by Keith Harris
   15 September 2001, updated as below

terrorism: an organised system of violence and intimidation, especially for political ends

"The world is an evil place, definitely.."
New York fireman at World Trade Centre scene shortly after terrorist attacks

The world is not ‘evil’ but it is home to a great many misguided people with evil intent. It is also a place of disproportionate balance where a small handful of those individuals can cause trouble for hundreds of millions.

In a recent television documentary (12 Jan 2003) featuring Willie Nelson and produced by the UK Southbank Show, Mr Nelson said that the real culprits behind 11 September have not been brought to justice. He also said that it was incumbent upon the US to ask itself why it had become a target if it was to counter the threats.

“If someone thought I had done them wrong and was prepared to attack or kill me for it, I would go to them and ask what it was they thought I had done wrong so that we could find a resolution to the problem. I would say to them, ‘don’t let me do this again’, as I don’t want them killing me, or my family or friends, and also themselves. It would be pointless,” said Mr Nelson.

President Bush and all international leaders who have spoken in favour of Bush’s announcement to “track down” and “eradicate” terrorism and terrorists, are, quite bluntly, wrong.

Terrorism cannot be cleansed by heavy handed techniques of any nature short of blowing up the whole world. It can only be removed by tending to the causes that give rise to it in the first place and this is the difficulty. To seek a means to remove the cause of terrorism requires that we critically examine our own society, cultures and belief. It requires acceptance of the fact that there will be some aspects of any society and ways of life that are not accepted, are even vehemently disagreed with and opposed by other factions or groups.

To eradicate terrorism, it becomes necessary to absorb the existence of such factions and groups and look to understand why their motives exist at all.

Terrorism takes many faces. There were no demands by those who attacked New York and Washington, no prior statement, just the statement of the death and destruction they caused without given reason. Such terrorism is far different from that of the group or individuals who use terrorism as a bargaining lever for the meeting of their demands.

It is pointless to try and force one’s own particular belief on someone who has no wish to know anything about them, just as it is equally pointless for terrorists to try and gain true widespread support for their own beliefs through acts of terrorism.

Violent response to the attacks on New York and Washington may go some way towards easing a need for revenge and retribution, but in reality they will do nothing whatsoever to remove terrorism from the planet.

A few dissenting voices of such action by countries were heard in London’s Parliament following Prime Minister Tony Blair’s announcement of solidarity with the US and any proposed action by the Bush administration. With the passing of time, this has been watered down.

One such voice of dissent warned quite clearly: “if you take this kind of action you will create 10,000 Bin Ladens while you hold the head of only one...”

Any who masquerade behind the guise of politics to promote or condone acts of violence are best described as nothing more than terrorists themselves.

To condone terrorist activity in which people are maimed or killed or otherwise injured or threatened is to join hands with those responsible for committing such terrorism. No amount of rhetoric, crocodile tears or insincere verbal disassociation can ever detract from that. Only a full renunciation of terrorism and the full allegiance with those committed to ridding society of such a scourge can be acceptable within a sane order.

It is an inescapable reality that terrorism exists and stalks the face of our world. Appeasement of the terrorist mentality does not and cannot work nor can it succeed. As a living species, we have one thing in common that is valuable above all else and that is life itself. Those who would deliberately disregard the sanctity of life do not deserve nor should they expect respect.

The only thing we should respect about such misguided people is their ability to cause harm and their lack of concern at so doing. Yet merely paying respect to this is not by itself enough. Neither does it make sense to take the view that the outcome of terrorist activity is something that happens to someone else. We are all potential victims and an open recognition of this fact is essential in any fight to remove terrorism and its causative factors.

No matter how rational the individual, the terrorist mentality is one of psychotic paranoia driven by an obsessive self imposed goal that is divorced from any sense of well meaning. Eliminating the reasons that give rise to terrorism is essential to the well being of any society. Yet again, such action is in itself not enough and may in fact be impossible.

We must be prepared to ask and learn why any person can descend into terrorism. We must be fully prepared to tackle the root issues and not just scratch at the surface vagaries of particular cases. To do so is to effectively ensure its return.

There can be no simple solution and only a fool would say there is. The root causes of terrorism are entwined deep within the educational structures of our differing societies. Terrorism continues to exist because we have not accepted the inherent complex flaws in our social values and lifestyles. Among them is the reality that our widely held social values, goals and targets combine to exert a powerfully negative effect upon even the very best of family upbringings. What chance then for those from less fortunate backgrounds?

The atrocity of terrorism can easily turn the mind from any willingness to examine the underlying cause.

As long as material wealth and values dominate in forming the bedrock of society in general the motive causes for terrorism will continue to exist. This is the simple reality that must be faced.

See UK document relating to Usama Bin Laden

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