|Posted on Monday, September 24, 2001 - 10:03 pm: |
TERRORISM AND NONVIOLENCE
BY Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi
Understandably, after the tragedy in New York and Washington DC on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.
First, we must understand that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in a moment of crisis and discard in times of peace. Non violence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world. Because, a nation's collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings - relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding, and appreciation.
Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to be - that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers, and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them. For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place. What we need to do is to analyze dispassionately what are those circumstances that create such monsters and how can we help eliminate those circumstances, not the monsters. Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.
We saw some people in Iraq and Palestine and I dare say many other countries rejoice in the blowing up of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It horrified us, as it should. But, let us not forget that we do the same thing. When Israel bombs the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion. Our attitude is they deserve what they get. When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.
We reacted without compassion when we bombed the cities of Iraq. I was among the millions in the United States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though it was a made for television film. The television had desensitized us. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits and instead of feeling sorry for them, we marveled at the efficiency of our military. For more than ten years we have continued to wreak havoc in Iraq - an estimated 50, 000 children die every year because of sanctions that we have imposed - and it hasn't moved us to compassion. All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan called Sadam Hussein.
Now we are getting ready to do this all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama Bin Laden. We will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.
Some might say, "We don't care what the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength. After all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the only surviving super-power. Do we want the world to respect us the way school children respect a bully? Is that our role in the world?
If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences a school-yard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot tell the world "Leave us alone..." Isolationism is not what this world is built for.
All of this brings us back to the question: How do we respond nonviolently to terrorism?
The consequences of a military response are not very rosy. Many thousands of innocent people will die both here and in the country or countries we attack. Militancy will increase exponentially and, ultimately, we will be faced with another, more pertinent, moral question: What will we gain by destroying half the world? Will we be able to live with a clear conscience?
We must acknowledge our role in helping create monsters in the world and then find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength.
We need to appreciate that we are in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs, but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.
For too long our foreign policy has been based on "what is good for the United States." It smacks of selfishness. Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.
To those who have lost loved ones in this and other terrorist acts, I say I share your grief. I am sorry that you have become victims of senseless violence. But let this sad episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence and killing is going to bring you inner peace. Anger and hate never do. The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive and dedicate our lives to helping create a peaceful, respectful, and understanding world.
Arun Gandhi, Founder Director, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, 650 East Parkway South, Memphis TN 38104
* * * * * * * * *
"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it ...always."
* * * * * * * * *
|Posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2001 - 12:19 am: |
The Dalai Lama's letter to the President of the United States of America
I am deeply shocked by the terrorist attacks that took place involving four apparently hijacked aircrafts and the immense devastation these caused. It is a terrible tragedy that so many innocent lives have been lost and it seems unbelievable that anyone would choose to target the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. We are deeply saddened. On behalf of the Tibetan people I would like to convey our deepest condolence and solidarity with the American people during this painful time. Our prayers go out to the many who have lost their lives, those who have been injured and the many more who have been traumatized by this senseless act of violence. I am at tending a special prayer for the United States and it's people at our main temple today.
I am confident that the United States as a great and powerful nation will be able to overcome this present tragedy. The American people have shown their resilience, courage and determination when faced with such difficult and sad situation.
It may seem presumptuous on my part, but I personally believe we need to think seriously whether a violent action is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation and people in the long run. I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. But how do we deal with hatred and anger, which are often the root causes of such senseless violence? This is a very difficult question, especially when it concerns a nation and we have certain fixed conceptions of how to deal with such attacks. I am sure that you will make the right decision.
With my prayers and good wishes
The Dalai Lama
September 12, 2001
|Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 05:16 am: |
WHERE THE VIOLENCE COMES FROM "A World out of Touch"
by Rabbi Michael Lerner Editor, TIKKUN Magazine http://www.tikkun.org/index.cfm 09.16.2001
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of TIKKUN Magazine and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in San Francisco. He is the author of Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul and most recently (Sept 2001) editor: Best Contemporary Jewish Writing RabbiLerner@tikkun.org
There is never any justification for acts of terror against innocent civilians--not in Israel and not in the U.S.--it is the quintessential act of dehumanization and not recognizing the sanctity of others, and a visible symbol of a world increasingly irrational and out of control. It's understandable why many of us, after grieving and consoling the mourners, feel anger. Unfortunately, demagogues in the White House and Congress have manipulated our legitimate outrage and channeled it into a new militarism and a revival of the deepest held belief of the conservative world-view: that the world is mostly a dangerous place and our lives must be based around protecting ourselves from the threatening others. In this case, terrorism provides a perfect base for this worldview--it can come from anywhere, we don't really know who is the enemy, and so everyone can be suspect and everyone can be a target of our fear-induced rage.
With this as a foundation, the Bush team has been able to turn this terrible and outrageous attack into a justification for massive military spending, a new war and the inevitable trappings: repression of civil liberties, denigration of "evil others," and a new climate of fear and intimidation against anyone who doesn't join this misuse of patriotism toward distorted ends. Of course, the people who did this attack are evil and they are a real threat to the human race. If they could, they would use nuclear weapons or chemical/biological weapons. The perpetrators deserve to be punished, and I personally would be happy if all the people involved in this act were to be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. But that is quite different from talk about "eliminating countries" which we heard from Colin Powell in the days after the attack. Punishing the perpetrators is different from making war against whole populations. The narrow focus on the perpetrators allows us to avoid dealing with the underlying issues. When violence becomes so prevalent throughout the planet, it's too easy to simply talk of "deranged minds." We need to ask ourselves, "What is it in the way that we are living, organizing our societies, and treating each other that makes violence seem plausible to so many people?" And why is it that our immediate response to violence is to use violence ourselves--thus reenforcing the cycle of violence in the world? We in the spiritual world will see the root problem here as a growing global incapacity to recognize the spirit of God in each other--what we call the sanctity of each human being.
But even if you reject religious language, you can see that the willingness of people to hurt each other to advance their own interests has become a global problem, and its only the dramatic level of this particular attack which distinguishes it from the violence and insensitivity to each other that is part of our daily lives. We may tell ourselves that the current violence has "nothing to do" with the way that we've learned to close our ears when told that one out of every three people on this planet does not have enough food, and that one billion are literally starving. We may reassure ourselves that the hoarding of the world's resources by the richest society in world history, and our frantic attempts to accelerate globalization with its attendant inequalities of wealth, has nothing to do with the resentment that others feel toward us. We may tell ourselves that the suffering of refugees and the oppressed have nothing to do with us--that that's a different story that is going on somewhere else. But we live in one world, increasingly interconnected with everyone, and the forces that lead people to feel outrage, anger and desperation eventually impact on our own daily lives. The same inability to feel the pain of others is the pathology that shapes the minds of these terrorists. Raise children in circumstances where no one is there to take care of them, or where they must live by begging or selling their bodies in prostitution, put them in refugee camps and tell them that they have "no right of return" to their homes, treat them as though they are less valuable and deserving of respect because they are part of some despised national or ethnic group, surround them with a media that extols the rich and makes everyone who is not economically successful and physically trim and conventionally "beautiful" feel bad about themselves, offer them jobs whose sole goal is to enrich the "bottom line" of someone else, and teach them that "looking out for number one" is the only thing anyone "really" cares about and that anyone who believes in love and social justice are merely naive idealists who are destined to always remain powerless, and you will produce a world-wide population of people feeling depressed, angry, unable to care about others, and in various ways dysfunctional. I see this in Israel, where Israelis have taken to dismissing the entire Palestinian people as "terrorists" but never ask themselves: "What have we done to make this seem to Palestinians to be a reasonable path of action today." Of course there were always some hateful people and some religious fundamentalists who want to act in hurtful ways against Israel, no matter what the circumstances. Yet, in the situation of 1993-96 when Israel under Yitzhak Rabin was pursuing a path of negotiations and peace, the fundamentalists had little following and there were few acts of violence. On the other hand, when Israel failed to withdraw from the West Bank, and instead expanded the number of its settlers, the fundamentalists and haters had a far easier time convincing many decent Palestinians that there might be no other alternative. Similarly, if the U.S. turns its back on global agreements to preserve the environment, unilaterally cancels its treaties to not build a missile defense, accelerates the processes by which a global economy has made some people in the third world richer but many poorer, shows that it cares nothing for the fate of refugees who have been homeless for decades, and otherwise turns its back on ethical norms, it becomes far easier for the haters and the fundamentalists to recruit people who are willing to kill themselves in strikes against what they perceive to be an evil American empire represented by the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Most Americans will feel puzzled by any reference to this "larger picture." It seems baffling to imagine that somehow we are part of a world system which is slowly destroying the life support system of the planet, and quickly transferring the wealth of the world into our own pockets. We don't feel personally responsible when an American corporation runs a sweat shop in the Philippines or crushes efforts of workers to organize in Singapore. We don't see ourselves implicated when the U.S. refuses to consider the plight of Palestinian refugees or uses the excuse of fighting drugs to support repression in Colombia or other parts of Central America. We don't even see the symbolism when terrorists attack America's military center and our trade center--we talk of them as buildings, though others see them as centers of the forces that are causing the world so much pain. We have narrowed our own attention to "getting through" or "doing well" in our own personal lives, and who has time to focus on all the rest of this? Most of us are leading perfectly reasonable lives within the options that we have available to us--so why should others be angry at us, much less strike out against us? And the truth is, our anger is also understandable: the striking out by others in acts of terror against us is just as irrational as the world-system that it seeks to confront. Yet our acts of counter-terror will also be counter-productive. We should have learned from the current phase of the Israel-Palestinian struggle , responding to terror with more violence, rather than asking ourselves what we could do to change the conditions that generated it in the first place, will only ensure more violence against us in the future. Luckily, most people don't act out in violent ways--they tend to act out more against themselves, drowning themselves in alcohol or drugs or personal despair. Others turn toward fundamentalist religions or ultra-nationalist extremism. Still others find themselves acting out against people that they love, acting angry or hurtful toward children or relationship partners. This is a world out of touch with itself, filled with people who have forgotten how to recognize and respond to the sacred in each other because we are so used to looking at others from the standpoint of what they can do for us, how we can use them toward our own ends. The alternatives are stark: either start caring about the fate of everyone on this planet or be prepared for a slippery slope toward violence that will eventually dominate our daily lives. None of this should be read as somehow mitigating our anger at the terrorists.
Let’s not be naïve about the perpetrators of this terror. The brains and money behind this operation isn't a group of refugees living penniless in Palestinian refugee camps. Many of the core terrorists are evil people, as are some of the fundamentalists and ultra-nationalists who demean and are willing to destroy others. But these evil people are often marginalized when societal dynamics are moving toward peace and hope (e.g. in Israel while Yitzhak Rabin was Prime Minister) and they become much more influential and able to recruit people to give their lives to their cause when ordinary and otherwise decent people despair of peace and justice (as when Israel from `1996 to 2000 dramatically increased the number of settlers).
So here is what would marginalize those who hate the United States. Imagine if the Bin Ladins and other haters of the world had to recruit people against America at a time when:
1. America was using its economic resources to end world hunger and redistribute the wealth of the planet so that everyone had enough.
2. America was the leading voice championing an ethos of generosity and caring for others—leading the world in ecological responsibility, social justice, open-hearted treatment of minorities, and rewarding people and corporations for social responsibility..
3. America was restructuring its own internal life so that all social practices and institutions were being judged "productive or efficient or rational" not only because they maximized profit, but also to the extent that they maximized love and caring, ethical/spiritual/ecological sensitivity, and an approach to the universe based on awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation (what I call an Emancipatory Spirituality). We are trying to develop this kind of "New Bottom Line" in Tikkun. To build support for this approach we are now starting what we call "The TIKKUN COMMUNITY"--both as a vehicle to raise money for the magazine, and as a way of taking some steps to acknowledge the reality that we have been functioning not only as a magazine, but as a kind of movement. The TIKKUN COMMUNITY will be a cadre of people who agree with certain basic principles. The founding statement can be found in this very issue of TIKKUN magazine (Nov.Dec, 2001) and on our website. We hope you'll join us. If you want to, contact me at RabbiLerner@tikkun.org .
Think it's naive and impossible to move American in that direction? Well, here are two reasons why, even if it’s a long shot, it’s an approach that deserves your support:
a. It’s even more naïve to imagine that bombings, missile defense systems, more spies or baggage searches can stop people willing to lose their lives to wreak havoc and capable of airplane hijacking, chemical assaults (like anthrax), etc.
b. The response of people to the World Trade Building collapse was an outpouring of loving energy and generosity, sometimes even risking their own lives, and showing the capacity and desire we all have to care about each other. If we could legitimate people allowing that part of themselves to come out, without having to wait for a disaster, we could empower a part of every human being which our social order marginalizes. Americans have a deep goodness—and that needs to be affirmed. Indeed, the goodness that poured forth from so many Americans should not be allowed to be overshadowed by the subsequent shift toward militarism and anger. That same caring energy could have been given a more positive outlet--if we didn't live in a society which normally teaches us that our "natural" instinct is toward aggression and that the best we can hope for is a world which gives us protection.
The central struggle going on in the world today is this one: between hope and fear, love or paranoia, generosity or trying to shore up one's own portion. In my book "Spirit Matters" I show why there is no possibility in sustaining a world built on fear. Our only hope is to revert to a consciousness of generosity and love. That's not to go to a lalla-land where there are no forces like those who destroyed the Word Trade Center. But it is to refuse to allow that to become the shaping paradigm of the 21st century. Much better to make the shaping paradigm the story of the police and firemen who risked (and in many cases lost) their lives in order to save other human beings who they didn't even know. Let the paradigm be the generosity and kindness of people when they are given a social sanction to be caring instead of self-protective. We cannot let war, hatred and fear become the power in this new century that it was in the last century. And it's up to us. We can't expect the Left to be able to organize a successful movement, because they will define it in the most narrow terms. They will talk about the rights of the oppressed and make everyone believe that they don't really care about the terrible loss of life and the terrible fear that everyone now how to endure about our own safety. Their justified anger at the way capitalist globalization has hurt people around the world will make them play down the outrageousness of this particular attack--and hence be disconnected to the righteous indignation that most the rest of us feel. Rather, we need a movement that puts forward a positive vision of a world based on caring--and a commitment to rectify the injustices that the globalization of selfishness has wreaked on the world--while simultaneously making it clear that we have no tolerance for reckless acts of violence and terror such as those which Israel has had to experience this past year or those which the U.S. faced in September. It's only with that balanced view that we can say that it is a huge mistake to make war or violence the primary way we respond to this situation. It's about time we began to say unequivocally that violence doesn't work--not as an end and not as a means.
