Johan Galtung Acceptance Speech

Morton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award

110th Convention of the American Psychological Association:

Peace Division (48). Chicago, 25 August 2002






Dr Leila Dane, Chair; dear Colleagues - A great honor, a great pleasure to be the first recipient of this award in the name of a highly acclaimed researcher in the field, Professor Morton Deutsch; like myself formerly of Columbia University, New York. His seminal book on conflict resolution from 1973 has inspired so many of us. So please permit me to dedicate this address to Morton, in deep gratitude.

I will be talking about the cycle of events punctuated by two dates, the 9/11 (2001) attack on World Trade Center/Pentagon, with about 3,000 civilians killed, and the 10/07 (2001) start of the attack on Afghanistan, with about 6,000 civilians killed according to information in Kabul late May 2002. Let us define basic terms: Terrorism (non-state) and state terrorism (state)

- use violence for political ends, conflict termination;

- also hit/harm/hurt people not directly involved in struggle;

- are designed to spread panic/terror to bring about capitulation;

- have an element of surprise in the choice of who, where, when;

- make perpetrators unavailable for retaliation/incapacitation.

This applies equally well to most military campaigns: war is continuation of politics by other means; of course there will be intended or unintended "collateral damage"; the intention is to bring about capitulation; only a fool would reveal tactics in advance; and since feudal chivalry only a super-fool sees putting one's own life at risk as the condition for taking Other's life.

Fundamentalism (DMA), religious or ideological is:

- Dualist, the world is divided into US(A) and THEY, no neutrals;

- Manichean, our party is Good, their party is Evil; and

- Armageddon, there can be only one outcome, the final battle.


Known as polarization the DMA-syndrome is found in many conflicts. Fundamentalism is permanent pre-polarization.

There is also the CGT-syndrome well known in harder varieties of the three abrahamitic religions, Judaism/Christianity/Islam:

- Chosenness, a Chosen People under God, A Promised/Sacred Land;

- Glory, a glorious past and/or future;

- Trauma, a people under permanent PTSD


DMA, combined with narcissism (C, G) and paranoia (T), is a deep collective pathology, intolerable at the personal level, but recognized as devotion and patriotism, at the collective level. Wahhabism, state religion of Saudi Arabia, and Puritanism, civic religion of the USA, qualify. Their joint Armageddon fall 2001:

The interpretation of 9/11 is: two buildings were executed by 19 Arabs, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, for the sacrilege of economic (WTC) and military (Pentagon) penetration into a sacred land. And of 10/07+: Afghanistan was bombed an act of revenge, punishment, to incapacitate Al Qaeda and to depose the Taliban regime for hosting Al Qaeda and opposing US pipelines from the Caspian and bases. The both-and, 9/11+10/07+, is a retaliation cycle; war.

The problem is how to exit from this very vicious cycle. The psychological conditions are awesome. Let us look at some.

[1] Put the head brain, not the gut brain in command; know thyself

A basic thesis is that both parties are fundamentalists, driven by the Wahhabite/Puritan DMA/CGT fundamentalisms firmly entrenched in the gut-brains of their collective subconscious. Our head brain also makes mistakes but is the memory of cognitions and emotions and the seat of our spirit, capable of reflecting on Self and Other, on how we/they are programmed/coded, and how we may change that program. Gnoti se auton, know thyself, is a condition for entering into dialogue with oneself, oneSelf and Other, Allies and Enemies. And then weigh pro and contra on the basis of the support the argument gets from theory, from value and from data.

The problem is that under some conditions the head brain is switched off and the group is on a fundamentalist gut brain pilot, with its crudeness, stereotypes, metaphors. The triple-C of Crisis, Complexity and Consensus are particularly important as triggers of the switch. There is urgency, the matter is extremely complex, loaded with uncertainties, yet there has to be consensus. The people on top are caught unprepared. The gut brain with its DMA-CGT code takes over. What to do follows: (state) terrorism.

