We Are All
Jean-Marie Colombani, Le
Monde (liberal), Paris, France, Sept. 12, 2001.
this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the
shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We
are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers, just as surely as John
F. Kennedy declared himself to be a Berliner in 1962 when he visited
Berlin. Indeed, just as in the gravest moments of our own history,
how can we not feel profound solidarity with those people, that
country, the United States, to whom we are so close and to whom
we owe our freedom, and therefore our solidarity? How can we not
be struck at the same time by this observation: The new century
has come a long way.
Sept. 11, 2001, marks the ushering in of a new age that seems so
far from the promise of another historic day, Nov. 9, 1989 [the
breaking of the Berlin Wall], and a somewhat euphoric year, 2000,
which we thought might conclude with peace in the Middle East.
so a new century moves ahead, with powerful technology, as shown
by the sophistication of the war operation that struck Americas
symbols: those of its enormous economic power in the heart of Manhattan
[and] of its military might at the Pentagon. The beginnings of this
century defy understanding unless you promptly and indiscriminately
subscribe to the cliché that is already the most widespread:
the triggering of a war of the South against the North.
to say this would be to credit the perpetrators of this murderous
madness with good intentions, or with some plan, whereby
the oppressed peoples would be avenged against their sole oppressor,
America. That would have allowed them to claim poverty
as their authority, thus committing an affront to it! What monstrous
hypocrisy! None of those who had a hand in this operation can claim
they intend the good of humanity. Actually, they have no interest
in a better world. They simply want to wipe ours off the face of
reality is more certainly that of a world with no counterbalance,
physically destabilized, and thus more dangerous since there is
no multipolar balance. And America, in the solitude of its power,
in its status as the sole superpower, now in the absence of a Soviet
counter-model, has ceased to draw other nations to itself; or more
precisely, in certain parts of the globe, it seems to draw nothing
but hate. In the regulated world of the Cold War, where the various
kinds of terrorism were more or less aided by Moscow, a certain
degree of control was still possible, and the dialogue between Moscow
and Washington never stopped. In todays monopolistic world,
it is a new barbarism, apparently with no control, which seems to
want to set itself up as a counter-power. Perhaps, even in Europe,
from the Gulf War to the use of F-16s by the Israeli army against
the Palestinians, we have underestimated the intensity of the hate,
which, from the outskirts of Jakarta to those of Durban, among the
rejoicing crowds in Nablus and Cairo, is focused against the United
the reality is perhaps also that of an America whose own cynicism
has caught up with. If Bin Laden, as the American authorities seem
to think, really is the one who ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, how
can we fail to recall that he was in fact trained by the CIA and
that he was an element of a policy, directed against the Soviets,
that the Americans considered to be wise? Might it not then have
been America itself that created this demon?
that as it may, America is going to change. Profoundly. America
is like a large ocean liner, sailing for a long time on the same
course. When the course is changed, it is changed for a long time.
And, even though the expression may be overworked, the United States
has suffered an unprecedented shock. Pearl Harbor marked the end
of isolationism, so deeply rooted that it was not even moved by
Hitlers barbarity. After Pearl Harbor, everything changed.
And America accepted it all, from the Marshall Plan to sending GIs
to every point of the globe. Then came the Vietnam debacle, which
led to a new doctrine, that of the rare but massive use of force,
accompanied by the dogma of zero casualties for the
United States, as illustrated during the Gulf War. All of that has
now been swept away. There is no doubt that every means will be
employed against enemies who, up to now, have remained elusive.
new hand that has begun to be dealt out in blood, at this stage,
will bring with it at least two foreseeable consequences. Both have
to do with alliances: It is certainly the end of an entire strategy
conceived in opposition to Russia, the Soviet Union at the time.
Russia, at least in its non-Islamic areas, is going to become the
main ally of the United States. Perhaps it is also the end of an
alliance that the United States had traced out in the 1930s and
soundly established in the 1950s with Sunni Muslim fundamentalism,
such as it is defended particularly in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
In the eyes of American public opinion and its leadership, Islamic
fundamentalism, in all its forms, risks being designated as the
new enemy. Indeed, the anti-Islamic reflex, immediately after the
attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, resulted in statements
that were ridiculous, if not downright odious.
their obvious murderous madness, these latest attacks nonetheless
follow a certain logic.
Obviously it is a barbarous logic, marked by a new nihilism that
is repugnant to the great majority of those who believe in Islam,
which, as a religion, does not condone suicide any more than Christianity
does, and certainly not suicide coupled with the massacre of innocent
people. But it is a political logic, which, by going to extremes,
seeks to force Muslim opinion to choose sides against
those who are currently designated as the Great Satan.
By doing this, their objective might well be to spread and deepen
an unprecedented crisis in the Arab world.
the long term, this attitude is obviously suicidal, because it attracts
lightning. And it might attract a bolt of lightning that does not
discriminate. This situation requires our leaders to rise to the
occasion. They must act so that the peoples whom these warmongers
are seeking to win over and are counting on will not fall in step
behind them in their suicidal logic. This we can say with some dread:
Modern technology allows them to go even further. Madness, even
under the pretext of despair, is never a force that can regenerate
the world. That is why today we are all Americans.