Poverty, terrorism and 9/11


During his interview with the CBC, Stephen Harper was asked about comments Jean Chretien made nine years ago on the first anniversary of Sept. 11.

Nobody who was killed on 9/11 deserved it remotely. It was a terrible thing, has nothing to do with wealth versus poverty. It has to do with, in this case, a particular hateful ideology that has attacked people around the world, not just affluent societies like our own, but some pretty poor places. You know, I think the people killed in Indonesia, in India. The fact that Afghanistan became a failed state, where you know, people just essentially lived in not just poverty, but brutality, to the point where a kind of Islamic fascist regime literally invited terrorists, international terrorists to set up camp in their country. I think that that kind of situation obviously bred a threat, and that’s why we are so worried when we look around the world now at other places where the same thing could happen. You know, I think you know some of them: Somalia, Yemen, that are there or at that kind of stage. That’s the kind of thing I think we really have to worry about, where you have not just poverty, but poverty and literally lawlessness becomes the nature of the state. And I do think it’s in our broader interests and the right thing to do to try and help people and help countries so that they don’t get into that situation. That’s why, you know, we obviously are helping with the famine in East Africa. It’s why we’re so involved in Haiti. Not to have that kind of a state in our own backyard. So those, I think those kinds of situations are very dangerous.

Mr. Chretien’s comments, as reported by the Globe, were as follows.

“It’s always the problem when you read history — everybody doesn’t know when to stop. There’s a moment when you have to stop, there’s a moment when you are very powerful,” he said…

“I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relations to the poor world,” he said. “And necessarily, we’re looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. And the 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more.”

The Prime Minister said he was in New York prior to the terrorist attacks and heard complaints from Wall Street capitalists about Canadian economic ties to Cuba and other foreign-policy disagreements.

“I told them: When you are powerful like you are, you guys, it’s the time to be nice,” he said. “And it is one of the problems — you cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation of the others. And that is what the Western world — not only the Americans but the Western world — has to realize.”


Poverty, terrorism and 9/11

  1. Seems to me they’re both right to some degree.

    • I do think that the answer lies somewhere in the middle – but I also think it’s unfair, even vindictive, of Mr. Harper to imply that Mr. Chrétien’s comments should be taken to mean the victims of 9/11 ‘deserved it’.

      It also seems Mr. Chrétien’s comments are in direct response to questions about relations between the west and the developing world generally and he’s not meaning to assert that the divide between the two is the sole and exclusive cause of 9/11, much less to suggest that terrorism is exclusively something the poor do to the rich.


      • I didn’t read that into Harper’s comment, but I guess given some of the things he’s said in the past, I can see why you’d think that was implied.

        Personally I do think that our extreme wealth and our tendency to “preach” our values can be humiliating to others, so we do need to be careful about that. Chretien was right on point.

        The offering of a hand-up is always preferable to a hand-out in that regard.

        Harper makes an excellent point as well in stating that poverty mixed with lawlessness does create a breeding ground for criminality and extremism, though I’d argue that rather than focusing on the need to prepare for war, we should be putting a lot more effort into recognizing the signs of a failed state early on and doing something about it before it boils over.

        All in all though I have no complaints about either of the comments, partisan warts not-withstanding.

  2. Harper says that it, “has nothing to do with wealth versus poverty.”  but, “…that Afghanistan became a failed state, where…, people … lived in not just poverty, but brutality, … where a kind of Islamic fascist regime literally invited terrorists, … to set up camp in their country.”, and, “where you have not just poverty, but poverty and literally lawlessness becomes the nature of the state.”

    Basically, I think he is saying, that a lack of legal authority is the problem, that a vacuum of legal authority allows illegal authority.

    Authority can be enforced how? Guns? Money? Guns or Money. Bullets or buckets of money. 

    “[We] obviously are helping with the famine in East Africa. It’s why we’re so involved in Haiti.”

    Because we have the wealth to allow us to do so, yet the causes have “nothing to do with Wealth or Poverty”. But the solutions do. Our authority comes from Wealth. If we can fix the poverty, then maybe there won’t be terrorism.

    And Chretien: “I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relations to the poor world,” he said. ”And necessarily, we’re looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits.”

    Maybe Harper has addressed somewhere the point Chretien makes: the resentment about the disparity, and the causes of that resentment. He would seem to recognize it, but would make up the difference with christian good work.

    So maybe, it is not the simple monopole of Poverty, but the dipole –  the disparity between Wealth and Poverty which is the problem.

    • I’d say not just the disparity between wealth and poverty, but also the disparity between a cohesive national identity backed by the rule of law versus an unstable lawless state of warring factions.

