United States

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We record the worldwide reaction to the attack on the US, as reported in the editorial pages of newspapers and websites from around the world as of 13 September 2001. The opinions that follow are a selection of world opinion, and not necessarily those of the NI.
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La Jornada, MEXICO
The territory of the United States was suddenly exposed as being just as insecure as the countryside of Colombia or the cities of Palestine and Israel – the national security of the most powerful country on the planet had been completely blown apart…

The electronic media... confirmed their status as instruments of planetary disinformation; a bombardment of images replaced the search for the motives behind the bombardment of the United States and, as happened a decade ago during the war against Iraq, live broadcasts of destruction helped to obscure the fundamental questions; who planned and executed these demented assaults and what did they have in mind?

No-one refers to the position of advantage these tragic events will give to the hawks in the US and other countries as well. Nowhere on the casualty list appear the individual liberties and guarantees of migrant people.

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Nasra Al Sa’adoon, Baghdad-based author, IRAQ
These innocent civilians are the collateral damage – like the Iraqis in the Ameriyah shelter and the victims of the almost daily bombings, like those in so many disputes: Panama, Vietnam, Grenada, Hiroshima. The price of conflict is fire, blood and human life yet all of them, all of us, are just that – precious human lives.

Can this be a turning point? A time to join hands? A halt to carnage which has been going on since the crusades?

And let me say that here in Iraq, contrary to reports, we were not smiling. We know loss and pain too well, we are not vengeful, but we were remembering again what happened to us 10 years ago.

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Official Government Statement published in Granma, CUBA
The position of Cuba against all terrorist action is well known. It is impossible to forget that our people have for 40 years been the victim of similar actions coming from the territory of the United States itself.

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Iran Daily, IRAN
The reasons for the shocking attacks on the World Trade Centre Twin Towers and the Pentagon should be sought inside the US. The world’s sole superpower and major military player should also learn to assess its domestic and foreign policies at regular intervals and not wait to do so when terror strikes and reality knocks.

After the colossal damage had been done to American life and property on Tuesday, President George Bush pledged to bring those responsible to ‘justice’… justice these days is a very rare commodity.

Amin Sabooni

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Jordan Times, JORDAN
Tuesday 11 September was the United States’ ‘Yom Kippur’, its ‘Day of Atonement’ for all the sins its policy makers have committed against other countries and people over the last 40-odd years…

While the Bush administration has announced its determination to ‘wage war on terrorism’, the US will never win that war until it addresses the grievances which inspire militants to strike at Washington. Palestine should be at the top of the Bush administration’s list because the US pro-Israel stance in this century-old conflict fuels the hatred which drives Muslims to attack ‘soft’ US targets and kill US citizens.

Michael Jansen

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Main Islamic fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood, EGYPT
[The attacks] contradict all human and Islamic values.

Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, lebanon’s top Shi’a cleric and one-time leader of Hizbollah, we reject methods of this sort. No rational person can accept any people being exposed to what the American people have been exposed to.

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Payman Bahrami, a greengrocer, IRAN
Shedding blood is always bad, but shedding blood comes from hatred and this hatred the Americans themselves produced. They are bullying the world and this is the result of their bullying. It is the innocent people who suffer.

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Gulf News, DUBAI / UAE
In the past America has sought vengeance for attacks on U.S. government buildings by retaliating against sites in Libya, Afghanistan and Sudan. It was not clear at that time that America was attacking the right places, and it has become more clear with time that the sites attacked were mistakes. Such tit-for-tat violence has resulted in continuing attacks from violent groups, and has not solved anything.

It is important at a time like this that America remembers its role as the world’s leading power, and its commitment to justice. Bush’s intention to ‘punish’ should not disintegrate into plain revenge, but should incorporate justice as well. In such a search for justice America carries the sympathy and support of the world.

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Moscow Times, RUSSIA
Alas, it is the lot of the American people, like the peoples of many other countries around the world, to clean up the bloody mess created by politicians – by no means exclusively or perhaps even predominantly by American politicians. If politicians are not brought to their senses, what happened will look like a trifle compared to what lies ahead.

Boris Pankin, the last Soviet Foreign Minister.

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Ha’aretz, ISRAEL
Hanan Ashrawi, who is spokeswoman for the Arab League, a member of the Palestinian Leglislative Council and the director of Miftah, an NGO devoted to promoting democracy and dialogue … [sent] her condolences to the American nation in the name of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, intifada activists, and the Arab states.