The best defense is a world drenched in love, not a world drenched in armaments. We should pray for the victims and the families of those who have been hurt or murdered in these crazy acts. We should also pray that America does not return to "business as usual," but rather turns to a period of reflection, coming back into touch with our common humanity, asking ourselves how our institutions can best embody our highest values. We may need a global day of atonement and repentance dedicated to finding a way to turn the direction of our society at every level, a return to the notion that every human life is sacred, that "the bottom line" should be the creation of a world of love and caring, and that the best way to prevent these kinds of acts is not to turn ourselves into a police state, but turn ourselves into a society in which social justice, love, and compassion are so prevalent that violence becomes only a distant memory.
|Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 05:50 pm: |
From Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH
The US military was ready to strike from day one after the attack on New York and Washington. The Bush administration wanted to attack, but could not. First it needed intelligence - who were the perpetrators, and where are they? Then it needed allies - for sharing intelligence information, for providing assistance on the ground, and for legitimacy in the global debate. Then it needed a strategy - how to strike in a discriminate fashion, so as not to Cause massive civilian casualties and shatter the world consensus for action. Intelligence, diplomacy, communications, legitimacy - the administration realized it needed exactly what it had so easily scorned in its first months.
|Posted on Saturday, September 29, 2001 - 10:39 pm: |
Roots of Rage
Grievances over U.S. policy in the Middle East combined with Islamic triumphalism make a toxic mix
By LISA BEYER
Among the signs waved by Pakistanis in demonstrations last week was one in English that read americans, think! why does the whole world hate you? Actually, Americans didn't need that exhortation to ask the question, Why?
The reasons are complex and deeply rooted in history. The proximate source of this brand of hatred toward America is U.S. foreign policy (read: meddling) in the Middle East. On top of its own controversial history in the region, the U.S. inherits the weight of centuries of Muslim bitterness over the Crusades and other military campaigns, plus decades of indignation over colonialism.
But to get to the virulence of antipathy exhibited by the kamikaze 19 and their abettors and apologists, another element is required. That element is the idea that the U.S. is not just the enemy of the Arabs or even of Muslims generally but also the enemy of God. It is an idea encouraged by the Ayatullah Khomeini, who proclaimed the U.S. "the Great Satan," spread by Islamic extremists throughout the Arab world and now given potent expression by, it would seem, the biggest player among all such militants today, Osama bin Laden.
Animosity toward the U.S. in the Middle East can be plotted through concentric circles. In the white-hot core are violent ideologues like bin Laden and their acolytes. Then come Arab radicals, including both Islamists and secular nationalists, who are desperate and angry enough to have danced in the streets upon hearing the news of Sept. 11. But the distaste also extends to large numbers of temperate Arabs who were quietly pleased to see American arrogance taken down a notch--business people and family people who smiled and sent messages of congratulations to one another when the Twin Towers fell. The middle sphere forms a substantial recruiting base for the toxic inner hub. It and the outer loop are the reason the U.S. faces an enormous challenge persuading even its allies among Arab governments to sign on to its war against terror. And the entire web of ill will invites the question, Will the U.S. go to war against Middle East enemies and, by that very act, just create more of them?
Certainly the greatest single source of Arab displeasure with the U.S. is its stalwart support of Israel: politically (notably at the U.N.), economically ($840 million in aid annually) and militarily ($3 billion more, plus access to advanced U.S. weapons). To a majority of Arabs, Israel, as a Jewish state, is an unwelcome, alien entity. Even to those who accept its existence, Israel is an oppressor of Arab rights; despite the Oslo peace process, it still occupies most of the Palestinian territories. Particularly egregious to Muslims is Israel's control over Islamic shrines in Jerusalem, the third most sacred city to Islam.
Each time Israel stages an incursion into its Arab neighborhood, it adds a new layer of grievance. Its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the occupation of Lebanon's southern tip for 18 years afterward bred deep antagonism. And the U.S. role in these assaults is never far away: Israel is using American missiles and F-16s in its current struggle against the Palestinians. When it comes time to broker peace in the region, many Arabs are inflamed by the strong U.S. bias toward Israel in negotiations. To Islamic fanatics, including bin Laden, the peace process is of course anathema; for them, Israel is a state to be destroyed, not to be bargained with.
Bin Laden, a Saudi, speaks out frequently against Israel, but for him the real casus belli is the U.S. troop presence in his country dating to the military buildup before the 1991 Gulf War precipitated by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. To bin Laden, as well as many nonradical Muslims, the presence of infidel soldiers in the homeland of the Prophet Muhammad is a sacrilege. Today 7,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Saudi Arabia. That the U.S. servicemen are there at the invitation of the Saudi government is irrelevant to bin Laden. He considers the Saudi royals stooges of the U.S.
It is a common refrain among America's critics in the region that the U.S. props up objectionable local leaders out of selfish interests. To protect its access to oil, the U.S. supports repressive princes in the Persian Gulf states. In an effort to contain Islamic extremism, Washington backs the government of Algeria's President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, despite its ironfisted conduct in the civil war against the Armed Islamic Group. The authoritarian regime of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak also enjoys the patronage ($2.7 billion a year) of the U.S., which views him as a bulwark of moderation and stability in the region. Classmates in Egypt of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, told the New York Times he used to blast Mubarak for being an autocrat surrounded by "fat cats." "We want to understand, are you Americans in favor of human rights and freedom? Or is that the privilege of some people and not others?" says Essam El Eryan, a leading member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
America's detractors complain that the U.S. is impervious not only to Arab rights but also to Arab suffering. If the Palestinians are Exhibit A, the Iraqis are Exhibit B. While most Arabs detest Saddam for his own brand of brutality and arrogance, they don't understand why the U.S. continues to insist, 10 years after the Iraqis were forced out of Kuwait, on worldwide sanctions that are devastating the Iraqi people. According to the U.N., some 5,000 Iraqi children die every month of malnutrition and disease because of the sanctions.
"Would we tolerate this kind of boycott, the starving of Czechs, for example?" asks A. Kevin Reinhart, professor of religion at Dartmouth. "No. We've done some specific things that are perceived as reflecting either an indifference to or a hostility to Muslims." Islamic radicals keep a list of what they consider our casual cruelty, although their definition of who is inflicting the pain sometimes includes all of Christendom. They list the U.S. sanctions against Syria, Libya, Iran and Sudan--all Muslim countries (and all, not coincidentally, considered by the State Department to be sponsors of terrorism). They list the U.S. missile strikes in 1998 on a bin Laden camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (Washington originally claimed the plant was making chemical weapons but has quietly backed off the charge). They believe Western powers tolerated for too long--from 1992 until the nato bombings in 1995--the ethnic cleansing by Christian Serbs of Bosnian Muslims and the later killings by Serbs of ethnic Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. Another grievance is the fact that the U.S. has done little to stop Russia's savage war against separatist Muslims in Chechnya because it considers the conflict an internal matter for Moscow. To Americans, all these matters are proof that it is a messy world out there. To many Muslims, it looks like a conspiracy against their fellow believers.
Underlying all these laments is a deep resentment that the Arab world is not the geopolitical player it feels entitled to be. The wound is aggravated by a historical memory of grandeur, of Islam's expansion from Arabia in the 7th century to the conquest of the Levant, northern Africa and much of Europe, culminating in a final rebuff at the gates of Vienna 10 centuries later. The question many Arabs ask the U.S. and the West in general, says Professor Jean Leca of the Institute of Political Science in Paris, is, "Why are you leaning so heavily on us when we already had a civilization while you were still living in caves?"
The brutality of Christendom's efforts to conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims in the Crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries is not forgotten in the Middle East (making President Bush's early use of the word crusade to describe America's antiterror effort an unfortunate choice). An even greater sore is the sense that, in the centuries since, so much dignity has been lost, and to an inferior people. In Islamic belief, Muhammad is God's last prophet; he built upon the revelations of Moses and Jesus to propound a superior, perfect faith. But the world that faith created was broken apart: after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the colonial powers of France and Britain carved the Middle East into arbitrarily drawn mandates and states governed by handpicked local leaders. "Many Arabs and Muslims feel they had 10 centuries of great cultural achievement that ended with European colonialism," says John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. "Now they feel impotent. The West, they feel, looks at them as backward and is only interested in their oil. Their sense of self-worth and identity is wounded."
Colonialism and the advance of Western modernity have nurtured the modern version of Islamic fundamentalism: if Islam is perfect and its kingdom is in retreat, it must be that its practitioners have strayed from the fundamentals of the faith. This notion gained increasing currency after 1979, when a popular uprising overthrew the corrupt, Westernizing, U.S.-backed Shah of Iran and paved the way for the Ayatullah Khomeini to launch an Islamic revolution in Iran and beyond. Khomeini called Muslims to violence to conquer "the land of the infidel."
Khomeini's export project had limited success, given that the Iranians, as Shi'ites, belong to a sect of Islam disdained by the majority Sunnis. But the Iranian revolution nevertheless inspired Muslims all over the Arab world to action. Egyptian writer Abd al-Salam Faraj wrote their manifesto, a pamphlet called The Neglected Duty, in which he argued that holy war was necessary to defend not just Muslims but Muslim dignity. Faraj, like many other Muslim radicals, singled out those parts of the Koran and the Hadith, the collected sayings and deeds attributed to Muhammad, that seemed to support his argument.
Bin Laden has come to fulfill the Neglected Duty. He talks a lot about dignity. Of the terrorists who killed 24 U.S. servicemen and two Indians in attacks in 1995 and 1996 in Saudi Arabia, he once said, "They have raised the nation's head high and washed away a great part of the shame that has enveloped us." Bin Laden fancies himself a modern-day Saladin, the Muslim commander who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders. "I envision Saladin coming out of the clouds," bin Laden says in a videotape released earlier this year to his supporters. "Our history is being rewritten."
It's a powerful message to many Arabs who otherwise see a future bereft of pride. "Islam Is the Solution" is the slogan of the Islamic movement, and to many it seems a better bet than the Arab nationalism that has brought them poverty, corrupt governments or both. Even if the U.S. succeeds in routing bin Laden and his network, the message will continue to resonate, especially given new resentments kicked up by any U.S. military action.
On the other hand, it is the triumphalist religious convictions of bin Laden that make him and his followers so dangerous. "This is not violence in the service of some practical program," says Steven Simon, a former member of the National Security Council who is writing a book on religiously inspired terrorism. "It is killing infidels in the service of Allah. To a secular person, it's crazy. How can that be an end in itself? The facts speak for themselves: there is one objective here, to kill an enormous number of people and humiliate the Satanic power. There is no claim of responsibility because there is only one audience, and that is God." With a God they perceive to be admiringly urging them on, bin Laden's associates have no self-restraint. They are limited only by their capabilities, which the U.S. has now decided it has no choice but to destroy. --Reported by Massimo Calabresi/Washington, Aisha Labi/London, Nicholas Le Quesne/Paris, Rebecca Winters/New York and Yuri Zarakhovich/Moscow
|Posted on Sunday, September 30, 2001 - 07:32 pm: |
The Good and Bad Theatre
By Eduardo Galeano
[from La Jornada September 21, 2001, translated by Justin Podur]
In the struggle of Good against Evil, it's always the people who get killed.
The terrorists killed workers of 50 countries in NYC and DC, in the name of Good against Evil. And in the name of Good against Evil President Bush has promised vengeance: "We will eliminate Evil from the world", he announced.
Eliminate Evil? What would Good be without Evil? It's not just religious fanatics who need enemies to justify their insanity. The arms industry and the gigantic war machine of the US also needs enemies to justify its existence. Good and evil, evil and good: the actors change masks, the heroes become monsters and the monsters heroes, in accord with the demands of the theatre's playwrights.
This is nothing new. The German scientist Werner von Braun was evil when he invented the V-2 bombers that Hitler used against London, but became good when he used his talents in the service of the US. Stalin was good during World War Two and evil afterwards, when he became the leader of the Evil Empire. In the cold war years John Steinbeck wrote: "Maybe the whole world needs Russians. I suppose that even in Russia they need Russians. Maybe Russia's Russians are called Americans." Even the Russians became good afterwards. Today, Putin can add his voice to say: "Evil must be punished."
Saddam Hussein was good, and so were the chemical weapons he used against the Iranians and the Kurds. Afterwards, he became evil. They were calling him Satan Hussein when the US finished up their invasion of Panama to invade Iraq because Iraq invaded Kuwait. Father Bush that particular war against Evil upon himself. With the humanitarian and compassionate spirit that characterizes his family, he killed more than 100 000 Iraqis, the vast majority of them civilians.
Satan Hussein stayed where he was, but this number one enemy of humanity had to step aside and accept becoming number two enemy of humanity. The bane of the world is now called Osama bin Laden. The CIA taught him everything he knows about terrorism: bin Laden, loved and armed by the US government, was one of the principal 'freedom fighters' against Communism in Afghanistan. Father Bush occupied the Vice Presidency when President Reagan called these heroes 'the moral equivalents of the Founding Fathers.' Hollywood agreed. They filmed Rambo 3: Afghani Muslims were the good guys. Now, 13 years later, in the time of Son Bush, they are the worst of the bad guys.
Henry Kissinger was one of the first to react to the recent tragedy. "Those who provide support, financing, and inspiration to terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves," he intoned, words that Son Bush would repeat hours later.
If that's how it is, the urgent need right now is to bomb Kissinger. He is guilty of many more crimes than bin Laden or any terrorist in the world. And in many more countries. He provided 'support, financing, and inspiration" to state terror in Indonesia, Cambodia, Iran, South Africa, Bangladesh, and all the South American countries that suffered the dirty war of Plan Condor.
On September 11 1973, exactly 28 years before the fires of last week, the Presidential Palace in Chile was stormed. Kissinger had written the epitaph of Allende and Chilean democracy long before when he commented on the results of the elections: "I don't see why we have to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people."
A contempt for the people is one of many things shared by state and private terror. For example, the ETA, an organization that kills people in the name of independence in Basque Country, says through one of its spokespeople: 'Rights have nothing to do with majorities or minorities.'
There is much common ground between low- and high- tech terrorism, between the terrorism of religious fanatics and that of market fanatics, that of the hopeless and that of the powerful, that of the psychopath on the loose and that of the cold-blooded uniformed professional. They all share the disrespect for human life: the killers of the 5500 citizens under the Twin Towers that fell like castles of dry sand-- and the killers of 200 000 Guatemalans, the majority of whom were indigenous, exterminated without television or the newspapers of the world paying any attention. Those Guatemalans were not sacrificed by any Muslim fanatic, but by terrorist squads who received 'support, financing, and inspiration' from successive US governments.
