Some things you need to know before the world ends
September 25, 2006
by William Blum
"Thank you for not putting a bomb in your luggage."
"President Bush said the United States is still under the threat of
attack and will continue to be right up until Election Day." -- Jay Leno
Hand-in-hand with his threat warnings, Bush keeps telling us how his War on Terror has made us so much safer, bragging that there hasn't been a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years since the one of September 11, 2001. Marvelous. There wasn't a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years before that day either. But thanks to the War on Terror -- particularly the bombing, invasion, occupation, and torture of Afghanistan and Iraq -- numerous new anti-American terrorists have been created since that historic day. The latest confirmation of this, if any more were needed, is the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and ... the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."
Since the first strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions and individuals in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, more than a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, diplomatic, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States, including the October 2002 bombings of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, which killed more than 200 people, almost all of them Americans and citizens of their Australian and British war allies; the following year brought the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy; and other horrendous attacks on US war allies in recent years in Madrid, London, and elsewhere.
A US State Department report of 2004 on worldwide terrorist attacks -- "Patterns of Global Terrorism" -- showed that the year 2003 had more "significant terrorist incidents" than at any time since the department began issuing statistics in 1985, even though the figures did not include attacks on US troops by insurgents in Iraq, which the Bush administration explicitly labels as "terrorist". When their report for 2004 showed an even higher number of incidents, the State Department announced that it was going to stop publishing the annual statistics.
It is extremely difficult and threatening for US and UK officials to accept the correlation between their foreign policies and the rise of terrorists. A spokesman for the Blair government recently declared: "Al-Qaida started killing innocent civilians in the 90s. It killed Muslim civilians even before 9/11, and the attacks on New York and Washington killed over 3,000 people before Iraq. To imply al-Qaida is driven by an honest disagreement over foreign policy is a mistake." Vice President Dick Cheney, on more than one occasion, has also pointed out that terrorists were attacking American targets even before 9-11. |
The "reasoning" behind such thinking is odd; it's as if these esteemed gentlemen believe that there was no Western foreign policy in the Mideast before September 11, 2001. But of course, even in modern times, there were decades of awful abuse, including the US overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, multiple bombings of Libya and Iraq, sinking an Iranian ship and shooting down an Iranian passenger plane, habitual support of Israel against the Palestinian people, and much more.
It can't be emphasized too often or too strongly that terrorism is a political act, it is making a political statement, a statement that can often be summed up in a single word: "retaliation"; terrorism is what people with bombs but no air force have to resort to. The Bush and Blair administrations can not admit to the correlation of terrorism with their policies, but those opposed to their wars should never allow them to avoid the issue. Here are some of the latest examples of this retaliation phenomenon:
From a New York Times report on the UK group arrested for allegedly planning to blow up multiple planes headed to the US: "'As you bomb, you will be bombed; as you kill, you will be killed,' said one of the men on a 'martyrdom' videotape" ... "One of the suspects said on his martyrdom video that the 'war against Muslims' in Iraq and Afghanistan had motivated him to act." ... "The man said he was seeking revenge for the foreign policy of the United States, and 'their accomplices, the U.K. and the Jews'."
From a review of the new book, "The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission" by its chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton: "In looking into the background of the hijackers, the staff found that religious orthodoxy was not a common denominator since some of the members 'reportedly even consumed alcohol and abused drugs.' Others engaged in casual sex. Instead, hatred of American foreign policy in the Middle East seemed to be the key factor." ... "I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States," said Supervisory Special Agent James Fitzgerald. "They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States." ... "Lee [Hamilton] felt that there had to be an acknowledgment that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital to America's long-term relationship with the Islamic world, and that the presence of American forces in the Middle East was a major motivating factor in Al Qaeda's actions."
But the War on Terrorism paints terrorists as only irrational madmen or those who loathe freedom, democracy and Western culture, or doing what they do just for the pure, America-hating thrill of it, and so the US and the UK continue to look for military solutions. Writer David Rees predicted a few years ago: "Remember when the United States had a drug problem and then we declared a War on Drugs, and now you can't buy drugs anymore? The War on Terrorism will be just like that."
Cold War Myths
It's become a commonplace for critics of the wall being built by the United States along the Mexican border to equate it to the Berlin Wall. The same highly negative comparison is evoked in speaking about the Israeli wall being built alongside and through Palestine. Just as the Holocaust is the standard against which acts of mass murder and atrocities are conventionally compared, the Berlin Wall is the standard for judging the erection of a physical barrier which restricts freedom of travel for large numbers of people. The Wall is also employed by conservatives as a symbol of the wickedness and the failure of communism. But what was the Berlin Wall actually about?
During the 1950s, American coldwarriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country's economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad. It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions ... all this and much more.
Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets' erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West.
At the same time, the West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East.
By August of 1961, the East Germans had had enough. They began the building of their infamous wall. This was not erected to keep their citizens from "truth" or "freedom" -- before the wall many Easterners had commuted to the West for jobs each day and then returned to the East in the evening. But in the Cold War atmosphere every possible means of scoring propaganda points was exploited by both sides and thus was born the legend of the Evil Commie Wall.
"Appeasement" is another Cold War myth dredged up recently by the Bush administration in its desperate attempt to find an argument for the Iraq war that more than 30% of the American population will swallow. There's been more than one occasion of our old friend Rumsfeld labeling as "fascists" anti-American terrorists and those who resist American occupations, and calling Democrats and others not in love with the war "appeasers"; you know, like Britain allowing the Nazis to devour the Czechs in the hope that Hitler would leave the West alone. The appeasement analogy has long been a favorite of American politicians when it suited their purpose; Eisenhower and Johnson both personally used it, to name but two.
