Yes, terrorism in our modern era has arrived on September 11, 2001.
I still remember the days at the airport. I did not have to take off my shoes or belt. I could carry water bottles with me. I still remember the days when we did not have to go through security scans, while entering a government building, bus terminals and hotels.
For some time, I’m thinking about violence and war. Is it really inevitable? Our beliefs motivate us to do things. Is it to establish the power of ego – that only my way is right, that the only solution to the differing world is force, destruction and death? Does this violence based on pure sectarianism and fanaticism, stems from war-mongering part of the human animal brain? When would we evolve to a more civilized society? And what is the cost of terrorism?
Human suffering is the ultimate cost! Those who die are lost forever. Those who survive, injured physically or mentally – pay heavy price, both for physical ailments and mental agonies along with their family. The very productivity of a society comes to a halt. Properties, institutions, infrastructure – everything gets damaged. To rebuild is not always affordable. And how do you evaluate the human losses – man-power, talent, and knowledge, emotion, history – all!
These days we are so much used-to terrorism that we don’t bother to understand the cost of terrorism and war and except for changing our Facebook profile picture and writing few lines on social media – we move on. Every war, including this so-called 3rd World War with the Islamist terror pushes our civilization back by many decades. Countries which are affected, especially in the Middle East have a generation of people deprived of home, family, parents, education – resulting in a deep feeling of frustration and vengeance on the world. And, let’s not talk about human rights and freedom!
Some speculate that after the death of nearly 3000 people at the WTC towers, the world may have lost about two million people due to terrorism and wars worldwide – especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan. Though the death toll in other countries may not be as high – yet each life matters, and cost of security measures is not easy on the economy of many countries.
One report says the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the aid to Pakistan totals to a staggering 5 trillion dollars! Imagine, if these funds, instead of destruction, were spent on education, health and jobs!
A recent Brown University research project shows us the casualties of the wars since the 9/11. (http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/summary)
Some of the Costs of War Project’s main findings include:
- 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.
- It is likely that many times more than 370,000 people have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation.
- 210,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.
- 6 million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people are living as war refugeesand internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions.
- The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties and human rightsat home and abroad.
- The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades
- The cost for both the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan wars totals about $4.4 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars, which will add an estimated $8 trillion through 2054.
The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and loss of homes of thousands and much more. This also has affected the world economy. US and other world powers need to review their past track record, before getting into another war again; lessons from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other past wars should have stopped the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but did not.
A global Terrorism Index report in 2014 (Global Terrorism Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace) showed that while the cost of aftermath of 9/11 was close to $51.5 billion, in 2014 the cost of human loss related to terrorism was around $52.9 billion.
Let’s take a quick look at India. We are familiar with ISIS brutality in various parts of the world. But, imagine what much of the middle-age world, especially India, went through for almost thousand years before British colonialism replaced the brutal regimes! People of India faced maximum brutality of the invading and occupying forces. Celebrated American historian, Will Durant summed it up in his illustrious, yet unnerving warning: “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral, is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”
And it continues.
What is the cost of the terror harbored by Pakistani regimes on the world and Pakistan itself? The immediate victim is the people of India, especially in Kashmir. Pakistani establishment, as if their sole reason to exist is to be engaged in a constant proxy war with India since the British left the sub-continent divided in 1947. What is the cost that India would incur, in maintaining security and safety of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir? If India’s western neighbor was not Pakistan, but say, it was Russia or Japan – that part of the world would have remained one of the most beautiful places on earth to live!
Yet, the life and liberty of people in Baluchistan, Sindh, Gilgit, NWFP and POK has been suppressed by the brute force of Pakistan for long time. Only now their suffering is getting voice and the world at large, are paying attention.
American tax money given to Pakistan is mostly spent on feeding the forces to terrorize the neighborhood. Someone should do a research on the costs involved. And, how about the nuclear arsenals of Pakistan? Who is going to pay for a fall-out? If the Violence Potential Index (VPI) is used on a society or a nation, Pakistan will top the chart. Let the world be intolerant to rising violence potential of state actors and strike decisively, globally.
Now, think of all these immediate challenges we face every day, in our small global village – illiteracy, hunger, shelter, health, energy and environment! Think about how much more progress, we could make in all these areas, if we are not fighting war and terror? Alas, if we only could invest the cost of war into poverty eradication! Along with eradication of divisive ideologies and ‘rules of the past’ we must bring material prosperity and the light of education – to truly fight extremism of all forms.
Human societies will have to come out of the age of tribal mindset of ‘survival of the fittest’ to an era of ‘live and let live’. No, it is not a sermon – a necessity in everybody’s immediate interest! No one is immune to the bomb of the terrorist!
Once the basic needs of human beings are fulfilled, you can say we are onto a different projectile of higher callings – like the search for knowledge, creativity, innovation, love for arts and, discover the hitherto unrealized human potentials and frontiers. But, till we pass this phase of our current civilization, we will have to be extremely vigilant about many things and work hard to protect our delicate civilization.
Many say that we are one human race and must be tolerant of many misgivings of others, who are doing it, perhaps, unknowingly. But, can we act consciously to not tolerate threats to our existence, threats to our progress and threats to our peace? Songs like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwUGSYDKUxU) may inspire us to do some soul-searching – but eventually the responsibility to protect our civilization from going backwards lies equally between the leaders and each one of us, by thinking and acting kindly, every day, everywhere. That does not mean you show the other cheek – we must be determined to decimate all threats to humanity decisively. Each citizen in a democratic society, demands from their governments – protection of life, property and freedom. Americans flew flags on their cars and homes – absolute solidarity and patriotism was displayed everywhere after 9/11. In India however – that is not always the case and there is no dearth of critics for strong actions of the government.
15 years later – the world does not seem to be that much different – and, this is a bigger tragedy.