Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.
by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
One would have to be inhuman not to condemn the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon by al-Qaeda, and whoever didn't show solidarity with the more than three thousand victims of the terrorist act would be cruel.
That said, we must go deeper into the question and ask: Why did this carefully premeditated attack happen? Things don't happen just because a couple of crazy people get filled with hate and commit such crimes against their political opponents. There must be deeper causes that, if they persist, will continue to fuel terrorism.
If we look at the history of more than a century, we realize that the West as a whole, and particularly the United States, has humiliated the Muslim countries of the Middle East. It controlled their governments, took their oil and set up huge military bases. It left behind a lot of bitterness and anger, a cultural medium for revenge and terrorism.
The terrible thing about terrorism is that it occupies minds. In wars and guerrilla actions it's necessary to occupy physical space to succeed effectively. In terror, no. It's enough to occupy minds, distorting the imagination and introjecting fear. Americans physically occupied Afghanistan under the Taliban and Iraq, but the Taliban occupied the minds of Americans psychologically. Unfortunately, the prophecy Bin Laden made on October 8, 2002, came true: "America will never feel safe, it will never have peace." Today it is a country held hostage by the fear that has spread.
To avoid giving the impression of being anti-American, I'm transcribing the words of Robert Bowman, former Archbishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach (Florida) who, before being a bishop, had been a military fighter pilot and flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. He wrote an open letter to then President Bill Clinton, who ordered the bombing of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, where U.S. embassies had been attacked by terrorism. Its content also applies to Bush, who waged the war on Afghanistan and Iraq, a war that has been continued by Obama. The letter, still current, was published in the National Catholic Reporter on October 2, 1998 under the title "Why the U.S. is hated" and it reads [in part]:
"You said that we are the target because we stand for democracy, freedom, and human rights in the world. Baloney! We are the target of terrorists because we stand for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation in the world. We are the target of terrorists because we are hated. And we are hated because our government has done hateful things...
...In how many countries have we deposed popularly elected leaders and replaced them with puppet military dictators who were willing to sell out their own people to American multinational corporations?...
[We've done that in Iran, Chile and Vietnam, Nicaragua, and the rest of the "banana republics" of Latin America.]
...In country after country, our government has thwarted democracy, stifled freedom, and trampled human rights. That's why we are hated around the world. And that's why we are the target of terrorists...
...Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so the oil companies can sell the oil under their sand, we must send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children....
...That is the truth, Mr. President. That is what the American people need to hear..."
The correct answer was not to fight terror with terror like Bush, but solidarity. Members of the associations of victims of the Twin Towers went to Afghanistan to establish relief associations so that the people can get out of misery. It's through this humanitarianism that the causes that lead to terrorism are eliminated.
Translator's note: This is one of the rare instances where I've made some minor clarifications in the translation of this text by my friend Leonardo .