But what happened in 1938 in Munich wasn't so much "appeasement" as it was "collusion". One of Adolf's qualities that appealed so much to the West was his fervent anti-communism. Britain, the United States and other Western governments were counting on the Nazis to turn eastward and put an end once and for all to the Bolshevik menace to God, family and capitalism.
If to Donald Rumsfeld opposing the war in Iraq is the moral equivalent of appeasing Hitler, to Condoleezza Rice it's the moral equivalent of tolerating slavery in 19th century America. Here she is at her desperate best: "I'm sure that there are people who thought that it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold. I'm sure that there were people who said ... why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves."
Let freedom and cash registers ring
US Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez has proposed that Cubans hold an internationally monitored referendum to decide whether they want to be ruled by dictators or live in a democracy.
So what do you think Carlos M. Gutierrez -- formerly a corporate CEO and now a man who goes around the world promoting corporate investment and trade -- means by "a democracy"? Can he imagine a "democratic" society not dominated by corporations which turn everything into a commodity? Is Gutierrez really concerned about the Cuban people having a say over the decisions that affect their lives? Given that so many basic decisions that affect Americans' lives are not made in legislatures but in corporate boardrooms, does he know for a fact that Cubans have any less say over such decisions than Americans do?
The usual American definition of democracy has to do in major part with elections. But even if we accept this simple, and simplistic, definition, the fact remains that, contrary to what Gutierrez, and most Americans assume, Cuba holds elections on a regular basis.
The elections, which observe universal suffrage and a secret ballot, are for seats in the Municipal Assemblies, the Provincial Assemblies, and the National Assembly. There is direct nomination of candidates by the citizenry, not by the Communist Party, which does not get involved in any stage of the electoral process. All candidates have the same public exposure, which is the publication and posting of a biography listing their qualities and history, in very accessible and commonly visited places in the community. There is one deputy in the Municipal Assembly for each 20,000 of population. Candidates must receive over 50% of the vote to be elected, if not in the first round then in a run-off. The 609 members of the National Assembly elect the 31 members of the Council of State. The President of the Council of State is the Head of State and Head of Government. Fidel Castro is repeatedly chosen for this position, purportedly because of his sterling qualities.
I don't know enough detail about the actual workings of the Cuban electoral system to point out the flaws and shortcomings of the above, which most likely exist in practice. But can it be more deadening to the intellect, the spirit, and one's idealism than the American electoral system? From the splashy staged nominating conventions to the interminable boring and insulting campaigns to the increasingly questionable voting and counting processes, all to select one or the other corporate representative ... are the Cubans ready for this? If they were to institute any kind of electoral system in which those candidates with the most money to spend had an advantage, what would keep the CIA from pouring in money-without-end to get their people into office?
This is what we're up against
I recently heard a California farmer interviewed on National Public Radio about the very worrisome e-coli outbreak in spinach. At one point he said that "The United States has the safest agricultural products in the world."
Hmmm. I wondered how one measured such a thing and whether the guy had actually made a global study of this and could cite any statistics or credible sources. It reminded me of several radio interviews I've had in which I was being very critical of US foreign policy (no surprise there) leading to someone calling in and asking me if I could name a better country. My standard reply has been: "Better in what respect?"
"In any respect," is the standard reply from the caller.
"Well," I say, "what about health care? There are many countries that provide health care to a much larger percentage of their citizens than the United States does and at much cheaper cost, sometimes even for free, like in Cuba. And it's the same with university education."
This is effectively the end of any such conversation.
What condition, I wonder, would have to exist in the US for such people to relinquish their childhood love affair with that magical place called "America"? I have on occasion asked people who reject virtually any criticism of US foreign policy: "What would the United States have to do in its foreign policy to lose your support? What, for you, would be too much?" I've yet to get an answer to that question. I suspect it's because the person is afraid that whatever they say I'll point out that we've already done it.
Author Michael Lewis has observed: "One of the qualities that distinguish Americans from other people is their naive suspicion that any foreigner with half a brain would rather be one of them. ... The most zealous Japanese patriot doesn't for a minute think that other peoples actually want to be Japanese. Ditto the French."
But don't despair, gang. As I've mentioned before, my (very) rough guess is that the people I speak about here constitute no more than 15 percent of the population. I suggest that we concentrate on the rest, who are reachable, and in the past three years countless of them have indeed been reached.
Discovered at last! A difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on foreign policy
This just in! Republican leaders in the House have proposed legislation that will require that anti-war protestors be sterilized. Democrats are refusing to roll over and play dead. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi -- who recently called Hugo Chavez a "thug" for his UN speech -- insists her party will support the measure only if a right of appeal is included.
 New York Times, September 24, 2006, the wording it a Times paraphrase
 Washington Post, June 23, 2004 and June 28, p.19
 "Bush Administration Eliminating 19-year-old International Terrorism Report",
Knight Ridder Newspapers, April 15, 2005
 The Guardian (London), August 12, 2006
 For more information see Blum's essay at: http://members.aol.com/superogue/terintro.htm
 New York Times, August 28, 2006, p.1
 Review by James Bamford, New York Times, August 20, 2006, p.15
 David Rees, "Get Your War On", (Soft Skull Press), p.2
 For further details, see William Blum, "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions
Since World War 2", chapter 8
 "Rumsfeld says threat to U.S. is from 'a new type of fascism'", Associated Press, August 29, 2006
 See, for example, Christopher Hitchens, "Chamberlain: Collusion, not appeasement", Monthly
Review (January 1995), a review of Clement Leibovitz, "The Chamberlain-Hitler Deal" (1993)
 Interview, Essence magazine, October 2006 issue
 Associated Press, September 15, 2006
 NPR, Day-to-Day, September 18, 2006, 12:10 PM
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William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
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