|Montreal, October 27, 2001 / No 91
by Martin Masse
Tired of the "war against terrorism" already? You'll need to get used to it because it could last years or decades. Not because that's the time it will take to completely eradicate terrorism, as some politicians and pundits have asserted, but rather because we're losing this war a little bit more everyday and because it risks becoming a permanent war, just like the so-called "war on drugs". Like that one, it will be a purely statist invention which will provide for the maintenance of a whole bureaucratic and police apparatus of repression whose main purpose will be to protect its turf and advance its own interest while guzzling taxpayers money.
We've all seen these police inspectors explaining that they "dismantled
another important network of contraband, thus dealing a hard blow to drug
trafficking", while proudly displaying for the cameras their latest harvest
of plastic bags filled with cocaine and machine guns and revolvers. Of
course, the chief inspector invariably informs us, if the police had a
bigger budget and greater powers, they could fight more effectively and
catch all the other smugglers and we would get rid of this social problem
once and for all.
Practically everybody gulps down these stupidities without disputing them, beginning with our complacent media. In fact, in the fight against drugs the state is only winning a few battles, never the war itself. This is impossible as long as there is a demand for drugs. On the contrary, the war on drugs is only making this business more profitable and appealing for one cohort after another of potential criminals by causing the price of drugs to rise. The war on drugs is a closed system disconnected from reality, which goes on shielded from any rational argument that could question it, because an extensive clique of parasites (politicians, bureaucrats and policemen) find it in their interest to pursue it, and also because "we've got to do something to protect our children". Instead of facing reality and attacking the problem at its roots to try to manage it more effectively, we charge ahead with repressive methods. And the headlines remain the same, year after year, decade after decade.
The war against terrorism is already evolving in this direction. To imagine what is coming one only has to read and listen to the irrational arguments of those who, since September 11th, have been sermonizing us on the need to "do something" and "to take a clear stand for or against Evil" – meaning for or against a military solution. They assure us that bombing Afghanistan as the American army has been doing for three weeks now is a step in the right direction. Then we'll only need to catch bin Laden and his accomplices, maybe pursue a couple more terrorists in some mop-up operations in the other Muslim countries where they hide, and that will be it.
Any information or analysis which could contradict this scenario is struck out of their neural pathways, or declared immoral and odious because "to discuss what could have motivated the terrorists is akin to finding justifications for the 9-11 massacre". Just like the hotheads of the war on drugs close their eyes on some unavoidable facts that should lead them to reconsider its effectiveness, the hysterical supporters of the war against terrorism don't even want to understand why so many fanatics are willing to die in suicide attacks against Westerners and why their cause, if not their means, enjoys such a wide support within the Arabic and Moslem populations. There's nothing to understand, they say. And what's more, to dispute the morality or the efficiency of bombardments is to give evidence of a lack of patriotism. In any case, did the spokesman of the State Department not declare just yesterday that the military operations in Afghanistan had been a complete success so far?
By so hiding their heads in the sand, they help sustain and perpetuate
a situation which guarantees that this support for terrorism will continue
to increase, and that new cohorts of terrorists are being created that
will attack us next year and the year after that.
Every day that goes by, Afghan civilians are being killed in this stupid war. For the past three weeks, the American army has worked unceasingly to destroy any infrastructure that remains in this ravaged country, although one would be forgiven for not seeing the link between the fight against terrorism and the destruction of an airport in Kandahar or that of a bridge and a road in the suburb of Kabul. The country has been suffering from a drought for some years, and this follows two decades of war against the Russians and civil war. Hundreds of refugees are being added every day to the 3,5 millions that have already fled the country. This destruction is only worsening an already critical situation. This winter, they will be dying of famine and disease by the thousands in the refugee camps.
In contrast with the victims of September 11th however, they don't die all together in spectacular circumstances, within a period of time short enough to sustain the interest of the average viewer, live on TV. They die far away from the cameras of the Western media, only comparatively few at a time. So our clever moralists, whose eyes are full of sand anyway, have no reproach to make here. Their selective indignation is awakened by the gripping images of horror in New York, but it isn't by a horror distilled more slowly and not shown with graphic details on the image box.
The Arabs and the Moslems, however, will get indignant whether or not they see these images on their television screens. They already see the daily massacre of Palestinians by Israel, supported by a 3-billion dollar yearly contribution of the United States. They see that the Gulf War still continues after ten years, with weekly bombardments and an embargo which affects only the population and not the regime, a war which has already caused hundreds of thousand of deaths in Iraq. And they see that the U.S. continues to support corrupt regimes which violate their rights and keep them in poverty, all this for "strategic" considerations.
From their point of view, what exactly is the moral difference supposed to be between Al-Qaeda's terrorism and that committed and sponsored for years by the American government against them under various excuses? Should we be surprised if they refuse to accept the double standard by which the massacre of American civilians becomes an absolute crime the causes of which one shouldn't even try to understand, while the massacre of Afghan civilians is only a collateral damage among others, unfortunate yet perfectly justified?
Terrorism is not a preordained reality
While it doesn't seem very probable that the demand for hallucinogenic substances will disappear any time soon, the "demand" for terrorist acts against the West is not at all a preordained reality. On the contrary it is fed by our actions, more specifically by the U.S. foreign policy. Not only is nothing being done to eliminate the causes of this resentment ("We shouldn't show any sign of weakness by responding to the terrorists' demands!", warn the warmongers), we're doing everything now to fan the flames by killing innocent civilians who have nothing to do with bin Laden. Let me repeat the libertarian creed here, for all those who don't know or remember it, including many who call themselves libertarians: collective responsibility is a monstrous collectivist notion and killing innocent civilians in the pursuit of whatever aims is never justified, in New York or in Kabul.
In Israel also, every murder of a "Palestinian terrorist leader" and every measure of reprisals by the Israeli army in the occupied territories provokes a revolt and more slaughters, with the sole effect of encouraging other young Palestinians to join the guerrilla warfare. Meanwhile, instead of trying to implement a permanent solution to the problem, the Israeli government continues to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip (about 200,000 Jewish settlers already live there) and to proceed with the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population. Israel has in consequence become a police state where insecurity is a part of everyday life.
Even if bin Laden and his accomplices are killed, others will take their place and the war against terrorism will continue, so long as the conditions will be in place that lead millions of Arabs and Moslems to see us as their oppressors and enemies. And in a few years, if this pessimistic scenario comes true, we shall doubtless regularly see on our TV screens generals announcing that the army "has destroyed another important terrorist cell, thus dealing a hard blow to the enemies of our free and democratic society". That is, of what will remain of our freedom and our democracy.
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