Davos07: Terrorism

At a session on terrorism at Davos. Liveblogging a few notes….

Shaukat Aziz, prime minister of Pakistan, issues all the usual cant on terrorism: not died to a religion… no borders… root causes…. all that. He complains about profiling and says it “adds to heartburn.”

Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security in the U.S., tries to put a yardstick up to terrorism response, saying that rational people would agree to actions to stop a nuclear bomb that they would not agree to to stop one person from being shot. He focuses on what he calls “high-consequence events.” Stopping these requires inconvenience, some economic impact, and “some adjustment in even how we conceive of some of our liberties — but the key is not to go overboard.” What is high-consequence? what is overboard?

David Cameron, Conservative leader in the U.K., tries a similar act of measurement. “We’ve got to get right the hard-nosed defense of liberty rather than ineffective authoritarianism.” He says that there is a “quantum difference” in terrorism, worse than the days of the IRA and Baader-Meinhof. As a result, he says, “there are some big changes we have to make. It is vital that we get the balance right.”

Carefully countering Aziz on root causes, Cameron says that there is not “a list of demand that will stop Osama bin Laden from doing what he is going to do.” As a result, he says, the first reaction to terrorism must be security. Then one can “drain the swamp” that creates it. He also says that there is an “ideological cause” in the root of terrorism: “a perversion of Islam.” Aziz is shaking his head.

Cameron also says that he is against creating a separate ministry for counter-terrorism but instead wants two ministers in the Home Office, one devoted to police activities and the other devoted to counter-terrorism. Criticizing Blair, he says that “there has been too much focus on law and not enough focus on good administration.”

A Harvard professor asks Cameron whether he agrees with the UK Foreign Office’s advise that government officials should not use the term “war on terrorism” as it “plays into the narrative” of the terrorists and turns them into “martyrs in a holy war.” Cameron says he agrees. Chertoff says he wants to work with moderate members of the Islamic community to understand how they want to describe what is happening. Gijs M. de Vries of the EU attacks the phrase “Islamic terrorism” and says “there is no such thing…. Whether we call this a war or not, let us fight this fight within the bounds of human rights.” Aziz says the average terrorist is sitting in some remote location getting brainwashed and is not reading Foreign Office papers. He emphasizes the rhetoric of recruitment: deprivation, rights, and so on: “Let’s get reality.”

If rhetoric could kill…

Chertoff is asked by an Islamic organization official in the audience whether things are better five years on in the war/struggle/fight on terror and whether the day will come when we will sit down with a terrorist group, as the UK did with the IRA. Chertoff says let’s “get reality,” like Aziz, and recognize that bin Laden’s demand is for us to go back to the 12th century and there is no discussion with that. Cameron says “that is the big difference between the IRA and al Qaeda…. I’m not in any way belitting the IRA and what it did…. But to get this debate right we have to recognize the difference between IRA terrorism and suicide bombing… That is a different sort of terrorism and we would be betraying our populations if we did not recognize that and act on it. ”

The head of Amnesty International now also wants to look at reality and says that the U.S., U.K., and Pakistan have eroded human rights with torture and more. She asks to what extent undermining human rights “feeds the flames of terrorism.” Chertoff says he agrees we should not sacrifice human rights but also not treat every departure from normal process as a catastrophic betrayal of what we believe in. Aziz talks about the checks of having a free press and independent judiciary. Cameron says that of course we must defend freedom but also says that “in order to defeat terrorism, we have to maintain a balance,” citing, for example, how long the government may keep a suspect in jail when “you are trying to break up a complicated plot.”

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  • Liveblogging Davos! Jeff, you are a credit to techies and journalists the world around. Thanks for the insider view!

  • Joan Russow

    World Economic Forum: Comprehensive Response to terrorism (state terrorism and corporate destabilization of states)

    At the World Economic Forum, Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security stated “We need to impose consequences on those countries that will not sign anti-terror agreements,” He also called for a Comprehensive Response to Terrorism.
    If there is to be a Comprehensive Response to Terrorism, the States and Corporations attending the World Economic Forum, must at address their contribution to Global insecurity, and at a minimum endorse the following
    The Comprehensive Response to Terrorism including state terrorism and corporate destabilization of states:

    We recognize that true security- is not “collective security” or
    “human security” which has been extended to “humanitarian
    intervention” and used along with the “responsibility to protect”
    notion to justify increased military budgets and military intervention in other states.

