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Noam Chomsky: Grievances and Consequences

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    Grievances and Consequences The Terrorist in the Mirror By NOAM CHOMSKY http://groups.yahoo.com/group/libertyunderground/ Terror is a term that rightly
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2006
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      Grievances and Consequences

      The Terrorist in the Mirror

      "Terror" is a term that rightly arouses strong emotions and deep
      concerns. The primary concern should, naturally, be to take measures
      to alleviate the threat, which has been severe in the past, and will
      be even more so in the future. To proceed in a serious way, we have to
      establish some guidelines. Here are a few simple ones:

      (1) Facts matter, even if we do not like them.

      (2) Elementary moral principles matter, even if they have consequences
      that we would prefer not to face.

      (3) Relative clarity matters. It is pointless to seek a truly precise
      definition of "terror," or of any other concept outside of the hard
      sciences and mathematics, often even there. But we should seek enough
      clarity at least to distinguish terror from two notions that lie
      uneasily at its borders: aggression and legitimate resistance.

      If we accept these guidelines, there are quite constructive ways to
      deal with the problems of terrorism, which are quite severe. It's
      commonly claimed that critics of ongoing policies do not present
      solutions. Check the record, and I think you will find that there is
      an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but
      I don't like them."

      Suppose, then, that we accept these simple guidelines. Let's turn to
      the "War on Terror." Since facts matter, it matters that the War was
      not declared by George W. Bush on 9/11, but by the Reagan
      administration 20 years earlier.

      They came into office declaring that their foreign policy would
      confront what the President called "the evil scourge of terrorism," a
      plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself" in "a
      return to barbarism in the modern age" (Secretary of State George
      Shultz). The campaign was directed to a particularly virulent form of
      the plague: state-directed international terrorism. The main focus was
      Central America and the Middle East, but it reached to southern Africa
      and Southeast Asia and beyond.

      A second fact is that the war was declared and implemented by pretty
      much the same people who are conducting the re-declared war on
      terrorism. The civilian component of the re-declared War on Terror is
      led by John Negroponte, appointed last year to supervise all
      counterterror operations. As Ambassador in Honduras, he was the
      hands-on director of the major operation of the first War on Terror,
      the contra war against Nicaragua launched mainly from US bases in
      Honduras. I'll return to some of his tasks. The military component of
      the re-declared War led by Donald Rumsfeld. During the first phase of
      the War on Terror, Rumsfeld was Reagan's special representative to the
      Middle East. There, his main task was to establish close relations
      with Saddam Hussein so that the US could provide him with large-scale
      aid, including means to develop WMD, continuing long after the huge
      atrocities against the Kurds and the end of the war with Iran. The
      official purpose, not concealed, was Washington's responsibility to
      aid American exporters and "the strikingly unanimous view" of
      Washington and its allies Britain and Saudi Arabia that "whatever the
      sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better
      hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his
      repression" -- New York Times Middle East correspondent Alan Cowell,
      describing Washington's judgment as George Bush I authorized Saddam to
      crush the Shi'ite rebellion in 1991, which probably would have
      overthrown the tyrant.

      Saddam is at last on trial for his crimes. The first trial, now
      underway, is for crimes he committed in 1982. 1982 happens to be an
      important year in US-Iraq relations. It was in 1982 that Reagan
      removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terror so that aid
      could flow to his friend in Baghdad. Rumsfeld then visited Baghdad to
      confirm the arrangements. Judging by reports and commentary, it would
      be impolite to mention any of these facts, let alone to suggest that
      some others might be standing alongside Saddam before the bar of
      justice. Removing Saddam from the list of states supporting terrorism
      left a gap. It was at once filled by Cuba, perhaps in recognition of
      the fact that the US terrorist wars against Cuba from 1961 had just
      peaked, including events that would be on the front pages right now in
      societies that valued their freedom, to which I'll briefly return.
      Again, that tells us something about the real elite attitudes towards
      the plague of the modern age.

      Since the first War on Terror was waged by those now carrying out the
      redeclared war, or their immediate mentors, it follows that anyone
      seriously interested in the re-declared War on Terror should ask at
      once how it was carried out in the 1980s. The topic, however, is under
      a virtual ban. That becomes understandable as soon as we investigate
      the facts: the first War on Terror quickly became a murderous and
      brutal terrorist war, in every corner of the world where it reached,
      leaving traumatized societies that may never recover. What happened is
      hardly obscure, but doctrinally unacceptable, therefore protected from
      inspection. Unearthing the record is an enlightening exercise, with
      enormous implications for the future.

