G21 World Forum


September 17, 2001

[1] Diagnosis. The world will never be the same again after the terrible attack on the economic US, the military US, the foreign policy US, and on human beings like all of us. We embrace the victims of the violence, of all violence, in deep grief, and express our hope that perpetrators will be brought to justice. A violence at this level can only be explained by a very high level of dehumanization of the victims in the minds of the aggressors, often due to a very deep level of unresolved, basic conflict. The word "terrorism" may describe the tactics, but like "state terrorism" only portrays the perpetrator as evil, satanic, and does not go to the roots of the conflict.

The text of targets reads like a retaliation for US use of economic power against poor countries and poor people, US use of military power against defenseless people and US political power against the powerless. This calls to mind the many countries around the world where the US has bombed or otherwise exercised its awesome power, directly or indirectly; adding 100,00 dying daily at the bottom of an economic system by many identified with US economic, military and political power. Given the millions, not thousands, of victims it has to be expected that this generates a desire for retaliation somewhere, some time.

The basic dividing line in this conflict is class, of countries and of people. It is not civilization, although US sense of mission, manifest destiny, and Islamic sense of righteousness are parts of it. Right now the confrontation seems to be between the US/West and Arabs/Muslims. But this may also be a fallacy of misplaced concreteness: the latter may possess more intention and more capability than other victims of the enormous US/West violence since the Second world war. We should neither underestimate the extent of solidarity in the "rest of the world", nor the solidarity of the world upper class: the West; and build solidarity with victims everywhere.

In placing the horrendous attack on the US in the context of a cycle of retaliation there is no element of justification, no excuse, no guilt-attribution. There is only deep regret that this chain of violence and retaliation is a human fact. But it may also serve to make us break that vicious spiral.

[2] Prognosis. With talk of Crusades from the USA, and of the fourth stage of jihad, Holy War, from Islamic quarters, the world may be heading for the largest violent encounter ever. The first jihad, against the Crusades 1095-1291 lasted 196 years; the Muslims won. The second, against Israel, is undecided. The third, against communism in Afghanistan, ended with Soviet withdrawal and collapse as a factor ending the Cold War (and no thanks). Muslims are willing to die for their faith.

[3] Therapy To prevent a slide into a large war with enormous, widespread suffering, the US, everybody, should not rush to action. Hold It, Deep Self-reflection, Dialogue, Identify the conflicts, the issues, Solve them, Reconcile. Dialogue and global education to understand how others think, and to respect other cultures, not debate to defeat others with stronger arguments, can lead the way toward healing and closure.

Governments in the West, and also in the South, cannot be relied upon to do this; they are too tied to the US and also too afraid of incurring US wrath. Only people can, only the global civil society. What is needed as soon as humanly possible is a massive peace movement, this time North-South. It worked last time, East-West. The future of the world is more than ever in the hands of the only source of legitimacy: people everywhere.

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September 18, 2001

Dear Johan,

Thank you so much for your statement with which I completely concur. I especially appreciate your recognition that this issue is too grave to be left to our leaders. For the past several days I've been calling and writing to the papers with one message: since our leaders got us into this cynical cycle of violence and retribution, it is absurd to leave the planning of responses to these very same incompetent people. We require a new kind of leadership that can appreciate and understand that the true cause of terror is the complete disregard of the true basis of security: the satisfaction of minimal human needs. Until we look at the connection between terror, and the effects of globalization in spreading insecurity, we can never treat the problem in any fundamental way.

But insecurity is relative to the person experiencing it. So even if some divine legislator could mandate the provision of his/her idea of basic needs to the world's people, it would not really remove the root cause of terror. Instead, we must believe that the citizens of every nation should themselves have a part in articulating what their basic needs are, and in formulating plans to meet these needs. Only after we have a dialogue in every village and hamlet of this planet about the necessary requirements of human life, can we expect the pervasive insecurity which spawns terrorism, to in any way be mitigated. Solutions can only follow from, not proceed, such a dialogue.

So your call to enlist international civil society is a first step. But it will only bear fruit, I believe, if the the leaders of these organizations sincerely and honestly discuss with their own fellow citizens, what it is they think will make them feel secure. If they talk down to the people, and substitute their own judgement for that of those they are committed to serving, nothing will come of all this. This is especially difficult for the leaders of NGOs to grasp. Most of them believe they are enlightened and the rest of the world is not. They don't know how to live with the same attitude Gandhi did, and gain the trust and respect of their community, by patiently participating in the daily round and the common work. They must realize that all this will take a great amount of time, and no preaching of alarmist sentiments about impending doom, inevitable environmental destruction, or other such debilitating pessimism, can give the people the confidence needed to begin the inquiry required to combat their own insecurity, --confidence that only they themselves can create. Unless we stop focusing on external fixes that presuppose our and the world's problems arise from somewhere 'out there,' we'll never be able to utilize the most precious resource of our planet, the deep, creative depths of the human soul. The tapping of that energy and intelligence is where we must begin. It is clearly THE work of our century.