All these worshipers of death are in agreement as well on the need to reduce social, cultural, and national differences to military terms. In the name of Good against Evil, in the name of the One Truth, they resolve everything by killing first and asking questions later. And by this method, they strengthen the enemy they fight. It was the atrocities of the Sendero Luminoso that gave President Fujimori the popular support he sought to unleash a regime of terror and sell Peru for the price of a banana. It was the atrocities of the US in the Middle East that prepared the ground for the holy war of terrorism of Allah.
Although the leader of the Civilized World is pushing a new Crusade, Allah is innocent of the crimes committed in his name. At the end of the day, God did not order the Holocaust against the followers of Jehovah, nor did Jehovah order the massacres of Sabrah and Shatila or the expulsion of Palestinians from their land. Aren't Allah, God and Jehovah are, after all, three names for the same divinity?
A tragedy of errors: nobody knows any more who is who. The smoke of the explosions forms part of the much larger curtain of smoke that prevents all of us from seeing clearly. From revenge to revenge, terrorism obliges us to walk to our graves. I saw a photo, recently published, of graffiti on a wall in NYC: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
The spiral of violence creates violence and also confusion: pain, fear, intolerance, hatred, insanity. In Porto Alegre, at the beginning of this year, Ahmed Ben Bella warned: 'This system, that has already made mad cows, is making mad people too." And these mad people, mad from hate, act as the power that created them.
A three year old child, named Luca, told me: "The world doesn't know where its house is." He was looking at a map. He could have been looking at a reporter.
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 11:28 pm: |
The algebra of infinite justice
As the US prepares to wage a new kind of war, Arundhati Roy challenges the instinct for vengeance Arundhati Roy
Saturday September 29, 2001
In the aftermath of the unconscionable September 11 suicide attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, an American newscaster said: "Good and evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly as they did last Tuesday. People who we don't know massacred people who we do. And they did so with contemptuous glee." Then he broke down and wept.
Here's the rub: America is at war against people it doesn't know, because they don't appear much on TV. Before it has properly identified or even begun to comprehend the nature of its enemy, the US government has, in a rush of publicity and embarrassing rhetoric, cobbled together an "international coalition against terror", mobilised its army, its air force, its navy and its media, and committed them to battle.
The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can't very well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we'll lose sight of why it's being fought in the first place.
What we're witnessing here is the spectacle of the world's most powerful country reaching reflexively, angrily, for an old instinct to fight a new kind of war. Suddenly, when it comes to defending itself, America's streamlined warships, cruise missiles and F-16 jets look like obsolete, lumbering things. As deterrence, its arsenal of nuclear bombs is no longer worth its weight in scrap. Box-cutters, penknives, and cold anger are the weapons with which the wars of the new century will be waged. Anger is the lock pick. It slips through customs unnoticed. Doesn't show up in baggage checks.
Who is America fighting? On September 20, the FBI said that it had doubts about the identities of some of the hijackers. On the same day President George Bush said, "We know exactly who these people are and which governments are supporting them." It sounds as though the president knows something that the FBI and the American public don't.
In his September 20 address to the US Congress, President Bush called the enemies of America "enemies of freedom". "Americans are asking, 'Why do they hate us?' " he said. "They hate our freedoms - our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." People are being asked to make two leaps of faith here. First, to assume that The Enemy is who the US government says it is, even though it has no substantial evidence to support that claim. And second, to assume that The Enemy's motives are what the US government says they are, and there's nothing to support that either.
For strategic, military and economic reasons, it is vital for the US government to persuade its public that their commitment to freedom and democracy and the American Way of Life is under attack. In the current atmosphere of grief, outrage and anger, it's an easy notion to peddle. However, if that were true, it's reasonable to wonder why the symbols of America's economic and military dominance - the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon - were chosen as the targets of the attacks. Why not the Statue of Liberty? Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government's record of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things - to military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)? It must be hard for ordinary Americans, so recently bereaved, to look up at the world with their eyes full of tears and encounter what might appear to them to be indifference. It isn't indifference. It's just augury. An absence of surprise. The tired wisdom of knowing that what goes around eventually comes around. American people ought to know that it is not them but their government's policies that are so hated. They can't possibly doubt that they themselves, their extraordinary musicians, their writers, their actors, their spectacular sportsmen and their cinema, are universally welcomed. All of us have been moved by the courage and grace shown by firefighters, rescue workers and ordinary office staff in the days since the attacks.
America's grief at what happened has been immense and immensely public. It would be grotesque to expect it to calibrate or modulate its anguish. However, it will be a pity if, instead of using this as an opportunity to try to understand why September 11 happened, Americans use it as an opportunity to usurp the whole world's sorrow to mourn and avenge only their own. Because then it falls to the rest of us to ask the hard questions and say the harsh things. And for our pains, for our bad timing, we will be disliked, ignored and perhaps eventually silenced.
The world will probably never know what motivated those particular hijackers who flew planes into those particular American buildings. They were not glory boys. They left no suicide notes, no political messages; no organisation has claimed credit for the attacks. All we know is that their belief in what they were doing outstripped the natural human instinct for survival, or any desire to be remembered. It's almost as though they could not scale down the enormity of their rage to anything smaller than their deeds. And what they did has blown a hole in the world as we knew it. In the absence of information, politicians, political commentators and writers (like myself) will invest the act with their own politics, with their own interpretations. This speculation, this analysis of the political climate in which the attacks took place, can only be a good thing.
But war is looming large. Whatever remains to be said must be said quickly. Before America places itself at the helm of the "international coalition against terror", before it invites (and coerces) countries to actively participate in its almost godlike mission - called Operation Infinite Justice until it was pointed out that this could be seen as an insult to Muslims, who believe that only Allah can mete out infinite justice, and was renamed Operation Enduring Freedom- it would help if some small clarifications are made. For example, Infinite Justice/Enduring Freedom for whom? Is this America's war against terror in America or against terror in general? What exactly is being avenged here? Is it the tragic loss of almost 7,000 lives, the gutting of five million square feet of office space in Manhattan, the destruction of a section of the Pentagon, the loss of several hundreds of thousands of jobs, the bankruptcy of some airline companies and the dip in the New York Stock Exchange? Or is it more than that? In 1996, Madeleine Albright, then the US secretary of state, was asked on national television what she felt about the fact that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of US economic sanctions. She replied that it was "a very hard choice", but that, all things considered, "we think the price is worth it". Albright never lost her job for saying this. She continued to travel the world representing the views and aspirations of the US government. More pertinently, the sanctions against Iraq remain in place. Children continue to die.
So here we have it. The equivocating distinction between civilisation and savagery, between the "massacre of innocent people" or, if you like, "a clash of civilisations" and "collateral damage". The sophistry and fastidious algebra of infinite justice. How many dead Iraqis will it take to make the world a better place? How many dead Afghans for every dead American? How many dead women and children for every dead man? How many dead mojahedin for each dead investment banker? As we watch mesmerised, Operation Enduring Freedom unfolds on TV monitors across the world. A coalition of the world's superpowers is closing in on Afghanistan, one of the poorest, most ravaged, war-torn countries in the world, whose ruling Taliban government is sheltering Osama bin Laden, the man being held responsible for the September 11 attacks.
The only thing in Afghanistan that could possibly count as collateral value is its citizenry. (Among them, half a million maimed orphans. There are accounts of hobbling stampedes that occur when artificial limbs are airdropped into remote, inaccessible villages.) Afghanistan's economy is in a shambles. In fact, the problem for an invading army is that Afghanistan has no conventional coordinates or signposts to plot on a military map - no big cities, no highways, no industrial complexes, no water treatment plants. Farms have been turned into mass graves. The countryside is littered with land mines - 10 million is the most recent estimate. The American army would first have to clear the mines and build roads in order to take its soldiers in.
Fearing an attack from America, one million citizens have fled from their homes and arrived at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The UN estimates that there are eight million Afghan citizens who need emergency aid. As supplies run out - food and aid agencies have been asked to leave - the BBC reports that one of the worst humanitarian disasters of recent times has begun to unfold. Witness the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death while they're waiting to be killed.
In America there has been rough talk of "bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age". Someone please break the news that Afghanistan is already there. And if it's any consolation, America played no small part in helping it on its way. The American people may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear reports that there's a run on maps of the country), but the US government and Afghanistan are old friends.
In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA and Pakistan's ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) launched the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA. Their purpose was to harness the energy of Afghan resistance to the Soviets and expand it into a holy war, an Islamic jihad, which would turn Muslim countries within the Soviet Union against the communist regime and eventually destabilise it. When it began, it was meant to be the Soviet Union's Vietnam. It turned out to be much more than that. Over the years, through the ISI, the CIA funded and recruited almost 100,000 radical mojahedin from 40 Islamic countries as soldiers for America's proxy war. The rank and file of the mojahedin were unaware that their jihad was actually being fought on behalf of Uncle Sam. (The irony is that America was equally unaware that it was financing a future war against itself.)
In 1989, after being bloodied by 10 years of relentless conflict, the Russians withdrew, leaving behind a civilisation reduced to rubble.
Civil war in Afghanistan raged on. The jihad spread to Chechnya, Kosovo and eventually to Kashmir. The CIA continued to pour in money and military equipment, but the overheads had become immense, and more money was needed. The mojahedin ordered farmers to plant opium as a "revolutionary tax". The ISI set up hundreds of heroin laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA's arrival, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland had become the biggest producer of heroin in the world, and the single biggest source of the heroin on American streets. The annual profits, said to be between $100bn and $200bn, were ploughed back into training and arming militants.
In 1995, the Taliban - then a marginal sect of dangerous, hardline fundamentalists - fought its way to power in Afghanistan. It was funded by the ISI, that old cohort of the CIA, and supported by many political parties in Pakistan. The Taliban unleashed a regime of terror. Its first victims were its own people, particularly women. It closed down girls' schools, dismissed women from government jobs, and enforced sharia laws under which women deemed to be "immoral" are stoned to death, and widows guilty of being adulterous are buried alive. Given the Taliban government's human rights track record, it seems unlikely that it will in any way be intimidated or swerved from its purpose by the prospect of war, or the threat to the lives of its civilians.
After all that has happened, can there be anything more ironic than Russia and America joining hands to re-destroy Afghanistan? The question is, can you destroy destruction? Dropping more bombs on Afghanistan will only shuffle the rubble, scramble some old graves and disturb the dead.
The desolate landscape of Afghanistan was the burial ground of Soviet communism and the springboard of a unipolar world dominated by America. It made the space for neocapitalism and corporate globalisation, again dominated by America. And now Afghanistan is poised to become the graveyard for the unlikely soldiers who fought and won this war for America.
And what of America's trusted ally? Pakistan too has suffered enormously. The US government has not been shy of supporting military dictators who have blocked the idea of democracy from taking root in the country. Before the CIA arrived, there was a small rural market for opium in Pakistan. Between 1979 and 1985, the number of heroin addicts grew from zero to one-and-a-half million. Even before September 11, there were three million Afghan refugees living in tented camps along the border. Pakistan's economy is crumbling. Sectarian violence, globalisation's structural adjustment programmes and drug lords are tearing the country to pieces. Set up to fight the Soviets, the terrorist training centres and madrasahs, sown like dragon's teeth across the country, produced fundamentalists with tremendous popular appeal within Pakistan itself. The Taliban, which the Pakistan government has sup ported, funded and propped up for years, has material and strategic alliances with Pakistan's own political parties.
Now the US government is asking (asking?) Pakistan to garotte the pet it has hand-reared in its backyard for so many years. President Musharraf, having pledged his support to the US, could well find he has something resembling civil war on his hands.
India, thanks in part to its geography, and in part to the vision of its former leaders, has so far been fortunate enough to be left out of this Great Game. Had it been drawn in, it's more than likely that our democracy, such as it is, would not have survived. Today, as some of us watch in horror, the Indian government is furiously gyrating its hips, begging the US to set up its base in India rather than Pakistan. Having had this ringside view of Pakistan's sordid fate, it isn't just odd, it's unthinkable, that India should want to do this. Any third world country with a fragile economy and a complex social base should know by now that to invite a superpower such as America in (whether it says it's staying or just passing through) would be like inviting a brick to drop through your windscreen.
Operation Enduring Freedom is ostensibly being fought to uphold the American Way of Life. It'll probably end up undermining it completely. It will spawn more anger and more terror across the world. For ordinary people in America, it will mean lives lived in a climate of sickening uncertainty: will my child be safe in school? Will there be nerve gas in the subway? A bomb in the cinema hall? Will my love come home tonight? There have been warnings about the possibility of biological warfare - smallpox, bubonic plague, anthrax - the deadly payload of innocuous crop-duster aircraft. Being picked off a few at a time may end up being worse than being annihilated all at once by a nuclear bomb.
The US government, and no doubt governments all over the world, will use the climate of war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties, deny free speech, lay off workers, harass ethnic and religious minorities, cut back on public spending and divert huge amounts of money to the defence industry. To what purpose? President Bush can no more "rid the world of evil-doers" than he can stock it with saints. It's absurd for the US government to even toy with the notion that it can stamp out terrorism with more violence and oppression. Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease. Terrorism has no country. It's transnational, as global an enterprise as Coke or Pepsi or Nike. At the first sign of trouble, terrorists can pull up stakes and move their "factories" from country to country in search of a better deal. Just like the multi-nationals.
Terrorism as a phenomenon may never go away. But if it is to be contained, the first step is for America to at least acknowledge that it shares the planet with other nations, with other human beings who, even if they are not on TV, have loves and griefs and stories and songs and sorrows and, for heaven's sake, rights. Instead, when Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, was asked what he would call a victory in America's new war, he said that if he could convince the world that Americans must be allowed to continue with their way of life, he would consider it a victory.
The September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card from a world gone horribly wrong. The message may have been written by Bin Laden (who knows?) and delivered by his couriers, but it could well have been signed by the ghosts of the victims of America's old wars. The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the 17,500 killed when Israel - backed by the US - invaded Lebanon in 1982, the 200,000 Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm, the thousands of Palestinians who have died fighting Israel's occupation of the West Bank. And the millions who died, in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, at the hands of all the terrorists, dictators and genocidists whom the American government supported, trained, bankrolled and supplied with arms. And this is far from being a comprehensive list.
For a country involved in so much warfare and conflict, the American people have been extremely fortunate. The strikes on September 11 were only the second on American soil in over a century. The first was Pearl Harbour. The reprisal for this took a long route, but ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This time the world waits with bated breath for the horrors to come.
