Web NDW ar Afghan Paper Oct01

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The International Famine Centre is a multi-disciplinary research centre at UCC. It was
founded to commemorate the more than one million people who died and nearly two million
who were exiled during Ireland’s Great Famine. For this reason the centre took on the task and
responsibility to prevent the present-day recurrence of famine elsewhere in the world. The
Centre encourages networking between public and private action, South and North, between
the economically rich countries like Ireland and the disadvantaged in the wider world.

Nicola Drücker, Research Officer at the International Famine Centre, holds an MA in History
and English from the University of Hannover, Germany. She researches on 19th and 20th
century International Relations and (Post)-colonial Studies. Nicola taught part-time for the
Dept. of History Case Studies and Techniques in International Affairs.

Mike FitzGibbon, Researcher at the International Famine Centre, completed his Masters in
Rural Development, Co-operative Organisation and Food Marketing from UCC after field
work in Tanzania. He researches on current situations of food insecurity on all continents. The
results are published monthly in the bulletin Famine N.E.W.S., which functions as an early
warning system.

Nicola Drücker
International Famine Centre, UCC
8 Grenville Place

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Email: n.drucker@ucc.ie

                              The Beginning of Conflicts

Studying History always features to a large extent the study of conflict. Often conflicts are
interpreted as turning points for established political orders turning into something new but
also as turning points for everyday lives. Students of history learn to distinguish meticulously
between the immediate cause for a conflict or even the declaration of war and the rather
long-term reasons for conflict. These are analysed from all perspectives – communication
break-down resulting in a military conflict seriously indicates strong differing positions so all
sides must be heard to understand and to find a solution. And naturally the outcome/results for
all parties are an important subject for historians.

In the following, I will try to apply these tools for the study of history to comment on the
present political situation and the very recent past. Rather than presenting news, I will focus on
the structures of International Relations behind the sequences of events. In particular, I will
look at the role of the UN and my colleague Mike will provide a context for the conflicts in
Afghanistan and Iraq.

Maybe one further remark: I am arguing here also from my personal experience as a German
citizen. World Wars could have been avoided, I learned from history. The cruelties of World
War II shaped the lives and the biggest fears of so far 4 generations in my own family,
including myself.

The Causes [actions]:
The terrible events of September 11th in the USA were interpreted by the US government as a
declaration of war. The response of the USA was that of declaring action, but not officially

war, against nation-states supporting terrorism. This is legally problematic since the attack was
carried out from within the United States.

The term terrorism in itself poses problems of definition. The Encyclopaedia Britannica
defines terror as:
     “violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or
     government into granting their demands. <insurrection and revolutionary terror>”1

Just to give an example: European would see a political active Kurd in Turkey as a terrorist
while, when across the border in Iraq, Europe would consider the same Kurd as

The identities of those found guilty further do not pinpoint at one certain nationality. All
biographies of the suspected have transnational characteristics – loyalty to a nation-state,
which is a prerequisite for international warfare, did not feature here. Therefore, it was and is
impossible to determine a nation-state or nation-states as the enemy.

Instead, religious belief seems to feature as one uniting element between the terrorists.
However, due to limited access and censored information it is still impossible to assess if
membership of Al-Qa’eda was the major unifying factor or whether there are others.

Although often mentioned when talking of ‘declarations of war’, Osama bin Laden’s religious
advice (fatwa2) to Muslims in 1996 to take up arms in order to stop American influence on the
political rule of the Holy Land, can not be seen as a declaration of war, according to
International Law, since it was not issued by a state. Another Islamic notion in this context is
‘Jihad’. It is often translated as ‘Holy War’ although it means ‘the pursuit of Islamic beliefs’ 3.
Tensions are easily created by such fundamental misunderstandings.

     Chilling call to arms

  “a legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader”,
  “1:a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty, 2: a crusade for a principle or belief”,

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      David Pallister, Guardian, Thursday September 13, 2001

      On August 23 1996, three months after he was expelled from Sudan under US pressure, Osama bin Laden
      issued his chilling Declaration of War fatwa from his hideout in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.

