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Terrorising Bali

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
15 October 2002

Mass indiscriminate killing has returned. In Bali, a terrorism which steals the name of Islam, has not just attacked a centre for western tourism. It has assaulted the Balinese for developing a society that is both non-Muslim and tolerant.

openDemocracy is not an advocacy publication. We are creating a quality space for debate and argument on the great issues of our time. We think people should make up their minds for themselves.

But there are defining issues where openDemocracy has a point of view - even when we welcome well-crafted disagreement with it.

On the evening of 11 September last year, our North American editor Todd Gitlin described what had just happened the World Trade Centre whose destruction he witnessed from his apartment. He wrote:

    "'Terrorism' is a more precise word than sometimes grasped. It’s an ism, a belief – in terror. Some fierce rationalists refuse to confront the fact that there are people willing to die to terrify whole populations. That willingness, even eagerness, brooks no arguments. As best I understand this mentality, it’s a belief that kicks in on the far other side of arguments.

    It asks for a focused military response - a precise one, not a revenge spasm, not an attack on a pharmaceutical factory, but an action that distinguishes killers from civilians. No easy matter. Nothing to rush into.

    And then?

    Tonight, grief abides."

By publishing this I knew that I was endorsing what was in effect the editorial position of openDemocracy.

On the other side of argument, there is no argument.

Against the perpetrators of terrorist acts: a well aimed physical response. Not one that spreads the violence, as they do. We should not play their game, as Paul Rogers warns Bush is doing in his ‘war on terror’. Any strong response must involve understanding of root causes as well as tactical intelligence. The aim: to assist, not weaken, effective counter-action against terrorism so as to ‘undercut’ its support – to quote from Paul.

Hence the importance of seeing Bali for itself. At once intensely local and worldly, it represents an alternative, peaceful and non-sectarian form of connecting to the world. It is much more than a mere symbol of western tourism, or construct of globalisation.

We have asked our New Delhi editors who know the island to write about it next week. Caspar Henderson in his second Globolog reflects on the attack. Email him if you want to add to his response. As publishers of a global debate we feel that what has happened there is a test of our ability to see the world from outside the optic of the Western hegemony.

Anthony Barnett

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