October 12, 2001 Halifax Herald

In wake of terror, West must examine conscience

I'll always recall September 11, 2001 as the day that I watched aghast as terrorist fanatics rammed hostage-carrying airliners into the twin towers of New York's World Trade and Convention Centre.

The vision of the horrific damage they caused, which ended the lives of over five thousand innocent people within two hours, will haunt me always. Unreservedly, this crime against humanity ranks high among the most nauseating of those committed during my sixty two years, and there were many.

For instance: World War II.. The millions of lives lost and the despicable horrors committed by the Nazis against Europe's Jews and other minorities, make it one of the worst barbarities ever.

Cambodia's Killing Fields, the slaughter in Srebrenica, the horrendous butchery unleashed in Rwanda, are but a few others on an almost endless list of recent crimes against humanity.

Over the centuries the Americas have also seen horrendous bloodshed - tens of millions of Native Americans were exterminated. Even during the 20th century, hundreds of thousands were slaughtered by white supremacist regimes in Guatemala and other countries. Indefensibly, it continues at the beginning of the 21st century.

Why such a legacy of Horrors? The answers are many but most lead to warped religious beliefs. From this have sprung legions of demigods endowed with evil thirsts for wealth, or power, or racial supremacy, or political ideology dominance, or any combination.

The West, by its past sins and more recently from supporting such despots, spurred on by blind self-interest, has very dirty hands, i.e., the fear of godless communism was used by it to support, in some cases install, in numerous countries brutal corrupt extremist right-wing regimes.

The innocents killed or impoverished by these abominations are uncountable. (Although the USA took the lead role, it cannot be held solely accountable because western Nations such as Canada by silence approved it.)

How blind the support for such groups is evidenced by the aid provided the "good guys" during Afghanistan's struggle with the former Soviet Union. In spite of knowing their extremist religious views, the West supported the rebels that today form the country's widely reviled Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime.

The fact that they now mandate the death penalty for anyone found preaching a religion other than Islam, protect Islamic terrorists, deny females empowerment, etc., should have been foreseen. This is a classic case of the cure being far worse than the disease.

To be fair, it must be stated that the Taliban's atrocious conduct is not unique. For instance, the warped superiority religious views held by European Christian fanatics during and after the Middle Ages were akin to those the Taliban now embraces. If anyone wishes to debate this point, they should recall that Christians then believed that they had, with God's blessing, the right to do anything, no matter how horrible, to spread Christianity. Which they did with vigour.

The most destructive edict this arrogant mindset produced was a land ownership policy that held that non-Christians couldn't own land. The use of its provisions to sanction the seizure of property owned by non-Christian Nations and individuals by brute force during colonization left in ruins, or badly damaged, most of the ancient civilizations of five continents.

During the process of dispossessing these Peoples, the colonizers inflicted upon them partial or complete exterminations, enslavement, and every other indignity known to man. Marc Lescarbot, a French lawyer, articulated the policy's aim when he laid out France's right to displace the Mi'kmaq and claim Acadia in 1618:

"The earth pertaining then, by divine right to the children of God, there is here no question of applying the law and policy of Nations, by which it would not be permissible to claim the territory of another. This being so, we must possess it and preserve its natural inhabitants, and plant therein with determination the name of Jesus Christ, and of France."

The main legacy that has evolved from Nations using the before-mentioned terrorist activities, internally or externally, to dispossess and oppress people is a huge vacuum of justice for hundreds of millions. The pitiful poverty-stricken plight of the descendants of the uncountable millions of indigenous Peoples of the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia, whose cultures were destroyed or badly damaged during European empire-building, is stark testament to its legacy of horrors.

No effort has been made by the perpetrators to acknowledge and right these wrongs. The sick reason for this omission, fear of costly legal consequences, was recently articulated by the European Union when it refused to apologize to slavery's descendants for Europe's role in making it part of world commerce for several centuries. That was a clear admission by EU that greed outweighs moral obligations to apologise for sins committed.

If the world is to be transformed into a place where the Great Spirit's diverse children can prosper and multiply without fear of terrorism, a new approach is needed.

The West can begin it by accepting that historic wrongs committed by its intolerant founders must be righted. Then it must provide the financial means required to help dispossessed Amerindians, Kurds, Australian Aborigines, Palestinians, etc., to rebuild and sustain battered civilizations. This is the only way. Using force alone will only increase in the oppressed the hate that historic injustices have already instilled, which guarantees future terrorism.

Daniel N. Paul


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