      In it he said "there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land" - a
      reference to the US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

      He called on the dispossessed youths of the Muslim world to take up arms, and warned the US: "They have
      no intention except to enter paradise by killing you. An infidel, and enemy of God like you, cannot be in the
      same hell as his righteous executioner ... Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a
      legitimate and morally demanding duty. These youth are different from your soldiers. Your problem will be
      how to convince your troops to fight, while ouir problem will be how to restrain our youths to wait for their
      turn in fighting and in operations."

      The fatwa also called for the overthrow of the Saudi government and for support for Islamic revolutionary
      groups around the world. 4

The Reasons [rational behind action]:
A general difficulty lies in determining the starting point in history for the search of reasons. In
this particular case this is even more difficult since the proofs of guilt are not public yet.
    As can be also seen in the Northern Ireland conflict, motives for conflict can be as distant as
several centuries, namely the beginning of English colonisation, and potentially as close as
yesterday when planning revenge.

Before governments decide on any further reactions, it is essential for them to understand
potential reasons for the attack on American buildings, some of which could be:

 Unresolved political conflicts e.g. in Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Afghanistan. Mike will come to
     these contexts in a minute.
 Political and military struggle for hegemony:

20th century USA foreign policy of intervention affected the sovereignty and independence of
states, e.g. Drugs War in Columbia, Nicaragua, Chile (overthrow of Allende)

This list gives a striking indication that the global political balance has been fragile over a
number of years and solutions to major conflicts of interests were not found. Regardless of who

will be found guilty with the attacks in New York and Washington through criminal
investigation, this list should be a constant reminder for all of us to take on responsibilities.

At the basis of all these issues injustice is experienced - this is not always evident to or ignored
by those in comfort.

Other underlying global issues do not help to ease tensions either:
 Global poverty – only Europe and USA remain excluded from this:
      On 11 September 2001 24,000 people died of hunger!5
 Environmental disasters:
      Floods and droughts mainly threaten economically weaker countries and classes
      in the South. Despite international pressure, the USA decided not to sign the
      Kyoto Protocol against global warming (March 2001).

Mike FitzGibbon’s Chapter on Iraq and Afghanistan contexts (see his

Conflict Resolution
Those guilty of the attack are dead. Those who have died innocently can rest in peace and will
not have died in vain if we all forgive and work for worldpeace on a non-military level based
on the principle of global justice and mutual respect. Their names should not be used to justify
further deaths. This was also expressed by the Cliffords from Cork, who lost their sister and
niece in the twin tower tragedy.

Justifications for wars and conflict are always found and used by governments to explain their
stand to gain public support. There is no such thing as a ‘Just War’ – this notion only relates to
one side of the coin – but there are many ‘justified wars.’ In times of crisis, affected countries
resort to nationalist rhetoric, so-called propaganda and media censorship.

    New Internationalist, No. 340, November, 2001, p.19.

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    George W. Bush is using highly symbolic words: “crusade”, good and evil, and “infinite
justice/Enduring Freedom” (for whom?), while always referring to Christian belief: God and
biblical quotes.

      “[…]I also have faith in our military. And we have got a job to do - just like the farmers and ranchers and
      business owners and factory workers have a job to do. My administration has a job to do, and we're going to
      do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers. We will call together freedom loving people to fight

      And on on this day of - on the Lord's Day, I say to my fellow Americans, thank you for your prayers, thank
      you for your compassion, thank you for your love for one another. And tomorrow when you get back to
      work, work hard like you always have. But we've been warned. We've been warned there are evil people in
      this world. We've been warned so vividly - and we'll be alert. Your government is alert. The governors and
      mayors are alert that evil folks still lurk out there.