      These are a few of the relevant facts, and they definitely do matter.
      Let's turn to the second of the guidelines: elementary moral
      principles. The most elementary is a virtual truism: decent people
      apply to themselves the same standards that they apply to others, if
      not more stringent ones. Adherence to this principle of universality
      would have many useful consequences. For one thing, it would save a
      lot of trees. The principle would radically reduce published reporting
      and commentary on social and political affairs. It would virtually
      eliminate the newly fashionable discipline of Just War theory. And it
      would wipe the slate almost clean with regard to the War on Terror.
      The reason is the same in all cases: the principle of universality is
      rejected, for the most part tacitly, though sometimes explicitly.
      Those are very sweeping statements. I purposely put them in a stark
      form to invite you to challenge them, and I hope you do. You will
      find, I think, that although the statements are somewhat
      overdrawn--purposely -- they nevertheless are uncomfortably close to
      accurate, and in fact very fully documented. But try for yourselves
      and see.

      This most elementary of moral truisms is sometimes upheld at least in
      words. One example, of critical importance today, is the Nuremberg
      Tribunal. In sentencing Nazi war criminals to death, Justice Robert
      Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States, spoke eloquently, and
      memorably, on the principle of universality. "If certain acts of
      violation of treaties are crimes," he said, "they are crimes whether
      the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are
      not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others
      which we would not be willing to have invoked against us....We must
      never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the
      record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these
      defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well."

      That is a clear and honorable statement of the principle of
      universality. But the judgment at Nuremberg itself crucially violated
      this principle. The Tribunal had to define "war crime" and "crimes
      against humanity." It crafted these definition very carefully so that
      crimes are criminal only if they were not committed by the allies.
      Urban bombing of civilian concentrations was excluded, because the
      allies carried it out more barbarically than the Nazis. And Nazi war
      criminals, like Admiral Doenitz, were able to plead successfully that
      their British and US counterparts had carried out the same practices.
      The reasoning was outlined by Telford Taylor, a distinguished
      international lawyer who was Jackson's Chief Counsel for War Crimes.
      He explained that "to punish the foe--especially the vanquished
      foe--for conduct in which the enforcing nation has engaged, would be
      so grossly inequitable as to discredit the laws themselves." That is
      correct, but the operative definition of "crime" also discredits the
      laws themselves. Subsequent Tribunals are discredited by the same
      moral flaw, but the self-exemption of the powerful from international
      law and elementary moral principle goes far beyond this illustration,
      and reaches to just about every aspect of the two phases of the War on

      Let's turn to the third background issue: defining "terror" and
      distinguishing it from aggression and legitimate resistance. I have
      been writing about terror for 25 years, ever since the Reagan
      administration declared its War on Terror. I've been using definitions
      that seem to be doubly appropriate: first, they make sense; and
      second, they are the official definitions of those waging the war. To
      take one of these official definitions, terrorism is "the calculated
      use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are
      political, religious, or ideological in nature...through intimidation,
      coercion, or instilling fear," typically targeting civilians. The
      British government's definition is about the same: "Terrorism is the
      use, or threat, of action which is violent, damaging or disrupting,
      and is intended to influence the government or intimidate the public
      and is for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or
      ideological cause." These definitions seem fairly clear and close to
      ordinary usage. There also seems to be general agreement that they are
      appropriate when discussing the terrorism of enemies.

      But a problem at once arises. These definitions yield an entirely
      unacceptable consequence: it follows that the US is a leading
      terrorist state, dramatically so during the Reaganite war on terror.
      Merely to take the most uncontroversial case, Reagan's state-directed
      terrorist war against Nicaragua was condemned by the World Court,
      backed by two Security Council resolutions (vetoed by the US, with
      Britain politely abstaining). Another completely clear case is Cuba,
      where the record by now is voluminous, and not controversial. And
      there is a long list beyond them.

      We may ask, however, whether such crimes as the state-directed attack
      against Nicaragua are really terrorism, or whether they rise to the
      level of the much higher crime of aggression. The concept of
      aggression was defined clearly enough by Justice Jackson at Nuremberg
      in terms that were basically reiterated in an authoritative General
      Assembly resolution. An "aggressor," Jackson proposed to the Tribunal,
      is a state that is the first to commit such actions as "Invasion of
      its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the
      territory of another State," or "Provision of support to armed bands
      formed in the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding
      the request of the invaded State, to take in its own territory, all
      the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or
      protection." The first provision unambiguously applies to the US-UK
      invasion of Iraq. The second, just as clearly, applies to the US war
      against Nicaragua. However, we might give the current incumbents in
      Washington and their mentors the benefit of the doubt, considering
      them guilty only of the lesser crime of international terrorism, on a
      huge and unprecedented scale.

