They say talk is cheap -- particularly truisms of the sort enunciated and repeated with digitalized rapidity in the hours and days following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which claimed several thousand lives. The world had changed forever, we were told.
Saturday marks the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack. And in the current atmosphere it would be a simple matter to voice another truism: that we are today living through the horrible unfolding of a wave of terrorism announced by the attacks in New York and Washington; that all the world is the terrorist's playground.
The past week, of course, has witnessed the horrific slaughter of innocents, many of them children, at Beslan.
The killing of innocent civilians is as odious in Russia as it is in Nairobi or New York or Madrid or Baghdad or Tel Aviv or Gaza or Cape Town. But it seems clear that such attacks are likely to continue, from a variety of sources and in a variety of countries, for the foreseeable future.
Three years on from Sept. 11, one lesson must be that the world will get nowhere if it targets the symptoms rather than the root causes of such attacks. The latter are more often rooted in long-standing injustices and even slaughters inflicted upon entire peoples.
In contrast, Washington's ''war on terror'' is fanning the flames of such attacks in the Middle East and around the world.
The most dangerous elements of the so-called Bush doctrine were announced within days of Sept. 11: that countries were either ''with us or against us,'' and that the U.S. military would strike pre-emptively, wherever and whenever it wanted.
The Bush administration has made good on these promises. It has declared to the world that, in effect, multilateralism is dead for the U.S. foreign policy. And, above all, it has created the sort of chaos in Iraq that is likely to fan the flames of resentment for generations to come.
All this inevitably leads to the question -- is the world a safer place today than it was three years ago? Sadly, the answer must be no.
This Day, Lagos, Nigeria
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