Defining Terrorism

The generally accepted definition of terrorism is that it is the use of violence against civilians by sub-national groups for political purposes. It is a contentious description, because it has gained a high emotional charge. The definition is also contentious because it rules state actors out of the equation - and governments often use violence against civilians for political purposes. It might be useful to bring in the term "state terrorism" to be used then governments are committing terrorist acts. The difference between state terrorism and common terrorism is that ST drops its death-bombs from a great height, and the common terrorist delivers his death-bombs by foot.

It is almost true that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist", the notable exception being those freedom fighters who specifically try to avoid killing civilians. Even so, in war (or armed struggle) non-combatants do get hurt, and never more so than when bombs are dropped from height (as in state terrorism).

So, one man's freedom fighter is nearly always someone else's terrorist. Every violent act has two sides: the side of the person who commits violence ("aggressor"), and the side of the recipient ("victim"). In many, if not most cases, the relationship is reciprocal, or escalatory - as in the Laurel and Hardy sketch of the motor vehicle accident. Nearly always, the aggressor will justify or rationalise his action: "He made me do it, I had no choice but to do it ". Protagonists in a conflict take an intensely subjective view of the affair .

The difference between the street brawler and the terrorist is that the terrorist claims that he acts on behalf of a wronged community. From the point of view of this community, he may be a hero. From the point of the state or the people that he strikes against, he is a terrorist.

This is exactly what is happening in the Middle East. There is a sobering collection of data recorded in "What counts as terrorism? The view on the Arab street" by Fares A. Braizat ( http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-2-124-2298.jsp ). Arab-Muslim opinion is now solidly behind those that we in the West identify as terrorists.
Those who are "terrorists" in the Western view are indeed the "freedom fighters" in the Arab view .

Another nice example of the ambivalent nature of terrorism is the IRA. Americans - even, I suspect, those who back Bush and his "War on Terror" - tend to see the IRA as freedom fighters. On the British mainland, and by Northern Irish Protestants, they are mostly seen as terrorists. Fortunately we are all so sick and tired of the death and destruction caused by the Troubles that even the Orangemen are sitting down (uneasily) beside Sinn Fein and talking.

It is because of this dual nature, or rather, dual sidedness of terrorism that the UN can not agree on a definition of terrorism. Because of this, it has been suggested that the definition should be that a terrorist is anyone who commits an action that would be defined as a war crime under the Geneva Convention in times when war is not formally declared. However, since the High Level Panel Report in December 2004, the UN is moving towards a consensus around a conventional definition of terrorism.

The Causes Of Terrorism

Envy - or Oppression?

After the 9/11 atrocity, western media uncritically reported the opinion of American leaders that the cause was simply that the Islamists behind the attack were motivated simply by jealousy of American democracy and prosperity. This view has been recently repeated by the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, who identifies resentment as the ultimate cause of all terrorism.

Professor Scruton is at pains to emphasize the emotions of hatred and resentment that is a characteristic of terrorists, and tends to over emphasise envy as the cause of the emotion, rather than oppression. He chose a broad definition of terrorism, including the French and Russian revolutionaries, and the Nazis. We can accept the broader field of study that he offers, and still identify political oppression in all cases except one.

The French aristocracy were oppressive to the poor - "Let them eat cake". The Russian Tsar ran a police state. If we look at the terrorist activity in modern times, we find that oppression, in the form of perceived domination of the terrorists' land and people is a constant factor .

The exception is the Nazi terror : the Jews were not oppressing the Germans, except in the paranoid delusions of international Jewry entertained by their leader.

Modern terrorist activity has one remarkably constant feature - rejection of the domination of the terrorists' land and people by a people viewed to a greater or lesser extent as foreign. The IRA, the Basque separatist group ETA, the Palestinians, the Tamil Tigers, the Chechens, and most lately, Iraqi insurgents, these have all used violence against civilians in pursuit of their political goal, which is in each and every case, the liberation and self determination of their people from a government that claims to administer the land occupied by "their (that is, the terrorists') people". The government is to some extent perceived as foreign, and its treatment of "their people" is seen as unfair. Terrorism is a often associated with nationalism. The terrorist call is for foreign administrators (and troops) to be pulled out now- and they are prepared to use violence to do it. .

