On Sept. 11, more than 35,000 of the world's children died of
starvation. A similar number have perished from hunger every day
since then in developing countries, according to figures from the
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
As the immediate shock of the attacks on New York and Washington
fades, some European leaders are beginning to look for the root
causes of terrorism. And they are blaming poverty and injustice as
much as anything else.
"One illusion has been shattered on 11th September: that we can
have the good life of the West, irrespective of the state of the
rest of the world," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a
major foreign policy address earlier this month.
Politicians in France and Germany have echoed this line of
thought. "To fight against terrorism is also to settle or solve the
problems which the terrorists use as pretexts," said French Foreign
Minister Hubert Vedrine in a recent television interview.
Some of those problems are political: Mr. Vedrine pointed to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which Washington is now making a
renewed effort to resolve after nine months of sitting on the
But deeper questions of inequality are coming into fresh focus in
the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Not that anyone is suggesting that Osama bin Laden, accused of
masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks, was acting on behalf of the
world's poor, or that he conceived the atrocity as a way of drawing
attention to the growing disparities between the richest and the
poorest countries. Nothing he has said or done, before or after the
attack, supports such an idea.
But his vitriolic brand of anti-Americanism resonates with
resentful and dispossessed people. "The war against
terrorism...needs to be a series of political actions designed to
remove the conditions under which such acts of evil can flourish and
be tolerated," Mr. Blair told his audience. "The dragon's teeth are
planted in the fertile soil of wrongs unrighted, of disputes left to
fester for years or even decades, of failed states, of poverty and
deprivation," he added.
"Self interest for a nation and the interests of the broader
community are no longer in conflict. In the war against terrorism,
the moralists and the realists are partners, not antagonists."
This is a theme that is being taken up elsewhere, as the
governments of wealthy countries begin to show more signs of
sympathy for developing nations.
One pointer: at the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting
in Qatar, the United States and its allies finally gave in to Third
World demands that poor countries facing epidemics such as AIDS
should be allowed to sidestep international patent law so as to make
or buy cheap generic drugs. …