If the top elite now talks with one voice (consensus), acts like one person and thinks like one person because it has stopped thinking, the gut brain has taken over, then it is a person. But what kind? This search for a collective personality should not be confused with Lloyd de Mause and Vamik Volkan seeing inter-nation and inter-state politics as conditioned by the psychohistory of a leader; a psychologized version of Western fascination with No.l. We are talking about a decision-making elite, focusing on the USA, trying to read the psychology of that construct to explain, predict, and draw some conclusions about possible therapy.

[2] Beware of projection: Et tu quoque

In the standard US discourse terrorism and fundamentalism only apply to the Other. And yet the idea of exceptionalism, of being entitled to exceptional, violent-illegal, action because of an exceptional status, is so much a part of the US self-image that it becomes a truism. All six DMA-CGT criteria are satisfied:

- the strong you-are-either-for-us-or-against-us division

- the very frequent use of the epithet "evil", out "to get us"

- the inevitability of a final, decisive battle to "crush" them

- the unheard of crime of hitting the sacred land

- "the world/USA will never be the same (like invulnerable)

- 9/11 trauma as uniqueness, like shoa something new in history

Bush and Bin Laden then become Osama Bush and George bin Laden.

Equally or more significant is the total absence of mention of the terrorism exercised by the USA on other countries, like the 67 cases of intervention since 1945 alone. Twelve million deaths, about equally divided between overt action (Pentagon) and covert action (CIA), are practically speaking unknown to most Americans, and made invisible even by US research in international relations; with the notable exception of Chalmers Johnson's admirable book Blowback, quoting CIA as seeing terrorism partly as an "unintended consequence" of past US action. This, incidentally, makes the guess that the fourth plane was heading for CIA in Langley, VA a fair one, also based on the 1995 finding in that direction.

To project one's own shadow on the Other is ubiquitous but not a sign of mental health. Massive, unopposed verbal outpourings with no mention of own shadow is not only brain-washing propaganda but pathological. C. G. Jung could have used his analysis of Job's Book, and God's lack of insight in his own shadow, on USA = God.

[3] Beware of cognitive projection: The Al Qaeda construction.

Experts in the region talk about Al Qaeda as a Washington construct, also pointing to the circumstance that the name was changed some time ago from The Base to The Law.

That Washington construct is almost certainly wrong. Their projection makes Al Qaeda similar to the Pentagon, awesome in its sheer size, highly vertical, based on indoctrination, discipline, obedience, money, with a pointed peak of one person homologous to the US ultimate C-in-C, the President; elect or select.

Another construction would be a very high number of Muslim fundamentalists--incidentally not anti-American as they were equally anti-Soviet; they are simply dead against anyone insulting their religious sensitivities--in need of no major coordination, money, fueled by their faith, divided into mutually autonomous cells. One such cell might have had a score members training in hijacking, and equipped with one idea worth millions of dollars for those who no ideas have: using long distance planes, right after take-off, as flying gasoline bombs. Their act may have eliminated all traces as they become their own cause and effect. Moreover, as any glance at the map will corroborate: Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in all likelihood was for operations in Chechnya and Kashmir and for the fight against the Northern Alliance - not for action in the USA. That command would be in the West.

The truth is probably between these two constructs but closer to the latter, making the fascination with the individualized No. 1 at the expense of what they stand for counterproductive. This fuels the dangerous idea that once He is eliminated the problem is solved (not denying that there may also be such cases), and makes people blind to all the killing of the rank and file.

[4] Resist the semantic differential trap.

My late friend Charles Osgood studied the connotations of many concepts/objects to understand the structure of the semantic space in which they were located by the respondents. Most salient were:

good vs. evil; strong vs. weak; active vs. passive

No aesthetic, ethical or religious dimensions have that salience.