So why then did Al-Qaeda hit the US on 9/11? Osama Bin Laden is no exception to the "oppression" or "foreign occupation" rule. He does perceive territorial domination by America in Saudi Arabia. He wants American/Christian, troops out of his Holy Land. His self perception is like one of the Maccabees, wanting the rule of Antiochus IV out of Israel (which is not to accuse the Maccabees of using violence against civilians), or like a Zionist, using terrorism to get the British out of Israel.

Bin Laden also associates his movement with the Palestinian cause, who similarly want Israel out of Palestine - although, thankfully, there are now moderates preparing to accept the right of the state of Israel to exist. And now, Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) has given him the aim of getting America out of Iraq.

Muslim/Arab people do have a perceived territorial grievance of against America. But there is more. Professor Scruton says "if you want to know why the US has become a prime target for modern terrorists, you only have to look at its lifestyle. Here is the very epitome of material success..." This may be a factor, but what the professor and the Right view only as envy can also be interpreted as a rejection of the perceived materialism, hedonism and decadence of the Western lifestyle.

There may be an ambivalence to this rejection. Young men labouring under a sexually repressive religious regime may at once envy and hate the sexual freedom of the West.

Cultural and material envy may be one factor in what is clearly a subject that will yield only to a multi-factorial, systems based approach; but in the end, it must be accepted that political oppression has to be included as a constant causative factor.

Scruton and others ascribe Muslim anti-US sentiment in Middle East populations as displaced resentment against their own authoritarian governments. Again, there may be some truth in this, but this is not to exculpate the US of all guilt.

The other side of the "envy" coin is poverty, which is often assumed to be the cause of terrorism. In fact, the evidence for this is weak, but there is one aspect of poverty that could fruitfully be addressed. In areas of deprivation, for example Sadr city in Baghdad, Islamic radicals can get support by setting up social help agencies. The IRA used similar tactics in the Six Counties. This adds political value to the humanitarian virtue of relieving poverty.
Absence or Failure of Democracy
If oppression is a root cause of terrorism, this must be seen as a failure of democracy, since democracy should prevent oppression if it is working properly. By definition, democracy is that system of governance where ultimate political power rests with the people, who may choose to lend their power to representatives. In systems terms, democracy provides negative feedback loops from the governed to the governors, in order to inhibit the human tendency for power to corrupt the powerful.

There is more to being a democracy than holding elections every four years, and referring to oneself as a democrat. Most current self styled democracies would in fact be more accurately termed Plutocracies or Monetocracies. ( http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/Democracy.htm ).

Causes: States and Sub-states

Inter-state territorial wars have thankfully be come rare in the last 50 years, but territorial disputes seem to have shifted to intra-state conflict instead. IRA, Basque, Tamil, and Palestinian struggles are about political control of areas of land occupied by different ethnic groups. The UN needs to address the whole question of self determination for smaller ethnic groups who wish for it. Some answers may be found in providing teams of UN mediators skilled in resolving this type of dispute, who are prepared to work long-term in protracted negotiations.

The Swiss state may also provide a model for enabling different ethnic and linguistic groups to co-exist peacefully. States with secessionist areas can undergo a process of devolving power away from the state to smaller units. This could be termed "cantonisation", and the state could develop towards a federation similar to that which evolved in Switzerland. Such cantonisation might well suit the Iraqi state, and also the Balkan republics.

The Psychology of Terrorism

The Psychology Of The Terrorist

Is there something that psychology can tell us about terrorism? This site offers a useful approach to this topic: http://www.causes-of-terrorism.net/

"we have a basic understanding of how such conflicts emerge, and solid ideas as to how their development can be interrupted. Central to the creation of people like Bin Laden is a concept called totalism. For our purposes, totalism can be thought of as an exaggerated form of something that exists within each one of us: the tendency to see ourselves as wholly good and 'the enemy' as wholly bad.
We all have our enemies - from playground bullies and patronizing bosses to racists, to rapists and murderers. But there is a line that separates the more totalistic individual from regular people. Let's say the playground bully of your youth was a short kid with black hair. Most of us won't live the rest of our lives hating everybody who is short and has black hair.

