A perspective from Perth, Western Australia

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Newsgroup post on causes of terrorism

Someone on a newsgroup posted "Look at what America's been doing for years" and got attacked. I responded thus.

Keep in mind the timing of this post, just after 11 Sep when emotions on all sides were feverish. I don't think that were I to write a post for the same purpose today (2005) I'd have been quite as brutal or one-sided about it, but I have left what I said intact here because to do otherwise means to have no perspective on what has gone before, and what I wrote at the time received a lot of praise.

He wasn't saying America deserved it, that it wasn't a sick, cowardly act, that it wasn't just plain wrong, or that it was justified.

All he was saying is that there's always two sides to every story. Unfortunately on both sides there are people who will take things into their own hands and then something like this happens. Having come from Northern Ireland, having friends from South Africa and Lebanon, and being very well acquainted with the Serbian and Korean situations through friends, acquaintances and a lot of reading, I can say with confidence that *anywhere* you apply this logic to, it makes sense.

Basically you have two extreme sides. You have millions or tens of millions of people or whatever who are disposed one way or the other by religion, political or national affiliation, or an accident of birth (the usual way). 90% of those people don't care, don't want to know, and would be happy if everyone else just partied on and was excellent to each other. 10% do care, and try to either negotiate directly, or in a smaller percentage, get caught up in the violence the situation (for them) seems to demand. A lot of these people feel they are owed something, for whatever reason.

One thing though. Those extremes who kill people, almost always kill people of the opposite affiliation who are *not* terrorists. As I said, most of them are that by an accident of birth. For instance, in Northern Ireland, the IRA killed mostly ordinary individuals who happened to be British or Protestant. The UDA killed mostly Catholic business owners and family people. The only time the extremists themselves get knocked off usually are either when their group is fractured, as the IRA is for instance, or when they really really piss off their mates. Nearly all of them are inside jobs.

Now apply this logic to America. The US has one of the world's most aggressive foreign policies, if not the most. It has meddled in the political affairs of third world countries, effectively deposing and appointing leaders in those countries. In Vietnam and Serbia it got involved in what was basically a civil war.

Yet when they were bombing Serbia, you can be certain it was not military installations they were bombing. Four residential neighbourhoods in Belgrade, two in Novi Sad, one in Nis, clothing and textile companies with mostly foreign workers, water supplies, and of course a refugee shelter with 500 people in it. I didn't even mention the Chinese Embassy, as it's possible the CIA were right and it was an
accident. But over 90% of the hits were civilian targets. This was *not* a war - the US, France and other allies never declared one. I knew people in Belgrade who were wondering which of their friends' apartment blocks was going to be next. One of my friends was in a supermarket and the air raid siren was going off. Suddenly the entire supermarket was on fire, and people were running in all directions, some *into* the fires because they were so panicked. Also it is believed the US *intended* to kill civilians by using splinter bombs, plutonium shells, and low-level chemical weapons. The incidence of leukaemia in areas on the Danube west of Belgrade has escalated by 25 times since the US incursion. The level of poverty in the country is higher than at any time since World War II.

On the other side, the Serbian armed forces and some guerilla groups allied with it were deliberately targeting mosques, shrines and other such targets belonging to the Albanians. A routine way to clear a village apparently was to move from three sides, fight house-to-house, truck away the men, rape the women before killing them, etc. We all know about the mass graves subsequently uncovered, and we also know that Milosevic, the then president of Yugoslavia, and the Serbian president who was about as bad, were directly instructing their armies. These men were evil, and most Serbians agreed - however it was treason to oppose them, and there were a lot of mistreated political prisoners. Milosevic wanted to break the Albanians - it was not a campaign waged against the terrorist KLA and allied organisations who were based in the hills around and nearby - they were largely untouched. It was those who by whatever accidents of history or genetics happened to be Albanian and/or Muslim. As those who have studied Milosevic's campaigns will know, it was his 4th, and last, time in 8 years - it was how he kept up popular support. I honestly think, though, that the Internet - meaning that exiled Serbian opposition groups living in London, Paris and elsewhere could set up websites easily visible to everyday Serbians - was what finally broke Milosevic. The economic factors would have helped, no doubt, but the Serbians are a proud people and would withstand any adversity if they thought it worth it. I think Milosevic's failures in 4 separate campaigns combined with the first real opposition he'd had in 8 years of office were what finished him off as a leader.

The US got involved not to protect the Albanians, but to protect its relations with powerful Arab states who were allied to Albania as a Muslim country. It's interesting that now the conflict is over and it's all off the media, the Albanians, backed with guns, have been raping, pillaging and looting in Serbian districts in Kosovo, and the Serbians, who have been prevented by their own government from migrating to Serbia proper, have had to form enclaves inside Kosovo with guerrila groups protecting them with guns from the black market. It's a total mess.

As I'm trying to demonstrate here, the KLA, and the Serbian army come in as the "extreme" groups on either side. Suddenly one has US, British and German unconditional backing and the other side are demonised in the world media. What you get is a whole heap of civilians getting killed off because they were born the wrong race. There are lasting radiation and effects from the chemical weapons that could last 30-50 years. And it wasn't even a war.

There's a lot of extreme groups who either
(1) the US symbolises evil, or
(2) the US and/or other allies have caused them harm in the past

and those groups, for whatever reason, see attacking strategic targets as being more important than worrying about civilian lives - they probably have some ideas about "washing in blood" anyway. I've heard revolutionaries talking and they honestly sound hilariously like Saddam Hussein's use of language at times. Yet they're not trying to be funny - they're deadly serious. And if you inspect closely, their ultimate aims appear to be good, but the means totally wipe out any chance of my supporting their organisational aims. These civilians are the innocent casualties of a phoney war between America and those against the so-called "American Way" - unfortunately fuelled in recent times by talk of a missile defence system, and some extreme rhetorics that seem to have been going on in most Western countries, including Australia, since jobs became more unstable due to technological change and a mere whimper on the stock market can cause all sorts of chaos.

As an aside, my own country is currently paranoid about "waves" of "illegal immigrants" who have been coming over by boats, and the government here have been acting in a paranoid and closed-minded fashion, simply trying to demonise them, and in the most recent case, technically committing an act of piracy on the high seas on a commercial Norwegian vessel whose only crime was to respond to an Australian call for help because the refugees' unseaworthy vessel was sinking - and then bar said vessel from entering Australian waters. Thankfully our High Court today declared this action illegal - it remains to see whether we will still be inflicting hundreds of refugees on a tiny and impoverished island neighbour or not. A lot of it is a pre-election stunt being pulled by the current conservative government, who have lost every state election since middle of last year, and know they have to appeal to redneck right-wingers, of whom there are sadly too many, to electorally survive.


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