Thanks again for your thoughts, and your work on behalf of others. Phil

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Frank Chase, G21 Member: BEWARE THE SPIRAL OF REVENGE, The Daily Yomiuri, 19 Sept, 2001

You say that the United States is preparing to "avenge" the terrorist attacks, and that Japan should respond immediately to calls for financial and material assistance. But I'm sure you realize that the way in which the antiterrorism effort is carried out will define the degree to which all of us have evolved as civilized peoples.

What I felt was left out of the editorial was a call for balance between resolve and restraint in keeping with the highest standards of justice, civil liberties, compassion and understanding. The rhetoric of war and essentially military solutions will only create a spiral of revenge.

As Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." He wasn't saying we should do nothing (his courage is legendary). Nor was he speaking about revenge as being impractical; he meant that in celebrating blood revenge (in which so many innocent lives are lost) we share the same barbarism and lose our spiritual natures in the process.

It's a definitive time in history: Will we balance the imperative of bringing terrorists to civil justice with the reflection and understanding of the conditions that bred the terrorists to begin with? This doesn't mean "caving in to terrorism;" it means that the highest forms of civility need to be the guidelines we use in confronting terrorism. Yes, Japan needs to be involved, but as a more rational voice than the inflamatory calls for "war" and "smoking" 'em out" we hear from Washington.

- Frank Chase

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The Horror of War by Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader September 20, 2001 http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11550

War is probably inevitable, given our political leaders and the psychological dynamics of the global power structure. Still, it seems important for us to remember that responding to terrorism with bloodshed on an even larger scale will only make us less safe. Every new escalation of violence provokes more of the same. It is not unpatriotic to talk of peace. There are good ways to show our strength, to honor those killed, and to ensure national security other than waging war and siphoning massive amounts of money to the military. This view may be wildly out of tune with the American public at this moment in history, but later, as the flames of revenge cool down in people's hearts, many more will understand that a lasting and honest peace is the best protection against new waves of terrorism.

Satish Kumar, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi who walked around much of the world in the 1960s on a pilgrimage for nuclear disarmament, was staying with my friend Ron in Greenwich Village at the time of the attack. They rushed outside after hearing the news and from a sidewalk on Seventh Avenue saw the second jetliner smash into the World Trade Center. Satish, who is editor of the English magazine Resurgence, offered his thoughts in an article for the Mother Earth News Service: "Governments must provide for the security and defense of their citizenry. But parallel with that protection, we must create a new international culture of peace. Peace is the ultimate security, greater than that provided by any government or any armed entity. We spend so much money on our armed forces and weapons. If half of those resources could be devoted to resolving conflicts peacefully, then we might see some good out of the horrific act we recently have experienced."

That's the glimmer of hope I hold through this dark time. As the mightiest military power the world has ever seen, we might gradually come to see that there is more to be ultimately gained from learning the arts of peace than from perfecting the technology of war. Offering this lesson to the world would be the ultimate mark of America's greatness.

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Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Dear Sally

For those of us who read mainstream newspapers, watch mainstream tv, and end up thinking mostly mainstream thoughts, it might be interesting to open ourselves to some different information. If you can make time, you might want to look at http://www.counterpunch.com to get a different slant on things. (Everything has some kind of slant, right?) Although someone on the ABC news program I watched said that media has the job not to be an unthinking mouthpiece for the US government, in fact, with most of the flag waving programs and interviews that they show, this is exactly what the media is.

It was only through a British tV news show that I was able to hear what someone in the streets in the Middle East (not just the sensational cheering of little "Arabian kids" on the West Bank shown over and over on ABC) had to say about the terror than he and his family and friends have been suffering for years. These are the voiceless people. They don't work in huge concrete towers, and their friends and family didn't die in the thousands all at once, but over the years. The terrorists (people causing the terror)? Americans , Israelis, sometimes other Western troops or Western built bombs and planes.

Sure it's okay for us to drop bombs on Iraq because we define Saddam Hussein as less than human, though of course he was good enough to support many years ago. Just last week eight civilians were killed by these bombs, dropped by American and British planes. Did anyone see their stories on CNN? How many babies have died due to the embargo of medical supplies to Iraq forced by the United States, creating a situation so bad that many people left the UN observation teams to Iraq in protest. So do you think we are just innocents? Or the only ones suffering from injustice?

Please don't misunderstand that I'm defending this kind of inhuman action taken by the people on September 11th. I'm only saying that they aren't the first to act inhumanely, and we should try to attack the causes of such behavior, the injustices and inequalities that create such behavior, and not only run off and try to kill a few people who were involved.