The totalistic individual, however, has a hard time making that distinction… He tends, instead, to see whole groups as "evil", to use them as a scapegoat onto which he projects his rage at the unjust nature of the world.

The totalistic individual characterizes himself as the tragically, even heroically oppressed, and to blame and vilify the defined oppressor.

What factors contribute to the development of the "totalistic identity"? Scholars such as Robert Lifton and his mentor Erik Erikson have suggested that totalism is a solution to various hardships in childhood, or to severe "identity confusion" in adolescence or young adulthood.

Simply put, being confused about who you are during these very important developmental stages leads to the central question: Am I good? If the person in question sees fault within, he will see himself as totally bad, which he cannot afford. So he looks elsewhere to find an "evil" group (the oppressor), and is able to see himself (the oppressed) as wholly good when contrasted with the evil other. His fractured identity comes together similarly to the way a divided nation might come together when faced with an attack."

Whether you agree with this analysis or not, what seems clear is that when charismatic leaders express totalism as a solution to widespread suffering, people tend to listen.

Although this analysis is interesting, it is also disappointing, coming back as it does to the childhood difficulties. Totalism in the sense of black-white categorisations instead of continua are a near universal factor that we discover in the process of in psychotherapy. To understand the psychology of any individual terrorist leader is not particularly helpful, since without a following, he is just another misfit. It is the political and sociological matrix in which he (they are nearly all male) finds himself which is important; if a lot of people feel that they are being treated unfairly, the misfit has the chance of becoming a leader. Which brings us back again to oppression as the causative factor.

All terrorists find intense fellowship and comradeship with others in their group. For Islamic terrorists this intensity is increased by the religious dimension (see below) There are two hopeful aspects which arise out of this intensity: first, they are liable to disagreements and schism, and secondly, the very intensity cannot be sustained for long, and tends to burn out, especially if they are sidelined, and denied both the oxygen of publicity and the hydrogen of unjust persecution.

The Psychology Of The Terrorist Relationship

If we are to look at terrorism from a psychological point of view, it is more productive to examine the psychology of the relationship between terrorist and oppressor. From now on, for brevity, I will drop the "perceived" qualifier before terrorist and oppressor.

Which came first, the terrorism or the oppressor? Each side will say "The Other Side", and a fresh round of mutual recriminations will begin.

The Chinese have a very useful approach to causality. They speak of "mutual arising" - that is, they see two (or more) factors in relationship, "causing" each other. This fits in with modern systems analysis.

In the case of the Israel-Palestine system, it is clear to all but the protagonists that Israeli actions "cause" the intifada, and equally, the Palestinian actions "cause" the Israeli actions. They arise mutually, and the solution also will come from mutual agreement that enough suffering and bloodshed has occurred. When this point is reached, compromise agreement will be arrived at. It is possible that skilled and authoritative mediation can bring this point forward.

The Religious Dimension

Religion adds another dimension to conflict. To fight, I must perceive a distinction between myself and my enemy. This distinction may be on that basis of any attribute I can think of - skin colour, dwelling place, economic status - or religion.

The reason that religious belief is such a strong determinant of conflict is that to believers, religion defines their existence not just in time, but for all eternity. This sometimes gives them superhuman courage, as when martyrs chose death by burning rather than to deny their beliefs.

It is the exclusivistic aspect of religious belief that fosters religious violence. If I believe God has chosen my group above all others, I can go and kill others with His blessing. If on the other hand I believe that the same God is present in each and every human being that I meet, then I cannot abuse or kill them.

Fundamentalism is indeed one of the drivers of terrorism. In a world dominated by change, uncertainty and superficiality, some individuals find certainty in total absorption in an ideology, religion, or nationalism. Their certainty affirms their being-in-the-world. The exist versus their enemies, find their identity in their struggle with their opponents, as paranoid schizophrenics finds identity versus their persecutors; paranoid schizophrenics do not undergo the ego-fragmentation that characterises other forms of schizophrenia..

