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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/19/21

U.S. Terrorism 101: The Bert Sacks Story

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Since the annual U.S. Veterans Day holiday honoring military veterans was just observed on November 11, it seems more than appropriate to suggest the creation of a U.S. Victims Day, just as in a similar effort at truth in labeling, the Defense Department should be renamed the Offensive War Department.

For the victims of American terrorism far outnumber the American soldiers who have died in its wars, although I consider most U.S. veterans to be victims also, having been propagandized from birth to buy the glory of war, not the truth that it's a racket that serves the interests of the ruling class.

Such wars, carried out with bombs, drones, mercenaries, and troops, or by economic embargoes and sanctions, are by their nature acts of terrorism. This is so whether we are talking about the mass fire bombings of Japanese and German cities during WW II, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the carpet bombings and the agent orange dropped on Vietnam, the depleted uranium on Iraq, the use of terrorist surrogates everywhere, the economic sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Syria, etc. The list is endless and ongoing. All actions aimed at causing massive death and damage to civilians.

According to U.S. law (6 USCS Â 101), terrorism is defined as an act that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

By any reasonable interpretation of the law, the United Sates is a terrorist state.

Let me tell you about Bert Sacks. Perhaps you've heard of him. His experiences with the U.S. government regarding terrorism tell an illuminating story of conscience and hope. It is a story of how one person can awaken others to recognize and admit the truth that the U.S. is guilty of crimes against humanity, even when one is unable to stop the carnage. It is a tale of witness, and how such witness is contagious.

In November 1997 Sacks led a delegation to Iraq to deliver desperately needed medicines ( $40,000 worth, all donated) that were denied into the country because of US/UN economic sanctions. For such an act of human solidarity, he was later fined $10,000 by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Sacks had refused to ask for a license to travel to Iraq or to subsequently pay the fine for compelling reasons connected to his non-violent Gandhian philosophy, which teaches that non-cooperation with evil is as much an obligation as cooperation with good.

For years previously, Sacks had been learning, as would have anyone who was following the news, that the American sanctions under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton following the illegal and unjust Gulf War, had been aimed at crippling the Iraqi infrastructure upon which all civilian life depended. Iraq had been devastated by the U.S. war of aggression, and a great deal of its infrastructure, especially electricity and therefore water purification systems, had already been destroyed. Clinton kept up the sanctions and the bombing in support of Bush's war intentions. So much for differences between Republicans and Democrats! Regular Iraqis were suffering terribly. All this was being done in the name of punishing Saddam Hussein in order to oust him from power, the same Hussein whom the U. S. had supported in Iraq's war with Iran by assisting him with chemical and biological weapons.

As Sacks later (2011) wrote in his declaration to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington when he sued OFAC:

Weeks after the end of the Gulf War, on March 22, 1991, I read a New York Times front- page story covering the UN report by Martti Ahtisaari on the devastating, 'near- apocalyptic conditions' in Iraq after the Gulf War. The report said, 'famine and epidemic [were imminent] if massive life- supporting needs are not rapidly met. The long summer... is weeks away. Time is short.' The same article explained U.S. policy this way: '[By] making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people, [sanctions] will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.' This sentence has stayed with me for twenty years. It says to me that my government - by inflicting suffering and death on Iraqi civilians - hoped to overthrow President Saddam Hussein, and that we would simply call it "making life uncomfortable." [my emphasis]

The years to follow the first war against Iraq revealed what that Orwellian phrase really meant.

In 1994 Sacks read a survey on health conditions of Iraqi children in The New England Journal of Medicine that said: "These results provide strong evidence that the Gulf War and trade sanctions caused a threefold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under five years of age. We estimate that an excess of more than 46,900 children died between January and August 1991."

And that was just the beginning. For the number of dead Iraqi children [and adults] kept piling up as a result of "making life uncomfortable."

Anton Chekov's story "Gooseberries" pops into my mind:

Everything is quiet and peaceful, and nothing protests but mute statistics: so many people gone out of their minds, so many gallons of vodka drunk, so many children dead from malnutrition. . . . And this order of things is evidently necessary; evidently the happy man only feels at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence happiness would be impossible. It's a case of general hypnotism. There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man someone standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him -- disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others.

Sacks has long been that man with a gentle hammer, far from happy, comfortable, or contented in what he was learning. In 1996 he watched the infamous CBS 60 Minutes interview of Madeleine Albright by Leslie Stahl who had recently returned from Iraq. Albright was then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and soon to be the Secretary of State. Stahl, in reference to how the sanctions had already killed 500,000 Iraqi children, asked her, "Is the price worth it?" - Albright blithely answered, "The price is worth it."

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Edward Curtin is a widely published author. His new book is Seeking Truth in A Country of Lies - https://www.claritypress.com/product/seeking-truth-in-a-country-of-lies/ His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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