11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview
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The Politics of Terrorism and 'Civilization': How to Respond as a Human Being


On 11 September 2001, I was in Britain. Shocking pictures were shown day by day: I was particularly frightened by the two that came out in the London Sunday Times on 16 September. I stared at them transfixed, but at the same time unable to bear the sight. One was a large photo of a group of about 30 people, leaning out of the windows of what might have been near the hundredth floor of the World Trade Center and trying to escape from the flames and smoke about to engulf them. The other prominently featured image was of a man who had jumped from a window and was plummeting head first toward the ground beneath.

The pictures of the collapsing World Trade Center were horrifying. But the two images that stay with me most are not ones of buildings, but those of men and women during the final moments of their lives. I was shocked by the terror since I witnessed it as the death of human beings-the indiscriminate murder of innocent people. To me, it did not matter which country or ethnic group they belonged to. It was plainly the death of human beings. In contrast, President George W. Bush declared that the deaths resulted from a war against America, and that it was the United States that would win a war on terrorism. Many Americans also saw the 11 September victims exclusively as citizens of their own nation. The Stars and Stripes inundated New York City and elsewhere in the United States.

Here we find a fundamental difference in terms of the perspective from which to look at the terrorist attacks. No doubt, we agree on our opposition to terrorism. But from whose point of view do we oppose it? Is it from the viewpoint of the United States, or any other country for that matter? Or is it from the perspective of humanity? In this context, we must examine the following three points.


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