Last week Harold Evans called on the West to wage war to defeat terrorism. I felt compelled to reply:
You've been my publisher and friend for some years. We have so much in common. But you have issued a challenge to those who oppose the military solution to the terrorist act of 11 September. I want to take it up. You wrote last week that bombing and invading Afghanistan was a last resort, and posed the question: "But if you are not prepared to do that, just what would you do in response to the spread of terror across the globe?"
Harry, the United States and Britain are advocating and preparing for bombing as a first and only resort. No government leader who has advocated bombing even if they have spoken of caution and proportionality or sagely demanded proof of Osama bin Laden's guilt for the New York atrocities has posed any policy other than war.
I totally agree that the United States has the right and the duty to defend its citizens from terrorism. Likewise, the Council of Europe and all national governments have the same urgent responsibility. I see two fundamental tasks. The first is the issue of justice. We must seek and establish the responsibility, the identity, and all the connections of those who organized this unprecedented act and ensure that they answer for their crimes in a court of justice. The second is prevention of further acts of terror by this group or any others. Terror is indeed spreading across the globe, and states are involved, as well as armed factions, paramilitaries and the new mafia.
Terrorism is a criminal act according to all jurisdictions, whether relatively small numbers are killed, as in Omagh, many more, as in Oklahoma, or a far greater number, as in the horrifying mass murder committed on 11 September. The targeting of the World Trade Center was aimed at the whole world. It is still, nevertheless, by definition a criminal act, not an act of war. The ultimatist philosophy and terrible methods are shared by those American groups of which Timothy McVeigh was a member.
The ideology, the methods and the physical targets are apocalyptic. They seem to seek an Armageddon which makes me doubly insistent that we should not risk giving it to them by inviting escalation. Calls for a "holy war" or a "crusade" cannot transform the act into other than what it was: a criminal act of terror. There is a specific course of action that must be taken if there is to be justice for the murdered and their families, security for peoples and governments, and the prevention of further acts of terrorism from all sources.
The evidence, the suspects and the indictments must be brought before the International Court of Justice. This was established in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trials, within the auspices of the United Nations; created for all crimes that transcend the limits of national sovereignty and jurisdiction, which cannot be tried under the domestic national law of any country. Every nation and faith, and all citizens, must and may then be able to see and believe that justice is being done.
If the accused, or a sheltering state, were to refuse extradition, or evade arrest, then the International Court of Justice is empowered to request the UN Security Council to take such measures as are appropriate and necessary to bring the accused and their legal representatives before the court. If this course of action is taken, I believe that Americans, and other peoples, would be convinced that justice could be secured, from the beginning to the end.
The same cannot be said for bombing and missiles as a response to this crime. They will bring neither the specific criminals to justice, nor obtain justice, nor protect civilians and governments. Bombing will ensure that the criminals will never be found.
Slobodan Milosevic had lost all his popularity with the Serbian people and the Orthodox Church, and even most of the collaborators closest to him were despised. Then NATO bombed Serbian civilians in trains and factories, on roads and in their homes, instead of military targets and the tanks in the mountains. Milosevic became a hero. A hero was created by bombs, I might add. Indicted far too late, he is now in prison, awaiting trial for the murder of tens of thousands. Because NATO bombed Serbian civilians, he is a greater hero than ever to many Serbs and Russians, even if he sits in prison.
Besides the immediate ill-effects, I am convinced that bombing Afghanistan and/or Iraq will strengthen terrorists and terror organizations everywhere, as well as terror factions within states. Suspected criminals will become heroes. Civil wars will break out anew all over the globe, some very bad people will be strengthened and the innocent will pay the price.
This will be the absolutely inevitable consequence of the bombing, and there will be no return once it has started. Then it will be impossible for any government to establish security and protection for the populations in the cities.
Please remember, also, as I am sure you do, that in spite of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's magnificent speech for unity and tolerance, a Pakistani shopkeeper, whose son was murdered in the attack on the twin towers, was beaten up by racists outside his shop in Brooklyn. Such outrages occurred in cities all over Europe before 11 September, and will increase a thousandfold if bombing missions begin. People of all races will suffer.
You write with contempt, Harry, for the "professional handwringers", and then you say that we have no answer to the question "what would you do?" You might listen to the organization Rabbis for Human Rights or the Israeli members of Gush Shalom for the human rights solutions to terrorism, be it Israeli or Palestinian. You might listen to the Russian human rights leaders, such as Elena Bonner, and the elected Chechen president, whose representatives have gone to Washington to urge political solutions.
All these voices speak for the civilized world. As did Mary Robinson when she headed the UN High Commission for Human Rights even though she was forced to retire by governments' lack of support for the commission's work.
The globe is devastated by leaders' contempt for the international conventions to which they are signatories. You might say to me, "But we must deal with the world as it is." My answer is that no one can accept the world as it is right now, including you. I am not interested in making the USA feel guilty. I regard and love so much that is uniquely American. There are truly civilized people in the United States who want to go a better way. Harry, open your ears to this America.
© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd