Roots of Terrorism
Reflections on September 11, One Year Later
September 5, 2002
we approach the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September
11, it has become painfully evident that the Bush Administration is either
incapable or unwilling to understand the political, economic, and technological
roots of the new international terrorism. Sadly, the issues discussed
in my article, "Trying to Understand: A Systemic Analysis of International
Terrorism," posted on my website almost a year ago, are still as
relevant now as they were then.
a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national
security adviser in the Carter administration, eloquently reiterates many
of the key points made by the political analysts and grassroots activists
cited in my original article. I have copied some excerpts from Brzezinskis
op-ed piece below.
very inspiring reflection on this issue is the editorial "The Great
Denial" by Michael Lerner in the September/October 2002 issue of
Tikkun (see www.tikkun.org).
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
New York Times, September 1, 2002
a year after the start of America's war on terrorism, that war faces
the real risk of being hijacked by foreign governments with repressive
agendas. Instead of leading a democratic coalition, the United States
faces the risk of dangerous isolation.
Missing from much of the
public debate is discussion of the simple fact that lurking behind every
terroristic act is a specific political antecedent. That does not justify
either the perpetrator or his political cause. Nonetheless, the fact
is that almost all terrorist activity originates from some political
conflict and is sustained by it as well.
the case of Sept. 11, it does not require deep analysis to note
given the identity of the perpetrators that the Middle East's
political history has something to do with the hatred of Middle Eastern
terrorists for America.
American involvement in the Middle East
is clearly the main impulse of the hatred that has been directed at
Yet there has been a remarkable reluctance in America
to confront the more complex historical dimensions of this hatred. The
inclination instead has been to rely on abstract assertions like terrorists
"hate freedom" or that their religious background makes them
despise Western culture.
win the war on terrorism, one must therefore set two goals: first to
destroy the terrorists and, second, to begin a political effort that
focuses on the conditions that brought about their emergence.
rather narrow, almost one-dimensional definition of the terrorist threat
favored by the Bush administration poses the special risk that foreign
powers will also seize upon the word "terrorism" to promote
their own agendas
For America, the potential risk is that its
nonpolitically defined war on terrorism may thus be hijacked and diverted
to other ends. The consequences would be dangerous. If America comes
to be viewed by its key democratic allies in Europe and Asia as morally
obtuse and politically naïve in failing to address terrorism in
its broader and deeper dimensions and if it is also seen by them
as uncritically embracing intolerant suppression of ethnic or national
aspirations global support for America's policies will surely
decline. America's ability to maintain a broadly democratic antiterrorist
coalition will suffer gravely.
victory in the war against terrorism can never be registered in a formal
act of surrender. Instead, it will only be divined from the gradual
waning of terrorist acts. Any further strikes against Americans will
thus be a painful reminder that the war has not been won. Sadly, a main
reason will be America's reluctance to focus on the political roots
of the terrorist atrocity of Sept. 11.