Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made a statement at theUnited Nations a few weeks back linking terrorism to worldpoverty. Needless to say he drew fire from the usualgang of special interests that have a stake inmaintaining poverty in order to protect their ownsumptuous life styles. The Wall Street Journalpublished an article calling Chrétien anti-American,and various other critics charged him with blamingthe victim. It is what you would expect from peoplewho have a vested interest in not facing up to thetruth.

Now, there are a lot of things that I disagree withthe Prime Minister on, but in this case he has hitthe nail square on the head. Without massiveimpoverishment around the globe combined with anexploitive foreign policy pursued by the wealthynations, and modern communications that flaunts thelife styles of those nations in the faces of thepoor, the threat of terrorism would certainly bereduced. None of this, of course, makes the violenceand killing right — or less evil — but without curingthe underlying causes, the evil will never go away.

Stephen Harper, leader of the Canadian Alliance, seesthe events of September 11 as being driven by forces of eviland hatred that must be resisted by democraticsocieties and their leaders. Well, hatred is surelybehind it, who wouldn’t hate someone who took farmore than their share while others starved? Andevil — at least when considering those whoplanned and executed violence against others.

But then, what about those whose policies contribute tothe starving? What about those who intercede in theaffairs of nations like Chile and Guatemala insupport of repressive tyrants and dictators, and whoprofit from that repression? The blood on theirhands is far greater than that on the hands of theterrorists. Are they not equally as evil?

What about those who sell arms to non-democraticstates, who train the soldiers and police of tyrants,who send advisors to teach techniques of torture andassassination? Are they not evil too? Are they notjust as culpable here in the growing culture ofviolence and desperation that may well consume us?Before Mr. Harper, U.S. president, Mr. Bush and others go chasingafter foreign dragons, they might be wise to first setabout putting their own houses in order.

One of the ridiculous rejoinders to the statementthat poverty is a factor in terrorism is thedeclaration that the leaders and most of theparticipants in September 11 were not impoverished and thatOsama himself was a millionaire. So what? The factremains that without a sea of discontented andalienated people to swim in and draw support from,terrorists would soon be isolated and neutralized. Asecure and contented population would have littleroom for those who would threaten that security.

Jean Chretien obviously understands this, thoughone wonders why he has waited so long to speak out orwhether he will go much farther than just talk. DoesStephen Harper understand it our not? One wondersand hopes his answer is ignorance rather thanunconcern.

The fact is that about half of the people in theworld live on less than $2 per day, a pretty slimfigure compared to our own minimum wage — not tomention the outrageous and obscene salaries of manyexecutives and professionals. And, it is gettingworse. In 1960 the gap in per capita income betweenthe richest 20 per cent of the world’s countries and thepoorest 20 per cent was 30 to 1. By 1995 it had widened to74 to 1.

Domestically we see the same problem as topsalaries continue to outpace normal wages. Thehighest paid executive in British Columbia last year made about$5500 dollars per day, the average top executive in the U.S.made five times that much. Perhaps half of thepeople in the world have just cause to be mad.