Since the attacks on the United States by 15 Saudi Islamic fanatics on September 11, 2001 (now known as 9/11), the world has been divided by a “war on terror” with any protest group defined as “terrorist “. New anti-terrorism laws have been introduced both in the West and elsewhere over the past 20 years and widely used to suppress such movements in the name of “national security”.
Interestingly, the September 11 attacks took place at a time when a huge “global justice” movement was forming across the world against the injustices of globalization. Using the Internet as a means of mobilization, they met in Seattle in 1999 and succeeded in shutting down the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
They opposed what they saw as large multinational corporations with unregulated political power, exercised through trade agreements and deregulated financial markets, facilitated by governments. Their main targets were the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the OECD, the World Bank and international trade agreements.
The movement brought together “civil society” people from North and South around common goals. At the same time, the international “Jubilee 2000” movement led by liberal Christian and Catholic churches has called for the cancellation of US $ 90 billion in debts owed by the world’s poorest nations to Western banks and governments.
Besides churches, youth groups, music and entertainment industry groups have been involved. The September 11 attacks killed these movements because “national security” took precedence over “freedom to oppose”.
Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, former vice-president of the United Nations Human Rights Council and Sri Lankan political scientist, notes that when “capitalism became neoliberal and broke loose” after the demise of the Soviet Union, resistance began to develop with the rise of the Zapatistas in Chiapas (Mexico) against NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and culminated with the protests in Seattle in 1999 using a term coined by Cuban leader Fidel Castro “another world is possible”.
“It all fell apart with the Twin Towers,” he notes. “With September 11, the Islamo-jihadist opposition in the United States (and the war on terror) broke through and buried the progressive resistance that we have seen emerging in Chiapas and Seattle.”
“September 11 freaked us out in the ‘war on terror’ using lethal weapons of questionable legality that inspired more terrorists. Twenty years later, those same adversaries are back and now we’re afraid of America’s treachery – about Taiwan or ANZUS or whatever. There will be many consequences, ”warns Geoffrey Robertson QC, famous British human rights activist and television personality. But, he sees a glimmer of hope that has come out of this “war on terror”.
“A reasonably successful tactic developed in the war on terror was to use targeted sanctions against its sponsors. This was developed by the so-called “Magnitsky Acts”, making it possible to target human rights abusers – 31 democracies now have them and Australia will soon be the 32nd. I foresee their coordination as part of the response – a war not against terrorism but against state cruelty, ”he told IDN.
Asked about the humiliation of the United States in Afghanistan, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, founder of the International Movement for a Just World, told IDN that the West must understand that it too must stop funding terrorism to achieve its goals. own goals. “The ‘war on terror’ was doomed from the start because those who started the war were unwilling to admit that it was their occupation and oppression that forced others to retaliate with acts of terror. he argues. “Popular antagonism towards the occupiers has been one of the main reasons for the humiliating defeat of the United States and NATO in Afghanistan,” he added.
Looking at Western attempts to introduce democracy under the pretext of a “war on terror” and the chaos created by the “Arab Spring,” a youth movement led by West-funded NGOs, the native Australian Iranian Farzin Yekta who worked in Lebanon for 15 years as a community multimedia worker argues that the Arab region needs a different democracy.
“In the Middle East, nations should aspire to a system based on social justice rather than the Western democratic model. Corrupt political and economic machinery, external interference and dysfunctional infrastructure are the main obstacles to building a system based on social justice, ”he said, adding that there are signs of recovery. growing social movements in the region while “resisting all kinds of attacks”.
Yekta told IDN that by working with Palestinian refugee groups in Lebanon, he saw how peoples’ movements could be undermined by so-called “civil society” NGOs (non-governmental organizations). “Alternative social movements are infested with institutions of ‘civil society’ comprising mainly NGOs. “Civil society” is an effective lever for the establishment and for foreign (Western) interference to pacify radical social movements. Social movements find themselves in a network of funded entities pushing for “agendas” drawn up by funding partners, ”Yekta noted.
Looking at the failure of Western forces in Afghanistan, he argues that what they have done in building “civil society” has encouraged the corruption and cronyism that are entangled in the ethnic and tribal structures of society. “The Western nation-building plan was limited to the establishment of a pseudo-democratic greenhouse space in the green zone of Kabul. It was enough to go to the countryside to face total poverty and the lack of infrastructure, ”notes Yekta. “We have to understand that the struggle of the people is taking place in places with poor or no infrastructure.”
Dr Jayatilleka also sees positive signs of social movements starting to lift their heads after two decades of repression. “Black Lives Matter attracted perhaps more young whites than blacks and was the biggest protest movement in history. Globalized solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza, including large protests in American cities, is further proof of this. In Latin America, leftist populist Pink Tide 2.0 started with Lopez Obrador’s victory in Mexico and produced Pedro Castillo’s victory in Peru. The slogan of justice, both individual and social, is more globalized, more universal today than ever in my lifetime, ”he told IDN.
Grassroots movements may have many problems to resolve with the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) trade agreements that come into effect in Asia, where companies could sue governments if their social policies infringe on profits. companies. But Dr Jayatilleka is less optimistic about the rise of social movements in Asia.
“Unfortunately, the movement for social justice is considerably more complicated in Asia than elsewhere, although one would have assumed that given the social inequalities in Asian societies, the struggle for social justice would be a torrent. This is not the case, “he argues. The most brilliant recent spark in Asia, according to Dr Jayatilleka, has been the rise to power of the Nepalese Communist Party through the ballot box after a protracted people’s war, but “Bigotry has led to the collapse of what was the brightest hope for society’s Asian justice movement.
Robertson believes the time has come for social movements suppressed by post 9/11 counterterrorism laws to reincarnate into a different life. “The broader demand for social justice will be reborn, first behind the imperative to deal with climate change, but then with tax havens, the power of multinationals and obscene inequalities in global wealth. So I do not despair of a momentum for social justice in the future, ”he says.