The World of Megaterrorism
BY ANDRE GLUCKSMANN
Sunday, March 21, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
PARIS–Read carefully the statement that claimed responsibility for the Madrid massacres. Al Qaeda puts everyone, from the Crusaders to the Jews, all countries who sent troops not just to Iraq but to Afghanistan as well, in their gun sights. In other words, all of Europe–Berlin and Paris, no less than Rome, London or Warsaw. France merits special condemnation for its ban on the Islamic veil in public schools.
Mad is the European who thinks himself immune for having opposed Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. No accommodation provides insurance against attack. No public building, no train platform, no sidewalk is spared by the Islamist butchers. “Death train,” “death’s black smoke,” “the wind of death,” the bleak metaphors fly over the borders in the name of al Qaeda. The bombs in Madrid, they say, are the “answers to the crimes you have committed worldwide . . . in Iraq and in Afghanistan.”
In manipulating the Spanish election, terrorism proclaims its gospel and applies it in practice. The perfect timing of March 11 is the monstrous example. Little does it matter that the 201 dead and the 1,500 wounded were working-class people, most likely opposed to an intervention in Iraq–as were some 90% of the Spanish. The “human material” has no value for the terrorists who prove the strength of their convictions and the power of their weapons with the murder of the disarmed, whoever they may be and whatever they may think, whether believers or not. It was an encore, as everyone said: On this March 11, 2004, Europe lived its own September 11, the horror of Manhattan all over again.
Except this time the assassins can proclaim they have won. It took them three days to sway popular opinion. The Popular Party of Jose María Aznar, the expected winner, got trounced. “Punished!” they said. But by whom? What’s the point of political campaigns, meetings, reports, programs and debates if within a few hours, the bombing of packed train cars can reverse the result? This final landslide, which no polls had predicted, is entirely due to the Atocha station catastrophe and the terror it spread. How could the terrorists not assume that they are the decision-makers, and that terrorism is now stronger than democracy? If the Socialists brought to govern Spain keep their pledge (made before the massacre) to withdraw from Iraq, they will confirm the killers’ innermost conviction: Crime pays–and the greater the horror, the more efficiently.
“But of course not,” object the wishful thinkers, Mr. Aznar lost because his alliance with George W. Bush was unpopular. Nonsense! The alliance was just as unpopular three days before the elections, but the Popular Party was still favored then, and his opponents did not hope to win back many “antiwar votes.” Without the bombs, without the bloodbath, the shouts of “Aznar assassin” would have sounded ludicrous. But Madrid’s ground zero panicked the minds and awoke the demagogues, ready to invert responsibility. Were there not already weak minds–Lenin’s “useful idiots”–who eagerly claimed that Mr. Bush and the CIA had planned the fall of the Twin Towers?
With hundreds of dead, more than a thousand wounded and the threat of another imminent terrorist attack, Mr. Aznar did not see, know and understand everything within 24 hours. Should a head of government be blamed for not being God? Should he be imagined plotting a Machiavellian scheme to cheat his people without cheating himself, as some kind of extra-lucid devil pulling the strings of a conspiracy as huge as it would be absurd? Stop this delirium.
Eulogy of Literature in the Era of the Happy Nihilist
by André Glucksmann
The end of the Cold War did not mean the end of History, but the beginning of the new era. The tragic events of the 11th of September dramatically confirm the triumph of Nihilism.
Indeed, ancestral traditions and beliefs are dying, and two thirds of humanity are excluded from Euro-American prosperity. Four billion human beings are living in economic, social and moral instability: the Promise Land of Nihilism.
Russia has been testing this out for three centuries with regard to her own situation: her ancestral morality hasn’t progressed and the extent of her Europeanisation is still uncertain. Only Russian literature has got the measure of the nihilistic phenomenon, from Oneguin to Raskolnikov.
What is Nihilism? The notion of Nihilism is directly connected to cruelty: it’s practice, legitimisation and acceptance. Nihilism is a post ideological concept; it speculates on power, is understood as a capacity for nuisance: “Destroy!” is its slogan. Nihilism is harmful physically and psychologically: its fundamental principles are corruption, terror and destruction. The Nihilist does not care anymore about great ideals, does not ask “why?” or “what for?”. He dares to and asks “why not?”: everything is permitted.
The nihilistic challenge is as old as Occidental civilisation. And the resistance to Nihilism characterises civilisation. Today, after two thousand years of maturation, Nihilism challenges the whole planet. Political courage, endurance and ethics are the only ways to fight against the eternal temptation of Nihilism.