Thu, 20 Sep 2001 12:02:03 +0900

Sally, it seems like it will be impossible to do too much regarding Japan's politicians' unthinking or total support of the US, but I was wondering if we might not be able to temper it somehow - for example, creating a petition that says something like:

Japan will support the anti-terrorist actions if:
1) they are UN based;
2) they are non-nuclear;
3) they are limited, controlled and not directed against any civilian populations. and that Japanese "self-defense" forces will support such actions "logistically" but not in any situations that will cause them to carry or fire any weapons.

Too strange? The last part is pretty weird. I wonder what kind of "logistic support" they are talking about.

How can we refine this, translate it, get it signed by people all over Japan and in the hands of politicians?

any ideas?

take care. Hillel

Thu, 20 Sep 2001

Dear Hillel,

Thanks for all your emails.

Yes, I talked about the idea of a petition with friends over the weekend. Most of them thought that e-mailing articles, as we have all been doing, was good. Some are meditating for peace and many felt that they couldn't voice their real concerns/opinions ie anti-US govt. So thought maybe something else was needed....but what?

One thing that has upset and bewildered me is the quick response from US companies to launch appeals (amazon.com) and the Japanese government (incl Tokyo Assembly) to send money. This is not a natural disaster and people haven't lost their homes. Lives have been lost, which are irreplaceable. Sure, grief counselling is needed, and medical assistance, but shouldn't the US govt be funding all this? The US is a rich country. This is not an African famine or a flood in Bangladesh or an earthquake in South America. These disasters never receive such a quick response.

One of my friends said that those people in the WTC had chosen to work for multinational companies, many of which have expolited and caused immense suffering to people all over the world. Why are their deaths so much more terrible?

I'd like to do a petition.

I feel that Japan, due to the fact that it had 2 nuclear bombs dropped on it by the US (how ironic) should be intervening to say "Hey, let's use bombs as an absolute last resort." Due to their war time experience they should be advocating peace and those Japanese negotiation skills and group consensus building customs should be put into practice!

I agree, the UN should be involved in this.

A lot of Japanese people have been saying in the last week that "Japan is the safest country in the world now." How safe IS Japan with US bases here? How safe will Japan BE if it supports a US military action? I have been thinking about this.

Should we take it a step further and say no violence, involve the UN as negotiator/broker and aim for peaceful solutions?

If some military action does start we can always come back from that point and say OK, no nuclear weapons, no actions against civilian populations and minimal SDF support?

What do you think?


Thu, 20 Sep 2001

Dear Sally

I wondered about the difference in the value of human life between the US and other countries too. I came up with 3 reasons - one is sheer numbers. There's a big difference in 10,000 kids being killed over the years because of the US embargo on medical supplies and food to Iraq or 5 people dying a day in gunfire or bombing over ten years and 5,000 people dying at one time; another is intent. One of the teachers here spoke about 2 kinds of evil. One is a direct action with evil intentions and one is an indirect action based on ignorance that has evil results. No one who drops a bomb intends it to kill innocent people, but well, shit happens. The same with our holding back any support - the purpose is to topple Hussein, not kill kids. Americans would never support such "insane", "fanatical" actions as driving a plane into a hospital. The image of our honorable selves doing such direct evil is unsustainable.

The third thing I came up with (I know none of these are original and I'm sure I read about all of them somewhere) is the intensely personal media stories of dead people and sufferings of people around them. There never has been seen a story of the family of a kid who died from lack of medical care or an accidentally bombed civilian in Iraq or the kid who had his legs blown off in yet another land mine "accident". We just don't get to see/hear/feel the stories of these people. I think this is the real failure of mass media and maybe one of the hopes of the internet and radical journalism. If we could find a way to start to put these stories out there, maybe people would be able to understand some of the anger and frutstration that people feel towards the industrialized countries daily doings.

Some sports writer for the Japan Times Marty-someone who is a real ranthead said that he was on a panel in which someone raised some questions like this and he was totally offended by this psychotic, mindless point of view.

Did you notice how the Jane's article labels the new suspect as insane and psychotic? Oh it casually mentions that he was upset by two of his brothers being killed by the US somehow. No details provided.. No story there.

I agree to aim high (with the petition) and be ready if we miss.

If we do make a petition, do you have any idea about how we get it in the hands of politicians? Do any of your friends in Tokyo have experience doing this kind of action? Hillel

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Arun Gandhi, The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, September 24, 2001

"When in despair I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won; there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall." --M.K. Gandhi

Understandably, after the tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.

First, we must understand that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in times of peace and discard in a moment of crisis. Nonviolence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world. Because, a nation's collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings -- relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding and appreciation.

Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to be -- that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them. For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place. What we need to do is analyze both the circumstances that create such monsters and how we can help eliminate those circumstances. Focusing our efforts on the monsters, rather than what creates the monsters, will not solve the problems of violence. Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.

