Culture of Peace as the Best Alternative to Terrorism

by David Adams

Submitted to workshop 'peace through a culture of peace' 10-12 April 2006 at Karachi, Pakistan organised by the Dept. of International Relations,University of Karachi

Title/Summary page

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United States government
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European Union
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Islamic states
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Terrorist statements
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State terrorism
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Aerial bombardment
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Commercial mass media
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The contradictions
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Culture of war
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Explaining the contradictions
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Culture of Peace and Conclusion
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As the culture of war, which has dominated human civilization for 5,000 years, begins to crumble, its contradictions become more evident. This is especially so in the matter of terrorism. It will be argued here that terrorism, including state terrorism, is a particularly clear manifestation of the culture of war in its stage of decline.

We begin with a broad definition of terrorism because the term is so often manipulated for political reasons. Each side accuses the other of being the "true terrorists." The United Nations and the non-aligned states, especially the Islamic states, are caught in the middle.

Statements related to terrorism by each of these actors are presented and contradictions analyzed within and between them. One contradiction concerns the religious justification for each side's claims. Another major contradiction concerns state terrorism. The West avoids this discussion, while Osama Ben Laden has justified the attack on the World Trade Center as retaliation for state terrorism by the West.

A key issue is nuclear weapons which can be considered as weapons of terror, according to experts including judges of the World Court. The use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued the development of aerial bombardment of civilian populations, which had begun in World War I. Both are extensions of the culture of war that has dominated human societies since the beginning of history.

The contradictions associated with terrorism are analyzed here in the framework of the analysis of the culture of war that was prepared for the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace issued for the International Year for the Culture of Peace by the United Nations General Assembly. Relying on violence and exploitation, the culture of war also includes authoritarian governance, secrecy and manipulation of information, male supremacy, enemy images and intolerance.

In the Programme of Action the General Assembly called for a Global Movement for a Culture of Peace. Is this Movement making progress? To answer this question, we recently prepared a report at the midpoint of the Culture of Peace Decade for the United Nations based on contributions from 700 civil society organizations in 100 countries. Their contributions show that despite being ignored by the mass media and by the United Nations system, the Movement is advancing around the world.

Although violence must be avoided, active struggle is needed to replace the culture of war by a culture of peace. To this end, the culture of peace is linked to the methodology of active nonviolence developed by Gandhi and used effectively by Martin Luther King and others as a force for political transformation.

In conclusion, the culture of peace and nonviolence, as it has been described and adopted in UN resolutions, provides a viable alternative to the culture of war and violence which underlie both sides of the terrorist struggles of our times. And the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace provides an historical vehicle for the profound transformation that is needed.

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