So the question is, are there three different (warring) gods, Allah, JHVH and God, or even one True God and two False Gods, or are these just three different names applied by three different cultures to one and the same great transcendent Entity?

It might be helpful to some extent if the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths met and meditated on this question in silence for a day or so, and then tried to come up with a brief statement to set out their understanding. This would not in any way affect the fundamentalist wings of their respective religions, but it would give a lead to the mainstream body of followers of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths.
Fundamentalisms in conflict

The finger is pointed at Islamic fundamentalism as a special case of terrorism, but the religion involved is not just Islam, but Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Judaeo-Christian Islamophobia is alive and well and living on Daniel Pipes' website - http://www.danielpipes.org/ . He is a Middle East scholar, although not fully accepted by the community of Middle East scholars. He has a large following, and his message is that Islam is a real threat to the peace of the world. He quotes many genuinely frightening pieces of Islamic propaganda published in the Middle East, but his worldview is blind to the cultural and intellectual achievements of Islam, the 800 years of peace between Muslims Jews and Christians that obtained during the Moorish domination of Spain, and the current moderate stream within Islam which offers hope. For instance,

In a general election last March, the Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, argued that Islam was almost totally associated with violence and extremism and needed to be formulated anew. He called his new concept "Islam Hadhari", or progressive Islam. It was pitted against the "conservative Islam" of the main opposition party, the Islamic Pas. " (From Can Islam change? Beslan and 9/11 are leading millions of Muslims to search their souls. Even clerics now question the harshest traditional laws and look for a more humane interpretation of their faith." by Ziauddin Sardar, New Statesman, Sept 13, 2004 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FQP/is_4705_133/ai_n6247247/pg_2

Islamophobes of this type are the mirror image of fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden.

It can be argued that President Bush, a Christian fundamentalist, also forms part of this polarity. His rhetoric towards Muslims is soft:

9/20/01, SPEECH AFTER 9/11
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.

The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.


Despite the soft words quoted above, Bush is a Christian fundamentalist of the dispensational variety, who believes that every word of the Bible is literally true, including the passages in Revelations about the Antichrist and Armageddon. For him, and the Christian right, Islam cannot ever be anything other than a false religion. If he ever goes so far as to identify in his mind an Islamic leader with the Antichrist, he may go beyond the bounds of the rational in his actions.

Bush's Biblical fundamentalism is compounded by his market fundamentalism: his adherence to the belief that the market is the sole determinant of economic health. Since it is based on usury, which is unacceptable to Muslims, it makes the alienation between Bush and the Islamists more complete.

In effect, the world is being held to ransom by three fundamentalisms, who are lining up to fight a "holy" war in which the vast body of humanity has no stake at all. The question is, can we assert our values - peace, social co-operation and sustainability - in time to avoid catastrophe? This will be addressed under Diversion and Co-operation.

Responding to Terrorism


Military Action - The War on Terror

After the 9/11 attacks, Bush declared war on terrorism, bombed and invaded Afghanistan, which was understandable as that was the base of Al-Qaeda. He then proceeded to invade Iraq, which was irrational from the point of view of the war on terror, since there were very few terrorists in Iraq before Operation Iraqi Liberation, although now it is a hotbed of terrorist and insurgent activity. The problem with aggressive military action against terrorism is that violence is the problem, not the solution. The age old cycle of violence, with one side reacting because the other side has acted, continues.
Imprisonment and Torture
Kidnapping, imprisonment without trial, and torture have been an integral part of the American War on Terror. Torture has been direct, carried out by American and British troops, both physical beatings and mental torture such as sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation. Torture has also been indirect, using the system of "rendering"
suspects to other countries for interrogation, countries where torture is practiced.

The effect of this practice is
1. to undermine the credibility of the USA to lead the world into an era of democracy
2. to produce a vast amount of misinformation within the security services, since the quality of information obtained by torture is very if not totally unreliable.
3. to radicalise the friends and relatives of the prisoners, and therefore to create more terrorists.

The conclusion has to be that the War on Terror, with its associated crimes, is completely misguided.

Intelligence and police

Intelligence and police action is far more effective in apprehending terrorists than military action.