      It may also be recalled the aggression was defined at Nuremberg as
      "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes
      in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the
      whole"--all the evil in the tortured land of Iraq that flowed from the
      US-UK invasion, for example, and in Nicaragua too, if the charge is
      not reduced to international terrorism. And in Lebanon, and all too
      many other victims who are easily dismissed on grounds of wrong
      agency--right to the present. A week ago (January 13), a CIA predator
      drone attacked a village in Pakistan, murdering dozens of civilians,
      entire families, who just happened to live in a suspected al-Qaeda
      hideout. Such routine actions elicit little notice, a legacy of the
      poisoning of the moral culture by centuries of imperial thuggery.

      The World Court did not take up the charge of aggression in the
      Nicaragua case. The reasons are instructive, and of quite considerable
      contemporary relevance. Nicaragua's case was presented by the
      distinguished Harvard University law professor Abram Chayes, former
      legal adviser to the State Department. The Court rejected a large part
      of his case on the grounds that in accepting World Court jurisdiction
      in 1946, the US had entered a reservation excluding itself from
      prosecution under multilateral treaties, including the UN Charter. The
      Court therefore restricted its deliberations to customary
      international law and a bilateral US-Nicaragua treaty, so that the
      more serious charges were excluded. Even on these very narrow grounds,
      the Court charged Washington with "unlawful use of force"--in lay
      language, international terrorism--and ordered it to terminate the
      crimes and pay substantial reparations. The Reaganites reacted by
      escalating the war, also officially endorsing attacks by their
      terrorist forces against "soft targets," undefended civilian targets.
      The terrorist war left the country in ruins, with a death toll
      equivalent to 2.25 million in US per capita terms, more than the total
      of all wartime casualties in US history combined. After the shattered
      country fell back under US control, it declined to further misery. It
      is now the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti--and by
      accident, also second after Haiti in intensity of US intervention in
      the past century. The standard way to lament these tragedies is to say
      that Haiti and Nicaragua are "battered by storms of their own making,"
      to quote the Boston Globe, at the liberal extreme of American
      journalism. Guatemala ranks third both in misery and intervention,
      more storms of their own making.

      In the Western canon, none of this exists. All is excluded not only
      from general history and commentary, but also quite tellingly from the
      huge literature on the War on Terror re-declared in 2001, though its
      relevance can hardly be in doubt.

      These considerations have to do with the boundary between terror and
      aggression. What about the boundary between terror and resistance? One
      question that arises is the legitimacy of actions to realize "the
      right to self-determination, freedom, and independence, as derived
      from the Charter of the United Nations, of people forcibly deprived of
      that right..., particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes
      and foreign occupation..." Do such actions fall under terror or
      resistance? The quoted word are from the most forceful denunciation of
      the crime of terrorism by the UN General Assembly; in December 1987,
      taken up under Reaganite pressure. Hence it is obviously an important
      resolution, even more so because of the near-unanimity of support for
      it. The resolution passed 153-2 (Honduras alone abstaining). It stated
      that "nothing in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the
      right to self-determination, freedom, and independence," as
      characterized in the quoted words.
      The two countries that voted against the resolution explained their
      reasons at the UN session. They were based on the paragraph just
      quoted. The phrase "colonial and racist regimes" was understood to
      refer to their ally apartheid South Africa, then consummating its
      massacres in the neighboring countries and continuing its brutal
      repression within. Evidently, the US and Israel could not condone
      resistance to the apartheid regime, particularly when it was led by
      Nelson Mandela's ANC, one of the world's "more notorious terrorist
      groups," as Washington determined at the same time. Granting
      legitimacy to resistance against "foreign occupation" was also
      unacceptable. The phrase was understood to refer to Israel's US-backed
      military occupation, then in its 20 th year. Evidently, resistance to
      that occupation could not be condoned either, even though at the time
      of the resolution it scarcely existed: despite extensive torture,
      degradation, brutality, robbery of land and resources, and other
      familiar concomitants of military occupation, Palestinians under
      occupation still remained "Samidin," those who quietly endured.

      Technically, there are no vetoes at the General Assembly. In the real
      world, a negative US vote is a veto, in fact a double veto: the
      resolution is not implemented, and is vetoed from reporting and
      history. It should be added that the voting pattern is quite common at
      the General Assembly, and also at the Security Council, on a wide
      range of issues. Ever since the mid-1960s, when the world fell pretty
      much out of control, the US is far in the lead in Security Council
      vetoes, Britain second, with no one else even close. It is also of
      some interest to note that a majority of the American public favors
      abandonment of the veto, and following the will of the majority even
      if Washington disapproves, facts virtually unknown in the US, or I
      suppose elsewhere. That suggests another conservative way to deal with
      some of the problems of the world: pay attention to public opinion.