Thus, in addition to the collective subconscious archetypes there is also a cognitive space pre-prepared to receive 9/11, with the triple evil-strong-active waiting to be glued on them. And that triple immediately dictates the three remedies/therapies:

Make the Strong Weak: identify, locate, crush them; like vermin;

Make the Active Passive: give incentives for other activities;

Make the Evil Good: conversion to US values or joint solutions.

The list corresponds to the three types of power, stick, carrot, persuasion. The condition for persuasion lies in another idea that great psychologist explored: GRIT, gradual reciprocal initatives in tension-reduction. But this presupposes that both take steps toward threat reduction, in other words moving toward the origin on the two negative axes in Figure 1; today not very likely.

The problem is the Evil-Strong-Active trap, so deeply entrenched in a Satan-oriented Christianity typical of the USA, and similar for fundamentalist Muslims. Somebody Strong-Active and against US becomes automatically Evil by these semantic correlations. Next is the Evil-Strong-Passive and how to deter them from becoming active. Conclusion: crush the active ones to deter the others from activating.

We are dealing with one more factor counteracting rationality when that precious gift is most needed. How nice if the key semantic dimension had been friendly vs more friendly - - -.

[5] Know Thy Enemy

An important part of the terrorist attribution is the conception of the Other as having no motivation beyond Evil; in other words going beyond dehumanization to verminization. The basic idea is that the motives or reasons he projects are only cover-ups for that evil, meaning propaganda, disinformation. He who pays any attention is at best just simply naive, at worst a part of that cover-up, himself one of Satan's ilk.

This has catastrophic consequences and practically speaking eliminates the last possibility of rational action. There were two texts left behind after 9/11, one written in target-building script, the other was bin Laden's Al Jazeera statement some days later. The first simply communicated that someone had something against US economic and military penetration; when in addition the hijackers are identified as Arabs mainly from Saudi-Arabia, probably all Wahhabites, the rest is simply a question of knowing Wahhabism and US-Saudi relations, starting with the Roosevelt-Ibn Saud agreement. Nobody says the analysis stops at this point. But an "expert" missing this point does not merit any attention.

The second text, by bin Laden, talked about humiliation, like the Arab world had been humiliated for more than 80 years. Not to do 2001-(80+X)=Sykes/Picot+Balfour eliminates many "experts".

Motivation is part of explanation, and explanation is not justification. Much of Hitler's success can be explained in terms of Versailles humiliation; nothing can justify what he did. Tout comprendre est tout pardonner is false. But without explanation we cannot remove possible causes, like on 9/12 announcing the withdrawal of US bases in Saudi Arabia and the recognition of Palestine as a state. No explanation, no rationality. Darkness.

[6] Do not verify the negative prejudgment your enemy has of you

The World Trade Center is about trade, in West Asia that spells oil. The Pentagon is about military projection, that spells bases. The Al Qaeda in general, and Wahhabites in particular, seem to be convinced that USA is profoundly greedy, that its politics revolves around oil, pipe-lines and bases, and that its citizens are a bunch of materialist consumerists.

During the Afghanistan campaign the use of old Soviet facilities for a major base close to Kandahar came early. On 30 May 2002 came the signing of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline by the two presidents and the former UNOCAL consultant, now Afghanistan prime minister, Mr Karzai. In short, the kind of total confirmation that makes a prejudgment a judgment, and basis for rational action. Stupid. The USA should learn from Sun Tzu.

The whole West-Central Asian region is now filled with people saying, "I told you so". Politics is not only about goals and emotions; it is also about maps and cognitions. A leader has to have all four and is followed also as a guide to reality. A major factor in the production of more enemies. But they should not be seen as "anti-American". Very many around the world love America for its generosity, universalism, innovation, dynamism, people.

The problem is Washington foreign policy. To confound the two into "anti-American" is a symptom of deep cognitive confusion, indicative of DMT/CGT (particularly DM) at work.