Research ... by the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law suggests [that] just about all the major captures of significant al-Qaeda figures (or figures claimed to be significant) have been made not by the American military (a blunt instrument indeed when it came to the capture of men like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or countless others) but by law enforcement.

Here is a listing of a number of the alleged terrorist figures, large and small, who were captured in the post-9/11 years (arranged by name, place and time of apprehension, whom apprehended by [LA stands for "Local Authorities"], and current custody if known):

John Walker Lindh, Afghanistan 12/2001, US, US
Yasser Hamdi, Afghanistan, 12/2001, US, US
Mullah Fazel Mazloom, Afghanistan, Northern Alliance, US
Mullah Abdul Wakil Muttawakil, Afghanistan 2/2002
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Afghanistan, US
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Pakistan 3/2003, US, US
Ramzi Binalshibh, Pakistan 9/2002, Local Authorities (LA)
Abu Zubaydah, Pakistan 3/2002, Joint Pakistani police, FBI, and CIA team, US
Yassir al-Jazeeri, Pakistan 3/2003, LA
Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, Pakistan/Afghanistan, LA
James Ujaama, US 7/2002, LA, US
Richard Reid "shoe bomber," US 12/2001, LA, US
Jose Padilla, US 5/2002, LA, US
Zacarias Moussaoui, US 8/2001, LA, US
Enaam M. Arnaout, US 4/2002, LA
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Undisclosed, LA, US
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Morocco, LA, Syria
Abu Zubair al-Haili, Morocco
Ali Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi, Saudi Arabia 2003, LA (surrendered himself)
Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Malaysia, LA
Abu Anas Al-Liby, Sudan 3/2002, LA, Sudan
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Mauritania, LA, US
Omar al-Faruq, Indonesia 6/2002, LA, US
Imam Samudra, Indonesia 11/2002, LA, Indonesia
Mohsen F, Kuwait 11/2002, LA
Najib Chaib-Mohamed, Spain 1/2002, LA, Spain
Atmane Resali, Spain 1/2002, LA, Spain
Ghasoub al-Abrash al-Ghalyoun, Spain, LA, Spain
Abu Talha, Spain, LA, Spain
Bassan Dalati Satut, Spain, LA, Spain
Mounir al-Motassadek, Germany 11/2002, LA, Germany
Ibrahim Mohammed K, Germany 2005, LA, German
Yasser Abu S, Germany 2005, LA, German
Ahmed Ellattah, Belgium 2002, LA
Tarek Maaroufi, Belgium, LA
Nizar Trabelsi, Belgium
Djamel Beghal, UAE, LA, France
Kamel Daoudi, France, LA, France
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Iran 7/2003, LA, Unknown (possibly Iran after Kuwait refused to take him


Legal action

Legal action could cut off the terrorists' source of funding.

The drug trade

Much financing for terrorist organisations comes from crime, especially the drug trade. One way of defeating the drug trade is for UN agencies to buy opium at source from the farmers and burn it immediately - or indeed, to sell it on to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry, particularly as the UK NHS has a morphine shortage at the moment. Having established themselves as buyers of the farmers product, the international community would be in a position to help the farmers to diversify into legitimate crops.
Other crime

Terrorism benefits from other crime such as people trafficking and prostitution. Coordinated international action is be needed on this front. The Madrid Agenda and the UN are moving in this direction.

Financial action

George W Bush promised to take financial action against terrorists by freezing their assets. This is an action in which we can all agree, but here, unfortunately, government action has been slow and inaccurate.

Only when Abu Musab al-Zaqari took Ken Bigley hostage did the UK government freeze his groups' assets. This was either because either (a) they were ignorant of his existence, or (b) they knew of his existence, but did not see fit to freeze his accounts. I wrote via my MP to ask which was the case.

Baroness Symons of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office replied, "The Government always takes action to freeze the assets of any terrorist or terrorist group, whenever it is apparent that there are clear grounds on which to do so".

Which is a clear admission (or as clear as Government can get) that they knew of Musab al-Zaqari's existence, but did not see fit to freeze his accounts prior to the kidnap of Ken Bigley.

