Injustice Seen as Fertile Soil for Terrorists ; Europe Mulls Ways to Stop Terrorism by Closing the Gap between Rich and Poor Countries

By Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Injustice Seen as Fertile Soil for Terrorists ; Europe Mulls Ways to Stop Terrorism by Closing the Gap between Rich and Poor Countries


Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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 sidelines.

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. …

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