      In terms of Afghanistan, the world powers of the past two centuries (Britain, Russia, U.S.) have all invaded the region with extended campaigns at one point or other going back to 1839. In fact a quick look at their history suggests that this place has been fought over for thousands of years by so many people it’s freaking insane.


      • In short, the West is part of the problem. No we aren’t innocent, and no we didn’t deserve it.

        I always return to the three basic principles of Buddhism: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything changes. There is no first cause.

        So, you can chase causes forever. You’ll never reach the end of them. But you must stop at Now, and recognize what you can do to end them.

        • That’s kind of profound for the pages here don’t cha think? LOL

          I do however agree wholeheartedly and appreciate the depth of the comment.

          Living consciousness capable of reflecting on the nature of reality arose from a cold dead rock spinning in space, and yet we kill each other over baubles and dogma. Sheesh.

          We’ll move beyond it at some point, but it sucks that we have learn this stuff the hard way.

      • And yes, you picked the argument I left unexplained: the conditions of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ authority. I just wanted the explore the Wealth/Poverty thing.

  3. Did Chretien actually imply that the people who were murdered in the 9/11 terror attacks deserved it?


    I know there were left wing nuts cheering when the towers went down, but the PM of Canada should have a little more between his ears.

    • Uh, no, he did imply that the West must recognize that we are part of the problem.

      • So they were only partly deserving?

        • “There are no innocent bystanders … what are they doing there in the first place?” 
          — William S. Burroughs

          • Probably their jobs, you know, the thing most people have to do during the day.

    • Uh, no he didn’t.

      Try putting somehing between your ears.

    • Hey Look! Turd’s got a new lie to repeat.

    • “…Did Chretien actually imply that the people who were murdered in the 9/11 terror attacks deserved it?…”

      No, you did.


      I know there were rightwing nuts cheering when they realised they could twist the words of our Prime Minister during a time of turmoil and sorrow to make some cheap political points, but you always hold out hope that people have more self respect than that.

      Oh well.

      • I assume you were one of the left wing nuts cheering.

        • Of course you do.

          Accepting responsibility for your inappropriate ideological smears is clearly beyond you.

          It’s amazing to me that conservatives like you have any support at all given how you make enemies of those who would otherwise agree with you on many points.


          Troll on bud. Troll on.

          • Luckily the Conservatives don’t need your vote, nor do they probably want it.

          • If they can’t get my support, that of a long time PC with fiscal conservative leanings, then they’ll never be as strong a party as they could be.

            It’s a pity too. If not for all the social conservative pandering and lack of sense, there’d be no doubt about who I’d support.


  4. “No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours.

    The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. This bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorized and displaced.  I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents,rockets raining down on our home without mercy.
    And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children. And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance.”

    Bin Laden speech transcript Nov 2004

    • Vengence breeds vengence if one is without the courage to say “it stops here”.

      So he made himself into those he hated and in doing so lost all right to claim a righteous cause. Worse still, he started a ball rolling that no one can really control. Mindless hatred with little or no guiding force. Just a call for death and destruction that will never end with conscious choice.

      In general the Western governments may not have acted much better in many regards over the years, and that’s a truth we need to accept and is not something to be proud of, but it’s hardly a fair comparision. Just because we are democratic doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with moral questions, or that we or our system of government are somehow perfect.

      However, on whole you have to ask yourself: Where are the voices for peace and the ability to influence policy primarily coming from? Where is it that people are free to confront their government and demand change, even if they fail?

      The democratic havens of the West, that’s where. Try that in a caliphate and see how far you get.

      In trying to be fair and equitable and not diminish others, I think sometimes we lose sight of how unique our society is in the context of human history.

      • Well that’s all lovely and philosophical and all….but they’ve never been allowed the luxury of determining their own way. The ‘west’ has constantly interfered in their countries, and finally they struck back and got our attention.

        It has nothing to do with a caliphate…it has to do with respect for the sovereignty of other nations.

        Our society is not remotely unique in history. The idea that we are, is western arrogance.

        • One’s philosophy on life is what guides all decisions, so there’s nothing minor about its contribution to our actions. It’s the root of them.

          We all have the “luxury” of determining our own way. Nobody can take that away. That it is difficult and requires sacrifice will always be a factor.

          In the passage you cite Bin Laden is simply making excuses for the murder of innocents, much like the excuses many of our own “leaders” have made.

          The only germane question is who will be the first to stand up for the universal ideals of humanity and try to stop this nonsense, and whether or not their “enemies” will see the wisdom of it.

          So far neither side is doing well in that regard, but frankly I think that when it comes, it will not be from the likes of a Bin Laden.