The question is, how many other terrorist groups of Musab al-Zaqari's calibre is the Government aware of, but cannot see clear grounds to freeze their assets? The Baroness has refused to elaborate further, neither is she prepared to disclose the amount of resources that are put into the financial effort to stop terrorists, as opposed to the military effort.

On the other hand, it seems that the Bank of Scotland had frozen the account of a non-terrorist organisation called 'The Friends of Al-Aqsa' because it has the same name as a terrorist organisation in the USA.

The conclusion must be that the officers who carry out the all-important financial offensive against terrorist organisations should be better trained, and probably better resourced.

Defensive measures

Military, police, legal and financial measures are aggressive responses to terror, but there are defensive measure that need to be taken.

Airline security

The 9/11 attack has changed one thing: the old way of dealing with airline hijackers no longer works. We have to act on the worst case assumption, and assume that every hijacker is ready to turn the aircraft into a bomb. Even if a hijacker claims that this is a standard attention-seeking hijack, this could be a lie, a ploy to get him in control of the aircraft to turn it into a guided missile.

In 9/11 the world got off lightly; they only hit office buildings. Next time it could be a nuclear power station, or worse still, a place like Sellafield.

From now on, all passengers must realise that the moment the hijack is declared, their lives are at risk, and that the risk comes not only from the action of the hijackers, but also from the reactions of the government concerned which may also be lethal. Even a simple attention-seeking hijacking may be shot down by the air force, or by guns placed on targets like Sellafield and the City of London.

The best chance of survival for people on board a hijacked airliner is to overpower the hijackers, and to do so instantly, as a reflex. This is a risky procedure: some of the passengers and crew could get hurt, and in the event that the hijacker has smuggled a bomb or gun aboard, past the detectors, the plane could be blown apart. Even given these risks, the chances are better, and the agony of anticipation is less, than the alternative option of sitting obediently to await the fate that crazed individuals, or the State in whose airspace the plane is flying, may hand out.

Airlines should add to the emergency drill " . . . Your lifejacket is under the seat . . . And finally, if someone tries to hijack this aircraft, would all able bodied passengers please act together to overpower them immediately."

Nuclear Power Station Security

There are several measures that should be taken to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack on nuclear power stations.

Pilots should have a panic button that automatically alerts air traffic control of a suspected suicidal takeover. Airline pilots have an existing emergency procedure for use in a hijack situation, but it takes a few seconds to input a code, which then activates a transponder, and alerts Air Traffic Control to initiate a response. The few seconds saved by a panic button instead of code entry might be vital.

The No-Fly area around Nuclear Power Stations (NPS) should be greatly increased from the current value of 3 miles radius and 3000 feet altitude.

If a hijack takes place, NPS in the vicinity must be alerted early, so that they can insert the control rods into the reactor before impact, as this will considerably lessen the degree of contamination that will result from impact. The problem is not that the nuclear containment would be breached by an airliner, but that the control buildings, control equipment and cooling systems would be damaged by the impact.

It should be noted that nuclear power stations are not insured to any significant degree.

Stopping Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

The ultimate fear that Bush and Blair hold in front of our eyes is that terrorists should get hold of nuclear weapons, because they would not be inhibited in using them. This was the ostensible reason that took them into Iraq - based on illusion, as it happens - and is also the ostensible reason that Bush is prepared to invade Iran in the summer of 2005, unless diplomacy succeeds in persuading them to abandon their plans.

There is a double standard in operation here. If it is perfectly acceptable for the USA and the UK to use nuclear weapons to keep the peace, why should other nations not have access to the same benefits? The underlying answer is that we are mature and responsible, and they are not. This is nothing short of racism.

The fact of the matter is that no human being is sufficiently responsible and rational to be allowed to be in charge of the omnicidal potentiality of nuclear weapons. It is clear from the sheer numbers of nuclear weapons possessed by the nuclear weapons states - far more than is needed to maintain a deterrent threat - that the motive for acquisition of nuclear weapons is not rational but closer to the obsessive and compulsive force experienced by the addict.