Someone recently said that if Osama bin Laden didn't exist, America would have had to invent him. But, in a way, America did invent him. He was among the jihadis who moved to Afghanistan in 1979 when the CIA commenced its operations there. Bin Laden has the distinction of being created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI. In the course of a fortnight he has been promoted from suspect to prime suspect and then, despite the lack of any real evidence, straight up the charts to being "wanted dead or alive".
From all accounts, it will be impossible to produce evidence (of the sort that would stand scrutiny in a court of law) to link Bin Laden to the September 11 attacks. So far, it appears that the most incriminating piece of evidence against him is the fact that he has not condemned them.
From what is known about the location of Bin Laden and the living conditions in which he operates, it's entirely possible that he did not personally plan and carry out the attacks - that he is the inspirational figure, "the CEO of the holding company". The Taliban's response to US demands for the extradition of Bin Laden has been uncharacteristically reasonable: produce the evidence, then we'll hand him over. President Bush's response is that the demand is "non-negotiable".
(While talks are on for the extradition of CEOs - can India put in a side request for the extradition of Warren Anderson of the US? He was the chairman of Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984. We have collated the necessary evidence. It's all in the files. Could we have him, please?)
But who is Osama bin Laden really? Let me rephrase that. What is Osama bin Laden? He's America's family secret. He is the American president's dark doppelgänger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America's foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of "full-spectrum dominance", its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think. Now that the family secret has been spilled, the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable. Their guns, bombs, money and drugs have been going around in the loop for a while. (The Stinger missiles that will greet US helicopters were supplied by the CIA. The heroin used by America's drug addicts comes from Afghanistan. The Bush administration recently gave Afghanistan a $43m subsidy for a "war on drugs"....)
Now Bush and Bin Laden have even begun to borrow each other's rhetoric. Each refers to the other as "the head of the snake". Both invoke God and use the loose millenarian currency of good and evil as their terms of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political crimes. Both are dangerously armed - one with the nuclear arsenal of the obscenely powerful, the other with the incandescent, destructive power of the utterly hopeless. The fireball and the ice pick. The bludgeon and the axe. The important thing to keep in mind is that neither is an acceptable alternative to the other.
President Bush's ultimatum to the people of the world - "If you're not with us, you're against us" - is a piece of presumptuous arrogance. It's not a choice that people want to, need to, or should have to make.
© Arundhati Roy 2001
|Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2001 - 09:07 pm: |
Libertarian Party Press Releases
October 3, 2001
New compromise "Patriot Act" is still a threat to civil liberties
WASHINGTON, DC -- Congress should reject the proposed anti-terrorist "Patriot Act" -- which would greatly expand the federal government's surveillance, wiretapping, and detention authority -- because no new police powers are needed to effectively fight terrorism, the Libertarian Party said today.
"There's no evidence that these new police powers will actually stop terrorists -- but there is a clear and present danger that they will curtail the fundamental civil liberties of Americans," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.
"That's why this bill should worry Americans more than it will worry terrorists. And that's why Congress should reject it."
The Patriot Act -- which will be considered by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday -- is the result of two weeks of closed-door negotiations between Congress and the Bush administration.
While the bipartisan compromise made some concessions to civil libertarian concerns, the bill:
* Gives any U.S. Attorney or state attorney general the power to install the Carnivore e-mail snooping system in "emergency situations" without obtaining a court order.
* Allows telephone voice mail messages to be obtained by law enforcement with a mere search warrant, which is issued with less court scrutiny than the previously required wiretap warrant.
* Expands the definition of "terrorist" so broadly that it could include non-violent protesters at an anti-war rally.
* Makes it easier for the government to tap multiple phones as part of a "roving wiretap" warrant.
* Allows the government to detain legal immigrants for seven days based on a mere accusation of terrorist activity.
On Saturday, President Bush urged Congress to approve the provisions in the Patriot Act, saying it gives law enforcement "every necessary tool" to fight terrorists.
But politicians made that promise before, noted Dasbach.
For example, in 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created secret federal courts to approve clandestine wiretaps of suspected spies and terrorists. In 1995, Congress expanded the FISA courts' authority to include searches of homes and computers.
During its first 21 years in operation, FISA courts authorized 11,950 secret searches and wiretaps -- while rejecting only one search warrant, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 1996, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which created courts with the power to deport foreigners based on secret evidence; gave the Secretary of State the authority to arbitrarily designate groups as "terrorist;" and allowed the government to freeze the assets of suspected terrorist groups.
In 1998, after the bombings of American embassies in Africa, Congress passed legislation that authorized "roving wiretaps" for the first time and increased the maximum "Counterterrorism Rewards Program" from $2 million to $5 million.
That same year, President Clinton also issued two Presidential Decision Directives: PDD-62, which established the office of the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-Terrorism, and PDD-63, which created the National Infrastructure Protection Center.
A senior FBI agent told Time magazine in 1998: "Any one of these extremely valuable tools could be the keystone" to successful operations against terrorists.
But none of those additional powers did a thing to stop terrorists from killing 6,000 Americans on September 11, noted Dasbach.
"That's why, instead of demanding ever-expanding powers, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies should simply do their jobs -- by acting on credible warnings of terrorist attacks," he said. "If they had done so, 6,000 Americans might still be alive today."
According to a September 27 column by Robert D. Novak, Philippine police arrested several Islamic terrorists in 1995 and discovered plans to use commercial airliners to attack targets in America, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That information was passed on to the U.S. government.
In August 2001, a flight school in Minnesota contacted the FBI and warned agents about a "peculiar" Arab who wanted to take 747 flight simulator training to learn how to steer -- but not take off or land. The man was arrested for lack of a valid visa and detained for future deportation.
Wrote Novak: "No connection was made with the 1995 revelation. The FBI had advance indications of plans to hijack U.S. airliners and use them as weapons but neither acted on them nor distributed the intelligence to local police."
Based on those revelations, asked Dasbach, how can the FBI claim it needs expanded surveillance powers?
"The FBI doesn't need to read more e-mail, install roving wiretaps, redefine terrorism, or get any of the new powers in the Patriot Act," he said. "The FBI simply needs to rediscover the power of old-fashioned detective work -- and pay better attention when it gets warnings that terrorists plan to launch a deadly strike against Americans."
|Posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2001 - 04:21 am: |
Published on Monday, October 8, 2001 by the Associated Press
Doctors Without Borders
Nobel Peace Prize Winning Doctors Group Calls US Afghanistan Aid 'Military Propaganda'
PARIS –– Nobel Peace Prize winner Medecins Sans Frontieres condemned the humanitarian operation accompanying the U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan as "military propaganda" designed to justify the strikes.
On Sunday, the United States dropped 37,500 food packages from two planes, destined for starving Afghans. Medicine is also expected to be dropped.
In a statement, the French humanitarian group, known in English as Doctors Without Borders, said the operation "isn't in any way a humanitarian aid operation, but more a military propaganda operation, destined to make international opinion accept the U.S.-led military operation."
"What sense is there in shooting with one hand, and giving medicine with the other?" the group asked.
The United States has a stockpile of some 2 million food packets that each provide at least 2,200 calories per day.
Afghanistan is among the world's poorest countries and has the lowest per-person food intake in the world, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Medecins Sans Frontieres won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize for its medical relief work in more than 80 countries. Like many international aid groups, it suspended its work in Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
|Posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2001 - 04:22 am: |
Published on Monday, October 8, 2001
A War of Lies
by Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen
A war that is supposed to help feed the desperate people of Afghanistan will in fact help starve them.
A war supposedly brought on by Taliban intransigence was actually provoked by our own government.
A war that the majority of the American people believe is about their grief, anger and desire for revenge is really about the cold-blooded calculations of a small elite seeking to extend its power.
And a war that is supposed to make us safer has put us in far greater danger by increasing the likelihood of further terrorist attacks.
Let’s take those points in order.
Our undeclared war on Afghanistan is the culmination of a decade of U.S. aggression with a humanitarian façade.
Once the natural sympathies of the American people were touched by the plight of the long-suffering Afghan people, public opinion swung toward helping them. In response to this, the administration concocted the most shameless and cynical cover story for military strikes in recent memory. The idea, leaked last Thursday, went like this:
The Afghan people are starving, so we need to do food drops. (Never mind that all those experienced in humanitarian aid programs are opposed to food drops because they are dangerous and wasteful, and, most important, preclude setting up the on-the-ground distribution networks necessary to making aid effective.)
We need to destroy the Taliban’s air defenses before doing food drops.
The transport planes may be endangered by the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that the United States supplied the mujaheddin in the 1980s when they were fighting the Soviet Union, and some of which ended up in the Taliban’s hands.
We have to destroy the Taliban’s air defense. Because so much of it is mobile, we have to bomb all over.
The bombing will seriously hinder existing aid efforts. The World Food Program operates a bakery in Kabul on which thousands of families depend, as well as many other programs. A number of United Nations organizations have been mounting a major new coordinated humanitarian campaign. These efforts were not endangered by the Taliban before, but the chaos and violence created by this bombing -- combined with a projected assault by the Northern Alliance -- will likely force UN personnel to withdraw, with disastrous effects for the Afghan people.
To add insult to injury, in the first day the United States dropped only 37,500 packaged meals, far below the daily needs of even a single large refugee camp. With 7.5 million people on the brink of death and existing programs disrupted, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage caused by this new war.
Those who starve or freeze will not be the only innocents to die. It should finally be clear to all that “surgical strikes” are a myth. In the Gulf War, only 7 percent of the munitions used were “smart,” and those missed the target roughly half the time. One of those surgical strikes destroyed the Amiriyah bomb shelter, killing somewhere from 400 to 1,500 women and children. In Operation Infinite Reach, the 1998 attacks on Afghanistan, some of the cruise missiles went astray and hit Pakistan. Military officials have already admitted that not all of the ordnance being used is “smart,” and even the current generation of smart weapons hit their target only 70 to 80 percent of the time.
Contrary to U.S. propaganda, civilian targets are always on the list. There are already reports that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was targeted for assassination, and the Defense Ministry in Kabul -- surely no more military a target than the Pentagon -- and located in the middle of the city, has been destroyed.
This is standard U.S. practice. In the Gulf War, virtually every power station in Iraq was destroyed, with untold effects on civilians. A correspondent for al-Jazeera TV reported that power went out in Kabul when the bombing started, although it was restored in some places within hours. Targeting of any pitiful remnants of civilian infrastructure in Afghanistan would be consistent with past U.S. policy.
George Bush said we are not at war with the Afghan people -- just as we were not at war with the Iraqi people or the Serbian people. The hundreds of thousands of Afghans who fled the cities knew better.
Military analysts suggest that the timing of the strikes had to do with the weather. Another possible interpretation is that the Taliban’s recently-expressed willingness to negotiate posed too great a danger that peace might break out. The Orwellian use of the term “diplomacy” to describe the consistent U.S. policy of no negotiations -- accept our peremptory demands or else -- helps to mask the fact that the administration always intended to launch this war.
The same tactic was used against Serbia; at the Rambouillet negotiations in March 1999, demands were pitched just high enough that the Serbian government could not go along.
In this case, the Taliban’s offer to detain bin Laden and try him before an Islamic court, while unacceptable, was a serious initial negotiating position and would have merited a serious counteroffer -- unless one had already decided to go to war.
The administration has many reasons for this war.
The policy of imperial credibility, carried to such destructive extremes in Vietnam. In perhaps the last five years of direct U.S. involvement there, the goal was not to “win,” but to inflict such a price on Vietnam that other nations would not think of crossing the United States.
The oil and natural gas of central Asia, the next Middle East. Afghanistan’s location between the Caspian basin and huge markets in Japan, China and the Indian subcontinent gives it critical importance. A U.S-controlled client state in Afghanistan, presumably under the exiled octogenarian former king, Zahir Shah, would give U.S. corporations great leverage over those resources. Just as in the Middle East, the United States does not seek to own all those resources, but it wants to dictate the manner in which the wells and pipelines are developed and used.
The potential to push a radical right-wing domestic agenda. War makes it easier to expand police powers, restrict civil liberties, and increase the military budget.
This war is about the extension of U.S. power. It has little to do with bringing the terrorists to justice, or with vengeance. Judging from initial polls, the war has been popular as the administration trades on people’s desire for revenge -- but we should hardly confuse the emotional reaction of the public with the motivation of the administration. Governments do not feel emotions.
This war will not make us more secure. For weeks, many in the antiwar movement -- and some careful commentators in more mainstream circles -- have been saying that military action was playing into the hands of Osama bin Laden, who may have been hoping for such an attack to spark the flames of anti-American feeling in the Muslim world. Bin Laden’s pre-taped speech, broadcast on al-Jazeera television after the bombing started, vindicates that analysis.
“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” Bush said on Sept. 20. Bin Laden’s appeal to the ummah, the whole Islamic world, echoed this logic: “The world is divided into two sides -- the side of faith and the side of infidelity.”
The American jihad may yet be matched by a widely expanded Islamic one, something unlikely had we not bombed. Remember, we have seen only the opening shots of what many officials are calling a long-term, multi-front war in which the secretary of defense has told us there will be no “silver bullet.” The administration has clearly been preparing the American people to accept an extended conflict.
Bin Laden’s world is Bush’s, in some strangely distorted mirror. A world divided as they seem to want would have no place in it for those of us who want peace with justice.
All is not yet lost. The first step is for us to send a message, not just to our government but to the whole world, saying, “This action done in our name was not done by our will. We are against the killing of innocents anywhere in the world.”
The next step is for us to build a movement that can change our government’s barbaric and self-destructive policy.
If we don’t act now to build a new world, we may just be left with no world.
Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members of the Nowar Collective (www.nowarcollective.com). They can be reached at email@example.com
|Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2001 - 05:26 pm: |
How should America have responded to the attack on the WTC?
|Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2001 - 05:24 am: |
I have been pondering the profundity of this question for several days, recognizing that it is one of the only truly important questions being asked.
However, I can't answer it as fully as I'd like. This said, I do not believe that we have responded accurately, fairly, nor correctly. This said, I am the first to admit that I am not privy to classified documents, do not attend briefings of high ranking officials, and do not "know" what really happened.
Having acknowledged that I am not on the inside track, I nevertheless feel the president has failed to make a case for what is happening in Afghanistan. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has stated in press conferences that the present campaign in Afghanistan was planned in July. He gave some details and there is a report on BBC supporting this, implying this was not a slip of the tongue, but a fact.
The list of passengers on the four flights does not contain a single Arab name, nor is it perhaps complete, but we get our information from sources that approve the content, and the official lists contain no Arab names.
