The pictures of the two hijacked airplanes crashing into the twin towers of the Word Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, killing more than 5,000 people, will remain forever engraved in the minds of the whole world, and especially of the American people, since they were the ones targeted by this unprecedented ruthless act of barbarism. One hour after the impact of the two airplanes, the twin towers – the pride of New York City and the symbol of the financial power of America - collapsed like a house of cards. Minutes later, a third hijacked airplane hit the Pentagon in Washington (the center of the U.S. military power), and a fourth airplane, which was targeted for the White House or the Capitol (the symbol of the U.S. political power), crashed before reaching its destination.
It surpassed in horror any catastrophe movie ever made in Hollywood. This was the bloodiest terrorist act in the history of America, an event that caused the most powerful country in the world to be paralyzed for three days; all 451 airports of the U.S.A. were closed down, and the stock market was closed for a week. The purpose of those who committed this treacherous act was obvious: to disrupt and bring chaos to the United States.
President Bush hastened to say that this was an act of war against America, and that America would fight back quickly and powerfully. But fight against whom? Unlike any other war, no country claimed responsibility for this attack. So one had to quickly find a culprit, a "bad guy".
The U.S. Administration and news media were quick to pinpoint multi-millionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is presumably hiding in Afghanistan, protected by the ruling Talibans. U.S. President George W. Bush said in his speech before the Congress on September 20:
"Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole... (This group is) a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam... This group and its leader - a person named Osama bin Laden - are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods, and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction."
Even if bin Laden and his terrorist network are the real culprits, a question still remains: such an attack (to hijack four airplanes at the same time) required several months, if not years, of preparation, and hundreds of people had to be involved. How is it that the U.S.A., with all its spying agencies (FBI, CIA, etc.), which are financed with billions of dollars and equipped with top electronic devices, were unable to detect and stop these terrorists in advance? Are they not paid just for that? Either they are incompetent (and should be fired), or they knew about the attack, and did nothing to stop it. Both possibilities are rather disturbing for the security of the Americans...
"Air Force One is next," read the message received by the U.S. Secret Service at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, after the two hijacked planes struck the twin towers. The terrorists' message threatening Air Force One was transmitted in that day's top-secret White House code words. The terrorists had obtained the White House code and a whole set of top-secret signals. This made it possible for a hostile force to pinpoint the exact position of Air Force One, its destination, and its classified procedures. How did the terrorists obtain this secret code?
President Bush said that it was the beginning of a new kind of war, "the first war of the twenty-first century", a war to put an end to global terrorism, that could last several years. While making sure to explain that the enemy of America is not Islam, but people who deceitfully want to cover their evil acts under the name of Allah, thus hijacking Islam itself, President Bush said:
"Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." So if the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan refuse to hand over bin Laden and his accomplices to the U.S.A., the U.S.A. and their allies will invade Afghanistan, and oust the Talibans. (This invasion began on October 7.)
This is where it becomes ever more dangerous, and could turn into a global war, World War III. By invading Afghanistan and bombing it, the Americans risk killing thousands of innocent civilians - just like the terrorists did by attacking the World Trade Center in New York City - and infuriate the terrorists who will retaliate by bloodier attacks against the U.S.A. or any Western nation. Worse than that: bin Laden wants all the Moslems to believe that the Americans want to destroy Islam, and says that all the Moslems must unite in a "holy war" against the Christian Western nations, led by "Crusader" Bush.
In 1980, the Soviet Union, with its powerful Red Army, tried to invade Afghanistan, but had to quit after ten years, after a disastrous war. And now the Americans would like to redo the same mistake? At that time, bin Laden was even financed by the CIA to fight against the Soviet army!
Some sources say that the real reason for this war may well be oil: the biggest untapped oil reserves in the world can be found in Kazakhstan, and several U.S. companies are anxious to exploit them. The problem is that they have to build a pipeline that would have to go through Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach the Indian Ocean. So they need to topple the present Taliban regime in Afghanistan to install a new government that will protect their interests.
Even if bin Laden is captured or killed, it will not stop terrorism. Bin Laden alone is linked to 70 of his organizations in some 30 countries. In turn, these groups are in touch with some 900 Muslim organizations, located in all the continents, and they have thousands of militants, some of whom are Westerners who do not have an Arab surname and who don't even believe in Islam. Hundreds of suicide-killers are waiting inside the U.S.A. for their orders to strike...!
