Anand Panyarachun, 9/11 apologist | 13.06.05

Published in Matichon on October 4, 2001, Former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun’s interview about the September 11 terrorist attacks is archived on his website (HTML, PDF).

Prior to his premiership, Khun Anand had served as, among other things, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ambassador to the United States, and ambassador to the United Nations. He currently chairs both the United Nations “High-Level Panel”, one of whose tasks is to make recommendations on UN reforms, and Thailand’s National Reconciliation Commission, which was set up in response to violence in the country’s predominantly Muslim Southern border provinces.

The published interview was translated in full from Thai by yours truly. Paragraph breaks are retained from the original transcript but the bracketed additions and clarifications are mine. The reader is strongly encouraged to peruse my translation methodology and philosophy before continuing on.

Matichon’s Interview with Anand Panyarachun

Published October 4, 2001.

[We] would like to know your thoughts on the terrorist attacks on September 11.

Terrorism is a phenomenon that has long occurred in history, and [it] is difficult to define what terrorism is. There’s even an analogy that in one perspective, in the eyes of one person, or in the eyes of one group, [it’s] a terrorist, but in the eyes of the opposite side, [he is] viewed as a freedom fighter. This problem has long been debated. And it’s in history that we’ve been familiar with, for example, the era when there was a declaration that we call the Balfour Declaration in Britain that lead to the founding of the State of Israel, because in history the Jews have been a nationality for as many as two thousand years, are a nationality that resides around the Middle East, and once cohabited peacefully with the Islamic [Muslims], but due to religious affairs, due to all kinds of affairs, it turned out that the Jews had to flee to all over the world — everywhere — without a nation of their own.

The Jews who are all over the world are also wealthy, are smart people, have reputation for banking, media, [and] politics, so their influence is quite great. Therefore, when [they] were founding Israel, the Jews formed a gang, too, like former Prime Minister Begin.

Britain, too, used to have a gang that might also be called “terrorists”. When Britain occupied Palestine after World War II, and other Jewish refugees from Western Europe [and] Eastern Europe went to settle in what now belongs to Palestine, there was guerilla warfare or terrorists, too.

Consequently, today’s Jewish leaders or today’s Palestinian leaders once in their lives had to use terrorist methods in fighting for independence, for their own nation’s survival.

In Africa, people rose up to reclaim independence, there was terrorism, too.

Nowadays [terrorism] is all over, in India, Pakistan, in Kashmir, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, but the difference is that the terrorism on September 11 in New York was different from terrorism in the past in a couple of aspects.

The first is, in the past when committing terrorism, [the terrorists] aimed that [they] wanted to kill that person, this person.

The second is they wanted to damage properties or objects what they wanted [to damage], with objectives that were quite narrow, limited, and [they] knew who [they] wanted to kill, who to execute, what objects to destroy, whether it was buildings, police stations, whether it was department stores or whatever, and [the attacks] were contained.

But [of] the terrorism in New York, the target is nobody. [One] may say the target is to kill tens of thousands of people, but it’s tens or hundreds of thousands of people that they don’t know. Those people were not part of the opposite side, unlike terrorism against the directly opposite side. To say that it’s terrorism against Americans isn’t correct, either, because there were many other nationalities, because [the terrorists] knew that there were many other nationalities working [in the twin towers].

Therefore the target is not the number, not the personages, not the nationality. Secondly, it isn’t the target of objects [or] places, either. The Word Trade Center buildings didn’t do anything. They were not police stations, not strategic points. Or even the United States Defense Department, or Pentagon, [which] may have characteristics closer to a strategic point, but it isn’t.

So now that it’s not the number, not the personages, not the venues, then what [is it]?

This is important. What [it is] is the destruction of certain symbols — the symbols of America and the symbols of a system that the terrorists feel is hostile and murderous toward them. The first symbol is New York, which is considered almost as the capital of the world, especially with regard to the financial system and this financial system has things that are pretty good symbols. On one side, [we] may call [recall(?)] the securities exchange, Wall Street, which is reputed to be a financial street — a business, financial street that is known world wide, and is also the World Trade Center, which has to contain many business and financial firms [and] commercial firms in the buildings. [These] are the symbols of the wealth of Americans, of New York, and must be called the symbols of capitalism. [The paragraph’s third “sentence” is properly translated. Many Thais, myself included, sometimes talk in this stuttering, inarticulate way. –ed.]

If [we] look thoroughly, who nourish capitalism, who benefit much, it happens to be the Jewish nationality that has expertise in business, whether it’s financial business or commercial business. Therefore [this] is borne out of the thought that capitalism is 1) an American system, that America spreads all over the world; 2) brings prosperity to America and the Jews; 3) this capitalism… today’s circumstance is capitalism coupled with globalization, [which] in one side’s perspective is considered too harmful to [its] opponents.