One theory is that the security codes for the White House, Air Force One, and all domestic planes was broken. Some believe that the planes were hijacked from the ground:
In short, I don't pretend to know what really happened or why, much less who did what. This said, it is 100% evident that there is a need for an investigation of a scale that has never heretofore been conducted. Personally, I believe that a good case can be made for the fact that terrorism is an international problem and that it requires an international solution. However, I still believe that this is a police problem, not a military one. It can, of course, be the sort of problem that involves the need for sharing of information between Interpol and the CIA as well as all the law enforcement organizations of all countries. I believe that an international organization should have been created and can still be created in which the investigative work is carried on primarily by those without a vested interest in the outcome.
In other words, if some countries have an agenda in Afghanistan, an agenda they are masking, the investigation cannot be properly carried out by the nations who are seeking to gain by the invasion of Afghanistan.
I would suggest that a country known for its excellent law enforcement, enlightenment, and integrity be chosen for this work. I have to say that, at this juncture, it would appear to me that India holds fairly high moral ground despite, of course, its interest in an outcome that assures an acceptable solution to the Kashmiri situation.
It is also possible that one takes a leap and suggests a country with a large Islamic population and rigorous laws, like Malaysia.
My personal opinion is that America could and perhaps still can benefit by worldwide support and sympathy because it was the victim of a horrific attack. There is more to be gained by cautious pursuit of the culprits than by an inordinate display of might that it crushing the little bit of civil infrastructure that exists in Afghanistan.
I feel there was and perhaps still is more to be gained by a humanitarian endeavor to win hearts and minds after feeding and healing bodies than is to be gained by playing into the divisive political and religious issues of a country that is totally entitled to self-rule. We may not like the government of Afghanistan, but it is for the people of the Afghanistan to determine their government, not for foreign powers to set up puppet regimes, even if it is eventually proven in a court of law that the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda were behind the September 11th attack on New York and the Pentagon.
We should, of course, pursue the terrorists and make it more difficult for terrorists to carry out terrifying deeds. However, we must then stop selling arms to foreign countries, stop CIA training of terrorists, stop providing biological and biochemical weapons to foreign countries, and perhaps dismantle our own involvement in these diabolical means of warfare that are unable to differentiate civilian from military targets.
In reality, all military work should be for the purpose of providing the equipment to our own forces. It is totally inappropriate to export weapons, even to allies, especially dubious allies such as those who are friends in a sticky circumstance and less friendly under other conditions.
We should also stop playing the superpower game, focus on our serious domestic issues. There are other countries with the economic means of providing for their own defense. We do not need bases all over the world unless we are seeing the entire world as an extension of our superpower status. If the U.S. is, in fact, bent on world domination, we will fall like every other overly ambitious empire.
In the days immediately following September 11th, America found a sweetness it had never before known. This is the real America, and it is precious. This is who we are, and I love it, but I cannot stand the massacre of Afghanistan, a country I have visited many times and celebrated as one of the truly ruggedly independent places left on Earth. Afghanistan has a spirit, too, and just as we cannot abide the thought of destruction of our homeland, so no people anywhere on Earth will tolerate such an abuse. The seeds of dissent are in the actions so while there may be temporary claims of victory and vain attempts to vindicate heinous "retaliation," the animosity that is brewing in the hearts of those who are terrified of American military supremacy will have its day of reckoning, too.
I will continue with thoughts that are more spiritual and metaphysical.
|Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2001 - 05:42 am: |
The second half of the question of how America should have responded is even deeper. Many on the Planet today feel that we are heading for a global community, a world in which people are instantly linked to each other via the Internet, foreign trade, tourism, and common interests in survival of the human species as well as the animal and plant species who share this space with us. Air quality, water purity, environmental issues, and health are global concerns that know no boundaries.
I belong to this group of planetary souls, but I go even a step further. I see the Earth entering into interplanetary relationships. We have the capacity to travel in outer space and the way economic forces are directed now, it is likely that ventures in outer space would be dominated by the search for uranium or some other object of physical greed. Intergalactic anthropologists, explorers, and philosophers are not perhaps going to be underwritten by the present financiers, yet it seems imperative to me that before we earth inhabitants venture further into space we resolve more of our domestic issues. Exporting our present civilization would seem to be a great disservice to the Universe.
Therefore, I favor a softer approach, not a wishy-washy one in which terrorists perceive weakness as an opportunity to turn the capitalistic world into chaos but rather an approach that seeks to uncover and correct the sources of discord, both within individual societies and between nations. Inherent in such an endeavor would be a willingness to act with integrity in everything from economics to military. In other words, the abuse of power must end. All power has the potential for great good or great evil, and right now, power is being misused on a grand scale.
|Posted on Friday, October 26, 2001 - 05:54 pm: |
Published on Thursday, October 18, 2001
Three Arguments Against the War
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Unspeakable acts of violence were committed on September 11. The perpetrators of the horrific attack of September 11 must be brought to justice, using the instruments of domestic and international law. The unconscionable slaughter demands prosecution. But bombing a desperately poor country under the yoke of a repressive regime is a wrongheaded response. The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan should cease immediately.
It is a policy that will diminish U.S. security, ignores overriding humanitarian concerns, and precludes more sensible approaches to achieving justice and promoting security in the United States and around the world.
1. The policy of bombing increases the risk of further terrorism against the United States.
This is an uncontested claim.
The Bush administration along with virtually every commentator acknowledges that the U.S. bombing and military response is likely to worsen the possibility of additional terrorism on U.S. soil.
The recent Congressional leak that so outraged the White House involved a Washington Post report that an intelligence official, responding to a senator's question, "said there is a '100 percent' chance of an attack should the United States strike Afghanistan, according to sources familiar with the briefing."
The horror of September 11 allows for no satisfactory response. But surely the United States must not act to increase the risk of terrorism.
No matter how great one's outrage at September 11, no matter how intense one's desire to "do something" -- it doesn't make sense to pursue a course of action that intensifies the very problem the Bush administration says it is trying to solve.
And the increased risk of terrorism will not be short-lived. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the war against terrorism will take years to win. Former CIA chief James Woolsey and others have talked about a two- or three-decade war. That's coming from proponents of the U.S. military action, people who view terrorism as something that can be defeated, rather than as a tactic assumed by weak and disgruntled parties.
2. The bombing is intensifying a humanitarian nightmare in Afghanistan.
"The terrorist attacks of 11 September, in terms of security and access within Afghanistan, have created the potential for a humanitarian crisis of massive proportions," according to the UN's World Food Program (WFP). The WFP estimates 7.5 million people are in danger of starvation in Afghanistan.
The U.S. threat of military response to September 11, and now its bombing, has made a horrible situation worse. The WFP has predicted nearly two million additional people will need food assistance due to the disruptions caused by the expectation, and now the reality, of a U.S. military response.
"It is now evident that we cannot, in reasonable safety, get food to hungry Afghan people," says Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser, "We've reached the point where it is simply unrealistic for us to do our job in Afghanistan. We've run out of food, the borders are closed, we can't reach our staff and time is running out."
After September 11, relief agencies pulled their staff out of Afghanistan, though the WFP has managed to continue to deliver some food supplies via Afghani staff.
But aid agencies warn that time is running out to deliver food supplies. By mid-November, heavy snows block key roads, making it impossible to move trucks into many areas of the country.
"If WFP is to meet its target of delivering 52,000 tons of food aid each month to millions of hungry people inside Afghanistan, it urgently needs to fill-up its warehouses before the region's harsh winter sets in," said Mohamed Zejjari, WFP assistant executive director and director of operations.
Oxfam has called for a pause in the bombing on humanitarian grounds. "We just don't know how many people may die if the bombing is not suspended and the aid effort assured," Offenheiser says.
Here the humanitarian imperative is aligned with the most narrowly defined U.S. national interest. No action can better serve to reduce the risk of future terrorism than providing sufficient food aid to the suffering Afghanis.
3. There are better ways to seek justice.
If law is to have meaning, it must constrain and guide our actions in the times of greatest stress and challenge, not just when it is convenient.
Reviewing the principles of international law, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, urges the United States to:
* Convene a meeting of the UN Security Council.
* Request the establishment of an international tribunal with authority to seek out, extradite or arrest and try those responsible for the September 11 attack and those who commit or are conspiring to commit future attacks
* Establish an international military or police force under the control of UN and which can effectuate the arrests of those responsible for the September 11 attacks and those who commit or are conspiring to commit future attacks. It is crucial that such force should be under control of the UN and not a mere fig leaf for the United States as was the case in the war against Iraq.
A fair trial of bin Laden -- one perceived as fair not just in the United States but around the world -- is essential to avoid turning him into a martyr and worsening the spiral of violence.
Opponents of the war should not be content to be a dissenting minority. While there are many compelling arguments against the war, it is critical to emphasize those with the best prospect of moving the U.S. public and policymakers.
The widespread U.S. public support for military action against Afghanistan is based in part on a desire for a modicum of justice and for action to reduce the risk of future terrorist action.
These are both vital goals, but both -- especially reducing the risk of future terrorism -- can be better achieved through peace than war.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org)
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
|Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2001 - 07:14 am: |
You all use many, many words yet you completely lack confdential secret information on the current earth plane problems.
You are limited by your dimensionality. You do not understand how time flows. You must be patient and listen for thoughts from the silence of the universe.
|Posted on Saturday, November 03, 2001 - 07:47 am: |
The New War Against Terror October 18, 2001
Transcribed from audio recorded at The Technology & Culture Forum at MIT The Talk (audio)
Everyone knows it's the TV people who run the world [crowd laugher]. I just got orders that I'm supposed to be here, not there. Well the last talk I gave at this forum was on a light pleasant topic. It was about how humans are an endangered species and given the nature of their institutions they are likely to destroy themselves in a fairly short time. So this time there is a little relief and we have a pleasant topic instead, the new war on terror. Unfortunately, the world keeps coming up with things that make it more and more horrible as we proceed.
Assume 2 Conditions for this Talk
I'm going to assume 2 conditions for this talk.
The first one is just what I assume to be recognition of fact. That is that the events of September 11 were a horrendous atrocity probably the most devastating instant human toll of any crime in history, outside of war. The second assumption has to do with the goals. I'm assuming that our goal is that we are interested in reducing the likelihood of such crimes whether they are against us or against someone else.
If you don't accept those two assumptions, then what I say will not be addressed to you. If we do accept them, then a number of questions arise, closely related ones, which merit a good deal of thought.
The 5 Questions
One question, and by far the most important one is what is happening right now? Implicit in that is what can we do about it? The 2nd has to do with the very common assumption that what happened on September 11 is a historic event, one which will change history. I tend to agree with that. I think it's true. It was a historic event and the question we should be asking is exactly why? The 3rd question has to do with the title, The War Against Terrorism. Exactly what is it? And there is a related question, namely what is terrorism? The 4th question which is narrower but important has to do with the origins of the crimes of September 11th. And the 5th question that I want to talk a little about is what policy options there are in fighting this war against terrorism and dealing with the situations that led to it.
I'll say a few things about each. Glad to go beyond in discussion and don't hesitate to bring up other questions. These are ones that come to my mind as prominent but you may easily and plausibly have other choices.
1. What's Happening Right Now?
Starvation of 3 to 4 Million People
Well let's start with right now. I'll talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I'll just keep to uncontroversial sources like the New York Times [crowd laughter]. According to the New York Times there are 7 to 8 million people in Afghanistan on the verge of starvation. That was true actually before September 11th. They were surviving on international aid. On September 16th, the Times reported, I'm quoting it, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population. As far as I could determine there was no reaction in the United States or for that matter in Europe. I was on national radio all over Europe the next day. There was no reaction in the United States or in Europe to my knowledge to the demand to impose massive starvation on millions of people. The threat of military strikes right after September...around that time forced the removal of international aid workers that crippled the assistance programs. Actually, I am quoting again from the New York Times. Refugees reaching Pakistan after arduous journeys from AF are describing scenes of desperation and fear at home as the threat of American led military attacks turns their long running misery into a potential catastrophe. The country was on a lifeline and we just cut the line. Quoting an evacuated aid worker, in the New York Times Magazine.
The World Food Program, the UN program, which is the main one by far, were able to resume after 3 weeks in early October, they began to resume at a lower level, resume food shipments. They don't have international aid workers within, so the distribution system is hampered. That was suspended as soon as the bombing began. They then resumed but at a lower pace while aid agencies leveled scathing condemnations of US airdrops, condemning them as propaganda tools which are probably doing more harm than good. That happens to be quoting the London Financial Times but it is easy to continue. After the first week of bombing, the New York Times reported on a back page inside a column on something else, that by the arithmetic of the United Nations there will soon be 7.5 million Afghans in acute need of even a loaf of bread and there are only a few weeks left before the harsh winter will make deliveries to many areas totally impossible, continuing to quote, but with bombs falling the delivery rate is down to * of what is needed. Casual comment. Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that. On the same day, the leader of Western civilization dismissed with contempt, once again, offers of negotiation for delivery of the alleged target, Osama bin Laden, and a request for some evidence to substantiate the demand for total capitulation. It was dismissed. On the same day the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I'm aware that was unreported. That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can't find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir.
Well we could easily go on..but all of that..first of all indicates to us what's happening. Looks like what's happening is some sort of silent genocide. It also gives a good deal of insight into the elite culture, the culture that we are part of. It indicates that whatever, what will happen we don't know, but plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks..very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it, that's just kind of normal, here and in a good part of Europe. Not in the rest of the world. In fact not even in much of Europe. So if you read the Irish press or the press in Scotland.that close, reactions are very different. Well that's what's happening now. What's happening now is very much under our control. We can do a lot to affect what's happening. And that's roughly it.
2. Why was it a Historic Event?
National Territory Attacked
Alright let's turn to the slightly more abstract question, forgetting for the moment that we are in the midst of apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people, not Taliban of course, their victims. Let's go back.turn to the question of the historic event that took place on September 11th. As I said, I think that's correct. It was a historic event. Not unfortunately because of its scale, unpleasant to think about, but in terms of the scale it's not that unusual. I did say it's the worst.probably the worst instant human toll of any crime. And that may be true. But there are terrorist crimes with effects a bit more drawn out that are more extreme, unfortunately. Nevertheless, it's a historic event because there was a change. The change was the direction in which the guns were pointed. That's new. Radically new. So, take US history.