If the USA had limited itself to a military campaign,declared that the goal had been achieved, that policing will be by UNSC/OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) with no US bases and that all oil rights, including pipelines, are for the Afghan people only, then they might even have won their war. Now it is lost.

[7] Get out of the victimhood/uniqueness syndrome

First of all, the "poor little me" attitude goes very badly with a country with the US record of Pentagon direct violence and trade structural violence, all over the world. What was attacked was not living quarters but symbols of US perpetration of violence. The killing of people in the WTC buildings (that also housed the CIA office for spying on the UN and hiring agents) was atrocious, but not central to the issue.

However, that very figure of speech, "perpetrator", may also be misleading. Human beings can commit good acts, and commit bad acts - the latter are called perpetrators. But they can also omit to do bad acts, and omit to do good acts: "perpetrator" does not catch the latter. Like omitting to do the job of a democratic citizen, to be informed and to be active about the issues that led to 9/11? The innocent bystanders who failed to act are not always that innocent, and less so the more democratic the country.

And as to the uniqueness: there was nothing that sensational, except a somewhat new method bridging the gap between a terrorist "with a bomb but no air force" and a state terrorist "with both". France was surprised by the German attack in 1940, so was Norway. Port Arthur, Pearl Harbor. Countless US surprise attacks on the First Nations, killing squaws. And here is a Viêt Nam reaction:


When Vietnamese people saw the news of the New York attack, the first thing they were astonished about was the skyscrapers rather than the attack since they have only 16 stories high buildings in Hanoi. They also said that, comparing to the Viêt Nam war, "This is nothing".


Like for shoa there have been many massive killings, like for shoa many of them are caused by the West, even by the USA. To disprove "It Can't Happen Here" may also be a godsend in disguise, a much needed wake-up call. But that perception will be slow in coming.

[8] Graduate from autism to reciprocity

Some days after September 11 CNN had a program where a psychologist gave advice to parents with children asking difficult questions. Thus, one young boy had asked "What have we done to make them hate us so much that they do such things?" A mature question, very different from the answer: "You could tell your child that there are good people in the world, and evil - -" That boy had arrived at the Piaget stage of reciprocity, seeing the action of Other at least partly as influenced by the action of Self (and vice versa), as opposed to the autism/absolutism of the adult psychologist, seeing evil action by Other as essentialist, uninfluenced by anything Self can do. That exonerates Self, and provides a good sleeping pillow for consciences that are probably sluggish in advance. Makes one wonder about the certification rules for psychologists.

Reciprocity does not only mean Self-searching, what have I done wrong, and just as importantly, what is the good I should have done to elicit different behavior in Other. It also means Other-searching, asking Other what he wants Self to do, or not to do, and suggesting to Other things he could do and not do. But all that presupposes dialogue, and dialogue presupposes coming together directly (Larry King Live, calling on George Bush and Osama bin Laden to discuss precisely the questions above) or indirectly (inviting both of them to dialogues with four wise persons, like Carter-Gorbachev-Mandela-Robinson).

A major act of violence can also be seen as a major act of communication, relying on the logic of "violence is the only language they understand". To respond with violence only confirms that not very generous hypothesis. Like sowing, like reaping.

[9] Switch discourse from negative-violence to positive-peace

The focus after 9/11 has been on the atrocious violence, and on how to counteract violence with violence. To omit the positive goals, so basic in any conflict, is an omission bordering on the criminal/stupid. The media wallow in the violence journalism of the bottom-left quadrant of Figure 1, unwilling/incapable of entering the upper-right quadrant that spells peace journalism.

Let us postulate the following long-term, general goals:


THEY: Respect for religious sensitivities

US: Free Trade/Military Protection



If THEY prevail the outcome is trade isolationism; if US prevails the outcome is what we had, and it did not work. In the US goal there is an oxymoron: if trade is really beneficial to all no military protection is needed; that only makes trade unfree. In general bases are included because basic needs are excluded.