          • Yes, and one philosophy says that when you constantly get interfered with, attacked and trampled on, you fight back.  Self-defence is a basic human instinct. Turning the other cheek only goes so far.

            bin Laden wasn’t making excuses, he gave the explanation.

            We’ve had lots of people who have stood up for the universal ideals of humanity….we just haven’t listened.  We even apparently crucified one.

          • You’re comparing a man who preached non-violence as his philosophy to one who preaches the murder of innocents?

            To call that a weak defense is an understatement.

            Well at least you seem to admit that mere “philosophy” has more import than you were willing to accept in your earlier post.

            In any case I stand by my point. Bin Laden’s words sound like justification until you realize he’s no better than those he is criticizing.

            You wouldn’t accept that excuse from Western leaders, and you shouldn’t accept them here either.

          • @Phil_King:disqus 

            I think you’ve wandered off through the Looking Glass.

        • “…Our society is not remotely unique in history…”

          Surely you jest?

          • No, I don’t jest. There were lots of societies and civilizations before ours….lasted longer than ours has done so far.

            And humans have tried all manner of ruling ourselves.

          • Well then you clearly don’t understand my point, since longevity and variety are not the uniqueness I’m talking about.

            Never has there been a society that has the particular combination of legally enshrined equality, extreme wealth, advanced technology and extensive knowledge we have today.

            We know for a fact that we are all inextrincably linked through common ancestors and that our differences are purely social/ideological, ie made up.

            We know we have the capacity to feed, cloth and house the entire world if we choose, so our wars over resources are not about survival anymore, but solely about dominance.

            Unlike any time period in the past, nearly every citizen can access nearly any piece of information, and so excuses for narrow ideological perspectives are baseless.

            In essence, we’re out of excuses, and our unique position is the why and wherefore of that.

          • @Phil King 

            Well actually, yes there has.

            They had the knowledge of their times, and used it.  The fact we have more knowledge today is based upon theirs…it’s simply been added to over time because of population. Goodness knows most societies haven’t pursued it as a ‘good’ in itself. In fact we’ve mostly done everything we could to stifle and prevent the pursuit of knowledge.

            Many empires were hot sfuff in their time…and thought they were the ultimate answer…and now they are gone.

            If we can’t answer the challenges of our time….we’ll be gone too.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            “If we can’t answer the challenges of our time… we’ll be gone too…”

            No doubt, but we’ll have had less excuse for it than any other society in the history of time.

            The populace can no longer claim ignorance in allowing our society’s atrocities.

          • @Phil_King:disqus 

            The populace is busy cheering Palin, Bachmann, Perry…etc

  5. “I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relations to the poor world,” he said.

    PJ O’Rourke ~ Eat The Rich:

    The hardest thing to understand about economics is that it doesn’t need to be understood. My beatnik friends and I, when we were in college, were perfectly justified in expending out intelliectual energy on sex and drugs instead of money. But there was one thing that we did need to learn. And still do.

    And it’s a piece of knowledge that seems to contradict psychology, life experience, and the dicatates of conscience: Economics is not zero sum. There is no fixed amount of wealth. That is, if you have too many slices of pizza, I don’t have to eat the box. Your money does not cause my poverty. Refusal to believe this at the bottom of most bad economic thinking.

    True, at any given moment, there is only so much wealth to go around. But wealth is based on productivity. Without productivity, there wouldn’t be any economics, or any economic thinking, good or bad, or any pizza, or anything else. We would sit around and stare at rocks, and maybe have some for dinner.

    • An underlying assumption here is ownership of and access to the resources. No, my money doesn’t cause your poverty but if I have dispossessed you of your land, government and identity, there can be no productivity and it damn well is a symptom.

  6. The towers would have been a lot less tempting if they had a couple to call their own.

    I’ve never understood why it’s called fascist and I’m loose with the term as it is.

  7. Mr. Chretien’s position with regard to resentment seems to be supported by North America’s response to another historic 9/11 event. For some reason the whole world is supposed to get turned upside down because of an event in New York City on that day, while we almost completely ignore that was also the day in 1973 when, supported by the US government at the time, Pinochet and his men came out of the barracks to effect a coup d’etat in Chile.

    That included bloody reprisals against Allende supporters and suspected sympathizers over the next two decades including extensive human rights abuses, executions, torture and disappearances as well as the dispersal of thousands of refugees from Chile to around the globe. The human suffering and economic impact of that event is at least comparable to that of the World Trade Towers and it is a continuing impact because of the political and economic destruction instituted by the drastic dictatorship of Pinochet. See for instance this summary on the occasion of last year’s 9/11 remembrance:

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