      Terrorism directed or supported by the most powerful states continues
      to the present, often in shocking ways. These facts offer one useful
      suggestion as to how to mitigate the plague spread by "depraved
      opponents of civilization itself" in "a return to barbarism in the
      modern age": Stop participating in terror and supporting it. That
      would certainly contribute to the proclaimed objections. But that
      suggestion too is off the agenda, for the usual reasons. When it is
      occasionally voiced, the reaction is reflexive: a tantrum about how
      those who make this rather conservative proposal are blaming
      everything on the US.

      Even with careful sanitization of discussion, dilemmas constantly
      arise. One just arose very recently, when Luis Posada Carriles entered
      the US illegally. Even by the narrow operative definition of "terror,"
      he is clearly one of the most notorious international terrorists, from
      the 1960s to the present. Venezuela requested that he be extradited to
      face charges for the bombing of a Cubana airliner in Venezuela,
      killing 73 people. The charges are admittedly credible, but there is a
      real difficulty. After Posada miraculously escaped from a Venezuelan
      prison, the liberal Boston Globe reports, he "was hired by US covert
      operatives to direct the resupply operation for the Nicaraguan contras
      from El Salvador"--that is, to play a prominent role in terrorist
      atrocities that are incomparably worse than blowing up the Cubana
      airliner. Hence the dilemma. To quote the press: "Extraditing him for
      trial could send a worrisome signal to covert foreign agents that they
      cannot count on unconditional protection from the US government, and
      it could expose the CIA to embarrassing public disclosures from a
      former operative." Evidently, a difficult problem.

      The Posada dilemma was, thankfully, resolved by the courts, which
      rejected Venezuela's appeal for his extradition, in violation of the
      US-Venezuela extradition treaty. A day later, the head of the FBI,
      Robert Mueller, urged Europe to speed US demands for extradition: "We
      are always looking to see how we can make the extradition process go
      faster," he said. "We think we owe it to the victims of terrorism to
      see to it that justice is done efficiently and effectively." At the
      Ibero-American Summit shortly after, the leaders of Spain and the
      Latin American countries "backed Venezuela's efforts to have [Posada]
      extradited from the United States to face trial" for the Cubana
      airliner bombing, and again condemned the "blockade" of Cuba by the
      US, endorsing regular near-unanimous UN resolutions, the most recent
      with a vote of 179-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau). After
      strong protests from the US Embassy, the Summit withdrew the call for
      extradition, but refused to yield on the demand for an end to the
      economic warfare. Posada is therefore free to join his colleague
      Orlando Bosch in Miami. Bosch is implicated in dozens of terrorist
      crimes, including the Cubana airliner bombing, many on US soil. The
      FBI and Justice Department wanted him deported as a threat to national
      security, but Bush I took care of that by granting him a presidential

      There are other such examples. We might want to bear them in mind when
      we read Bush II's impassioned pronouncement that "the United States
      makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those
      who support them, because they're equally as guilty of murder," and
      "the civilized world must hold those regimes to account." This was
      proclaimed to great applause at the National Endowment for Democracy,
      a few days after Venezuela's extradition request had been refused.
      Bush's remarks pose another dilemma. Either the US is part of the
      civilized world, and must send the US air force to bomb Washington; or
      it declares itself to be outside the civilized world. The logic is
      impeccable, but fortunately, logic has been dispatched as deep into
      the memory hole as moral truisms.

      The Bush doctrine that "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as
      the terrorists themselves" was promulgated when the Taliban asked for
      evidence before handing over people the US suspected of
      terrorism--without credible evidence, as the FBI conceded many months
      later. The doctrine is taken very seriously. Harvard international
      relations specialist Graham Allison writes that it has "already become
      a de facto rule of international relations," revoking "the sovereignty
      of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists." Some states, that is,
      thanks to the rejection of the principle of universality.

