Reacting to terrorism

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7317.822 (Published 13 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:822

The response should be through law not war

  1. Douglas Holdstock (mary.holdstock@ntlworld.com), editor, Medicine Conflict and Survival
  1. Medact, London N19 4DJ

    The first reactions of almost everyone to the atrocities in New York and Washington must have been horror and sadness, followed, understandably, by anger, fear and, for many, the urge for revenge. Deep sympathy for the victims and their families will continue, but there will be controversy over the relative role of military action and of a more measured response.

    Military action has begun. Currently this is being directed at the Taliban's (fairly limited) armed forces and al-Qaida training camps. There are said to be no immediate plans for undercover “special forces” to capture Osama bin Laden. Calls for a massive attack on other countries supporting Islamic terrorists, including Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, seem to have subsided. Even this more limited strategy has drawbacks. There have already been deaths; time will show how many of these are Taliban fighters and how many civilians. All will be regarded as martyrs, and revenge for their killings will lead to more terrorist violence. This process has been called the cycle of violence1: we constantly see it at work in Israel/Palestine. Secondly, Afghanistan …

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