Ashrawi urged the world not to draw conclusions about Palestinian attitudes from the behaviour of the few ‘exceptions’ who had rejoiced at news of the attacks… ‘The Palestinians, as victims of the Israeli occupation, naturally identify with the victims of the terror attack.’

Amira Hass

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Bangkok Post, THAILAND
It would be a mistake to dismiss the terrorists as mere fools and heretics. They, too, view themselves as defenders of truth, justice and peace. So intensely so that they are willing to die – and kill – to pursue their version of justice. To preserve their understanding of truth. We call it insanity. They call it martyrdom.

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Michael Moore, the maker of ‘Roger and Me’ and other films, via email, US
All day long I have heard everything about this bin Laden guy except this one fact – WE [the US] created the monster known as Osama bin Laden!

Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!

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Posted anonymously onto New York
website, US
‘I’m sitting here and I’m sorry I can’t control myself, I started to cry and I can’t stop. I can’t believe this is happening. My dad who works and volunteers at a Muslim Mosque in LA, has a whole week off from work, he stayed in LA last night and went to work for daily prayers early this morning before the news hit... in the past few hours they have had over 250 death and property destruction threats via phone and email. I don’t and neither do they support these terrorists… We didn’t do this, as a middle eastern person I’m saying that from the bottom of my heart... I’m very sorry for this happening but I’m scared for my community right now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve been talking to my family in Afghanistan and Iran 3 times this morning, but I can’t any longer because the phone calls are not able to go through, they are terrified there, they think that the US is going to start bombing them. They are very very confused and distraught.’

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Statement by Project Underground via email, US
We at Project Underground are outraged and deeply saddened by this morning’s violent attacks on human life and human possibility in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania…

Today our society is awash with fear. But what is of greatest concern is those who would use that fear to inflict a new round of terror. We stand aghast at those who in the wake of tragedy can only speak in terms of dollars and cents. We watch as traders flee to the ‘security’ of gold and oil and are reminded that that ‘security’ has been purchased with the blood of communities with whom we work.

We are saddened and distraught that some would use the bloodshed today as the pretext for greater hate or for the reduction of freedom.

We are deeply and profoundly fearful of the impact of retaliatory military attacks and of the military escalation that results from a United States military response. That needless suffering inflicted on civilians from the sky is morally unacceptable has never been more clear to the people of the United States of America.

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Daily Star, LEBANON
It can be difficult for Arabs to see past US policy and appreciate America’s qualities. But on Tuesday they were the centerpiece of a sad but proud display. Apart from measures taken to ensure the security of the country’s senior leadership, the tragedy was handled with admirable openness and surprisingly little venom.

America has been made to know the suffering that so many other countries understand all too well. Now it should lead the way in finding solutions to the problems that breed violence and desperation.

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That this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firefighters, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom… In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger – possibly more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.

As to how to react, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.

Noam Chomsky

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Abdul Gani Bhat, chair of Kashmir’s main separatist alliance.
Violence in any form is detestable. However, we need to address issues which lead to bloodshed anywhere in the world. Human blood should not flow in America, nor in Palestine, nor in Kashmir.

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Oiling the military machine
Exxon Mobil's part in the Aceh war

Claims have often been levelled in court that (sometimes deadly) military force has been used against people’s resistance to oil companies’ activities – for example in Burma, Nigeria and Colombia. The latest such claim relates to the Indonesian province of Aceh.

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Seriously... You couldn't make this stuff up

WTO gets a new member
Anti-WTO impostors have struck again, delivering a spoof lecture to an enthusiastic crowd of scientists, engineers, and marketing professionals – all of whom thought they were watching an official World Trade Organization representative.

The 150 experts at the ‘Textiles of the Future’ conference in Tampere, Finland heard ‘Hank Hardy Unruh’ explain that Gandhi’s self-sufficiency movement was stupid and protectionist, and that Lincoln, by outlawing slavery, had criminally interfered with the trade freedom of the South, as well as with slavery’s own freedom to develop naturally. Had slavery never been abolished, Unruh said, today’s much cheaper system of sweatshops would have eventually replaced it anyhow. Finally, to applause from the audience, Unruh’s business suit was ripped off to reveal a golden leotard with a three-foot-long phallus. The purpose of his ‘Management Leisure Suit’? To allow managers, no matter where they were, to monitor their distant, impoverished workforces and to administer shocks to encourage productivity – assuring that no ‘Gandhi-type situation’ develop again.

