtered who is still threatened by those who want
to complete the “job Hitler started”) should be analysed and critized and
overcome. And this on both sides of the fence (built, at the moment, or
already almost cmpleted, by the Israeli government, as yet another remake
of the “Berlin wall”, the “wall of death”, as we all remember…). Fences
are no good between neighbors. Exchange, closeness, communication is good.
If Israelis and Palestinians opt for private property, the following question
should be asked, Who owned the house, the fields now occupied by an immigrant?
Were the former owners justly compensated? Do they want compensation at
all? Or the return of the property, which would imply that the immigrant
needs to build a new house, and cultivate another garden, next door. If
Israelis and Palestinians opt for a kind of commonly owned, communal property
they would have to find ways to fairly share the communal property. It
is not fairly shared in that country (Israel plus the West Bank plus Gaza)
appears to any impartial outside observer as not helpful at all but utterly
destructive is the egotism of positions that demand all immigrants and
their offspring should “leave the land.” Or that, on the other hand, regards
Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank as rightfully and eternally “the Promised
Land given by God himself to God’s chosen people.” If a concept is antiquated,
it is this religious, extremely fundamentalist position that completely
negates the rights of “the Others” to “the land.”
that many say the hatred is so deep and divisive that no common, sisterly
and brotherly possession of “the land” is possible. I know that many think
“nationalism” is such a positive and necessary phenomenon that only an
exclusive identity is acceptable. Here are the “Jews” (Israelis, citizens
of Israel with a “Jewish background”). And there are the “Palestinians,”
the “Arabs.” And the gulf, it is suggested, that divides them is simply
too deep. And it is ”eternal.” Believe me, brother. Believe me, sister.
Nothing is eternal. All is changing. The gulf is largely real pain remembered.
But the pain has been suffered by both people, both groups, both parties.
It is also a joint, a collective and common experience. It can give way
to a common understanding that this senseless violence, this waste of creativity,
of courage, and the sacrifice of lives must end. The earth belongs to all.
Different people, with different backgrounds, raised in different socio-cultures
have so much to give to each other, so much to learn from each other. Why
fight? Why not cooperate? The basis of this can only be fairness, kindness,
forgiveness, shared empathy. It is inconceivable that this can work on
the basis of a master-slave relationship. The relationship of the ‘superior’
European master and the cheap labor made used of as needed and otherwise
stowed away in “Palestinian ‘Bantustans’” won’t work. There are kinds of
peace that will only breed more war, more hate, more divisiveness.
come back to how unequal and hopeless struggles spill over, into rich Europe,
the rich United States. The ruling circles and their media call it terrorism
and are right. But their analysis, at least in public, in the media, by
and large stops there. They don’t ask for the reason why violence spills
over from the Middle Eastern places of conflict to the West. They don’t
ask whether it is Western (military and other) violence applied, directly
(as in Iraq) or indirectly (through the Israeli military), against so-called
Third World populations that “comes back” to its source of origin. Just
as any wave hitting against a stone, a rocky coast, a sandy beach, is swept
back into the ocean. Just as the D.D.T. sold by Bayer or whoever sold it
to Ceylon tea farmers came back with the tea harvested in Ceylon’s highlands
and exported to Europe and the States.
already pointed out that the Western criticism of terrorism is flawed in
another respect. There are many forms of terrorism. The bombing of North
Vietnam. The shipment of tens of thousands of damaged condoms to Zimbabwe
when its government ordered the stuff to protect the people against AIDS.
The encouragement of cash crop production while the production of vitally
needed local food is discouraged (because of its low market price). Wasn’t
the uranium depleted ammunition used against Iraqis a form of terrorism?
How about the cluster bombs in Lebanon? And wasn’t the destruction of the
power station of Gaza during the recent war against a civilian population
of an occupied area (where the army had withdrawn, while independence had
not been accorded) a form of terrorism, especially in view of the effects
regarding the vitally necessary provision of electricity for hospitals
and water works?
it does not help to counterbalance ‘our’ terrorism and ‘their’ terrorism.
