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Reflections, Tim Jones
A peaceful world is both harder to attain and more important than ever.
On the most literal level, it's more difficult to attain because the ability to cause mass civilian casualties, and the willingness to cause those casualties, is spreading. That applies to both Al Qaida, with their willingness to murder thousands of civilians in New York and Washington, and the US Government, with its willingness to murder thousands of Afghan civilians in pursuit of Al Qaida. It looks increasingly likely that we will soon see the same willingness displayed in and around Iraq.
On a wider level, it's more difficult to achieve because the world is a place of gross and increasing inequalities. A few countries - and New Zealand is among them - use a disproportionate amount of the world's limited resources, and because of that, people in many other countries live in poverty and die in squalor. What's more, the environmental consequences of this imbalance mean that the time and resources to fix these problems are running out.
Until September 11, 2001, it was easy for people in the rich countries to feel that we could enjoy the benefits of our excessive use of the world's resources without paying any price. Above all, the west in general - and the United States in particular - could waste a disproportionate amount of the world's oil reserves by selling oil to its citizens at prices which completely failed to reflect the total cost of production. That cost was environmental, social, and political, and it had been growing for many years.
On September 11, 2001, the price of oil got a whole lot dearer, and the West's sense of invulnerability was shattered. The attacks on New York and Washington were inexcusable, as any such attack is inexcusable. But amid the patriotic fervour, they did provoke some sombre reflections in the US on the consequences of its actions - and they also garnered the US an immediate outpouring of human sympathy from around the world.
Unfortunately, the US government has chosen to intensify its previous course of action rather than change its ways. The demand to bring the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, and those who planned those attacks, to justice was legitimate. But dropping bombs is not the way to achieve justice. Bombs rain on the innocent and the guilty alike.
Now the US focus is turning to Iraq, whose people have suffered for many years both from the excesses of its own government and from harsh international sanctions. Whatever the merits of the US case against Iraq, it should never be forgotten that Iraq sits atop the world's second-largest oil reserves. Gaining control of Iraqi oil would allow the US to then pursue a more aggressive policy to other countries in the region, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. And every attack on the Islamic world is likely to swell the ranks of recruits to Al Qaida and like-minded organisations around the world.
I don't believe that increased US control of the world's resources, with countries such as New Zealand sheltering behind US military might, is the pathway to a more peaceful world. One American commentator - not known as a liberal - called the attacks on September 11, 2001 a "recruiting ad" for Al Qaida. Continued Western attacks on the Arab world, and expropriation of the Arab world's resources, will provide many more such recruiting ads.
The alternative path is for us all to recognise, individually and collectively, that our disproportionate use of the world's resources, and our failure to deal with the consequences of that use, is unsustainable in environmental, human, and political terms. We must not only recognise this but take real action to change our ways. Doing so would provide no guarantee of security, but it would be the beginning of turning away from the path the world is now on, and taking a path in which peace and justice is truly possible. Thank you.