‘If a group of PhDs cheers at such crudely crazy things, just because it’s the WTO saying them, what else can the WTO get away with?’ said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, the impostors’ umbrella group.

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NGO identity crisis
Of course the real WTO would never engage in such puerile antics. But perhaps there is no need for the Yes Men’s pranks – for some of the things the WTO really does are beyond satire. For one, NGO accreditation to attend next month's WTO meeting in Qatar is limited to 647 places and of them, less than 200 are actual NGOs. The rest are corporate lobby groups. The official excuse is that there are ‘not enough hotel rooms’ in Qatar to award more places to civil-society representatives.

A representative from corporate lobby group the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue – masters at shaping global trade rules to the corporate agenda – claims: ‘We got [WTO Director General] Mike Moore to come to one of our meetings before the Seattle WTO Ministerial. I think he found it quite helpful… We’re a non-governmental organization, an NGO, like all the others. I really can’t see what all the fuss is about.’

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Aceh – a relatively small Indonesian province – has a wealth of natural resources, though it is largely undeveloped. A significant exception is the natural-gas project in the Arun area of the province run by Exxon Mobil – one of the largest and most profitable gas projects in the world run by one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the world.

For many years, a significant proportion of the Aceh population has pushed for independence from Indonesia. In 1999, nearly half of Aceh’s four million people mobilized in the streets demanding a referendum on independence. The Indonesian Government and its military have for decades violently opposed the Aceh separatists. As the opposition grows, so does the military presence in the province, and the violence it creates. There are now more than 30,000 troops in Aceh. In this year alone, more than 1,200 people are estimated to have died in violence between the pro-independence rebels and the security forces.

The new Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is offering Aceh greater autonomy but refusing to grant independence. Aceh is just too valuable to lose. Some 11 per cent of Indonesia’s national budget comes from Aceh’s natural resources. Less than 0.4 per cent remains in Aceh.

A claim recently lodged in a US court helps explain why it’s also in the interests of the military to keep Aceh in the Indonesian fold. In June this year, the Washington-based International Labour Rights Fund lodged a compensation claim in the Columbian District Court against the Exxon Mobil Corporation and other companies associated with its Indonesian operations, on behalf of 11 Aceh villagers. The 24-page complaint alleges serious human-rights abuses have been committed against the Acehnese people, including genocide, murder, torture, sexual violence and kidnapping.

The formal complaint says that Mobil (before it merged with Exxon) provided payment and shares to the family of Indonesia’s second President, Suharto, in exchange for exclusive rights to explore for and produce natural gas in the Arun area of Aceh. As part of the deal, the Suharto regime assigned Indonesian military units to provide security for the gas project.

The complaint says that the gas company paid the military a fee for their services, and provided them with barracks. It was in these barracks that the military rounded up, tortured and slaughtered thousands of Acehnese people. It is also alleged that the company purchased military equipment for the security forces, and paid mercenaries to provide advice and training for the military.

Corporate support would be understandably welcomed by the Indonesian military, which is starved of funding: only an estimated 25-30 per cent of their funding comes from the Indonesian Government’s budget and the military must raise the rest on its own. As Gareth Evans – Australia’s foreign minister from 1988 to 1996 – recently wrote: ‘This desperately corrupting dynamic has severely distorted the capacity of the Indonesian armed forces to operate in anything approaching a satisfactory relationship with the government and the society they are supposed to serve.’

Chris Richards

ACTION: Press your government to support Aceh’s democratic right to have a referendum and break all military ties with Indonesia. Petitions and information are available from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), an Australian-based organization that will field international interest –

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Word corner

Volcanoes are named after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. Lava (from the Italian lavare (to wash) was originally used to describe water flowing after heavy rain. Pumice, a light lava looking a little like a solid sponge, is from the Latin spuma (foam). The caldera, or opening at the top of a volcano, is from the Latin caldaria, cauldron. Fumarole, the opening through which smoke pours, is from the Latin fumarium, a smoke chamber for ageing wine.

And finally some volcano names: Cotopaxi in Ecuador from the Quechua for ‘shining mountain’. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania from the Swahili for ‘mountain of the god of cold’. Popocatepetl in Mexico from the Nahuatl for ‘smoking mountain’.

Susan Watkin

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New Internationalist issue 339 magazine cover This article is from the October 2001 issue of New Internationalist.
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