From Our Archives: 9/11 and inequities in antiterrorism

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Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, September 11, 2021

How we carried global views on the terrible tragedy

                          Ground Zero the day after the 9/11 attacks on New York (Everett Collection Historical/Alamy Stock Photo via The Conversation) 

 In 2001 and 2002 (in fact, almost till the end of that decade), Indian Newslink was the only newspaper representing the South Asian communities. We carried the pain of the New Zealand society at the untoward events that occurred in America on September 11, 2001. A year later, we wrote the following piece, which remains somewhat relevant even today. However, we recall that dark day grimly and hoped that terrorism will not raise its ugly head anymore. But how wrong we were…

September 11. The first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on US soil would be marked by a series of activities the world over. Diplomatic missions, clubs and associations, US-based or affiliated companies and ordinary individuals would congregate and pray for those who perished as two passenger jets ripped across the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre. It would be a day to remember in the hope that there would be no repetition, no loss of lives or property.

The darkest day in US history

The site itself-now called ‘Ground Zero’-would be the venue for thousands to observe what the Americans call ‘the darkest day in the country’s history,’ and as ‘the day that changed the world forever.’ Mayor Michael Bloomberg will lead mourners and the day will be filled with a series of programmes.

There is no doubt that the 9/11 tragedy gripped the world, bringing to the fore the diabolism of terrorists. There is no doubt that terrorism should be rooted out of this world. There is no doubt that Al Qaeda and the likes of it should not be allowed to exist. There is no doubt that the world should unite and flush out sympathisers, abettors and others working with terrorists so that our planet becomes safe once again with greater peace and harmony. There is no doubt even in the contention that any country that harbours terrorists should be punished and punished severely.

Tony Blair and George W Bush at the NATO Summit in 2002

(EPA Photo by ANSA/Claudio Onorati/CD via The Conversation)

Training ground for terrorists

But hey, there is something terribly wrong here. Why is the US and the world in general oblivious to the fact that America itself has been a training ground for terrorists who have slain Presidents, Prime Ministers and leaders? Why is the world turning a blind eye to the fact that Pakistan has been sheltering terrorists, allowing individuals and agencies mobilising financial and material resources to those dubbed global criminals? Why is it that the cry for cleansing the country of infiltrators has not been heard? Why hasn’t the world counted the dead following terrorist attacks in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal over the years? Isn’t it funny that human lives in the Third World, comprising a third of the world’s population do not seem to have value?

It would seem President General Pervez Musharraf has not travelled far to address the issues. World leaders have criticised Pakistan for its continued nonchalance towards terrorism.

Stopping acquisition of arms

The immediate concern is to find new ways to help stop terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear weapons and intensify efforts to crack down on terrorist groups and training camps. According to CIA and US State Department reports, such camps exist in Pakistan and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants are believed to have slipped into the country, fleeing Afghanistan.

There is no argument in the belief that terrorists must be stopped and brought to justice. But human lives anywhere in the world due to terrorism must be condoned. Every day; not just when America says.

Arabs refute Osama’s theory of Palestinian cause

The Arab world seems to have distanced itself from the contention of Osama bin Laden that his main mission is ‘to liberate the Arab homeland from Israeli and American occupation,’ flying in the face of the world’s most wanted terrorist’s theory that any act of his group of followers would justify the end.

Although most of the countries in the Middle East, notably Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria have locked horns with the US over the past four decades on the latter’s overt support of Israel and its encroachment of the adjoining territories, they are not coming to the party of the Osama bin Laden. Speaking on Al Jazeera Television, a private channel broadcast from the Gulf Emirate of Qatar (his only means of communication), bin Laden said that ‘he would make the US endure pain till the Palestinians were relieved of pain.’

Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Information was quick to refute bin Laden’s theory. “I heard what bin Laden said yesterday. It is true that there is oppression, terrorism, killing in Palestine committed by Israel daily but this doesn’t justify or give cover for anybody to kill or terrorise in Washington or New York or any other place,” he said, amidst fears that silence on his part may be interpreted as Palestine’s tacit approval of the world’s most wanted terrorist’s words and deeds.

Al Hayat, a popular Arabic daily published from London, said that Osama was trying to hijack Arabic causes but was not involved with these causes and was only interested in furthering his own agenda. Hamas and Islamic Jehad, the two terrorist groups which have claimed responsibility for several attacks in Israel and Lebanon in the past have also said that the terror strikes in the US cannot be viewed as furthering the cause of the Palestinians and their right to their homeland.

Al Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden was a nightmare until his capture

and death in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011 (INL File Photo)
Engagement with Afghanistan

Saddam Hussein of Iraq has somewhat remained silent thus far, save for a brief comment on the September 11 attacks on the US and the Lebanese Hezbollah has not made aired its opinions in public. Observers believe that despite their dislike of the US, they too have not acted to show any sympathy towards Bin Laden.

But President George W Bush and his closest ally, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair only know too well that their current engagement in Afghanistan should be swift and conclusive and more important end as soon as possible. With growing resentment among Muslims in many parts of the world including the US and the UK, prolonged attacks may not only weaken their cause but also accrue sympathies if more and more civilian lives are lost in the Central Asian country.

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