    True security is common security (extension of Olaf Palme’s notion of
    “common security”)

    and involves the following objectives:

    * to promote and fully guarantee respect for human rights including
    labour rights, civil and political rights, social and cultural
    rights- right to food, right to housing, right to universally
    accessible not for profit health care system , right to education and
    social justice;
    * to enable socially equitable and environmentally sound employment,
    and ensure the right to development [as per Convention];
    * to achieve a state of peace, social justice and disarmament;
    through reallocation of military expenses, and eradication of poverty
    * to create a global structure that respects the rule of law ; and
    * to ensure the preservation and protection of the environment,
    respect the inherent worth of nature beyond human purpose, reduce the
    ecological footprint and move away from the current model of
    overconsumptive development.

    We acknowledge that for years, through conventions, treaties and
    covenants, through Conference Action plans, and through UN General
    Assembly resolutions, member states of the United Nations have
    incurred obligations, made commitments and created expectations
    related to the furtherance of Common Security.

    We affirm that Common security can only be achieved if there is a
    concerted international effort to eliminate the complexity and
    interdependence of the actions that have led to global insecurity


    Article 1
    We reaffirm our commitment to multilateralism and oppose unilateral
    actions that undermine global common security.

    Article 2
    We undertake to reduce our military budgets and reallocate military
    expenses and transfer the savings into global social justice as
    undertaken through numerous UN Conference Action Plans and UN General
    Assembly Resolutions.

    Article 3
    We will no longer undermine the notion of democracy by couching a
    plutocracy/theocracy in democratic notions of “freedom”.

    Article 4
    We will abandon the policy of pre-emptive/preventive attack to
    aggressively attack sovereign states which has been a violation of
    the UN Charter article 2 and international law and is the
    ‘supreme’ international crime of a war of aggression.

    Article 5
    We will no longer perceive justice in terms of revenge through
    military intervention we will instead seek justice through the
    International Court of Justice.

    Article 6
    We will no longer misconstrue Art 51 (self defence) of the Charter
    of the United Nations to justify premeditated non provoked military

    Article 7
    We will oppose any attempt to undermine the international resolve to
    prevent the scourge of war; this would include not engaging in
    intimidation or in offering economic incentives in exchange for
    support for military intervention.

    Article 8
    We undertake to respect the mandatory jurisdiction of
    the International Court of Justice ,and will abide by its decisions.

    Article 9
    We will convert to peaceful purposes military bases in sovereign
    states around the world, and end the circulation of nuclear powered
    or nuclear arms capable vessels throughout the world.

    Article 10
    We will discontinue propping up and financing military dictators.

    Article 11
    We will abandon the practice of targeting or assisting in the
    assassination of leaders of other sovereign states, and engaging in
    covert destabilization or democratically elected leaders of or any
    leader of a sovereign state.

    Article 12
    We will abide by the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty and immediately
    implement Article VI of the treaty, (Article VI: commits all parties
    to pursue negotiations in good faith on measures to end the nuclear
    arms race and to achieve disarmament.) and we will end the
    production of all weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear,
    chemical, and biological, as agreed to in UNCHE in 1972, and in
    specific conventions.

    Article 13
    We reaffirm the obligations under the 1967 the Outer space Treaty to
    ensure that exploration and use of outer space, including the moon
    and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and
    in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of
    economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all
    mankind humanity.

    Article 14
    We make a full commitment to disarmament and oppose the continued
    profit making from the sale of arms, will implement obligations to
    reduce the trade in small arms and in collaboration with the ILO
    will fund a fair and just transition program for worker currently
    working in the arms trade.

    Article 15
    We will end the production of land mines and sign and ratify the
    Convention for the Banning of Landmines, and affirm a commitment of
    funds and continuous effort to remove land mines from all areas of
    the world where they are known to exist.

    Article 16
    We will suffocate the production of uranium, phase out the use of
    civil nuclear energy, and prohibit the use of weapons such as
    Depleted Uranium and cluster bombs that would be prohibited under the
    Geneva Protocol II.

