That's all the terrorists want. They can't do more than that.
September 11, 2006
There is nothing new in saying that "9/11 changed the world." It wasn't anything like World War 2, but it was probably a more important global event than the fall of the Soviet Union. And probably the most important since the end of World War 2. Great events change the world, very often for the good, though in a long-term perspective. World War 2 has been the worst war ever, in human and material tolls, but the world learned a lot from that global catastrophe and what we have now is a world that is much less likely to have another similar war.
Behind any act of human aggression there is always an act of injustice. Although mass aggression shall not be legitimised, it is a sign of not just evil intentions by the aggressor but also of some sort of injustice toward the aggressor. There may be isolated cases of individuals with psychological problems inclined toward aggression toward others, but when there is a case of a large number of people who are willing to inflict pain on others and risk their own lives or existing resources or possibilities, then there is much more to them than just some psychological disorder.
People have an inherent sense for discerning injustice. However, ordinary and less educated people may not be able to find the source of that injustice. It is well documented that Germany, and many other places in Europe and the world, before World War 2, experienced great social inequalities and injustices that were either local, or in the case of Germany, both local and international. Ordinary Germans had come to see the failures of democracy by seeing how the society had become fractionated into classes, the rich and the poor, or the owners and the workers.
Most Germans could also see how their country had come to be humiliated by the victors and forced to starve itself in order to pay for the losses of the war it had caused. In hindsight it is now much clearer for us to see what went wrong before World War 2, and that is the reason why there hasn't been another similar war. But Germans having the bad fortune of Hitler, at the wrong time and the wrong place for the German people and the rest of the world, were lead to believe that the root causes of their troubles are the principles of democracy. This is a clear example of a mass miscalculation because of the lack of the right leadership.
The above example is not to relate the Nazis to the Islamic extremists today, as the Bush administration has recently done. Nazis had taken control of a country, later two, including Austria. Islamic extremists are scattered around, lacking both sufficient money and also sufficient manpower to do anything similar to what the Nazis did. If we want to put the Iranian regime as the Islamic extremist country, as the comparison of Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Bush goes, then we face some technical difficulties.
Shia Iran has always been an enemy of Al Qaeda and its ideology and they have actually faced each other for quite some time in their proxy war in Afghanistan. And no Iranian, either personally or directed by the Iranian government, has ever attacked American targets or interests outside Iran. Iranian regime has never dared to go beyound rhetoric about America. And the embassy siege was the only time (at the height of the revolution in Iran when there was no clear authority in place) when, seemingly, the Iranian regime attacked Americans, but inside Iran. And that, could be argued, for the fear of the repeat of another coupe by the Americans as they had done before when they toppled Mossadegh and brought back the Shah.
An unfortunate event like 9/11 occurred because there were, and there are (even more) disgruntled Muslims who are willing to inflict pain on others because, as I just tried to argue, they feel a sense of injustice. They wanted a leadership, and Bin Laden came up and provided one. That's not the right leadership, but for so many uneducated Muslim youth that's as good as it gets. Was Khomeini far different in encouraging 13-year-old boys to go to war? Let alone other painful, and shameful, acts.
Why are there so many disgruntled Muslims out there willing to die? It's not because Arab women are too rare and expensive to find, and marry, so young Muslim men resort to get 70-odd virgins in heaven. It's because Arabs and most Muslims have lived for too long in injustice both among themselves, and by comparison to none-Muslims. Muslim countries have far stronger and powerful social, economic, or political classes, who are not just different because of wealth, but very often in front of the law, in case there would be any law.
Muslims in their own countries are very wealthy and very very poor, and the wealthy do not just afford smarter consumables, they can also afford many other advantages that are not accessible to the wealthy in rich democratic countries. Powerful people in Muslim countries control almost every little aspect of ordinary people's daily lives, humiliating and exploiting them. The worst example of all can be considered Saudi Arabia where there are the royals and there are the ordinary people. The royals (probably tens of thousands, if not more) are not just rich. They decide everything and do anything they want in a country where they are supposed to lead. And where did most of the 9/11 hijackers come from? Saudi Arabia.
Another obvious injustice that Muslims can easily feel is the way they are humiliated by non-Muslims. This hasn't always been by intention but very often out of ignorance by Western powers. And as the world has become more and more integrated, especially by ever larger number of people having access to TV and the Internet, all national leaders must pay a little bit more attention to the effects of their actions also outside their own country, because nowadays it is much simpler to spread a message and figure the blame.
Can we expect Muslims not to feel humiliated when they see their fellow Muslims suffer in so many places around the world, especially in the Palestinian territories, or recently in Lebanon, while the West stands idle or supports the opponents? This added to their own social tragedy inside their own countries has provided the best ingredients for a ruthless and wrong-minded leader such as Bin Laden (also other smaller ones) to manipulate enough Muslim youths to blow up some public place or utility time and time again and spread panic among non-Muslims.
The problem of Muslim social agony will take a very long time to resolve, probably decades. But there is a better way to deal with the problem, both for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. First of all the West must not be paranoid. Islamic terrorists and extremists are very very few in numbers. By limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens governments do nothing but to play into the hands of the terrorists.
That's all the terrorists want, to disrupt life. They can't do more than that. It is technically impossible to prevent all terrorist attacks. So why do the American, the British, and many other authorities, try to control every bit of their citizens, and foreigners, lives in order to see whether any of them wants to blow himself up or not? That's technically impossible. It will never be done, but it will cost a lot to try to do anything similar, not just financially but also to the most basic freedoms and human rights Western values stand for.
And to console ourselves about terrorism we can also think about something like the number of people who lose their lives each year in road accidents in Iran. Each year more than 25,000 Iranians die in road accidents. All the terrorist attacks all over the world in the past 15 years cannot equal the number of Iranians who die on the road just in a single year. The problem, and the whole problem, with terrorist attacks, and the deaths that they bring, is the panic that they cause. But the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is so little one must be completely out of his mind to even think about it!
The real problem that must seriously be dealt with is the social injustices that exist in the Muslim world, and in its relations to the non-Muslim world, and also the paranoia that a very few number of terrorists have been able to bring to every home and business in the civilised world. Comment