Think Different About Justice

Even as I and other Canadians mourn for the victims, even as we join with other people across the world in solidarity and sympathy with Americans as they grieve, we pause to reflect on the possible meaning of this atrocity, not just for Americans, not just for freedom-loving people everywhere who are struggling to find answers, but for all humanity. There are several things we should all keep in mind as we reflect on the events of last week.

Rhetoric about just vengeance and retribution may help some to feel better about this outrage, but it does not make humanity a better species or the world a better place – especially since the CIA (yes, the CIA) helped to create this monster of terrorism in the first place; read Blowback in The Atlantic for historical background, then CIA’s Tracks Lead in Disastrous Circle for an update. And for a bracing alternative to the AOL TimeWarner CNN propaganda spew, check out the Smirking Chimp.

The US has an unprecedented, historic opportunity to truly think different about its response to the attack, to set a shining example for the rest of the world. The conventional approach would be to retaliate. While in some ways understandable, it would be unfortunate.

Justice does not call for vengeance – which will only cause more deaths of innocents on both sides. Justice calls for the terrorists to be found and tried for crimes against humanity in the same way that the Nazis were tried at the end of World War II. Justice also calls for Americans to examine the role that US foreign policy has played in creating the nightmare of terrorism and doing what is necessary to alter the course of this policy, through peaceful, democratic means. We should not be afraid to ask, “Is there a better way to spend the $40 billion the US Congress has just authorized?”

One possible response is suggested by Satish Kumar, editor of the spiritual magazine Resurgence and a follower of Gandhi. Satish, a man in his mid-sixties, witnessed the demolition of the World Trade Center at close range. In an interview with Utne Reader, he urges Americans to retaliate with compassion and to end the spiral of violence: “America, being the most powerful in terms of wealth and power and weapons, has the potential to be the flagship and lead [the world] in a different direction.”

He condemns the hijackers’ use of innocent women, children, and seniors as weapons of mass destruction. As much as he recognizes the necessity of supporting the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service, Satish says he hopes that America can somehow balance them with an equally powerful push to end the world of the root causes of violence: hunger and poverty. “I would propose that America lead the way and use the forum of the United Nations to bring together all nations [to show that] not only will we suppress terrorism, but we’ll not tolerate violence in any form.”

For 50 years he has listened to countries speak of removing poverty. “Words, words, words,” he says. “In the meantime, countries like us become richer, richer, richer.” This is one of the most overt acts of violence he sees today. Ending violence, he argues, will bring about peace, “the ultimate security.” He says, “If there is a fire you do not put more fire or wood or oil, you use water,” he says. “You will overcome violence with compassion, with peace; that is the missing element.”

In light of this, it is especially dismaying to see some people using the tragedy as an excuse to vent their hostility towards certain ethnic and religious groups. This is precisely the sort of barbaric response the terrorists would like to encourage, and it reduces the racists and bigots to the same level as the people who committed the crimes of September 11.

More than ten years ago, I put myself in harm’s way to help promote freedom, democracy, justice, and peace. As I type this, my 18-month old son sleeps on my shoulder. May he never know the scourge of war.

Keywords: #911 #sept11 #september11

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