--Gen. Franz Halder, Chief of the German General Staff, 1944
In his latest book, Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky raises provocative questions about Americas role in the world, and not just in our current crisis in the reign of Bush II. Ever since World War II America has assumed the role of the worlds super power, particularly so after the fall of the Soviet Union.
One critical question he raises is the difference between terrorism and resistance.
Many have disparaged the French resistance as too few in number and ineffectual. But while in high school I recall reading a story of a husband and wife in the French resistance. One day they were in a cafe' when the Gestapo stormed in, guns drawn, and advanced toward their table. The husband pulled out his pistol, shot his wife in the head and then killed himself. They knew the end was at hand and that before death there would be torture. It took incredible courage to do that. That was 40 years ago and I have never forgotten that story. When your homeland is occupied by foreign troops, extraordinary courage seems to come naturally.
Norway had its own style. Although Norway had professed neutrality, the country was critical to the German Navy with its thousand miles of coast line. With Norway in their control, Germany could launch its submarine wolf pack into the Atlantic at will. So, in April 1940 the Germans invaded Norway. But the Norwegians gave the Germans a bit of surprise. They fought bitterly and the Germans took heavy casualties, although Germanys superior numbers won out in the end. But the Norwegians never gave up. They established an extremely effective underground, and throughout the war were able to relay to Allied forces submarine movements, the results of which were critical to the British Navy. Once again, when your homeland is occupied by foreign troops, destroying all you have lived and fought for, extraordinary courage is not so extraordinary after all.
So, what defines terrorism? Was this terrorism? Or was it resistance against an occupying force?
This episode echoed the thinking of the French anarchist, Emile Henri, discussed recently by Alexander Cockburn:
Asked at his trial in 1894 why he had killed some many innocent people Henri explained to the court that anarchism is born in the heart of a corrupt society which is falling to pieces; it is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents egalitarian and libertarian aspirations which are battering down existing authority; it is everywhere, which makes it impossible to capture. So, said Henri as he faced the guillotine, "il n'y a pas d'innocents". There are no innocents, at least among the privileged classes.
And to add one more note to this saga, let me cite a recent article by former Sen. Gary Hart in the Boston Globe. Hart writes that, In 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia and marched on and occupied Moscow. Napoleon and his generals took over the palaces of the court princes and great houses of the mighty boyars.
Sadly for Napoleon, the Russians had different plans for their nation. Within days after abandoning their city to the French army, they torched their own palaces, homes, enterprises, and cathedrals. They burned Moscow down around Napoleon. Denied his last great triumph, the disappointed emperor abandoned Moscow and started home. Along the way, he lost the world's most powerful army.
The lesson of history is to never underestimate the occupied and oppressed. And the second lesson is you cant win against the occupied. You dont have the same will. They will die for their cause. Consider our own revolutionary soldiers, a rag-tag bunch at best, up against a well trained and disciplined British Army. But through sheer tenacity, determination and courage, the British were defeated and finally gave in. They realized this war would go on forever, no matter how many troops they sent to the colonies. American courage and determination to be free was endless, stopless. This is how history plays out.
So, now when we look at Iraq, we see the same thing. Even with the ethnic strife and potential for civil war, Iraqis want their country back from the U.S. occupiers. In fact the civil strife has worsened to the point that U.S. military commanders are ordering their troops to stay in their barracks as much as possible. So, one asks, why are our troops there if they are only hiding out in their barracks? What exactly is their mission now?
The sickening answer is they are to save George Bushs reputation.
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