With regard to the Pentagon, [that] is a symbol for America’s military power. In the plan [of the terrorists] this time, I think the destruction of this symbol is considered a kind of plan that wants most to hurt the American people mentally, to prove that America cannot defend itself. Whether [America] has military power, financial power, all kinds of power in this world, it is vulnerable to attacks, too.

All this makes the terrorist attacks of September 11 different from terrorism in the past or in history.

Is [this] the beginning of a clash between two civilizations?

No, but if [America] does things imprudently, if [it] is a retaliation with anger, grudge, malice, spite. That can lead to a battle between two civilizations.

But we have to understand that during the first couple of days, President Bush had no choice because people already lost their morale. Their morale was smashed to bits. Therefore there was only one way psychologically [and that] was to resptore people’s morale or make them regain their bearings. [That is to say, Bush] must say, do, and only boost spirits like a cheerleader. People lost hope then, people didn’t know what happened and Americans have never been attacked this way. Pearl Harbor was just an attack on the Navy, [they] came to attack warships moored in the waterway [sic]. That was conventional warfare, with clear targets. At the same time there was a side effect that very much shook and stirred Americans mentally. But [they] knew of the event only three hours or six hours afterwards, or saw it again in the newspapers on the next day.

But this time was the first time to see immediately the planes crashing, therefore the moral anguish was great. Bush had to come out [and talk] about revenge, about measures to hold these guys accountable. But we can see that by the day, by the week, Bush’s words are getting softer and softer. The first four or five days, [he] was only talking about revenge, retaliation, that [he] must capture and punish [the terrorists]. The following days, [he] was talking about justice.

The characteristics of their leaders [are such that] they’re smart. [Bush] could take the people’s pulse. He knew what people wanted at that moment. People’s pulses beat differently. Three or four days after September 11, [they] were beating one way, later when [people] regained their bearings [the pulses] were beating another way, after two weeks, three weeks [they] were beating still another way. Therefore the leader of the United States is taking the pulse.

The first four or five days, [he] came out strong, in order to recover the morale that had been lost. When [America and/or Bush (Anand wasn’t being clear –ed.)] started to regain bearings, [Bush] started to reason more, [to realize] that this isn’t about vengeance, but about bringing justice back to the world, with this war being not the kind of war that was conducted in the past, not the war that [you] watched on TV and saw clearly what the air attack in Kosovo was like, what the attack on Iraq was like… there was the army going in…

That [Bush] uses the [English] word “war” actually doesn’t mean only war. In the past [people] have used the words “war on poverty” — declaring war against poverty — or “war on drugs” — declaring war against narcotics. But it just happens that “war” means war in the Thai language. So when the word “war” is used, Thai people get nervous about it. In fact, here “war” is just a declaration of a fight — a fight against the no-good, the evil, and so on — politically, economically, financially, diplomatically, propagandistically, everything. But the military deployments are more of the kind that is called a bluff.

Therefore we can see that their leader can take the people’s pulse. When [American and/or Bush (the subject of this sentence is unclear –ed.)] listens to the news that Europe has already cautioned, Islam has already cautioned not to do anything rash, not to do anything too brassy. Otherwise, [this] will lead to the conclusion that this is a war between civilizations.

Now Bush has come out and said that it’s not just Bin Laden, but also Bin Laden’s network. Other that this, there are also other networks.

So we have to understand that every government, every country that supports suppression of terrorists all have problems. Britain has a problem with the Irish, France has a problem with Algerian terrorism, Egypt, too, has a problem, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia, too, have problems. Therefore when everybody talks about terrorism, other than September 11, everybody has a problem. India has one, Pakistan has one, therefore everybody all has one. Therefore in saying that [the world] starts fighting against terrorism, the pretext that is acceptable to everybody may be September 11 in New York, but in the end everybody has his own agenda.

[Your] thoughts on the speech by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

I think it’s a kind of war that I don’t want to call a psychological war, but a war that starts with verbal threats, by strategizing that this and that line of talk [is] intended to cause what results. For example, first [America] came out to say that the Taliban government must agree to deliver Bin Laden, when Pakistan went in to tell [the Taliban] that America certainly won’t let up, if [they] refuse to deliver Bin Laden [they] will certainly be attacked, don’t think it’s possible to negotiate, the Taliban came out and said [they] don’t even know where Bin Laden is. But when the Americans, Britain, NATO, and the EU talked more and received more support from various countries, the Taliban came out and said [they] know Bin Laden is now in Afghanistan, under their protection, but [they] cannot disclose his location for Bin Laden’s safety. When one side climbs down, the other raises its voice, like muay thai, where we say there must be sizing-up before fighting starts. Currently, we say [it] is only in that stage. If [one side] sees that the other side losing morale [and] beginning to be disadvantaged, only then will [he] assault. But Bush himself has come out and said that it won’t be bombing, but [rather] sending in commandos to attack specific targets, or to help the Northern Alliance. And [Bush] is always repeating that [this] is a war that will take a very long time, like the war against poverty or the war against drugs, which is never-ending, because every country has its own problems. But the important point is that we must learn why these guys are willing to die for a certain cause or to pursue something that they want. Even America has to sit down and think why [it] couldn’t win the Vietnam War, even though [its] military power was a hundred, a thousand times greater — why the Vietnamese refused to kowtow [to it].

