Theater of Good and Evil
by Eduardo Galeano
The Progressive magazine, November 2001
In the fight of Good against Evil, it is always the people
who end up dead.
The terrorists killed workers from fifty countries in New
York and Washington in the name of Good against Evil. And in the
name of Good against Evil, President Bush vowed revenge: "We
will eliminate Evil from this world."
Eliminate Evil? What would Good be without Evil? Religious
fanatics are not the only ones who need enemies to justify their
madness. The arms industry and gigantic military apparatus need
enemies to justify their existence. Heroes become monsters and
monsters heroes: The actors switch masks according to the script.
There's nothing new here. German scientist Wernher von Braun
was evil when he invented the V-2 rocket, which Hitler used to
pulverize London, but he became good the day he placed his skills
in the service of the United States.
Stalin was good during World War II and bad later, when he
became ruler of the Evil Empire. During the years of the Cold
War, John Steinbeck wrote, "Perhaps the entire world needs
Russians. I bet even Russia does. Maybe there they call them Americans."
Afterwards the Russians turned good. Now Putin says, "Evil
must be punished."
Saddam Hussein was good, and so were the chemical weapons
he used against the Kurds and Iranians. Later he turned bad. He
was called Satan Hussein when the U.S., which had just invaded
Panama, invaded Iraq because Iraq had invaded Kuwait. Bush Sr.
presided over this war of Good against Evil. With the humanitarian
and compassionate spirit that characterizes his family, he killed
more than 100,000 Iraqis, the vast majority civilians.
Satan Hussein is the same as he always was, but now this enemy
number one of humanity has slipped to second place. The scourge
of the world is now called Osama bin Laden. The CIA taught him
everything he knows about terrorism: Loved and armed by the U.S.
government, bin Laden was one of the principal allies of the United
States in the war against communism in Afghanistan. Bush Sr. was
Vice President when President Reagan said these heroes were "freedom
fighters." And Hollywood agreed with the White House: Ramho
IIIwas being shot at the time, and the Muslim Afghans were the
good guys. Not anymore: Now they are evil incarnate, a mere thirteen
Henry Kissinger was one of the first to react to the recent
tragedy: "Those who provide support, financing, and inspiration
to the terrorists are as guilty as they are," he stated,
using words that President Bush repeated just hours later.
If this is the case, the first step would be to bomb Kissinger.
He would be guilty of far more crimes than bin Laden and the rest
of the world's terrorists combined. And in many more countries:
Acting in the service of various American Administrations, he
provided "support, financing, and inspiration" to state
terrorism in Indonesia, Cambodia, Cyprus, the Philippines, South
Africa, Iran, Bangladesh, and the countries of South America that
suffered under the dirty war of Operation Condor.
On September 11, 1973, exactly twenty-eight years before the
World Trade Towers collapsed in flames, Chile's presidential palace
burned. Kissinger anticipated the epitaph of Salvador Allende
and Chilean democracy when, three years earlier, he said of the
election that was to bring Allende to power: "I don't see
why we need to stand by and watch a country going Marxist because
of the irresponsibility of its own people."
Disdain for the popular will is one of the many points in
common between state terrorism and private terrorism. For example,
the Basque separatist movement in Spain, ETA, which kills in the
name of an independent Basque state, proclaimed through a spokesman:
"Rights have nothing to do with minorities or majorities."
There are many similarities between homemade and high-tech
terrorism, between that of religious fundamentalists and free-market
zealots, between that of the dispossessed and the all-powerful,
between the solitary madmen and the professionals in uniform.
All share the same lack of respect for human life: the murderers
of the more than 5,000 people killed in the demolition of the
Twin Towers and the assassins of 200,000 Guatemalans, mostly Indians,
exterminated without the slightest attention paid by the world
media. These Guatemalans were killed not by Muslim fanatics but
by military terrorists who received the "support, financing,
and inspiration" of one American Administration after another.
Terrorists also share an obsession with reducing social, culturai,
and national contradictions to military terms. In the name of
Good against Evil, in the name of the Single Truth, they seek
resolution by killing first and asking questions later. And, in
this way, they end up galvanizing the very enemy they are fighting.
It was the atrocities of the Shining Path that incubated Peruvian
President Fujimori, who, with considerable public support, initiated
a reign of terror and sold Peru for the price of a banana. It
was the atrocities of the U.S. in the Middle East that largely
fueled the Holy War of Islamic terrorism.
Even though the Leader of Civilization is calling for a new
Crusade, Allah is innocent of the crimes committed in his name.
After all, God did not order the Nazi Holocaust of the followers
of Jehovah. Nor did Jehovah order the massacres of Sabra and Shatila
or the expulsion of the Palestinians from their land.
Might Jehovah, Allah, and God be three names for the same
divinity? A Tragedy of Errors: No one yet knows who is who. The
smoke from the explosions is part of a far larger smokescreen
that blocks our view. As vengeance breeds vengeance, each act
of terrorism sends us stumbling deeper into darkness. In a recent
photograph, someone had written on a wall in New York: "An
eye for an eye has left the world blind."
The spiral of violence breeds violence and also confusion:
pain, fear, intolerance, hatred, madness. In Porto Alegre, Brazil,
former leader of Algeria Ahmed Ben Bella warned, "This system,
which has driven cows mad, is making people mad, too." And
madmen, maddened by hatred, act just like the force that unhinged
A three-year-old boy named Luca commented a few days ago,
"The world doesn't know where its home is." He was reading
a map. He may as well have been watching the news.
Eduardo Galeano, an Uruguayan journalist, is author of "Memory
of Fire" and "The Open Veins of Latin America.