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Speech to public meeting
26 September 2001
The events of 11 September were crimes monstrous, apocalyptic, crimes beyond anything excusable, beyond anything justifiable, and up to that day they were for most of us beyond anything imaginable. They deserve our unequivocal condemnation
There are civilised ways of dealing with crimes. The offenders must be identified in accordance with reliable evidence, they must be apprehended, they must be tried in fair courts, and the guilty must be removed from society for as long as is considered necessary, possibly for ever. There are international mechanisms for doing this and these include diplomatic channels, the United Nations, and the World Court. Until this is generally agreed to have happened, there will probably have to be all sorts of inconvenient and even draconian security measures all over the place.
Punishing the guilty in accordance with international law may be civilised; punishing the innocent by killing enormous numbers of civilians, who live in one of the world's poorest and most miserable countries, and who have already been terrorised by an appalling government is not. As we saw in Iraq, killing people by the thousands doesn't do anything to solve the problem what it does is breed resentment and hate, create martyrs, and accelerate the cycle of violence, while the real criminals escape.
As New Zealanders we should be trying to inform ourselves better, to see beyond the CNN sensationalism to a wider and much more complex view of the world. Simple logic tells us that any real solution to the problem of terrorism has to take account of the conditions that caused the resentment, the fury, the focused malice that can lead ordinary, intelligent people from activism to fanaticism and large-scale violence. We should be saying NO, very loudly, to our government's blind and obedient 'me too' reaction to military invitations. And we should be working to counteract the unjustified suspicion that falls on some of our fellow citizens.
Addressing the grievances that breed resentment and fanaticism, formulating a response that's moral, not military, is going to take more courage, more imagination, and more brains than just taking stupid and cruel revenge and bombing the hell out of people. But, if we are civilised, that is what we must do. Meeting terror with terror is not the answer.