Sent to iranian.com on September 18, 2001, days after the 9/11 tragedy. It is being published for the first time.
First and foremost, let me say that the WTC/Pentagon tragedy is unacceptable and an act so inhuman that it curdles my blood and depresses me greatly. Let me add that any violent act that is carried out in the name of God, religion or belief is against the true principles of any faith. Also let me add that any loss of life due to poltical gain is also unacceptable. Now let's wake up: it happens every bleeding day.
I am actually writing in response to Guive's Mirfendereki's superb editorial [Defining moment], which was very much on target, especially this very insightful paragraph:
The argument is that as long as the United States is present in the Persian Gulf countries and underwrites the survival of the decrepit Arab monarchies, from Kuwait to Oman, these countries would not have an opportunity to develop into progressive republics. One would assume that Bin Laden would have wanted to have an opportunity to takeover Saudi Arabia and it is safe to assume that he would not be given to secular political forms or machinations. But the other new republics would have a choice from the menu that consists of Pakistan (mild), Iran (sweet and sour), and Afghanistan (double pepper) forms of Islamic government.
I also believe that as long as there is global poverty and a lack of the basic infrastracture for a society to evolve (i.e Afghanistan), especially in respect to eductation and health, we will have very poor pockets that are suspect to any rhetoric, let alone a religious call-to-action. Hence we keep hearing 'jihad'. The ultimate rallying cry.
Bin Laden has wanted the US out of the region for various reasons, least of all to see secular republics replace corrupt Gulf monarchies. However, if he creates a situation that baits the US into military action, the result of the devastation and destruction is a stronger Bin Laden. Dead or alive. The more poverty, restlessness, and international scrutiny, the more recruits for any extremist cause in the region.
I strongly believe that Bin Laden's focus is to create instability, and he even welcomes war. It will give him an elevated status among the extremists, and convert those that previously were undecided on his agenda. And he may well get his chance of forcing his 'menu' of Islamic republics in the region. I believe that his long-term objective is exactly just that, create as many Islamic republics under his sphere of influence as possible. If he does, we have taken a giant step backwards in the Middle East. And the US is playing straight into his hands. Cunning over muscle works every time.
Ultimately, the US has carried military campaigns globally for years, killing people in their own home towns. Now that this equation has been reversed, its hard to digest the fact in the West. Who exactly will the US hit in the Middel East anyway? There is nothing left to hit in Afghanistan. Nothing is intact, its already been destroyed through years of civil unrest. Ground troops? And then what? Look under every stone in terrain more unfriendly than Mars? What about the dangers of chemical or biological strikes against the West from a desperate Bin Laden? Are we ready for that?
A faceless enemy that is nowhere and everwhere. An enemy very much entrenched in its own region as well as entrenched in its opponents society (even protected in some places, like in the US, under the banner of 'civil liberties' – how ironic). The West simply cannot win a war against global Islam'ism'.
Finally, back to my thesis; that poverty breeds extremism, and religion (or ideology) simply helps organise the masses for mobilisation. After WWI, the economic depression (read: poverty) in Germany helped the Nazi's gain momentum. Communism raised its head not in advanced societies as Marx predicted, but agriculturally based economies suffering depression and restlessness (Russia, China). Throughout the 20th Century, it was in poor countries that saw the US and the USSR lock horns (result: years of instability and puppet governments plus lots of dead people).
The basic notion here is that in the cases of Germany, Russia or China, it was nationalism or communism (poltical ideologies) that motivated the masses. In reality, it was economic depression and gross poverty. Yes, there were many other reasons for the rise of national-socialism and communism, but poverty and desperation were the nucleus.
To a poor, uneducated, and desperate individual existing on nothing in Afghanistan, anyone that fights in the name of the poor and underprivileged, and has taken on the mighty US, Israel and others, is a hero. Bin Laden has taken it one step further and introduced war in the name of God. Jihad. The ultimate declaration. The ultimate payback.
Until we address global poverty and the gap between the have's and have not's we will reel in discontent and violence. I don't have the answers, nor do I judge how people feel or should feel on both sides of the fence. I have read all sorts of rationalisations and blame for this tragedy; the Israeli/Palestinian issue, Saddam Hussien's revenge, the Opium Trade, Bin Laden's hatred for the US, even Pakistan vs India. In reality, it may have been all of the above or just a band of pissed off maniacs (Oklahoma ring a bell?).
I can understand the call for revenge in the US – especially after CNN's over-the-top role in bringing the misery to our living rooms so vividly – but I can also see how this can get out of hand. This is truly a time to use brain over muscle – or face possibly worse consequences than the WTC tragedy.
The climate is panicky and this is not the time to lay blame blindly unless proof is 'in the pudding', as we say in England. It was upsetting to hear (via an interview) a certain Royal personage blame the current Iranian government of harbouring terrorists. What if the response would be a devastating bombardment of Iranian facilities by the West, killing scores of Iranians? Ahhh, more fodder for Bin Laden.
If you want the real reason for a polarisation of the West with Islam'ism' or other ideologies…look at the poverty that engulfs the third world, and the inability (or unwillingness) of global social, economic and financial institutions to solve it. What saddens me is that many more innocent people will die and suffer before we can even see a glimmer of hope.