Exemplary Essay on "Poverty, Global Trade Justice, and the Roots of Terrorism"

Somali pirates

On October 8, 2008, a group of pirates return to the Somali coast after seizing a cargo ship.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky, U.S. Navy

Bradley Stone, a student in Professor Courtney Baines's Sustainable Development course at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Poverty, Global Trade Justice, and the Roots of Terrorism" by John Perkins.

Writing prompt:  Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a Nicaraguan priest who ministered to Sandinista guerrillas said, “Terrorism is not really an ‘ism...’ That’s just a convenient way for your government to convince the world that there is another enemy ‘ism’ out there, like communism used to be." How do you define terrorism? What role does the globalized trade market play in the creation and portrayal of terrorism?

Read author John Perkins's response to Bradley Stone's essay here.

The Scapegoat of Terrorism

by Bradley Stone

I can vividly remember the thoughts that were running through my head in the days shortly following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City: the intensity of the fear I was feeling, the blind anger, the certainty that the world was coming to an end. I remember seeing the smoke, hearing the weariness in President Bush’s breath, watching the towers fall, listening to the countless condemnations that ultimately formed into one word—terrorist.  I blindly condemned an entire region of the world, even though I had never even heard of the Middle East until then, let alone be capable of finding the area on a map. In fact, I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was until I saw the two towers burning like behemoth candles on the television screen. School was cancelled early, planes disappeared from the sky, and my mother was scared and couldn’t tell me exactly why. For the better part of a year I prayed to God for any kind of protection, marching with the common people in our campaign against terror.  Looking back, I am ashamed of myself, of my peers, of my own family, of my country. Knowing what I do now, I realize that we are the terrorists.

John Perkins’ YES! Magazine article, “Poverty, Global Trade Justice, and the Roots of Terrorism,” recounts a five-day standoff between the United States naval forces and a small band of Somali pirates. The article portrays the event as if “white-hatted cowboys had ridden to the rescue of a town besieged by Billy the Kid and his gang.” What Perkins and I both realize is that there is quite a different story underneath the misleading media coverage of world terror.

On May 6 of that year, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a report from Gwen Thompkins, who stated that “Fishing villages in the area have been devastated by illegal trawlers and waste dumping from industrialized nations. Coral reefs are reportedly dead. Lobster and tuna have vanished. Malnutrition is high.” This revealed some of the back-story on piracy in Somalia. Ever since the 1600s and 1700s—the times of the East India Company—the Bugi people of the island of Sulawesi have been involved in extensive pirate activity. Perkins described the untold story of these people very well when he commented, “The ‘terrorists’…are people whose families were forced off their farms by oil companies, hydroelectric dams, or ‘free trade’ agreements, whose children are starving…” And it has been that way ever since the early 1600s when widespread imperialism began. This holds true for the rest of the Third World as well.

If we observe recent rebellions in U.S. military-occupied nations overseas—many of which are of high importance to our foreign oil industry—we may not directly connect the dots. The regimes in those countries survive because we allow them to; as long as they don’t mess with Israel and keep oil prices low, we don’t care what they do to their own people.

Globalized trade markets are milking the land of these foreign nations, drying out their resources, forcing people out of work and into starvation. The proletariat turns away from education and desperately picks up weapons instead. In turn, violence paves the way for regimes—typically backed by the corporatocracy—that flood their ranks with the downtrodden population who will do anything for revenge, safety, food, shelter, or a future for their children. The world media has a monopoly on information, altering the facts to fit a capitalist agenda, labeling “us” as separate from “them.” We are conditioned to hate the communists, the socialists, the atheists, the terrorists—whoever threatens our shallow comfort zone.

Returning to 2001, few people realize that during Operation Desert Storm our military deliberately targeted water treatment plants and power plants in Iraq, after which the UN imposed sanctions for 13 years. Over 500,000 Iraqi children died from preventable diseases. If I was an Iraqi father of a son who died from the hands of an oppressive corporate regime, I believe I would have acted radically as well. All 19 of the “terrorists” involved in the 9-11 attacks were from oppressed nations.

Running with what Richards stated, I define terrorism as the byproduct of our failed economic model. It is the result of widespread environmental and social irresponsibility, a malady that we are all affected by, yet separates us from the realization that we are all connected to one another.


Bradley Stone is a sophomore at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Bradley intends to major in Anthropology with a concentration in Sustainable Development and minor in Global Studies. He enjoys travel, writing, photography, and (science) futurism. Bradley plans to travel within the U.S. and to other countries, such as Peru, Denmark, and Argentina, while he's in college and after graduation.

John Perkins's Response:


I am deeply impressed and gratified by Bradley Stone's "The Scapegoat of Terrorism" -- impressed by this young writer's eloquence and passion and gratified to know that my own words can have such a strong impact.

I write books and articles because I am angry at the way my country and its leaders misuse their power. I am furious because instead of working to create a just, sustainable, and peaceful world for my grandson and his brothers and sisters around the planet, my elected officials and the corporations that finance their political campaigns focus instead on monopolizing global resources and markets. 

When I was Bradley's age, I read Tom Paine's  "Common Sense". I was electrified by the fact that his writings empowered people from all walks of life to stand up to the most powerful empire on earth (at that time). Paine guided me down this path that I now follow -- one that channels the energy of my anger into the written word. I walk the path of communicator, rather than attempting to bury my fury in fits of rage, zoned out in front of a TV, anesthetized by alcohol and drugs, or by taking other destructive measures.

I am a hopeful person. I believe that when We the People learn the facts behind the falsehoods conveyed to us by the mainstream media (owned by the same corporations that finance those political campaigns), we will demand change and we as a nation will finally realize the destiny our Founding Fathers and Mothers envisioned of establishing a model for government "of, for, and by the people."

Bradley Stone's wonderful essay -- as well as many of the other beautifully written submissions to the YES! magazine competition -- confirms that Paine's spirit is still alive and well. I invite all of those brilliant young writers to join me on this path of communicator. 

John Perkins

John Perkins is the best-selling author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to Remake and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. He is also a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit.


June 2011 ednews snapshotThe above resources accompany the June 2011 YES! Education Connection Newsletter


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