On September 11, 2001 at around 20.00 hrs I watched with shock as the local news channel aired the crash of an airplane into one of the two twin towers in New York and then with terror as I saw a second plane crash into the second tower. I watched as the towers came down and followed reports about the crash of another plane into the Pentagon.When news of the fourth crash in a field in Pennsylvania came in I knew something had happened of historical importance.I was only 14 years of age at the time and in retrospect I must state that I grew under the influence of that event.
Not long after I followed extensively the Iraqi invasion on BBC and heard how the local population rejoiced at the incoming of American troops. I listened as the BBC reporter spoke with excitement as the Iraqi people tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Soon enough though the same people who had rejoiced at the fall of their government turned on one another and against the American troops who they had only recently welcomed.
Fast forward some months and the Madrid and London bombings. At this time my sensitivity to suicide killings had been blunted such that by the time the Bali bombings happened it was just news. Same for all the bombings in Russia, Pakistan, India and Iraq.
Since 2010 however, the country I reside in Nigeria, has begun to bear the brunt of this international terror campaign. Scores have died and at the last count the symbol of civilization in the country- the United Nations Headquarters was bombed by a suicide bomber who made use of a bomb laden SUV. Now no nation no matter how poor can claim it is far removed from terrorism for it is the blight of this century.
9/11 marked the beginning of the age of terror and subsumed within this period is the age of austerity which in many ways is a by-product of excess spending in defense by the biggest economies of the world. Also by affecting peoples’ attitude to life as something to lived for the now as tomorrow is uncertain, the 9/11 event influenced popular culture towards self-gratification. This self-gratification fueled inordinate consumerism and ultimately led to the 2008 sub prime mortgage crisis and the resultant global economic recession.
Nobody ten years ago would have predicted the extensive global impact of that event on 9/11 and because of what happened that day, today many nations and livelihoods are in a precarious state.
Terrorism is not new and will always be with us as proven by the recent Utoya Island killings however governments and society must seek the means to limit the potential of terrorists from carrying out devastating attacks of such significance as that of 9/11. To achieve this, society must do the following:
A) Kill motivation:
‘Can you wage war against a people not afraid to die?’ This statement must be understood in terms of the motivation behind all human activity- politics, war, marriage, business etc. All of man’s endeavors are geared towards creating a better life for self. The terrorist who blows himself up in a plane or an SUV does so believing he earns a right to a better life in heaven as against his current abysmal state in the world. He does so believing that he leaves behind a legacy that can be utilised to build a better life for his people by his comrades.
Some may argue that many who turn to terrorism lead a comfortable life. This statement seems true if one looked only at the backgrounds of the key leaders of Al-qaeda as well as that of the Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab but these men are icons of their thwarted faith.
What about the hundreds of foot soldiers who make and ferry the bombs, who fight in the terrorist-backed militias in Somalia, Afghanistan,Yemen and the Sahara? It is these men whose backgrounds we need to know. We need to find out what motivates them into terrorism, what pushes them to become willing vectors for this monster glamorized by Osama Bin Laden. Only by understanding their motivations in becoming members of the under-army of terrorism can we then begin to seek to uproot this menace.
As a general cannot wage war without an army so also terrorism cannot thrive without the vast numbers of people who feed from it and give it form daily all over the world.
An ideology that cannot settle can have no foothold. However when belief is given time and space to grow and recruit disciples it becomes signifcant and is then able to pass across a point to the rest of society.
The radical ideology espoused by Al-qaeda would have died in the mind of Osama were it not that he had the time and space to develop it in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban. Today Al-qaeda’s influence in Sub Saharan Africa is growing because of the lawless state in Somalia. While it is yet early, this should be nipped in the bud before it leads to another terror spring and a second decade of terror.
All intelligence agencies must take the fight to terrorists wherever they may be located. The goal of governments must be to unsettle and overawe them so that they i.e. terrorists can no longer coordinate terror.
This is sustainable if the world’s resources are matched by responsive governments to the right number of people. This has become of paramount priority at this time especially as the world’s limited resources cannot forever sustain a burgeoning population as this will lead to widespread poverty and a fertile field for cultivating and recruiting discontented people for terrorist activities. For when people become so despaired of life,they will no longer will to live and death for a greater cause becomes appealing and in fact attractive as it helps give self-worth to people with an otherwise dull and meaningless existence.It is from such discontentment in fact that strife and terrorism grow.
Integral to equanimity also is the need to curtail greed. It is greed that has led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few to the detriment of the majority.It is this greed that led to the recent financial crisis and attendant loss of jobs and the spread of universal misery. It is greed that has fueled corrupt and irresponsible governments all over the world and the acts of these governments have led to popular discontent and the rise of insecurity globally.
D) Citizen responsibility:
The increase in global prosperity from the late 1970’s to the late 2000’s led to people passing to their governments alot of powers in what will soon be regarded as the ‘age of citizen irresponsibility’. In more self-reliant societies as the United States however, it was the 9/11 attacks that so terrorized the people into allowing their governments pass sweeping laws that gave them hitherto unheard of powers. Governemnts world over have now become so entrenched and much too powerful to be questioned. Today they have become the terrorists.
‘Worldians’ – i.e. citizens of the world must begin to take back these powers from their governments. Government’s function is to protect the people from external aggression and to regulate inter-citizen interactions in the interest of order and justice. Any other function performed by governments today is due to the dereliction of responsibility by citizens and this must not be allowed to continue or some years from now we will no longer be freeborn people but slaves of the state.
9/11 defined the last decade.It caused wars and entrenched a culture of fear globally.It perpetuated intolerance and insecurity on such a global scale as no incident has since World War II.It has defined intercultural relations for a whole generation-the ‘Echo Boomers’ and its influence will remain strong up until this generation’s children come of age-for it will form part of the folk tales they will learn.
However we must no longer as people of the world allow terrorists set the news agenda or the direction of our popular culture or the powers devolved to the state by the people.From now on we must move beyond the 9/11 influence, beyond the culture of fear, greed, intolerance and irresponsibility that it helped entrench. We must set forth along the path determined by citizen action towards a future more peaceful and prosperous than the last ten years.We must respond to terror, like the Norwegian people did to the Utoya killings, with the resolve to never again allow terrorists dictate the terms of our future and civilization.