The first of June 2002 does not mean anything to Spaniards. On that day a 1.000 kilogram bomb launched from a US warplane against a crowd attending a wedding resulted in 40 people dead and over 100 wounded, most of them children and women.
The seventh of April 2002 is not a special date for Spaniards. Neither the eighth nor the ninth. On those days, the Israeli Defence Forces attacked with tanks and warplanes Jenin Refugee camp. The number of dead exceeded 200. There has not been an investigation commission, a three minutes of silent tribute, a solidarity call by governments and international institutions, much less any compensation paid to families of the victims.
The fifth of December 1996 is not important for Spaniards. On that day, the State Secretary of the United States said on the TV programme “60 minutes” that the killing of half a million Iraqi children because of the imposition of sanctions against Iraq was worth and justified.
There is no need to look for concrete dates. The death, destruction and harm caused by Western nations to countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East are an old, consistent and inhuman tradition, which has seldom got an answer from the victims. Whenever it has taken place -called terrorism by Westerners- it has been mercilessly crushed by these and civilians have paid dearly with their lives while trying to protect themselves.
Today’s progress in communications and travelling, let alone the unbearable situation of the victims, means that this answer takes place not only in the oppressed countries but also in the oppressor ones. You can say this is terrorism, you can set up a coalition to fight it, you can even twist the arm of international institutions and over-stretch international law to pretend your new attacks against the weak are legal and right.
However, it is high time to face the truth: victims are not any longer in Third World countries alone. Formerly, Western societies silenced their consciences with high living standards. Their governments secured these in exchange for a free hand in subjecting disinherited populations.
The only way out of this situation is for the victims to make the powerful to suffer as they are suffering. They know that Westerners cannot undergo the same level of death, destruction and exploitation they are used to undergo since time immemorial. People in Europe and the US do not even understand someone is willing to carry out a martyrdom operation if it means punishing enemies and obliging them to abandon their criminal policies.
The “Muslim Nation” has convinced itself that making Westerners suffer is the only way to the end of their own suffering. This is something bin Laden has stated very clearly in the name of that Nation. He repeats it again and again as the Western leaders repeat everyday we are at war against (Muslim) terror. These have their own audience, he has his own audience. In one occasion, November 2002, he foretold what nobody wants to admit in the West:
“remember our children who are killed in Palestine and Iraq everyday, remember our deaths in Khowst mosques and remember the premeditated killing of our people in weddings in Afghanistan. Why should fear, killing, destruction, displacement, orphaning and widowing continue to be our lot, while security, stability and happiness be your lot? This is unfair. It is time that we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb. And expect more that will further distress you.”
Call it terror, call it Muslim fundamentalism, organise a crusade against him and his followers, but nobody will prove him wrong and nothing will stop the coming of a new era in international relations. Nothing will prevent him from calling the shots in the future. It does not matter that “our” victims are innocent. Theirs were also innocent and this did not prevent us from killing them. It does not matter if they are fanatics, we were educated, democrats and Christians and we’ve killed millions of them before.
There is only one way to avoid the abyss. We have to show remorse for the evil done and ask for pardon. Then we have to compensate the victims and then to build up a complete new world for all peoples. If we do not, bin Laden will take us to the road he has announced several times, even if we do not want to admit it, even if we keep calling him a terrorist.
AGUSTIN VELLOSO is a lecturer at the Spanish National University for Distance Learning. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org