    Article 17
    We oppose NATO’S first strike policy, and support the disbanding of NATO.

    Article 18
    We will abide by the Geneva conventions on the treatment of
    civilians, and respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

    Article 19
    We will discharge obligations incurred through conventions,
    treaties, and covenants; and act on commitments through conference
    action plans related to Common security – peace, environment, human
    rights and social justice

    Article 20
    We will sign, ratify, and enact the necessary legislation to ensure
    compliance with, or respect for Common Security international
    Conventions, Covenants and Treaties.

    Article 21
    We will abide by the Convention against Torture through Cruel,
    Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and end the practice
    of rendition of citizens and will abide by the Geneva conventions.

    Article 22
    We will eliminate cruel and inhumane punishment such as capital
    punishment, which violates accepted international norms.

    Article 23
    We will abandon institutions and agreements which promulgate
    globalization, deregulation and privatization; these institutions and
    agreements undermine the rule of international public trust law, and
    condone and actively facilitate corporations benefiting and
    profiting from war.

    Article 24
    we oppose the promulgation, globalization, deregulation and
    privatization through trade agreements, such as the WTO/FTAA/NAFTA
    etc that undermine the rule of international public trust law.

    Article 25
    We abandon the IMF structural adjustment program which has led to
    the violation of human rights, has exploited citizens in the
    developing world and has adversely impacted on vulnerable and indigenous
    peoples around the world.

    Article 26
    We oppose the privatization of public services such as water and
    health care, we will increase funding to Universities to counter
    the corporate funding of education including the corporate direction
    of research and declare that these be the responsibility of governments.

    Article 27
    We will finally implement the long standing international commitment
    to transfer .7% of the GDP for overseas aid, and to cancel third
    world deb.

    Article 28
    We will no longer subsidize and invest in companies that have
    developed weapons of mass destruction, that have violated human
    rights, that have denied social justice, that have exploited workers,
    and that have destroyed the environment.

    Article 29
    we will implement the commitment made to ensure that corporations,
    including transnational corporations comply .. with international
    law, and that they pay compensation for any previous health and
    environmental consequences of their actions.

    Article 30
    We will revoke charters and licences of corporations that have
    violated human rights, including labour rights, that have contributed
    to war and violence, and that have led to the destruction of the

    Article 31
    We support Mandatory International Ethical Normative (MIEN) standards
    and enforceable regulations to drive industry to conform to
    international law, and oppose corporate “voluntary compliance”.

    Article 32
    We will ban practices that contribute to environmentally induced
    diseases and we will address poverty related health problems and
    ensure universal access, to publicly funded not for profit health
    care system.

    Article 33
    We will end the production of toxic, hazardous, atomic waste, and we
    will prevent the transfer to other states of substances and
    activities that are harmful to human health or the environment as
    agreed at the UN Conferences on the Environment and Development, 1992.

    Article 34
    We will ban the production, approval and promotion of
    genetically engineered foods and crops which have led to a deterioration of
    the food supply, and to loss of heritage seeds.

    Article 35
    We will protect Biodiversity by signing and ratifying the
    Convention on Biological Diversity and oppose “megadiversity”
    –resulting from genetic engineering.

    Article 36
    We will be forthright in acknowledging that the Biosafety Protocol is
    a disguised trade agreement, and serves to promote the acceptance of
    Genetically modified living organisms.

    Article 37
    We will accept the warnings of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate
    change, and no longer disregard obligations under the Framework
    Convention on Climate Change and its protocol to reduce greenhouse
    gas emissions, and to preserve carbon sinks.. We will oppose any
    suggestion that civil nuclear energy is the solution to climate change.

    Article 38
    We will rescind anti-terrorism legislation because it violates civil
    and political rights, and results in racial profiling.

    Article 39
    We will no longer target, intimidate and discriminate against
    activists on the grounds of political and other opinion (a listed
    ground in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights}

    Article 40
    We will clearly distinguish legitimate dissent from criminal acts of

    Article 41
    We will end all discrimination on the following grounds:
    – race, tribe, or culture;
    – colour, ethnicity, national ethnic or social origin, or language;
    nationality, place of birth, or nature of residence (refugee or
    immigrant, migrant worker);
    – gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or form
    of family, [including same-sex marriage]
    – disability or age;
    – religion or conviction, political or other opinion, or – class, economic
    position, or other status.

