Interview with Johan Galtung
[This interview from September 14, 2001 published in the weekly “DIE FURCHE” is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.begegnungszentrum.at/texte/usa/SoelleDUSAT.htm.]
[The shocking terrorist attack on the centers of the US raises questions about the perpetrators, the military countermeasures and the causes of attacks that involve the certain death of the “assassins” in the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. However sorrow, shock and the call for revenge in the US should not conceal the important question “Why?” the world-famous peace researcher Prof. Johan Galtung emphasizes.]
Q: Your statements on the attacks in the US have met with criticism…
Galtung: Some reproach me for justifying the terrorist attack on New York and Washington. I tried to explain why the US was the target of these attacks without approving such terrorist acts!
People in the US feel anxiety and hatred. Fear and rage before a strike of the militarily superior US prevail in countries threatened with counterblows, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and the Sudan where most people live in poverty and repression.
Reconciliation means healing the wounds of body and soul and coming to terms with broken relations. For the US, coming to terms means facing its history and the prehistory of these attacks.
Q: Didn’t that happen in the past?
Galtung: Hardly. Take the war in Vietnam with its two million dead Vietnamese. The US also had heavy casualties and ultimately lost the war. However the pictures and reports of atrocity – napalm-burned children, the massacre of My Lai, killings and so forth – were simply removed from the US schoolbooks. Investigations at US universities show enormous ignorance prevails today about the Vietnam War. A quarter of the students said the Vietnam War took place between North- and South Korea! After the 1991 bombardment of Iraq, President Bush senior said at that time: “We have kicked out the Vietnam-syndrome forever…”
Take the explosion of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only photo – the ruins of Hiroshima without victims – was eliminated from schoolbooks over ten years ago. Today there are two pictures in the textbooks – the “Little Boy” atomic bomb and the “Nora Gray” bomber. At the nuclear war museum in Texas, children can even ride on the neat nuclear bomb exhibitions. The sale of pendants of mini-A-bombs for visitors was first stopped after protests of Japanese tourists!
Q: What was the pre-history to the terror attacks?
Galtung: The US has carried out 228 military interventions without any mandate of the UN. With the help of the CIA, 7 million persons were killed from 1949 to 1987. They were mostly little people in so-called “leftist” organizations in Indonesia, the Philippines, Iran of the Shah, Sudan under Numeiri, the NATO-land Turkey and Guatemala and El Salvador in Latin- and Central America… In Panama, there was even a USA torture school for combating terrorism! In 1992, US general Rock boasted the US surpassed the Roman Empire in invasions!
I have criticized these attacks for over ten years and expect even worse scenarios!
The US attacked Lebanon in 1983, staged a bomb attack on Libya in 1986 when Ghaddafi’s step-daughter was killed, launched the Panama invasion in 1989 where a thousand deaths were covered up. In Iraq, the bombs and embargo took more than a half million dead – mainly children – from 1991 to today…
Q: Aren’t there any mourning- and remembrance-minutes and media reports for the victims of attacks on Serbia and Kosovo? How can this be explained?
Galtung: Mammoth PR-agencies in the US like Ruder Finn Global Affairs and Hill and Knowlton control and influence reporting in the US – up to 40% of the information according to some estimates!
Here is an example from the Gulf War. The Iraqis certainly wreaked havoc in Kuwait and committed atrocities. However Hill and Knowlton spread terrible lies about Iraq (Iraqis murdered incubator babies in a hospital in Kuwait City). False witnesses appeared at press conferences and so forth. The rogue states were demonized, the “good guys” presented positively and their atrocious deeds concealed.
Q: Is that possible in the US democracy?
Galtung: Many critical publications exist. To that extent, US democracy functions. The book by William Blum “Rogue State” (the US is meant) and the analysis by Noam Chomsky on the dominance of the military-industrial complex and the striving for power and profit in the US are examples.
I’d like to emphasize one part of Chomsky’s analysis: the sense of mission of the US. These factors constitute the US’ extraordinary exercise of power.
Q: You say the exercise of power and force brings retaliation. Whoever sows the wind will harvest the storm…
Galtung: many sides approve this exercise of force. Many Arab states and Pakistan fear the US. The population reacts with rage and hatred toward this US hegemony.
Think only of the 100,000 who die daily as a result of malnutrition, sickness and deficient social security. For every killed person, ten persons – family relations and friends – are affected. In other words, a million are massed together in grief, hatred and rage against the “New World Order,” against the world economy, the finance system and speculation protected by the US military superpower! The assassins leave behind a “text,” a message: the attack on the two World Trade Center towers that stood for world trade, investment firms and banks. The attack on the Pentagon – on the US military superpower – was an attack on the State Department, on the political power of the US!
Q: What will tomorrow’s scenario look like?
Galtung: Massive US military attacks are very likely including attacks with ground troops (slogan: “Infinite Justice”). In the media and therefore in the population, there is now an enormous approval and support – not only in the US. People demand something must happen after this horror. But when Defense secretary Colin Powell promises “We will crush this network,” one must object that this network scattered all over the whole world cannot possibly be destroyed. Missiles and bombs threaten the future! Whole countries will be bombed. An escalation of the spiral of retaliation as in Israel could occur! Public pressure is so great that manipulating evidence to identify and personalize enemies is entrusted to the US secret service. European allies in NATO must adjust! Criticism of the NATO member states is kept secret. Loyalty to the alliance is stressed. What politician has the courage to object – against the US and against public opinion?
Q: What about the scenario of a just solution that brings peace at the end?
Galtung: Many groups in the US and among us are working for reconciliation, justice and understanding but are hardly present in the media. They are often denounced as “traitors, leftists, anarchists and fools!” Still they have had great successes in history. Think of the protests against the Vietnam War. Veterans met in Hanoi, organized relief deliveries and apologized. One former US bomber pilot who fell into captivity is US ambassador in Vietnam.
Think of the peace movement against nuclear armament in 1983/84, above all the many church groups. The bishop of Auckland wrote a marvelous book at that time about “God’s Nature.” “God did not create the creation so it would be destroyed by people. That is not God’s will!” he wrote. Think of the many environmental groups, the “grassroots” movement in the US.
I hope these movements become stronger. The pain over the victims and the rage over this terror are still too great now.
While the governments of European NATO states agree with the US, perhaps they will soon refuse to join in and say: this spiral of revenge is not a solution!
Perhaps a turn will come in the US; perhaps questions will be raised soon. Why were and are we directly or indirectly involved in nearly all the wars? What did we do wrong?
Q: Isn’t refusing retribution an encouragement for more terror?
Galtung: The attack itself – again that I don’t approve – was retaliation for the US policy of the “big stick,” retribution for the “New World Order” that creates so much poverty. Poverty is one of the roots of Islamic fundamentalism!
The perpetrators should be given their due punishment. However excessive indiscriminate strikes against alleged rogue states appear likely at the moment. That is the most certain way of provoking more attacks.
Renunciation on revenge and retaliation will hardly encourage more violence.