The Theatre of Good and Evil
By Eduardo Galeano from La Jornada September 21, 2001 Translated by
In the struggle of Good against Evil, it's always the people who get
The terrorists killed workers of 50 countries in NYC and DC, in the
name of Good against Evil. And in the name of Good against Evil President
Bush has promised vengeance: "We will eliminate Evil from the world",
Eliminate Evil? What would Good be without Evil? It's not just religious
fanatics who need enemies to justify their insanity. The arms industry
and the gigantic war machine of the US also needs enemies to justify
its existence. Good and evil, evil and good: the actors change masks,
the heroes become monsters and the monsters heroes, in accord with the
demands of the theatre's playwrights.
This is nothing new. The German scientist Werner von Braun was evil
when he invented the V-2 bombers that Hitler used against London, but
became good when he used his talents in the service of the US. Stalin
was good during World War Two and evil afterwards, when he became the
leader of the Evil Empire. In the cold war years John Steinbeck wrote: "Maybe
the whole world needs Russians. I suppose that even in Russia they need
Russians. Maybe Russia's Russians are called Americans." Even the Russians
became good afterwards. Today, Putin can add his voice to say: " Evil
must be punished."
Saddam Hussein was good, and so were the chemical weapons he used against
the Iranians and the Kurds. Afterwards, he became evil. They were calling
him Satan Hussein when the US finished up their invasion of Panama to
invade Iraq because Iraq invaded Kuwait. Father Bush that particular
war against Evil upon himself. With the humanitarian and compassionate
spirit that characterizes his family, he killed more than 100 000 Iraqis,
the vast majority of them civilians.
Satan Hussein stayed where he was, but this number one enemy of humanity
had to step aside and accept becoming number two enemy of humanity. The
bane of the world is now called Osama bin Laden. The CIA taught him everything
he knows about terrorism: bin Laden, loved and armed by the US government,
was one of the principal 'freedom fighters' against Communism in Afghanistan.
Father Bush occupied the Vice Presidency when President Reagan called
these heroes 'the moral equivalents of the Founding Fathers.' Hollywood
agreed. They filmed Rambo 3: Afghani Muslims were the good guys. Now,
13 years later, in the time of Son Bush, they are the worst of the bad
Henry Kissinger was one of the first to react to the recent tragedy. "Those
who provide support, financing, and inspiration to terrorists are as
guilty as the terrorists themselves," he intoned, words that Son Bush
would repeat hours later.
If that's how it is, the urgent need right now is to bomb Kissinger.
He is guilty of many more crimes than bin Laden or any terrorist in the
world. And in many more countries. He provided 'support, financing, and
inspiration" to state terror in Indonesia, Cambodia, Iran, South Africa,
Bangladesh, and all the South American countries that suffered the dirty
war of Plan Condor.
On September 11 1973, exactly 28 years before the fires of last week,
the Presidential Palace in Chile was stormed. Kissinger had written the
epitaph of Allende and Chilean democracy long before when he commented
on the results of the elections: "I don't see why we have to stand by
and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its
A contempt for the people is one of many things shared by state and
private terror. For example, the ETA, an organization that kills people
in the name of independence in Basque Country, says through one of its
spokespeople: 'Rights have nothing to do with majorities or minorities.'
There is much common ground between low- and high- tech terrorism, between
the terrorism of religious fanatics and that of market fanatics, that
of the hopeless and that of the powerful, that of the psychopath on the
loose and that of the cold-blooded uniformed professional. They all share
the disrespect for human life: the killers of the 5500 citizens under
the Twin Towers that fell like castles of dry sand-- and the killers
of 200 000 Guatemalans, the majority of whom were indigenous, exterminated
without television or the newspapers of the world paying any attention.
Those Guatemalans were not sacrificed by any Muslim fanatic, but by terrorist
squads who received 'support, financing, and inspiration' from successive
All these worshipers of death are in agreement as well on the need to
reduce social, cultural, and national differences to military terms.
In the name of Good against Evil, in the name of the One Truth, they
resolve everything by killing first and asking questions later. And by
this method, they strengthen the enemy they fight. It was the atrocities
of the Sendero Luminoso that gave President Fujimori the popular support
he sought to unleash a regime of terror and sell Peru for the price of
a banana. It was the atrocities of the US in the Middle East that prepared
the ground for the holy war of terrorism of Allah.
Although the leader of the Civilized World is pushing a new Crusade,
Allah is innocent of the crimes committed in his name. At the end of
the day, God did not order the Holocaust against the followers of Jehovah,
nor did Jehovah order the massacres of Sabrah and Shatila or the expulsion
of Palestinians from their land. Aren't Allah, God and Jehovah are, after
all, three names for the same divinity?
A tragedy of errors: nobody knows any more who is who. The smoke of
the explosions forms part of the much larger curtain of smoke that prevents
all of us from seeing clearly. From revenge to revenge, terrorism obliges
us to walk to our graves. I saw a photo, recently published, of graffiti
on a wall in NYC: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
The spiral of violence creates violence and also confusion: pain, fear,
intolerance, hatred, insanity. In Porto Alegre, at the beginning of this
year, Ahmed Ben Bella warned: 'This system, that has already made mad
cows, is making mad people too." And these mad people, mad from hate,
act as the power that created them.
A three year old child, named Luca, told me: "The world doesn't know
where its house is." He was looking at a map. He could have been looking
at a reporter.
Balmurli Natrajan Dept. of Anthropology Iowa State University Ames, IA 50011