The last time that the national territory of the United States was under attack, or for that matter, even threatened was when the British burned down Washington in 1814. There have been many.it was common to bring up Pearl Harbor but that's not a good analogy. The Japanese, what ever you think about it, the Japanese bombed military bases in 2 US colonies not the national territory; colonies which had been taken from their inhabitants in not a very pretty way. This is the national territory that's been attacked on a large scale, you can find a few fringe examples but this is unique.
During these close to 200 years, we, the United States expelled or mostly exterminated the indigenous population, that's many millions of people, conquered half of Mexico, carried out depredations all over the region, Caribbean and Central America, sometimes beyond, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines, killing several 100,000 Filipinos in the process. Since the Second World War, it has extended its reach around the world in ways I don't have to describe. But it was always killing someone else, the fighting was somewhere else, it was others who were getting slaughtered. Not here. Not the national territory.
In the case of Europe, the change is even more dramatic because its history is even more horrendous than ours. We are an offshoot of Europe, basically. For hundreds of years, Europe has been casually slaughtering people all over the world. That's how they conquered the world, not by handing out candy to babies. During this period, Europe did suffer murderous wars, but that was European killers murdering one another. The main sport of Europe for hundreds of years was slaughtering one another. The only reason that it came to an end in 1945, was..it had nothing to do with Democracy or not making war with each other and other fashionable notions. It had to do with the fact that everyone understood that the next time they play the game it was going to be the end for the world. Because the Europeans, including us, had developed such massive weapons of destruction that that game just have to be over. And it goes back hundreds of years. In the 17th century, about probably 40% of the entire population of Germany was wiped out in one war.
But during this whole bloody murderous period, it was Europeans slaughtering each other, and Europeans slaughtering people elsewhere. The Congo didn't attack Belgium, India didn't attack England, Algeria didn't attack France. It's uniform. There are again small exceptions, but pretty small in scale, certainly invisible in the scale of what Europe and us were doing to the rest of the world. This is the first change. The first time that the guns have been pointed the other way. And in my opinion that's probably why you see such different reactions on the two sides of the Irish Sea which I have noticed, incidentally, in many interviews on both sides, national radio on both sides. The world looks very different depending on whether you are holding the lash or whether you are being whipped by it for hundreds of years, very different. So I think the shock and surprise in Europe and its offshoots, like here, is very understandable. It is a historic event but regrettably not in scale, in something else and a reason why the rest of the world.most of the rest of the world looks at it quite differently. Not lacking sympathy for the victims of the atrocity or being horrified by them, that's almost uniform, but viewing it from a different perspective. Something we might want to understand.
3. What is the War Against Terrorism?
Well, let's go to the third question, 'What is the war against terrorism?' and a side question, 'What's terrorism?'. The war against terrorism has been described in high places as a struggle against a plague, a cancer which is spread by barbarians, by "depraved opponents of civilization itself." That's a feeling that I share. The words I'm quoting, however, happen to be from 20 years ago. Those are.that's President Reagan and his Secretary of State. The Reagan administration came into office 20 years ago declaring that the war against international terrorism would be the core of our foreign policy..describing it in terms of the kind I just mentioned and others. And it was the core of our foreign policy. The Reagan administration responded to this plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself by creating an extraordinary international terrorist network, totally unprecedented in scale, which carried out massive atrocities all over the world, primarily..well, partly nearby, but not only there. I won't run through the record, you're all educated people, so I'm sure you learned about it in High School. [crowd laughter]
Reagan-US War Against Nicaragua
But I'll just mention one case which is totally uncontroversial, so we might as well not argue about it, by no means the most extreme but uncontroversial. It's uncontroversial because of the judgments of the highest international authorities the International Court of Justice, the World Court, and the UN Security Council. So this one is uncontroversial, at least among people who have some minimal concern for international law, human rights, justice and other things like that. And now I'll leave you an exercise. You can estimate the size of that category by simply asking how often this uncontroversial case has been mentioned in the commentary of the last month. And it's a particularly relevant one, not only because it is uncontroversial, but because it does offer a precedent as to how a law abiding state would respond to.did respond in fact to international terrorism, which is uncontroversial. And was even more extreme than the events of September 11th. I'm talking about the Reagan-US war against Nicaragua which left tens of thousands of people dead, the country ruined, perhaps beyond recovery.
Nicaragua did respond. They didn't respond by setting off bombs in Washington. They responded by taking it to the World Court, presenting a case, they had no problem putting together evidence. The World Court accepted their case, ruled in their favor, ordered the.condemned what they called the "unlawful use of force," which is another word for international terrorism, by the United States, ordered the United States to terminate the crime and to pay massive reparations. The United States, of course, dismissed the court judgment with total contempt and announced that it would not accept the jurisdiction of the court henceforth. Then Nicaragua then went to the UN Security Council which considered a resolution calling on all states to observe international law. No one was mentioned but everyone understood. The United States vetoed the resolution. It now stands as the only state on record which has both been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and has vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law. Nicaragua then went to the General Assembly where there is technically no veto but a negative US vote amounts to a veto. It passed a similar resolution with only the United States, Israel, and El Salvador opposed. The following year again, this time the United States could only rally Israel to the cause, so 2 votes opposed to observing international law. At that point, Nicaragua couldn't do anything lawful. It tried all the measures. They don't work in a world that is ruled by force.
This case is uncontroversial but it's by no means the most extreme. We gain a lot of insight into our own culture and society and what's happening now by asking 'how much we know about all this? How much we talk about it? How much you learn about it in school? How much it's all over the front pages?' And this is only the beginning. The United States responded to the World Court and the Security Council by immediately escalating the war very quickly, that was a bipartisan decision incidentally. The terms of the war were also changed. For the first time there were official orders given.official orders to the terrorist army to attack what are called "soft targets," meaning undefended civilian targets, and to keep away from the Nicaraguan army. They were able to do that because the United States had total control of the air over Nicaragua and the mercenary army was supplied with advanced communication equipment, it wasn't a guerilla army in the normal sense and could get instructions about the disposition of the Nicaraguan army forces so they could attack agricultural collectives, health clinics, and so on.soft targets with impunity. Those were the official orders.
What was the Reaction Here?
What was the reaction? It was known. There was a reaction to it. The policy was regarded as sensible by left liberal opinion. So Michael Kinsley who represents the left in mainstream discussion, wrote an article in which he said that we shouldn't be too quick to criticize this policy as Human Rights Watch had just done. He said a "sensible policy" must "meet the test of cost benefit analysis" -- that is, I'm quoting now, that is the analysis of "the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end." Democracy as the US understands the term, which is graphically illustrated in the surrounding countries. Notice that it is axiomatic that the United States, US elites, have the right to conduct the analysis and to pursue the project if it passes their tests. And it did pass their tests. It worked. When Nicaragua finally succumbed to superpower assault, commentators openly and cheerfully lauded the success of the methods that were adopted and described them accurately. So I'll quote Time Magazine just to pick one. They lauded the success of the methods adopted: "to wreck the economy and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow the unwanted government themselves," with a cost to us that is "minimal," and leaving the victims "with wrecked bridges, sabotaged power stations, and ruined farms," and thus providing the US candidate with a "winning issue": "ending the impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua." The New York Times had a headline saying "Americans United in Joy" at this outcome.
Terrorism Works - Terrorism is not the Weapon of the Weak
That is the culture in which we live and it reveals several facts. One is the fact that terrorism works. It doesn't fail. It works. Violence usually works. That's world history. Secondly, it's a very serious analytic error to say, as is commonly done, that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Like other means of violence, it's primarily a weapon of the strong, overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn't count as terror. Now that's close to universal. I can't think of a historical exception, even the worst mass murderers view the world that way. So pick the Nazis. They weren't carrying out terror in occupied Europe. They were protecting the local population from the terrorisms of the partisans. And like other resistance movements, there was terrorism. The Nazis were carrying out counter terror. Furthermore, the United States essentially agreed with that. After the war, the US army did extensive studies of Nazi counter terror operations in Europe. First I should say that the US picked them up and began carrying them out itself, often against the same targets, the former resistance. But the military also studied the Nazi methods published interesting studies, sometimes critical of them because they were inefficiently carried out, so a critical analysis, you didn't do this right, you did that right, but those methods with the advice of Wermacht officers who were brought over here became the manuals of counter insurgency, of counter terror, of low intensity conflict, as it is called, and are the manuals, and are the procedures that are being used. So it's not just that the Nazis did it. It's that it was regarded as the right thing to do by the leaders of western civilization, that is us, who then proceeded to do it themselves. Terrorism is not the weapon of the weak. It is the weapon of those who are against 'us' whoever 'us' happens to be. And if you can find a historical exception to that, I'd be interested in seeing it.
Nature of our Culture - How We Regard Terrorism
Well, an interesting indication of the nature of our culture, our high culture, is the way in which all of this is regarded. One way it's regarded is just suppressing it. So almost nobody has ever heard of it. And the power of American propaganda and doctrine is so strong that even among the victims it's barely known. I mean, when you talk about this to people in Argentina, you have to remind them. Oh, yeh, that happened, we forgot about it. It's deeply suppressed. The sheer consequences of the monopoly of violence can be very powerful in ideological and other terms.
The Idea that Nicaragua Might Have The Right To Defend Itself
Well, one illuminating aspect of our own attitude toward terrorism is the reaction to the idea that Nicaragua might have the right to defend itself. Actually I went through this in some detail with database searches and that sort of thing. The idea that Nicaragua might have the right to defend itself was considered outrageous. There is virtually nothing in mainstream commentary indicating that Nicaragua might have that right. And that fact was exploited by the Reagan administration and its propaganda in an interesting way. Those of you who were around in that time will remember that they periodically floated rumors that the Nicaraguans were getting MIG jets, jets from Russia. At that point the hawks and the doves split. The hawks said, 'ok, let's bomb 'em.' The doves said, `wait a minute, let's see if the rumors are true. And if the rumors are true, then let's bomb them. Because they are a threat to the United States.' Why, incidentally were they getting MIGs. Well they tried to get jet planes from European countries but the United States put pressure on its allies so that it wouldn't send them means of defense because they wanted them to turn to the Russians. That's good for propaganda purposes. Then they become a threat to us. Remember, they were just 2 days march from Harlingen, Texas. We actually declared a national emergency in 1985 to protect the country from the threat of Nicaragua. And it stayed in force. So it was much better for them to get arms from the Russians. Why would they want jet planes? Well, for the reasons I already mentioned. The United States had total control over their airspace, was over flying it and using that to provide instructions to the terrorist army to enable them to attack soft targets without running into the army that might defend them. Everyone knew that that was the reason. They are not going to use their jet planes for anything else. But the idea that Nicaragua should be permitted to defend its airspace against a superpower attack that is directing terrorist forces to attack undefended civilian targets, that was considered in the United States as outrageous and uniformly so. Exceptions are so slight, you know I can practically list them. I don't suggest that you take my word for this. Have a look. That includes our own senators, incidentally.
Honduras - The Appointment of John Negroponte as Ambassador to the United Nations
Another illustration of how we regard terrorism is happening right now. The US has just appointed an ambassador to the United Nations to lead the war against terrorism a couple weeks ago. Who is he? Well, his name is John Negroponte. He was the US ambassador in the fiefdom, which is what it is, of Honduras in the early 1980's. There was a little fuss made about the fact that he must have been aware, as he certainly was, of the large-scale murders and other atrocities that were being carried out by the security forces in Honduras that we were supporting. But that's a small part of it. As proconsul of Honduras, as he was called there, he was the local supervisor for the terrorist war based in Honduras, for which his government was condemned by the world court and then the Security Council in a vetoed resolution. And he was just appointed as the UN Ambassador to lead the war against terror. Another small experiment you can do is check and see what the reaction was to this. Well, I will tell you what you are going to find, but find it for yourself. Now that tells us a lot about the war against terrorism and a lot about ourselves.
After the United States took over the country again under the conditions that were so graphically described by the press, the country was pretty much destroyed in the 1980's, but it has totally collapsed since in every respect just about. Economically it has declined sharply since the US take over, democratically and in every other respect. It's now the second poorest country in the Hemisphere. I should say..I'm not going to talk about it, but I mentioned that I picked up Nicaragua because it is an uncontroversial case. If you look at the other states in the region, the state terror was far more extreme and it again traces back to Washington and that's by no means all.
US & UK Backed South African Attacks
It was happening elsewhere in the world too, take say Africa. During the Reagan years alone, South African attacks, backed by the United States and Britain, US/UK-backed South African attacks against the neighboring countries killed about a million and a half people and left 60 billion dollars in damage and countries destroyed. And if we go around the world, we can add more examples.
Now that was the first war against terror of which I've given a small sample. Are we supposed to pay attention to that? Or kind of think that that might be relevant? After all it's not exactly ancient history. Well, evidently not as you can tell by looking at the current discussion of the war on terror which has been the leading topic for the last month.
Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua
I mentioned that Nicaragua has now become the 2nd poorest country in the hemisphere. What's the poorest country? Well that's of course Haiti which also happens to be the victim of most US intervention in the 20th century by a long shot. We left it totally devastated. It's the poorest country. Nicaragua is second ranked in degree of US intervention in the 20th century. It is the 2nd poorest. Actually, it is vying with Guatemala. They interchange every year or two as to who's the second poorest. And they also vie as to who is the leading target of US military intervention. We're supposed to think that all of this is some sort of accident. That is has nothing to do with anything that happened in history. Maybe.
Colombia and Turkey
The worst human rights violator in the 1990's is Colombia, by a long shot. It's also the, by far, the leading recipient of US military aid in the 1990's maintaining the terror and human rights violations. In 1999, Colombia replaced Turkey as the leading recipient of US arms worldwide, that is excluding Israel and Egypt which are a separate category. And that tells us a lot more about the war on terror right now, in fact.
Why was Turkey getting such a huge flow of US arms? Well if you take a look at the flow of US arms to Turkey, Turkey always got a lot of US arms. It's strategically placed, a member of NATO, and so on. But the arms flow to Turkey went up very sharply in 1984. It didn't have anything to do with the cold war. I mean Russian was collapsing. And it stayed high from 1984 to 1999 when it reduced and it was replaced in the lead by Colombia. What happened from 1984 to 1999? Well, in 1984, [Turkey] launched a major terrorist war against Kurds in southeastern Turkey. And that's when US aid went up, military aid. And this was not pistols. This was jet planes, tanks, military training, and so on. And it stayed high as the atrocities escalated through the 1990's. Aid followed it. The peak year was 1997. In 1997, US military aid to Turkey was more than in the entire period 1950 to 1983, that is the cold war period, which is an indication of how much the cold war has affected policy. And the results were awesome. This led to 2-3 million refugees. Some of the worst ethnic cleansing of the late 1990's. Tens of thousands of people killed, 3500 towns and villages destroyed, way more than Kosovo, even under NATO bombs. And the United States was providing 80% of the arms, increasing as the atrocities increased, peaking in 1997. It declined in 1999 because, once again, terror worked as it usually does when carried out by its major agents, mainly the powerful. So by 1999, Turkish terror, called of course counter-terror, but as I said, that's universal, it worked. Therefore Turkey was replaced by Colombia which had not yet succeeded in its terrorist war. And therefore had to move into first place as recipient of US arms.
