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More Questions for the Future about Terrorism

A href= >911+ Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground (Part 8) (Part #1)

Consequences for civilization
Unhelpful insights
Fruitful initiatives
For the future

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Consequences for civilization

What will the measures of retribution envisaged do to the quality of western civilization and the significance of the values it claims to uphold?

Can we stop evil without taking on the character of the evil and random violence which we oppose? Can we bring the terrorists to justice and work to eliminate terrorism around the world without harming civilians and without hating the terrorists and thus engendering more hatred in the world?

In adopting a vengeful, self-righteous mindset, infused with the strategies of those groups who habitually act in this mode, to what extent will western civilization become irredeemably tainted by values and qualities from which it has long struggled to distance itself?

Is there no awareness that the demands made on Pakistan by the USA to terminate the food and other supplies, that are keeping alive hundreds of thousands of suffering people in Afghanistan, will ensure the death of unknown numbers of people (as in Iraq), who have not the remotest connection to terrorism? How will implementation of strategies of this moral level affect western civilization when it is realized what is being done in its name?

Speaking in the name of "western civilization", Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, asserted (27 September 2001) that: "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and -- in contrast with Islamic countries -- respect for religious and political rights" . He was understood to be predicting a future "clash of civilizations". But are not such beliefs, on the part of a leader of a G8 country, a much stronger indicator of a more fundamentally insidious clash -- namely between those who genuinely believe in rights and freedoms and those, ignorant of history, who seek to curtail them under any possible pretext?

With aid agencies recognizing in advance the dimensions of the humanitarian disaster that the bombing will entail as a result of failure to ensure food supplies to the needy in winter, with what level of shame will western civilization face the future? Or will this take the form of unhealthy righteous denial?

Throughout the USA, "dissenters, critics and even low-level public officials have been cowed into following the emerging orthodoxy" (Independent, 28 Sept 2001). Some have been subject to commercial boycott or death threats. In response to one political commentator, whose show was taken off the air, Americans have been informed by Ari Fleischer of the White House that: "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. There never is." Will thinkers and policy-makers in western civilization in future shrink away from critical thought and dissenting viewpoints?

Has the conduct of the USA as a member of the international community given President Bush the right to lecture the nations of the world as though they were a bunch of disobedient schoolkids: the time for action had arrived; leaders around the world "must now carefully consider their responsibilities and their future"; every regime that sponsored terror would have to pay a price; there could be no exceptions to this comprehensive commitment; it was time for the United nations to prove itself? (Editorial, Guardian, 12 November 2001)

Will freedom of speech be progressively and systematically curtailed?

Will "terrorism" become as seamlessly integrated into civilization as "crime" and "drugs"? Since "terror" has long been one of the instruments of crime and drug networks, is this not already the case? Have not leading "terrorists" became leading statesmen of their countries -- following the pattern set by robber barons down the centuries?

Is it only the final recognition of the downside of "globalization" -- and the loss of protective buffering systems -- that has required attention to "international terrorism"?

Will the credibility of government articulation of issues and policies be permanently undermined?

Can the attack be fruitfully understood as a wake-up call to those ardently dependent on unsustainable consumer lifestyles for their psychological well-being?

Has the response to terrorism been such as to demonstrate unequivocally that the civilizational project of the west is fundamentally a hollow sham -- with all the principles its citizens struggled to embody in the rule of law treated as window dressing to be cast aside when they are a constraint on the irresponsible and savage behavior they were designed to curtail?

Is the response, and its exploitation, demonstrating the degree to which the west is promoting what is effectively a "Potemkin value system" -- a value backdrop shifted as necessary to reinforce the illusions promoted by those who exploit the system? How will history assess the real achievements of the UN in acceding to this behaviour? How fundamentally dishonorable will this be held to be by the future?

Values, such as "democracy" and "freedom", are acclaimed by governments on every possible occasion -- who wish to be recognized as their true defenders for their peoples. In the light of the loss of credibility of the advertising of consumer products, at what point will these values be understood as completely dissociated from the effective intentions of government -- whose sole interest in these values is then perceived as a rhetorical device to camouflage devious or venal preoccupations?

Has the crisis, and the response, dangerously devalued the currency of international discourse -- given that its tokens of exchange, "democracy", freedom", and "justice", have been given subject to a degree of manipulation and distortion, and that they are no longer distinguishable from the counterfeit variants?

Have the coalition intelligence services secretly concluded that, without a long-term war, the place of western civilization in the world community is unsustainable, and that their countries are essentially governable?

The 20th century has seen the radical shift from imperialisms and colonialism to democracy -- facilitated in the later decades by the United Nations. Is the challenge of rogue and failed states, and ungovernable countries, now giving credence to those who favour a return to a form of global imperialism -- but under the hegemony of the USA? Will failed states in future be ruled by dictators appointed by a US-controlled United Nations? Will this effectively be the future of Afghanistan -- despite the lessons of UN rule elsewhere? Will this lead to a new pattern of colonial paternalism?

The WTO talks present the perfect moment for the powerful western nations to put into practice the "justice in a new world order" identified by Tony Blair as an appropriate response to the ills nurturing terrorism. Is the west serious about creating a more just and equitable world or are our leaders just cynically using the war against Afghanistan while continuing to forge their economical and military dominance? (Paul Clifford, Guardian, 9 November 2001)

What has the war done to western civilization -- in the light of repudiation of its very basis in human rights, has shutting the terrorists out merely succeeded in imprsioning the west? Has giving priority to the military option over any form of dialogue (in search of peaceful alternatives) convinced many in the west that it is possible to blast a way to world peace? Has might been once again defined as right, justice redefined as success, and war as the only route to peace -- conflating armed and ethical success, munitions and morality? If this is victory for civilization, what would defeat look like? (George Monbiot, Guardian, 15 November 2001)

Has the principal achievement of the crisis -- through the strategically regressive response of the coalition -- been to unmask western hypocrisy in promoting values which it sets aside when they are put to the test?

Has tearing up hard-won, protective human rights clauses proven for all time the cultural immaturity, vulernability and conceptual impoverishment of western civilization?

Has the response to the attack, and the fear of any form of public debate or negotiation with those holding views sympathetic to the Taliban, proven that western civilization is highly vulnerable to views at variance with its own and not as robust as it would like to believe? How is it that western media find it so comparatively easy to given extensive coverage to the views of serial killers and others who are readily labelled "evil"?

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