      As I said yesterday, people have declared war on America, and they have made a terrible mistake, because
      this is a fabulous country. Our economy will come back. We'll still be the best farmers and ranchers in the
      world. We're still the most innovative entrepreneurs in the world. On this day of faith, I've never had more
      faith in America than I have right now. […]”6

In the same way do Osama bin Laden’s speeches feature Allah, injustice, terrorism against
Muslims, the division of the world in believers and disbelievers (good and evil).7 Some
European leading politicians joined when referring in their speeches to:

Jack Straw, 12/9/01: "an attack on civilisation" 8
Tony Blair, 12/9/01: "their barbarism will stand as their shame for all eternity"9
Gerhard Schroeder, 11/09/01: Declaration of War against the civilised world -
      "Kriegserklärung gegen die zivilisierte Welt" 10
Silvio Berlusconi:, 27/9/01 “We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed
well-being, respect for human rights and – in contrast with Islamic countries – respect for religious and political

The statements are nothing new. In fact, enemies were depicted in the terms of good and evil in
the bible. The distinction between barbarism and civilisation goes back to the conflicts in the

  07. Oktober 2001, Bin Laden Erklaerung: "Der Sturm des Glaubens ist gekommen". Wenige Minuten nach dem
Angriff der USA gegen Ziele in Afghanistan hat der Fernsehsender Al-Dschasira des Golfemirats Katar ein Video
mit einer Rede Osama Bin Ladens gezeigt http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,161262,00.html

Antique. This practice excuses perpetrators from having to tackle what experiences the
so-called ‘enemy’ encountered that led to their hate.
 Post-colonial Studies have criticised this black and white painting with its subsequent
creation of stereotypes. Edward Said, researcher in this field, wrote in his famous book
Orientalism about this century-long process of the creation of Europe through the depiction of
the Other, namely the Orient. The Orient was associated with Oriental despotism, Oriental
splendor and cruelty. The news in the media show that Europe and USA still have not
overcome colonial attitudes. Oriental Despotism is replaced by Islamic fanatism and racist
attitudes towards ‘the Muslims and the Arabs’ continue.

Edward Said: Orientalism, New York: Vintage, 1979, p. 1-3, 5

“Unlike the Americans, the French and British--less so the Germans, Russians, Spanish,
Portuguese, Italians, and Swiss--have had a long tradition of what I shall be calling
Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place
in European Western Experience. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place
of Europe's greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and
languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the
Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting
image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of this Orient is merely imaginative. The Orient
is an integral part of European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and
represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting
institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and
colonial styles. . . . “

“To speak of Orientalism therefore is to speak mainly, although not exclusively, of a British
and French cultural enterprise, a project whose dimensions take in such disparate realms as the
imagination itself, the whole of India and the Levant, the Biblical texts and the Biblical lands,
the spice trade, colonial armies and a long tradition of colonial administrators, a formidable
scholarly corpus, innumerable Oriental "experts" and "hands", an Oriental professorate, a
complex array of "Oriental" ideas (Oriental despotism, Oriental splendor, cruelty, sensuality),
many Eastern sects, philosophies, and wisdoms domesticated for local European use the list
can be extended more or less indefinitely. (From Orientalism, by Edward W. Said, page 4) “

Currently, the news should be watched with caution – in particular since we are accessing only
USA and European programmes.

Rather than voicing suspicions and thus contributing to the creation of new scapegoats, the
USA could base a peaceful conflict resolution also on collaboration with transnational

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organisations, e.g., League of Arab States, who, as well as the whole international community,
reacted with a good understanding of the tragedy and offered peaceful cooperation/solutions.

Ultimately, the United Nations is the ideal forum to solve such conflicts.
Its predecessor, the League of Nations, was established after WW1 to prevent another World
War. The League failed to prevent WW2. In 1945 the United Nations was founded built on the
same principle but it was added that world peace could only be secured through international
economic and social equality, and the end of colonialism. All independent nation-states are
represented in the UN General Assembly.