Self Congratulation on the Part of Western Intellectuals
Well, what makes this all particularly striking is that all of this was taking place right in the midst of a huge flood of self-congratulation on the part of Western intellectuals which probably has no counterpart in history. I mean you all remember it. It was just a couple years ago. Massive self-adulation about how for the first time in history we are so magnificent; that we are standing up for principles and values; dedicated to ending inhumanity everywhere in the new era of this-and-that, and so-on-and-so-forth. And we certainly can't tolerate atrocities right near the borders of NATO. That was repeated over and over. Only within the borders of NATO where we can not only can tolerate much worse atrocities but contribute to them. Another insight into Western civilization and our own, is how often was this brought up? Try to look. I won't repeat it. But it's instructive. It's a pretty impressive feat for a propaganda system to carry this off in a free society. It's pretty amazing. I don't think you could do this in a totalitarian state.
Turkey is Very Grateful
And Turkey is very grateful. Just a few days ago, Prime Minister Ecevit announced that Turkey would join the coalition against terror, very enthusiastically, even more so than others. In fact, he said they would contribute troops which others have not willing to do. And he explained why. He said, We owe a debt of gratitude to the United States because the United States was the only country that was willing to contribute so massively to our own, in his words "counter-terrorist" war, that is to our own massive ethnic cleansing and atrocities and terror. Other countries helped a little, but they stayed back. The United States, on the other hand, contributed enthusiastically and decisively and was able to do so because of the silence, servility might be the right word, of the educated classes who could easily find out about it. It's a free country after all. You can read human rights reports. You can read all sorts of stuff. But we chose to contribute to the atrocities and Turkey is very happy, they owe us a debt of gratitude for that and therefore will contribute troops just as during the war in Serbia. Turkey was very much praised for using its F-16's which we supplied it to bomb Serbia exactly as it had been doing with the same planes against its own population up until the time when it finally succeeded in crushing internal terror as they called it. And as usual, as always, resistance does include terror. Its true of the American Revolution. That's true of every case I know. Just as its true that those who have a monopoly of violence talk about themselves as carrying out counter terror.
The Coalition - Including Algeria, Russia, China, Indonesia
Now that's pretty impressive and that has to do with the coalition that is now being organized to fight the war against terror. And it's very interesting to see how that coalition is being described. So have a look at this morning's Christian Science Monitor. That's a good newspaper. One of the best international newspapers, with real coverage of the world. The lead story, the front-page story, is about how the United States, you know people used to dislike the United States but now they are beginning to respect it, and they are very happy about the way that the US is leading the war against terror. And the prime example, well in fact the only serious example, the others are a joke, is Algeria. Turns out that Algeria is very enthusiastic about the US war against terror. The person who wrote the article is an expert on Africa. He must know that Algeria is one of the most vicious terrorist states in the world and has been carrying out horrendous terror against its own population in the past couple of years, in fact. For a while, this was under wraps. But it was finally exposed in France by defectors from the Algerian army. It's all over the place there and in England and so on. But here, we're very proud because one of the worst terrorist states in the world is now enthusiastically welcoming the US war on terror and in fact is cheering on the United States to lead the war. That shows how popular we are getting.
And if you look at the coalition that is being formed against terror it tells you a lot more. A leading member of the coalition is Russia which is delighted to have the United States support its murderous terrorist war in Chechnya instead of occasionally criticizing it in the background. China is joining enthusiastically. It's delighted to have support for the atrocities it's carrying out in western China against, what it called, Muslim secessionists. Turkey, as I mentioned, is very happy with the war against terror. They are experts. Algeria, Indonesia delighted to have even more US support for atrocities it is carrying out in Ache and elsewhere. Now we can run through the list, the list of the states that have joined the coalition against terror is quite impressive. They have a characteristic in common. They are certainly among the leading terrorist states in the world. And they happen to be led by the world champion.
What is Terrorism?
Well that brings us back to the question, what is terrorism? I have been assuming we understand it. Well, what is it? Well, there happen to be some easy answers to this. There is an official definition. You can find it in the US code or in US army manuals. A brief statement of it taken from a US army manual, is fair enough, is that terror is the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain political or religious ideological goals through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear. That's terrorism. That's a fair enough definition. I think it is reasonable to accept that. The problem is that it can't be accepted because if you accept that, all the wrong consequences follow. For example, all the consequences I have just been reviewing. Now there is a major effort right now at the UN to try to develop a comprehensive treaty on terrorism. When Kofi Annan got the Nobel prize the other day, you will notice he was reported as saying that we should stop wasting time on this and really get down to it.
But there's a problem. If you use the official definition of terrorism in the comprehensive treaty you are going to get completely the wrong results. So that can't be done. In fact, it is even worse than that. If you take a look at the definition of Low Intensity Warfare which is official US policy you find that it is a very close paraphrase of what I just read. In fact, Low Intensity Conflict is just another name for terrorism. That's why all countries, as far as I know, call whatever horrendous acts they are carrying out, counter terrorism. We happen to call it Counter Insurgency or Low Intensity Conflict. So that's a serious problem. You can't use the actual definitions. You've got to carefully find a definition that doesn't have all the wrong consequences.
Why did the United States and Israel Vote Against a Major Resolution Condemning Terrorism?
There are some other problems. Some of them came up in December 1987, at the peak of the first war on terrorism, that's when the furor over the plague was peaking. The United Nations General Assembly passed a very strong resolution against terrorism, condemning the plague in the strongest terms, calling on every state to fight against it in every possible way. It passed unanimously. One country, Honduras abstained. Two votes against; the usual two, United States and Israel. Why should the United States and Israel vote against a major resolution condemning terrorism in the strongest terms, in fact pretty much the terms that the Reagan administration was using? Well, there is a reason. There is one paragraph in that long resolution which says that nothing in this resolution infringes on the rights of people struggling against racist and colonialist regimes or foreign military occupation to continue with their resistance with the assistance of others, other states, states outside in their just cause. Well, the United States and Israel can't accept that. The main reason that they couldn't at the time was because of South Africa. South Africa was an ally, officially called an ally. There was a terrorist force in South Africa. It was called the African National Congress. They were a terrorist force officially. South Africa in contrast was an ally and we certainly couldn't support actions by a terrorist group struggling against a racist regime. That would be impossible.
And of course there is another one. Namely the Israeli occupied territories, now going into its 35th year. Supported primarily by the United States in blocking a diplomatic settlement for 30 years now, still is. And you can't have that. There is another one at the time. Israel was occupying Southern Lebanon and was being combated by what the US calls a terrorist force, Hizbullah, which in fact succeeded in driving Israel out of Lebanon. And we can't allow anyone to struggle against a military occupation when it is one that we support so therefore the US and Israel had to vote against the major UN resolution on terrorism. And I mentioned before that a US vote against.is essentially a veto. Which is only half the story. It also vetoes it from history. So none of this was every reported and none of it appeared in the annals of terrorism. If you look at the scholarly work on terrorism and so on, nothing that I just mentioned appears. The reason is that it has got the wrong people holding the guns. You have to carefully hone the definitions and the scholarship and so on so that you come out with the right conclusions; otherwise it is not respectable scholarship and honorable journalism. Well, these are some of problems that are hampering the effort to develop a comprehensive treaty against terrorism. Maybe we should have an academic conference or something to try to see if we can figure out a way of defining terrorism so that it comes out with just the right answers, not the wrong answers. That won't be easy.
4. What are the Origins of the September 11 Crime?
Well, let's drop that and turn to the 4th question, What are the origins of the September 11 crimes? Here we have to make a distinction between 2 categories which shouldn't be run together. One is the actual agents of the crime, the other is kind of a reservoir of at least sympathy, sometimes support that they appeal to even among people who very much oppose the criminals and the actions. And those are 2 different things.
Category 1: The Likely Perpetrators
Well, with regard to the perpetrators, in a certain sense we are not really clear. The United States either is unable or unwilling to provide any evidence, any meaningful evidence. There was a sort of a play a week or two ago when Tony Blair was set up to try to present it. I don't exactly know what the purpose of this was. Maybe so that the US could look as though it's holding back on some secret evidence that it can't reveal or that Tony Blair could strike proper Churchillian poses or something or other. Whatever the PR [public relations] reasons were, he gave a presentation which was in serious circles considered so absurd that it was barely even mentioned. So the Wall Street Journal, for example, one of the more serious papers had a small story on page 12, I think, in which they pointed out that there was not much evidence and then they quoted some high US official as saying that it didn't matter whether there was any evidence because they were going to do it anyway. So why bother with the evidence? The more ideological press, like the New York Times and others, they had big front-page headlines. But the Wall Street Journal reaction was reasonable and if you look at the so-called evidence you can see why. But let's assume that it's true. It is astonishing to me how weak the evidence was. I sort of thought you could do better than that without any intelligence service [audience laughter]. In fact, remember this was after weeks of the most intensive investigation in history of all the intelligence services of the western world working overtime trying to put something together. And it was a prima facie, it was a very strong case even before you had anything. And it ended up about where it started, with a prima facie case. So let's assume that it is true. So let's assume that, it looked obvious the first day, still does, that the actual perpetrators come from the radical Islamic, here called, fundamentalist networks of which the bin Laden network is undoubtedly a significant part. Whether they were involved or not nobody knows. It doesn't really matter much.
Where did they come from?
That's the background, those networks. Well, where do they come from? We know all about that. Nobody knows about that better than the CIA because it helped organize them and it nurtured them for a long time. They were brought together in the 1980's actually by the CIA and its associates elsewhere: Pakistan, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China was involved, they may have been involved a little bit earlier, maybe by 1978. The idea was to try to harass the Russians, the common enemy. According to President Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US got involved in mid 1979. Do you remember, just to put the dates right, that Russia invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Ok. According to Brzezinski, the US support for the mojahedin fighting against the government began 6 months earlier. He is very proud of that. He says we drew the Russians into, in his words, an Afghan trap, by supporting the mojahedin, getting them to invade, getting them into the trap. Now then we could develop this terrific mercenary army. Not a small one, maybe 100,000 men or so bringing together the best killers they could find, who were radical Islamist fanatics from around North Africa, Saudi Arabia..anywhere they could find them. They were often called the Afghanis but many of them, like bin Laden, were not Afghans. They were brought by the CIA and its friends from elsewhere. Whether Brzezinski is telling the truth or not, I don't know. He may have been bragging, he is apparently very proud of it, knowing the consequences incidentally. But maybe it's true. We'll know someday if the documents are ever released. Anyway, that's his perception. By January 1980 it is not even in doubt that the US was organizing the Afghanis and this massive military force to try to cause the Russians maximal trouble. It was a legitimate thing for the Afghans to fight the Russian invasion. But the US intervention was not helping the Afghans. In fact, it helped destroy the country and much more. The Afghanis, so called, had their own...it did force the Russians to withdrew, finally. Although many analysts believe that it probably delayed their withdrawal because they were trying to get out of it. Anyway, whatever, they did withdraw.
Meanwhile, the terrorist forces that the CIA was organizing, arming, and training were pursuing their own agenda, right away. It was no secret. One of the first acts was in 1981 when they assassinated the President of Egypt, who was one of the most enthusiastic of their creators. In 1983, one suicide bomber, who may or may not have been connected, it's pretty shadowy, nobody knows. But one suicide bomber drove the US army-military out of Lebanon. And it continued. They have their own agenda. The US was happy to mobilize them to fight its cause but meanwhile they are doing their own thing. They were clear very about it. After 1989, when the Russians had withdrawn, they simply turned elsewhere. Since then they have been fighting in Chechnya, Western China, Bosnia, Kashmir, South East Asia, North Africa, all over the place.
The Are Telling Us What They Think
They are telling us just what they think. The United States wants to silence the one free television channel in the Arab world because it's broadcasting a whole range of things from Powell over to Osama bin Laden. So the US is now joining the repressive regimes of the Arab world that try to shut it up. But if you listen to it, if you listen to what bin Laden says, it's worth it. There is plenty of interviews. And there are plenty of interviews by leading Western reporters, if you don't want to listen to his own voice, Robert Fisk and others. And what he has been saying is pretty consistent for a long time. He's not the only one but maybe he is the most eloquent. It's not only consistent over a long time, it is consistent with their actions. So there is every reason to take it seriously. Their prime enemy is what they call the corrupt and oppressive authoritarian brutal regimes of the Arab world and when the say that they get quite a resonance in the region. They also want to defend and they want to replace them by properly Islamist governments. That's where they lose the people of the region. But up till then, they are with them. From their point of view, even Saudi Arabia, the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world, I suppose, short of the Taliban, which is an offshoot, even that's not Islamist enough for them. Ok, at that point, they get very little support, but up until that point they get plenty of support. Also they want to defend Muslims elsewhere. They hate the Russians like poison, but as soon as the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan, they stopped carrying out terrorist acts in Russia as they had been doing with CIA backing before that within Russia, not just in Afghanistan. They did move over to Chechnya. But there they are defending Muslims against a Russian invasion. Same with all the other places I mentioned. From their point of view, they are defending the Muslims against the infidels. And they are very clear about it and that is what they have been doing.
Why did they turn against the United States?
Now why did they turn against the United States? Well that had to do with what they call the US invasion of Saudi Arabia. In 1990, the US established permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia which from their point of view is comparable to a Russian invasion of Afghanistan except that Saudi Arabia is way more important. That's the home of the holiest sites of Islam. And that is when their activities turned against the Unites States. If you recall, in 1993 they tried to blow up the World Trade Center. Got part of the way, but not the whole way and that was only part of it. The plans were to blow up the UN building, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, the FBI building. I think there were others on the list. Well, they sort of got part way, but not all the way. One person who is jailed for that, finally, among the people who were jailed, was a Egyptian cleric who had been brought into the United States over the objections of the Immigration Service, thanks to the intervention of the CIA which wanted to help out their friend. A couple years later he was blowing up the World Trade Center. And this has been going on all over. I'm not going to run through the list but it's, if you want to understand it, it's consistent. It's a consistent picture. It's described in words. It's revealed in practice for 20 years. There is no reason not to take it seriously. That's the first category, the likely perpetrators.
