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Terrorism and the War Crisis

This is the text of a speech delivered by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, September 22, 2001. The editors thank Victor Wallis for his help with translating the text.

Whatever might be terrorism’s deep origins, whatever the economic and political factors involved in it, and whoever might be most responsible for bringing it into the world, no one can deny that terrorism is today a dangerous and ethically indefensible phenomenon, which must be eradicated.

The unanimous anger caused by the human and psychological damage inflicted on the American people by the unexpected and shocking deaths of thousands of innocent people, whose images have shaken the world, is perfectly understandable. But who have been the beneficiaries? The extreme right, the most backward and right–wing forces, those in favor of crushing the growing world rebellion and sweeping away everything progressive that is still left on the planet. It was an enormous error, a huge injustice, and a great crime, whoever they are who organized or are responsible for this action.

However, the tragedy should not be used recklessly to start a war that could actually unleash an endless carnage of innocent people in the name of justice and under the peculiar and bizarre slogan of “Infinite Justice.”

In the last few days we have seen the hasty establishment of the basis, the concept, the true purposes, the spirit, and the conditions for such a war. No one can affirm that it was not something thought out well in advance, something that was just waiting for its chance to materialize. Those who after the so–called end of the Cold War continued arming themselves to the teeth and developing the most sophisticated means to kill and exterminate human beings knew very well that the investment of enormous sums in military expenditures would give them the privilege of imposing a complete and total domination over the other peoples of the world. The ideologues of the imperialist system knew very well what they were doing and why they were doing it.

After the shock and sincere sorrow felt by all the peoples on Earth for the atrocious and insane terrorist attack that targeted the American people, the most extremist ideologues and the most belligerent hawks, already set in privileged power positions, have taken command of the most powerful country in the world, whose military and technological capabilities would seem infinite. Its capacity to destroy and kill is enormous; by contrast, its tendencies toward equanimity, serenity, thoughtfulness and restraint are minimal.

This combination of elements including the complicity and common privileges of other rich and powerful countries, along with the prevailing opportunism, confusion, and panic, make it almost impossible to avoid a bloody and unpredictable outcome.

The first victims of whatever military actions are undertaken will be the billions of people living in the poor and underdeveloped world, with their unbelievable economic and social problems: their unpayable debts, and the ruinous prices of their basic commodities; their growing natural and ecological catastrophes, their hunger and misery, the massive undernourishment of their children, teenagers and adults; their terrible AIDS epidemic, their malaria, their tuberculosis, and their infectious diseases that threaten whole nations with extermination.

The severe global economic crisis was already a real and undeniable fact affecting absolutely every one of the big economic power centers. Such a crisis will inevitably grow deeper under the new circumstances, and when it becomes unbearable for the overwhelming majority of the peoples, it will bring chaos, rebellion, and ungovernability all over the world.

The price will also be unpayable for the rich countries. For years to come it would be impossible to give proper attention to the environment and ecology—to speak about ideas and research done and tested, or about projects for the protection of Nature—because that space and possibility would be taken up by military actions, war, and crimes as infinite as “Infinite Justice,” which is the name given to the war operation to be unleashed.

Can there be any hope left after listening, hardly thirty–six hours ago, to the speech made the President before the U.S. Congress? I will avoid the use of adjectives, qualifiers or offensive words toward the author of that speech. They would be totally unnecessary and inappropriate when the tensions and seriousness of the moment require thoughtfulness and equanimity. I will limit myself to underlining some short phrases that say it all:

We will use every necessary weapon of war.

Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.

Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

I’ve called the armed forces to alert and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud.

This is the world’s fight, this is civilization’s fight.

I ask for your patience […] in what will be a long struggle.

The great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depend on us.

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. […] And we know that God is not neutral.

I ask our fellow countrymen to meditate deeply and calmly on the ideas contained in several of the above–mentioned phrases:

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

No nation of the world has been left out of the dilemma, not even the big and powerful states; none has escaped the threat of war or attacks.

We will use any weapon.

No procedure has been excluded, regardless of its ethical implications, nor any threat, however murderous whether nuclear, chemical, biological or any other.

It will not be short combat but a lengthy war, lasting many years, unparalleled in history.

It is the world’s fight; it is civilization’s fight.

The achievements of our times and the hope of every time, now depend on us.

Finally, an unheard–of confession in a political speech, on the eve of a war and in an epoch of apocalyptic risks:

The course of this conflict is not known; yet its outcome is certain. And we know that God is not neutral.

This is an amazing assertion. When I think about the real or imagined parties involved in that bizarre holy war that is about to begin, I find it impossible to say on which side fanaticism is stronger.

On Thursday, before the United States Congress, the idea was put forward of a worldwide military dictatorship based exclusively on force, without international laws or institutions of any kind. The United Nations, simply ignored in the present crisis, would have no authority or prerogative whatsoever. There would be only one boss, only one judge, only one law.

We have all been ordered to ally either with the United States government or with terrorism.

Cuba, with the moral authority derived from being the country that has suffered the most and the longest from terrorist actions, and whose people are not afraid of anything because there is no threat or power in the world that can intimidate it, proclaims that it is opposed to terrorism and opposed to war. Although the possibilities are now slim, Cuba reaffirms the need to avert a war of unpredictable consequences whose very authors have admitted that they do not have the least idea of how the events will unfold. Likewise, Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate with all other countries in the total eradication of terrorism.

An objective and calm friend should advise the United States government against throwing young American soldiers into an uncertain war in remote, isolated, and inaccessible places, like a fight against phantoms, not knowing where they are or even if they exist or not, nor whether the people they kill are or are not responsible for the deaths of their innocent fellow countrymen killed in the United States.

Cuba will never declare itself an enemy of the American people, of that people which today is subjected to an unprecedented campaign to sow hatred and a spirit of vengeance, so much so that even the music that sings to peace has been banned. On the contrary, Cuba will make that music its own, and even our children will sing their songs to peace as long as the announced bloody war goes on.

Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people, and we will do everything within our power to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging peace and calm. One day they will admit that we were right.

Our independence, our principles, and our social achievements we will defend with honor to the last drop of blood, if we are attacked!

It will not be easy to fabricate pretexts to do that. And now that they are talking about a war using all kinds of weapons, it is good to recall that not even that would be a new experience for us. Almost four decades ago, hundreds of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons were aimed at Cuba, and nobody remembers a single one of our countrymen sleepless over that.

We are the same sons and daughters of that heroic people, with a patriotic and revolutionary consciousness that is higher than ever. It is a time for serenity and courage.

The world will understand the terrible drama that is threatening it and which it is about to suffer, and will raise its voice against it.

For Cubans, this is the precise moment to proclaim, more proudly and resolutely than ever:

Socialism or death!

Homeland or death!

We shall overcome!

2001, Volume 53, Issue 06 (November)
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