The transcending solution is Trade With Basic Needs Priority; including identity/religious sensitivity. Primitive, archaic media have so far wasted one year not focusing on anything positive.

[10] The truly strong will be able to pay high psychological costs

Above a number of concrete policy proposals have been made. A speech-writer could easily craft them together, like:


Fellow Americans; the attack yesterday on two buildings, killing thousands, was atrocious, totally unacceptable. They have to be captured and brought to justice by an appropriate international court, with a clear UN mandate.

However, my address tonight goes beyond this. I have come to the conclusion that there have been and are serious flaws in our foreign policy, however well intended. We create enemies through our insensitivity to the basic needs of the peoples around the world, including their religious sensitivities. I have therefore come to the conclusion that the necessary steps will be taken to

- withdraw our military bases from Saudi Arabia,

- recognize Palestine as a state, details can follow later,

- enter into dialogue with Iraq to identify solvable conflicts,

- accept President Khatami's invitation for the same with Iran,

- pull out militarily and economically from Afghanistan,

- stop our military interventions and reconcile with the victims.

That same evening 1.3 billion Muslims would embrace America; and the few terrorists left would have no water in which to swim. The speech would cost half an hours work to write, ten minutes to deliver; as opposed to, say $60 billion for the Afghanistan operation ($50 billion for Yugoslavia in 1999, plus much more later) and so on. So, what are the psychological/political costs?


The psychological costs are in transitory cognitive dissonance before a new cognitive equilibrium/consonance has been found.


At the conscious level: The US world dominion is based (like Viking, Mongol, English) on a military doctrine combining highly offensive forces with highly invulnerable homeland security. Giving up that doctrine the USA not only looks weak; it is weak.


At the subconscious level: The US world dominion is legitimized by being "under God", fighting anyone else aiming at world dominion. The gap between "exceptional" and "ordinary" is unbridgeable.


September 11 did havoc to the first, and mobilized the second to restore cognitive consonance by trying to crush the challenger. The problem is that massive violence can produce more challenge than it eliminates. The alternative is to give up exceptionalism, give up invulnerability and the offensive military doctrine, and join the world. The costs are high. The benefits even higher.


But that little boy, the US collective foreign policy leadership,


[1] driven by a gut brain with a narcissism/paranoia code;

[2] projecting his own aggressiveness, unaware of his own shadow,

[3] constantly projecting himself onto others, as a map;

[4] caught unaware in semantic traps;

[5] highly ignorant of whom/what he is up against;

[6] constantly confirming their negative images of him;

[7] steeped in self-pity;

[8] unable/unwilling to see himself as a cause not only effect;

[9] caught in the negativism of violence and who wins, unable to assume higher, more positive challenges than crushing enemies;

[10] he, because it is mainly a he, will not rise to the occasion, being too weakened in his soul by his fear of looking weak on the battlefield and the market place to meet those costs. Hence he will not enjoy the benefits either, unable to climb the steep hill of costs. He will pursue the course set from the beginning and lose the US world empire because of the damage done to his soul.

The allegiance of the Arab/Muslim masses and their government he lost with Afghanistan. The allegiance of the conscious Western people he lost right after. The sense of no goal beyond crushing made him lose the Western governments and other allies. The US population, stunned and stifled, is also on its slow way down.

A substantial portion of the rest of the world will follow.

Maybe that is all to the good. Empires do not last forever. Maybe this will also liberate the creative US people, deprived of democracy when most needed, to create a better America, without, for instance, 35% illiteracy in its capital. An America that could join the world like one nation and state among others,equal before the law, equal to each other, facing the problems of the world.


Material for this address can be found on the TRANSCEND web-site ( in two papers: "The USA, the West and the Rest: Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy" (October 2001) and "The USA, the West and the Rest After September 11/October 07 2001+: A Midterm Report" (April 2002). Much of the analysis also applies to the Other side, but here the focus is on the USA.

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