The rational response to the nuclear threat is for the US and UK to stop undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to build it up into a process that will result in a progressive dismantling of all nuclear weapons stocks. The treaty is up for discussion in 2005, but sadly it remains a non-issue for journalists and mainstream politicians.

Resolving the problem

Global justice and equity

If the root cause of terrorism is oppression, then oppression must be dealt with by the international community. Look again at the historical examples of terrorism: Iraqi, al Qaeda, Basque, Chechen, IRA, Tamil - all are fighting for freedom from what they view as illegitimate domination of their people and their land by another people.

The international community needs to address these problems directly.

The Madrid Agenda (11/3/2005) notes that:

Terrorists prosper in societies where there are unresolved conflicts and few accountable mechanisms for addressing political grievances. We call for:

- new initiatives at mediation and peace-making for societies which are marked by conflict and division, because democracy and peace go hand in hand.

-a redoubling of efforts to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and transparency within countries and at the global level. Initiatives such as the Community of Democracies may contribute to these goals.

Mediation is a powerful tool if deployed early in the process, before hostilities break out, and should still be available throughout the armed struggle.

In that governments that abuse human rights are more likely to alienate their minorities, causing some to take to terrorism, The Index of Governance would fit in with the effort to promote and strengthen democratic institutions by publishing annually a list of governments ranked according to their use of torture and political prisoners. This would have a name and shame effect, and provide a motivation for all governments to improve their human rights record.

Non violence

Violent and terrorist activity is not the only possible response to political oppression.
Gandhi showed how it worked in India, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan (b circa.1890), influenced by Gandhi, shows that the tactic was used by Muslims. Khan led a non-violent struggle of 100,000 Pashtun (Pathan) Muslims against British rule in the Indian frontier.

The British army slaughtered hundreds and hundreds of unarmed Pathan resistors until Indian conscripts finally refused British orders to fire on the unarmed. It is not for the West to preach non-violence to Arab/Muslims unless we are prepared to do the same. If there was a determined intention for western peace campaigners to take protracted campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience, linked with widespread civil disobedience in the Middle East, we might be able to divert away from the cycle of violence.

Diversion And Co-Operation

A shared goal is a powerful antidote to conflict, and an external threat is a powerful unifying social force. If Rangers (Protestant team) are playing Celtic (Catholic team) at football, Glaswegians will insult each other and fight. If Scotland is playing England, Rangers and Celtic fans will both cheer at the same time. If the Vogons threatened Earth with demolition, all Earthlings would become allies in defence of our home planet. In fact, Earth and earthlings are under an immediate (not imagined) threat from environmental collapse, particularly climate change. That threat ought to unite us in a common cause to preserve the earth system of which we are a part, and which gives us life. Amazingly, the broadest range of world views, from mystics to scientists, are of one mind on this point. eco-destruction is our common enemy, and that the "war effort" that would bring us all together in a common task is the work of healing and preserving our broken environment and societies.

Biblical and Koranic fundamentalisms are squaring up against each other. If the world is forced to take sides, much grief will result. If however, we divert our energies into defending and healing the environment, then the fundamentalists will find themselves sidelined. The non-fundamentalist majority can divert ourselves into the greater war - the war against environmental destruction.

In doing this, we will solve other problems; for instance Iran does not need nuclear power, it needs solar power - as indeed do the rest of us. More generally, the struggle to secure the integrity of our environmental support systems will make the evil of unemployment a thing of the past, since there is so much to be done. And environmental economics requires social and economic equity. So the diversion of effort to meet a common threat will create better general social conditions.
We all know what has to be done - transfer to renewable energy, plant trees, work to repair society and environment, internalise external costs into the market value of all products et cetera ( http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/GreenEconom.htm/ ) .

Only the power of money - the Monetocracy - stands in the way of ecological renewal.

After thirty years of campaigning, I have come to the conclusion that it is futile to expect change to come through the power of reason alone, because the tendency of humans to obey the hierarchy is too strong, and the hold of the monetocracy on public information is too complete. On the other hand, the state cannot be overthrown by violence, because violence is the problem, not the solution. But we can expect the Monetocracy to collapse under the weight of its own delusions and denials, as the price of oil spirals out of control.

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 13.11.04