Think, Question, Resist
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were undeniably tragic. Unfortunately, the latest reactions of the government, the media and most Americans will only serve to aggravate the tragedy by increasing the number of people who will die.
Now is the time to challenge our current social system to find out why thousands of innocent people died. Instead, the media tells us to put our unquestioning faith in the same government that has failed us. If we give the state more power, it will proceed to kill several thousand primarily innocent poor people, curtail our freedom, divert resources from important social needs, increase global injustice and by doing so recruit another generation of terrorists.
I find it stunning that so many people claim to care about the victims of the attacks, but yet they will attack anyone who is willing to look everywhere to find the root causes of terrorism. I think their primary error is that they believe that terrorists are psychopaths who are incapable of reason. Instead, I think it is more accurate to argue that terrorists have demonstrated their ability to reason through their ability to plan effective attacks.
Nobody is born a terrorist. Rather, I believe that people who experience conditions of extreme oppression are capable of being so deeply politicized that they are willing to give up everything and use the most extreme violent means available for their cause. There are tens of millions of people who live through the same terrible conditions but only a very few will be politicized sufficiently to become a terrorist. Since one cannot tell who will become a terrorist and since it is impossible to stop someone who is willing to be a martyr for his or her cause, the only way we can end terrorism is to address its root causes.
The root causes lie in the world's economic and political systems. These systems are controlled by the United States and our rich allies to keep us at the top and everyone else at the bottom. According to the World Bank, in 1998 1.2 billion people lived on less than $1 a day and 2.8 billion lived on less than $2. Poor people suffer from a lack of food, housing, good water, decent jobs, healthcare and education. Poverty terrorizes people and finally kills them.
Sometimes Third World countries elect progressive governments. Sometimes they dare to assert their independence from U.S. domination and try to achieve greater social justice for their citizens. When this happens, often the CIA or U.S. military will step in to overthrow the government and replace it with a right wing pro-American military dictatorship. Overthrowing democratic governments, sponsoring death squads and other CIA psychological operations should be called what they are: terrorism. In 1965, in a typical example of U.S. foreign policy, the United States supported a military coup by General Suharto in Indonesia. During the upheaval the Indonesian state killed 1-2 million people. That was terrorism.
Now I will address the most difficult issue by looking for causes of terrorism at our own campus. Last Thursday and Friday, the CIA was planning on sending recruiters to a career fair on campus. Two famous Notre Dame graduates who went to work for the CIA wrote books about their experiences.
If you want to understand why a small group of students was planning on protesting the CIA (before the agency cancelled its visit), I encourage you to check out the books in our library by alumni Ralph McGehee and Philip Agee. If our University has any moral standards that we apply to recruiters, I am at a loss to explain how the CIA ever managed to qualify.
While Notre Dame's role in supplying CIA recruits is likely limited, we contribute hundreds of young people to the military through our ROTC program. We have trained officers who may participate in upcoming vengeful military action that will kill civilians and provoke further attacks on the United States. In this situation, these officers are no longer Catholics living out the gospel of peace but tools of a government that preaches justice but only seeks blood.
If you examine the case of Osama bin Laden, you will find that he benefited from an economic system that allowed him to accumulate a fortune of $300 million from CIA training. He got these while he was an ally of the United States and Saudi governments, without whose initial support he would not now be a threat. Later, he began to oppose the United States due to American complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people, the bombing and sanctions against the Iraqis and American support for Middle Eastern governments that he wanted to convert to follow fundamentalist Islam. He was driven to adopt violent means because the Saudi government represses nonviolent dissent.
We must mourn for the dead, but so that the victims have not died in vain, we must work to end terrorism by eradicating injustice from our world. A good place to start is to question whether we want to continue to welcome the CIA and ROTC on our "Catholic" campus.
Aaron Kreider is a graduate student studying sociology. You can email him at email@example.com. His column appears every other Monday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 17, 2001