Britain has to think why the Irish refused to kowtow; Russia has to think why Chechnya refused to kowtow. Many countries have to think about this issue. If [we don’t] reach the conclusion that they refused to kowtow because 1) they have a profound cause, whether or not we agree with it is another story; 2) they feel that they have no other way out so they don’t mind dying, the Vietnamese were willing to die, the Israelis were willing to die, the Palestinians were willing to die, each and every one had the utmost anguish in his life, couldn’t take it any more, didn’t mind even dying, then how can we solve the problem?

There are observations that the hijackers in this operation were not oppressed people.

These guys feel that they sympathize with the oppressed. [they] have a cause. [I’m] not saying whether they are right or wrong, but [you should] analyze where is the cause or the root cause of the problem.

[As] a solution for stopping the problem from spreading, should there be military action?

If it’s to be a military action, it should be an operation that is restrained, limited to certain targets. Because America knows well that to bomb like [in] Vietnam, Kosovo, or Iraq… if [it] bombs Afghanistan [in the same way], Afghanistan’s terrain favors people inside the country in fighting. Don’t forget, Britain lost, couldn’t defeat Afghanistan as many as twice in history. Ten years ago Russia [sic] went in, too, but came back defeated. The terrain is very amenable to the people inside. There’s one Russian general who said that [he] had fought for Russia in Afghanistan, he said Afghanistan is as if God gathered all the rocks big and small in the world and dumped them in Afghanistan.

Besides military war, America also used all sorts of mechanisms including economic [and] political to squeeze every country, even though the cooperating countries have never had evidence, and have never had processes according to universal principles [This isn’t a bungled translation; the Thai transcript actually has it this way. –ed.]

I don’t know the details, but the United Nations is convening right now. The United Nations has considered, raised the terrorism problem for a long time. There are now twelve treaties or agreements that [the UN] tries to get signatory countries to sign [sic] and ratify, and then implement. Currently most people in America are saying whatever [the US government] does, it must resort to the United Nations. I think America itself must be careful. For it to do something, it mustn’t fall into such a trap that what it does so exceeds the limit that what it does is what it wants to suppress. Say, you criticize someone of doing something wrong, but in bringing this person into the judicial process, we mustn’t do what he already did — if so, there’s not reason to accept it.

Does Thailand need modify part of [its] foreign policies?

I don’t think so. Just say that we join the fight against terrorism. We will cooperate with the United Nations. I don’t know whether we signed a treaty or what. Whatever it is, just resort to the United Nations. We don’t resort to America. Currently America, too, is trying to resort to the United Nations.

If there’s an attack [and] a request to use [Thailand’s] airbases…

No need to reply anything. [If] people could reply a little less, [things] would be better than this. Don’t reply to things that haven’t yet happened. To reply to such things as if this, if that is tantamount to digging your own hole. Things that haven’t happened, why reply? But in the current status [situation], [I] feel the point that [people] used to talk about their coming to request to use an airfield, I think there’s no longer such a thing. Because that case would be a forceful air attack, which currently doesn’t seem that way. Regarding the request for cooperation in suppressing terrorists or having increased and more extensive finance, banking, [and] money-laundering measures and immigration measures, which these things must be done already. [Again, this paragraph is faithfully and properly translated. Many Thais do talk this way. —ed.]

What [we] must beware is Thai television and Thai radio and Thai newspapers, when it comes to international news, [they] take the farangs’ news and run it lock, stock, and barrel. Thai people then start to develop anxiety, develop fear almost like people in New York, even though this didn’t happen in Thailand. Sometimes we have to keep [our] bearings, don’t pay too much attention.

How much impact does this event have on the global economy?

There surely is [impact]. [For] six months to one year, the global economy will slump. In fact it was already beginning to slump, but with this [it] will slump even more. Today Greenspan is announcing another interest rates cut, for the ninth time, but not much [effect] has occurred so far.

Will the auditing of the terrorists’ accounts affect international financial dealings?

Probably not. Innocent people shouldn’t be afraid of these things.

PS Read more about Anand Panyarachun in these entries:

02:14 ▪ politics

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