Both have to stop. “International law” is partial, in this regard, and
so are UN resolutions. The issues will be decided in political struggles,
for or against peace. Bush and Blair and others are to indebted to the
arms industry to really want a peaceful world (unless it is a world that
has succumbed and is completely dependent on the Western dominant social
forces). Today, in countries like Spain, France, Britain, Italy, or Germany,
at least 60 percent of the population object to the horrors of the July
War conducted in Lebanon. Many feel the Palestinians are being wronged
and have not been given a minimal chance to pursue a happy human life.
The young radicals in the Middle East who feel they are prepared to “carry
the struggle and the suffering” from Lebanon to the West should use the
intelligence they are undoubtedly capable of. Acts of terrorism that are
perceived by the general population in Western countries as acts of “indiscriminate
violence” against “innocent people” may well swing popular opinion in the
West from a critical anti-war position (at odds with the position of their
governments) to a much more hostile, if not more racist position. Western
societies are, at any rate, split. Although a majority is mildly “anti-immigrant”
in the current sequence of economic recessions and intermittent phases
of low “growth,” they still do not agree with militant racists. And they
are overwhelmingly against Western military interventionism, and against
the way Israel is waging war and conducting anti-Palestinian repression
in Gaza and the West Bank. All this may change to the worse, as a consequence
of indiscriminate, blind terrorism against the civilian population of still
rich Western countries. It is remarkable that in Madrid and London, ordinary
commuters were attacked. Working people, students, pupils, quite a few
immigrants certainly among them. If the Bush government had wanted to sway
popular opinion in Europe in favor of their militant interventionism, they
could not have used a better ploy. From the point of view of the Palestinians
and their objective interests, this terror is completely insane.
it is nonetheless understandable. The frustration, the fury, the feeling
of helplessness is there, and people in such a situation are likely to
vent their anger and frustration in such absurd ways. Just as people traumatized
by the ‘Shoah’ are likely to see themselves and their children permanently
threatened in the most existentially threatening way, overreacting in an
irrational way when encountering real or imagined threats. That the lives
of Jews in Israel are threatened by katushas, by suicide bombers, by people
shooting at them cannot be denied. But why are so few of them asking, Is
the life of the ordinary Palestinian living in Jenin, Ramallah or Gaza
also threatened, day by day? Are we (or, are our soldiers, is our government)
responsible for this threat to their lives? How do we escape from this
spiralling development where violence leads to more violence? It is clearly
a question that if asked could have a cathartic effect.
is just an ism, an ideological cloak of the real thing. And the real thing
is the terror that enters real lives. The anxiety, the extreme, partly
justified and partly irrational fear, and its psychopathic consequences.
The way the Israeli forces and the Israeli government is overreacting (as
Kofi Annan and others have unmistakably pointed out), the way Israelis
feel ‘threatened’ and confronted by “Arab Hitlers” bent on annihilating
them, are indications of a psychopathic effect that dates back, no doubt,
to the collective experience of the ‘Shoah.’ Any population, or part of
a population exposed to such terrors would show similar symptoms. The tragedy
is that in learning the lesson of ‘never wanting again to be helpless,
passive victims,’ they strike out so hard that they in turn appear as those
who use forms of terror reminiscent of some of the methods used under Fascism.
In other words, the victims of former times create, in turn, victims. That
these ‘victims’ did not receive them, brotherly and sisterly, in Palestine
when they arrived with all their ideological baggage of rebuilding “a national
home,” is another matter. The past is the past. The victims of Israeli
occupation and repression are still, to an astonishing degree, rational
and sober in their struggle for their rights and for dignity. If the frustration
and the feeling of being permanent victims further increases among a greater
part of the oppressed, the psychopathic traits may well increase and there
will be even more suicide bombers, even more terrorists. Given the support
of Western governments for Israel’s occupation policies, this could well
have further repercussions in the West.