Category 2: What about the reservoir of support?
What about the reservoir of support? Well, it's not hard to find out what that is. One of the good things that has happened since September 11 is that some of the press and some of the discussion has begun to open up to some of these things. The best one to my knowledge is the Wall Street Journal which right away began to run, within a couple of days, serious reports, searching serious reports, on the reasons why the people of the region, even though they hate bin Laden and despise everything he is doing, nevertheless support him in many ways and even regard him as the conscience of Islam, as one said. Now the Wall Street Journal and others, they are not surveying public opinion. They are surveying the opinion of their friends: bankers, professionals, international lawyers, businessmen tied to the United States, people who they interview in MacDonalds restaurant, which is an elegant restaurant there, wearing fancy American clothes. That's the people they are interviewing because they want to find out what their attitudes are. And their attitudes are very explicit and very clear and in many ways consonant with the message of bin Laden and others. They are very angry at the United States because of its support of authoritarian and brutal regimes; its intervention to block any move towards democracy; its intervention to stop economic development; its policies of devastating the civilian societies of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein; and they remember, even if we prefer not to, that the United States and Britain supported Saddam Hussein right through his worst atrocities, including the gassing of the Kurds, bin Laden brings that up constantly, and they know it even if we don't want to. And of course their support for the Israeli military occupation which is harsh and brutal. It is now in its 35th year. The US has been providing the overwhelming economic, military, and diplomatic support for it, and still does. And they know that and they don't like it. Especially when that is paired with US policy towards Iraq, towards the Iraqi civilian society which is getting destroyed. Ok, those are the reasons roughly. And when bin Laden gives those reasons, people recognize it and support it.
Now that's not the way people here like to think about it, at least educated liberal opinion. They like the following line which has been all over the press, mostly from left liberals, incidentally. I have not done a real study but I think right wing opinion has generally been more honest. But if you look at say at the New York Times at the first op-ed they ran by Ronald Steel, serious left liberal intellectual. He asks Why do they hate us? This is the same day, I think, that the Wall Street Journal was running the survey on why they hate us. So he says "They hate us because we champion a new world order of capitalism, individualism, secularism, and democracy that should be the norm everywhere." That's why they hate us. The same day the Wall Street Journal is surveying the opinions of bankers, professionals, international lawyers and saying `look, we hate you because you are blocking democracy, you are preventing economic development, you are supporting brutal regimes, terrorist regimes and you are doing these horrible things in the region.' A couple days later, Anthony Lewis, way out on the left, explained that the terrorist seek only "apocalyptic nihilism," nothing more and nothing we do matters. The only consequence of our actions, he says, that could be harmful is that it makes it harder for Arabs to join in the coalition's anti-terrorism effort. But beyond that, everything we do is irrelevant.
Well, you know, that's got the advantage of being sort of comforting. It makes you feel good about yourself, and how wonderful you are. It enables us to evade the consequences of our actions. It has a couple of defects. One is it is at total variance with everything we know. And another defect is that it is a perfect way to ensure that you escalate the cycle of violence. If you want to live with your head buried in the sand and pretend they hate us because they're opposed to globalization, that's why they killed Sadat 20 years ago, and fought the Russians, tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. And these are all people who are in the midst of . corporate globalization but if you want to believe that, yeh.comforting. And it is a great way to make sure that violence escalates. That's tribal violence. You did something to me, I'll do something worse to you. I don't care what the reasons are. We just keep going that way. And that's a way to do it. Pretty much straight, left-liberal opinion.
5. What are the Policy Options?
What are the policy options? Well, there are a number. A narrow policy option from the beginning was to follow the advice of really far out radicals like the Pope [audience laughter]. The Vatican immediately said look it's a horrible terrorist crime. In the case of crime, you try to find the perpetrators, you bring them to justice, you try them. You don't kill innocent civilians. Like if somebody robs my house and I think the guy who did it is probably in the neighborhood across the street, I don't go out with an assault rifle and kill everyone in that neighborhood. That's not the way you deal with crime, whether it's a small crime like this one or really massive one like the US terrorist war against Nicaragua, even worse ones and others in between. And there are plenty of precedents for that. In fact, I mentioned a precedent, Nicaragua, a lawful, a law abiding state, that's why presumably we had to destroy it, which followed the right principles. Now of course, it didn't get anywhere because it was running up against a power that wouldn't allow lawful procedures to be followed. But if the United States tried to pursue them, nobody would stop them. In fact, everyone would applaud. And there are plenty of other precedents.
IRA Bombs in London
When the IRA set off bombs in London, which is pretty serious business, Britain could have, apart from the fact that it was unfeasible, let's put that aside, one possible response would have been to destroy Boston which is the source of most of the financing. And of course to wipe out West Belfast. Well, you know, quite apart from the feasibility, it would have been criminal idiocy. The way to deal with it was pretty much what they did. You know, find the perpetrators; bring them to trial; and look for the reasons. Because these things don't come out of nowhere. They come from something. Whether it is a crime in the streets or a monstrous terrorist crime or anything else. There's reasons. And usually if you look at the reasons, some of them are legitimate and ought to be addressed, independently of the crime, they ought to be addressed because they are legitimate. And that's the way to deal with it. There are many such examples.
But there are problems with that. One problem is that the United States does not recognize the jurisdiction of international institutions. So it can't go to them. It has rejected the jurisdiction of the World Court. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court. It is powerful enough to set up a new court if it wants so that wouldn't stop anything. But there is a problem with any kind of a court, mainly you need evidence. You go to any kind of court, you need some kind of evidence. Not Tony Blair talking about it on television. And that's very hard. It may be impossible to find.
You know, it could be that the people who did it, killed themselves. Nobody knows this better than the CIA. These are decentralized, nonhierarchic networks. They follow a principle that is called Leaderless Resistance. That's the principle that has been developed by the Christian Right terrorists in the United States. It's called Leaderless Resistance. You have small groups that do things. They don't talk to anybody else. There is a kind of general background of assumptions and then you do it. Actually people in the anti war movement are very familiar with it. We used to call it affinity groups. If you assume correctly that whatever group you are in is being penetrated by the FBI, when something serious is happening, you don't do it in a meeting. You do it with some people you know and trust, an affinity group and then it doesn't get penetrated. That's one of the reasons why the FBI has never been able to figure out what's going on in any of the popular movements. And other intelligence agencies are the same. They can't. That's leaderless resistance or affinity groups, and decentralized networks are extremely hard to penetrate. And it's quite possible that they just don't know. When Osama bin Laden claims he wasn't involved, that's entirely possible. In fact, it's pretty hard to imagine how a guy in a cave in Afghanistan, who doesn't even have a radio or a telephone could have planned a highly sophisticated operation like that. Chances are it's part of the background. You know, like other leaderless resistance terrorist groups. Which means it's going to be extremely difficult to find evidence.
And the US doesn't want to present evidence because it wants to be able to do it, to act without evidence. That's a crucial part of the reaction. You will notice that the US did not ask for Security Council authorization which they probably could have gotten this time, not for pretty reasons, but because the other permanent members of the Security Council are also terrorist states. They are happy to join a coalition against what they call terror, namely in support of their own terror. Like Russia wasn't going to veto, they love it. So the US probably could have gotten Security Council authorization but it didn't want it. And it didn't want it because it follows a long-standing principle which is not George Bush, it was explicit in the Clinton administration, articulated and goes back much further and that is that we have the right to act unilaterally. We don't want international authorization because we act unilaterally and therefore we don't want it. We don't care about evidence. We don't care about negotiation. We don't care about treaties. We are the strongest guy around; the toughest thug on the block. We do what we want. Authorization is a bad thing and therefore must be avoided. There is even a name for it in the technical literature. It's called establishing credibility. You have to establish credibility. That's an important factor in many policies. It was the official reason given for the war in the Balkans and the most plausible reason.
You want to know what credibility means, ask your favorite Mafia Don. He'll explain to you what credibility means. And it's the same in international affairs, except it's talked about in universities using big words, and that sort of thing. But it's basically the same principle. And it makes sense. And it usually works. The main historian who has written about this in the last couple years is Charles Tilly with a book called Coercion, Capital, and European States. He points out that violence has been the leading principle of Europe for hundreds of years and the reason is because it works. You know, it's very reasonable. It almost always works. When you have an overwhelming predominance of violence and a culture of violence behind it. So therefore it makes sense to follow it. Well, those are all problems in pursuing lawful paths. And if you did try to follow them you'd really open some very dangerous doors. Like the US is demanding that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden. And they are responding in a way which is regarded as totally absurd and outlandish in the west, namely they are saying, Ok, but first give us some evidence. In the west, that is considered ludicrous. It's a sign of their criminality. How can they ask for evidence? I mean if somebody asked us to hand someone over, we'd do it tomorrow. We wouldn't ask for any evidence. [crowd laughter].
In fact it is easy to prove that. We don't have to make up cases. So for example, for the last several years, Haiti has been requesting the United States to extradite Emmanuel Constant. He is a major killer. He is one of the leading figures in the slaughter of maybe 4000 or 5000 people in the years in the mid 1990's, under the military junta, which incidentally was being, not so tacitly, supported by the Bush and the Clinton administrations contrary to illusions. Anyway he is a leading killer. They have plenty of evidence. No problem about evidence. He has already been brought to trial and sentenced in Haiti and they are asking the United States to turn him over. Well, I mean do your own research. See how much discussion there has been of that. Actually Haiti renewed the request a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't even mentioned. Why should we turn over a convicted killer who was largely responsible for killing 4000 or 5000 people a couple of years ago. In fact, if we do turn him over, who knows what he would say. Maybe he'll say that he was being funded and helped by the CIA, which is probably true. We don't want to open that door. And he is not he only one.
I mean, for the last about 15 years, Costa Rica which is the democratic prize, has been trying to get the United States to hand over a John Hull, a US land owner in Costa Rica, who they charge with terrorist crimes. He was using his land, they claim with good evidence as a base for the US war against Nicaragua, which is not a controversial conclusion, remember. There is the World Court and Security Council behind it. So they have been trying to get the United States to hand him over. Hear about that one? No.
They did actually confiscate the land of another American landholder, John Hamilton. Paid compensation, offered compensation. The US refused. Turned his land over into a national park because his land was also being used as a base for the US attack against Nicaragua. Costa Rica was punished for that one. They were punished by withholding aid. We don't accept that kind of insubordination from allies. And we can go on. If you open the door to questions about extradition it leads in very unpleasant directions. So that can't be done.
Reactions in Afghanistan
Well, what about the reactions in Afghanistan. The initial proposal, the initial rhetoric was for a massive assault which would kill many people visibly and also an attack on other countries in the region. Well the Bush administration wisely backed off from that. They were being told by every foreign leader, NATO, everyone else, every specialist, I suppose, their own intelligence agencies that that would be the stupidest thing they could possibly do. It would simply be like opening recruiting offices for bin Laden all over the region. That's exactly what he wants. And it would be extremely harmful to their own interests. So they backed off that one. And they are turning to what I described earlier which is a kind of silent genocide. It's a.. well, I already said what I think about it. I don't think anything more has to be said. You can figure it out if you do the arithmetic.
A sensible proposal which is kind of on the verge of being considered, but it has been sensible all along, and it is being raised, called for by expatriate Afghans and allegedly tribal leaders internally, is for a UN initiative, which would keep the Russians and Americans out of it, totally. These are the 2 countries that have practically wiped the country out in the last 20 years. They should be out of it. They should provide massive reparations. But that's their only role. A UN initiative to bring together elements within Afghanistan that would try to construct something from the wreckage. It's conceivable that that could work, with plenty of support and no interference. If the US insists on running it, we might as well quit. We have a historical record on that one.
You will notice that the name of this operation..remember that at first it was going to be a Crusade but they backed off that because PR (public relations) agents told them that that wouldn't work [audience laughter]. And then it was going to be Infinite Justice, but the PR agents said, wait a minute, you are sounding like you are divinity. So that wouldn't work. And then it was changed to enduring freedom. We know what that means. But nobody has yet pointed out, fortunately, that there is an ambiguity there. To endure means to suffer. [audience laughter]. And a there are plenty of people around the world who have endured what we call freedom. Again, fortunately we have a very well-behaved educated class so nobody has yet pointed out this ambiguity. But if its done there will be another problem to deal with. But if we can back off enough so that some more or less independent agency, maybe the UN, maybe credible NGO's (non governmental organizations) can take the lead in trying to reconstruct something from the wreckage, with plenty of assistance and we owe it to them. Them maybe something would come out. Beyond that, there are other problems.
An Easy Way To Reduce The Level Of Terror
We certainly want to reduce the level of terror, certainly not escalate it. There is one easy way to do that and therefore it is never discussed. Namely stop participating in it. That would automatically reduce the level of terror enormously. But that you can't discuss. Well we ought to make it possible to discuss it. So that's one easy way to reduce the level of terror.
Beyond that, we should rethink the kinds of policies, and Afghanistan is not the only one, in which we organize and train terrorist armies. That has effects. We're seeing some of these effects now. September 11th is one. Rethink it.
Rethink the policies that are creating a reservoir of support. Exactly what the bankers, lawyers and so on are saying in places like Saudi Arabia. On the streets it's much more bitter, as you can imagine. That's possible. You know, those policies aren't graven in stone.
And further more there are opportunities. It's hard to find many rays of light in the last couple of weeks but one of them is that there is an increased openness. Lots of issues are open for discussion, even in elite circles, certainly among the general public, that were not a couple of weeks ago. That's dramatically the case. I mean, if a newspaper like USA Today can run a very good article, a serious article, on life in the Gaza Strip.there has been a change. The things I mentioned in the Wall Street Journal.that's change. And among the general public, I think there is much more openness and willingness to think about things that were under the rug and so on. These are opportunities and they should be used, at least by people who accept the goal of trying to reduce the level of violence and terror, including potential threats that are extremely severe and could make even September 11th pale into insignificance. Thanks.
|Posted on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 06:11 pm: |
I haven't read all of the above, what I have read is a relief from U.S. TV for sure.
One thing I just remembered which I find useful and healing, energizing and much neglected:
Breathe. Breathe in the fresh and breathe out the used and polluted. Do it consciously. If Others are near you when you do it it can be infectious.
I watch Mr. Rumsfeld on TV and I wish he would breathe. He looks like he is suffocating with fear. Thanks.
|Posted on Friday, November 09, 2001 - 04:55 am: |
This thread has become quite long so I am creating a continuation called Global Politics II.
Please keep reading this and posting to the new.