    Article 42
    We will end the discrimination against immigrants, and refugees and
    we sign and ratify the Convention for the Protection of Migrant
    Workers and their Families; and the Convention on Refugees.

    Article 43
    We will respect women’s reproductive rights, and abide by commitments
    made under the International Conference on Population and
    Development, and the Beijing Platform.

    Article 44
    We oppose religious extremism and proselytizing including the spread of
    Evangelical Christianity around the world, which has undermined local
    indigenous cultures, instilled fear through the dangerous, belief in
    the “rapture”, “Armageddon” and “left behind”, has promulgated
    dispensationalist “end times” scenario which has serious irreversible
    consequences. and has led to the denigrating other established
    beliefs and practices.

    Article 45
    We support the institution of an International Court of Compliance
    linked to the International Court of Justice; The Court of Compliance
    will hear evidence from citizens of state non compliance.

  • bittorrent

    Isn’t the ‘making us go back to the 12th Century’ line one of Tony Blair’s ‘he wants to destroy our civilisation’ lies?

    I was under the impression that Bin Laden wanted the USA and friends to stop interferring in the Middle East? America and Britain are under attack because of the treatment of the Palestinian Arabs, unquestioning support for Israel and our lies over the past 100 years. And now due to our destruction of Iraq, which was based on another lie. Do you see a pattern here?

    If you keep on poking a hornets’ nest, don’t be surprised when they eventually fly out and sting you.

  • As long as “terrorism” is discussed as if it were a movement rather than a technique there isn’t going to be much real progress.

    If “terrorism” is really a euphemism for Islamic nationalism or theocratic ideas then why not say so? Is the western world opposed to religious groups taking over local governments in general or only to Islamic ones? The right in the US doesn’t seem to have any problems with a Christian inflected government.

    How can one ask a weak government to sign a pledge against support of terrorism when it can’t control even internal events? Does anyone think that signing an agreement will make combating radical groups in the Philippines, Indonesia or even Columbia any more effective?

    Let’s see all these world leaders come clean on what they really see as they enemy and why.

  • One observation is that relgious fanatacism can only be checked by the faith. The Catholic faith has a Pope to manage the fold. It would be beneficial now to restore a Caliph to give governance and integrity to the Islamic faith.

  • Hasan Jafri

    Jeff – Stellar blogging. I don’t think a reporter — or his readers — have had this much fun since Grantland Rice encountered the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

    Here is a question for prime minister Aziz and Secretary Chertoff:

    I agree with Robert Feinman (comment above) regarding the almost universal trend these days to view terrorism as a movement rather than a technique. But what if we reversed the equation? Instead of taking this macro approach of viewing terrorism as a large, overwhelming mass of angry people, why don’t we break it down as an inventory of techniques and behaviors and map it quantitatively?

    Obviously, these people are able to function as they do because of identifiable behaviors — money laundering, drug running, stealing, graft, leveraging specific governance deficiencies in bureaucratic structures, etc.
    Why cannot the world community isolate those characteristics, as you would, for example, specific cells in a cancer, and attack them separately by devising targeted economic and political solutions?

    Example: We hear all the time about the drug crop in Afghanistan. Why can’t we fight it with a subsidy like the one President Bush just accorded corn growers in Iowa? We’re more educated than the terroists, we can outspend the terrorists, and we’re a hell of a lot better connected. Why can’t we stop them from growing dope by incenting other crops?

  • Hasan:
    There have been attempts to crack down on things like money laundering which is why there was such an outcry when it was revealed the the international clearance agency was turning bank records over to the US government.

    The reason that such efforts don’t work well are two-fold. first, many money transfers do not use the international banking system, but other parallel and underground paths. Second, the wealthy of the world have a vested interest in keeping much of the banking industry opaque. If it were transparent places like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Lichtenstein and Switzerland would see their banking business disappear. Notice how many deposed dictators walk off with billions that governments can’t (or won’t) try to recover.

    The simple rule of thumb is: if there is some perfectly obvious way to fix a social program, yet it doesn’t get fixed, just follow the money to see who is profiting from the status quo.