On September 12, 2001 the Assembly adopted a resolution:

        [The General Assembly ] expressed its outrage at Tuesday's terrorist attacks against the United States and
        called for international cooperation to bring the their perpetrators, organizers and sponsors to justice. […]
        It passed the resolution that "those responsible for aiding supporting or harbouring the perpetrators,
        organizers and sponsors of such acts will be held accountable." 12

Military action, or even war, is not mentioned but international cooperation and legal

The UN is facing problems:
 Some of the major powers do not give their full support to the UN: USA nearly caused
       financial bankruptcy of the UN when not paying their dues. Only after Sept. 11 did the
       USA pay their full contribution to the UN.
 Smaller countries feel less represented. In the recent months the UN Security Council with
       its few major powers as permanent members played a larger role than the General
 Rather than acting as an arbiter for peaceful political solutions, the UN is publicly seen as
       mainly acting in the humanitarian field, as an aid agency – the UN has almost a secondary
       role in conflict situations.


 There are currently 66 UN resolutions to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine
     which Israel ignores. USA vetoed against 28 of these since 1972. Peace in the Middle East
     is a priority to avoid further conflict – this opinion is expressed by people from all parties,
     including Osama bin Laden.
 The USA has not yet supported the establishment of the UN International Criminal Court.
      “The International Criminal Court (ICC), once established, promises to end the impunity
      long enjoyed by world leaders. The international tribunals already established by the UN,
      besides bringing many war criminals to justice on their own, have also prompted many
      individual nations to begin prosecuting their leaders for war crimes and crimes against
      humanity. The establishment of the ICC could lead to a quantum leap in this already
      encouraging trend.

      Many questions about the court, however, remain unanswered. Will the US support the
      court, and can the court function effectively without US support? More importantly, will
      the court become another political tool used by the West to bully leaders of developing
      countries, while Western leaders continue to perpetuate conflict without fear of
      repercussions? Or will the ICC have the kind of institutional independence necessary to
      dispense justice in a fair and even-handed manner?”13

     Instead, the USA see themselves above International Law:

      Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, 11/9/01
       “THE PRESIDENT: […] Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible
      for these cowardly acts.”14

     Compromises to try Osama bin Laden for example by an Islamic Court were not accepted.
     While it was acceptable to use international tribunals and courts to bring to justice
     perpetrators of genocide (Rwanda, former Yugoslavia), this seems to be not sufficient
     when the USA are affected by an atrocity.
 The USA refused to re-enforce the agreement to control weapons through a UN protocol.

      “Biological warfare

      The United States has isolated itself further in world diplomacy by refusing to endorse a United Nations
      protocol banning the use of biological weapons. Derek Brown explains.

      Derek Brown, Guardian Unlimited, Thursday July 26, 2001

      What was the UN proposing?

  Remarks by the President Upon Arrival at Barksdale Air Force Base, 11/9/01,

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        The idea was to add teeth to an existing convention on biological weapons and toxins, by giving
        international inspectors access to state and private sector laboratories.”15

Some Results
 The attack is not a declaration of war - any military response can not be legitimized and is
 The threat and subsequent military action of the USA has displaced 6 million people in
       Afghanistan, which is more than the whole population of All Ireland. Campaigns such as
       the call for support for Afghan children by the Whitehouse are cynical.
 The future peace process will be long: mistakes like supporting political and ethnic groups
       by the USA or any other powers look likely to be repeated. Bin Laden himself was trained
       by the CIA to fight against Soviet troops in the 1980s. The creation of new Bin Ladens are
       can be easily repeated.
 There is a danger of spill-over of this conflict. Pakistan, India and Kashmir are in conflict.
       Both, Pakistan and India have been dangerously rewarded for alliance building with the
       USA by having sanctions lifted that were imposed because of their production of nuclear
       weapons. The military activity against Iraq is continuing. The Palestine/Israel conflict has
       worsened in the last 12 months.
 Should the US attack countries that provide financial support for what it classes as
       terrorists – this would have be the USA itself if you take for example the IRA, who
       received much funding from people in the US.
 When is the ‘war’ over – what is victory?



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