This time, they can use even deadlier weapons, like germs, chemical products, or even nuclear bombs the size of a briefcase. The chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Rep. Christopher Shays (R Conn.), warned that the U.S. is vulnerable to nuclear attack by terrorists who may have access to as many as 60 briefcase-sized tactical nuclear weapons now missing from the former Soviet Union. If these terrorists were ready to kill 5,000 people, they can just as well kill hundreds of thousands of people...
So there is a real danger for an escalation of violence, and many statesmen and religious leaders were prompt to warn President Bush. As German Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer said, "The worst thing would be for the West to attack the Moslem world head-on. It is the goal of these criminals to provoke a clash, a war between civilizations." Violence begets violence. Wars solve nothing; they only create more anger, violence, and a desire for vengeance. Bombs will not stop evil; they will only fuel it.
If bin Laden has no difficulty in recruiting young people to commit his terrorist acts, even at the price of their lives, it is because they feel, rightly or not, that their people are the victims of injustices from the Americans. Many of them accuse the U.S.A. of always siding with the Israeli against the Palestinians, who were ousted from Palestine with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and many in these poor nations are jealous of the American prosperity. They believe that the only alternative that is left for themselves to be heard by the rest of the world is to have recourse to violence.
While it is true that no injustice, no matter how serious it is, can justify such barbaric terrorist acts, it is important not to close our eyes on the various sources of injustice in the world that give rise to violent acts, which no longer happen only in foreign countries, but are now taking place in our own Western nations, in our own "backyard", so to speak.
Article 2317 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: "Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war."
There can be no peace without justice! To work for the establishment of a better economic system that would guarantee the daily bread to every citizen, like the apostles of the "Michael" Journal do, is therefore truly working for peace. The Church also teaches that while it is just for a nation to defend itself when it is attacked, "the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated." (Article 2309)
On September 12, Pope John Paul II, visibly shaken by this tragedy, devoted his regular Wednesday public audience in St. Peter's Square to the terror attack on the United States:
"I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people... In the face of such unspeakable horror, we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity's problems.
"Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But Faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ's word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit.
"Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.
"Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence will not prevail. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy, fill the hearts of all with wise thoughts and peaceful intentions."
At the end of the general audience, the Pope read this prayer: "For the leaders of nations, so that they will not allow themselves to be guided by hatred and the spirit of retaliation, but may do everything possible to prevent new hatred and death, by bringing forth works of peace. Lord, hear our prayer."
On several occasions after that, the Pope reiterated his call for peace. On September 22, upon his arrival to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where more than half of the population is Moslem, the Pope said that differences between nations should be settled not by resorting to arms, but with negotiation and dialogue. The next day, at the end of his first Mass celebrated in that country, before a crowd of 50,000 people (three-quarters of whom were Muslims), the Pope said:
"From this city, from Kazakhstan, a country that is an example of harmony between men and women of different origins and beliefs, I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, to work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows in justice and solidarity. We must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions. Religion must neyer be used as a reason for conflict.
"From this place, I invite both Christians and Muslims to raise an intense prayer to the One, Almighty God whose children we all are, that the supreme good of peace may reign in the world. May people everywhere, strengthened by divine wisdom, work for a civilization of love, in which there is no room for hatred, discrimination nor violence.
With all my heart, I beg God to keep the world in peace. Amen."
On September 30, back in Rome, the Holy Father said before the recitation of the Angelus:
"October is the month in which we honour Our Blessed Mother, Queen of the Holy Rosary. In the present international situation, I appeal to all - individuals, families and communities - to pray the Rosary for peace, even daily, so that the world will be preserved from the dreadful scourge of terrorism.
"We cannot forget that Jews, Christians and Muslims adore the One God. Therefore, the three religions have the vocation to unity and peace. May God grant to the faithful of the Church to be in the front line in the search for justice, in the rejection of violence, and in the commitment to be agents of peace. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for the whole world, so that hatred and death may never have the last word!".
The message of the Pope is quite clear: wars and violence will never achieve anything good.