We saw some people in Iraq and Palestine and I dare say many other countries rejoicing over the tragedies at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It horrified us, as it should. But let us not forget that we do the same thing. When Israel bombs the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion. Our attitude is that they deserve what they get. When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.

We reacted without compassion when we bombed the cities of Iraq. I was among the millions in the United States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though it was a made for television film. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits and, instead of feeling sorry for them, we marveled at the efficiency of our military. For more than ten years we have continued to wreak havoc in Iraq -- an estimated 50,000 children die every year because of sanctions that we have imposed -- and it hasn't moved us to compassion. All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan called Sadam Hussein.

Now we are getting ready to do this all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama bin Laden. We will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.

Some might say, "We don't care what the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength. After all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the only surviving super-power." I question whether we want other countries to respect us the way school children respect a bully. Is that our role in the world? If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences that a school-yard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot tell the world "leave us alone." Isolationism is not what this world is built for.

All of this brings us back to the question: How do we respond nonviolently to terrorism?

The consequences of a military response are not very rosy. Many thousands of innocent people will die both here and in the country or countries we attack. Militancy will increase exponentially and, ultimately, we will be faced with other more pertinent moral questions: What will we gain by destroying half the world? Will we be able to live with a clear conscience? We must acknowledge our role in helping to create monsters in the world, find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people, and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength.

We need to appreciate that we are in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.

For too long our foreign policy has been based on "what is good for the United States." It smacks of selfishness. Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.

To those who have lost loved one's in this and other terrorist acts I say I share your grief. I am sorry that you have become victims of senseless violence. But let this sad episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence is going to bring you inner peace. Anger and hate never do. The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and more meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive. Let us dedicate our lives to creating a peaceful, respectful and understanding world.

M.K.Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence
"We must be the change we wish to see."

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David Peaty, Author of "You, me and the World:"

The September 11th terrorist attacks in the US stirred in me a confusing mixture of responses which I am only just getting to grips with.

First, I have a natural instinct to support the underdog, the persecuted, the oppressed. The US has been top dog for so long, I am ready to cheer at any setback to its economy or self-image. I was delighted when the Treaty to Ban Landmines and the Kyoto Protocol succeeded in the face of US opposition, and when the US lost its seats on the Human Rights and Antidrugs Commissions.

Over several decades, I have developed a resentment of the US for abuses of its hegemony, for the brutal military governments it set up in Latin America, and the genocide of peasants in Guatemala and Salvador, for its support for Savimbi in Angola, Mobuto in Zaire, Suharto, the oppressor of East Timor, and so many other crimes planned at the Pentagon and financed by US taxpayers.

I resent the US for its self-centred industrial and economic policies, promoting the short-term profits of US business and the greed of fat American consumers at the expense of the global environment, human rights and the lives of several billion people living from hand to mouth in the developing world. I also resent the Americanization of local cultures, the ubiquity of hamburgers, Coca Cola and Hollywood movies.

I resent the US for its blatant double standards. The US can have thousands of nuclear missiles, but India must be punished for its nuclear tests; the US demands the extradition of a suspected terrorist without producing any evidence of his involvement, but refuses to recognise the International Criminal Court because US citizens might be extradited; the US insists that China and India be bound by the same global warming constraints as the US, despite the vast difference in per capita emissions; the US demands that developing countries stop protecting their farmers, and then gives huge sums of taxpayers' money to its own corporate farmers; the US condemns the lack of democracy in Cuba, when its own system is riddled with corruption and its last presidential election was a fraud.

I resent the way other governments, including those of Britain and Japan, are falling over themselves to support a US attack on a country whose unelected and unpopular rulers may or may not be harboring someone who may or may not be connected with a terrorist attack on the US, knowing that innocent lives will be lost, new enemies will be made and, if it turns out that ObL had already left Afghanistan, the US public will nevertheless enjoy the show on CNN as they did the Gulf War - until the body bags come home.

I resent the domination of world media by American news agencies, giving the impression that the loss of lives in New York and Washington is of so much greater significance than the loss of lives in Gujarat or any other disaster-stricken Third World region.

So it is not hard for me to understand how some people might want to destroy symbols of US hegemony, particularly the Pentagon, given the awful crimes against humanity which have been planned and instigated there, and the World Trade Center, with its concentration of banks and trading companies that have contributed to the theft of the global commons from its custodians.

But then I think of the American people I know, and I suddenly realise: the America which I and so many others in the world resent is not their America. Most of them - and possibly most Americans - believe in another America, one which Osama bin Laden would probably not even want to attack. Why is it that Americans have so little influence over how their country is governed?

And now I realise that the greatest war of the 21st century for Americans will not be a war against terrorism, but a struggle to take back control of their own country from the money-grubbing oligarchy that now runs it.

God bless the real America.

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