      One might also have thought that a dilemma would have arisen when John
      Negroponte was appointed to the position of head of counter-terrorism.
      As Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, he was running the world's
      largest CIA station, not because of the grand role of Honduras in
      world affairs, but because Honduras was the primary US base for the
      international terrorist war for which Washington was condemned by the
      ICJ and Security Council (absent the veto). Known in Honduras as "the
      Proconsul," Negroponte had the task of ensuring that the international
      terrorist operations, which reached remarkable levels of savagery,
      would proceed efficiently. His responsibilities in managing the war on
      the scene took a new turn after official funding was barred in 1983,
      and he had to implement White House orders to bribe and pressure
      senior Honduran Generals to step up their support for the terrorist
      war using funds from other sources, later funds illegally transferred
      from US arms sales to Iran. The most vicious of the Honduran killers
      and torturers was General Alvarez Martínez, the chief of the Honduran
      armed forces at the time, who had informed the US that "he intended to
      use the Argentine method of eliminating suspected subversives."
      Negroponte regularly denied gruesome state crimes in Honduras to
      ensure that military aid would continue to flow for international
      terrorism. Knowing all about Alvarez, the Reagan administration
      awarded him the Legion of Merit medal for "encouraging the success of
      democratic processes in Honduras." The elite unit responsible for the
      worst crimes in Honduras was Battalion 3-16, organized and trained by
      Washington and its Argentine neo-Nazi associates. Honduran military
      officers in charge of the Battalion were on the CIA payroll. When the
      government of Honduras finally tried to deal with these crimes and
      bring the perpetrators to justice, the Reagan-Bush administration
      refused to allow Negroponte to testify, as the courts requested.

      There was virtually no reaction to the appointment of a leading
      international terrorist to the top counter-terrorism position in the
      world. Nor to the fact that at the very same time, the heroine of the
      popular struggle that overthrew the vicious Somoza regime in
      Nicaragua, Dora María Téllez, was denied a visa to teach at the
      Harvard Divinity School, as a terrorist. Her crime was to have helped
      overthrow a US-backed tyrant and mass murderer. Orwell would not have
      known whether to laugh or weep. So far I have been keeping to the
      kinds of topics that would be addressed in a discussion of the War on
      Terror that is not deformed to accord with the iron laws of doctrine.
      And this barely scratches the surface. But let us now adopt prevailing
      Western hypocrisy and cynicism, and keep to the operative definition
      of "terror." It is the same as the official definitions, but with the
      Nuremberg exception: admissible terror is your terror; ours is exempt..
      Even with this constraint, terror is a major problem, undoubtedly. And
      to mitigate or terminate the threat should be a high priority.
      Regrettably, it is not. That is all too easy to demonstrate, and the
      consequences are likely to be severe.

      The invasion of Iraq is perhaps the most glaring example of the low
      priority assigned by US-UK leaders to the threat of terror. Washington
      planners had been advised, even by their own intelligence agencies,
      that the invasion was likely to increase the risk of terror. And it
      did, as their own intelligence agencies confirm. The National
      Intelligence Council reported a year ago that "Iraq and other possible
      conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds,
      technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of
      terrorists who are `professionalized' and for whom political violence
      becomes an end in itself," spreading elsewhere to defend Muslim lands
      from attack by "infidel invaders" in a globalized network of "diffuse
      Islamic extremist groups," with Iraq now replacing the Afghan training
      grounds for this more extensive network, as a result of the invasion.
      A high-level government review of the "war on terror" two years after
      the invasion `focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation
      of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top
      government officials are increasingly turning their attention to
      anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of
      Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the
      Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation,"
      a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know
      who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or
      London?"' ( Washington Post).

      Last May the CIA reported that "Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic
      militants similar to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan two decades ago and
      Bosnia in the 1990s," according to US officials quoted in the New York
      Times. The CIA concluded that "Iraq may prove to be an even more
      effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was
      in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world
      laboratory for urban combat." Shortly after the London bombing last
      July, Chatham House released a study concluding that "there is `no
      doubt' that the invasion of Iraq has `given a boost to the al-Qaida
      network' in propaganda, recruitment and fundraising,` while providing
      an ideal training area for terrorists"; and that "the UK is at
      particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States"
      and is "a pillion passenger" of American policy" in Iraq and
      Afghanistan. There is extensive supporting evidence to show that -- as
      anticipated -- the invasion increased the risk of terror and nuclear
      proliferation. None of this shows that planners prefer these
      consequences, of course. Rather, they are not of much concern in
      comparison with much higher priorities that are obscure only to those
      who prefer what human rights researchers sometimes call "intentional

      Once again we find, very easily, a way to reduce the threat of terror:
      stop acting in ways that--predictably--enhance the threat. Though
      enhancement of the threat of terror and proliferation was anticipated,
      the invasion did so even in unanticipated ways. It is common to say
      that no WMD were found in Iraq after exhaustive search. That is not
      quite accurate, however. There were stores of WMD in Iraq: namely,
      those produced in the 1980s, thanks to aid provided by the US and
      Britain, along with others. These sites had been secured by UN
      inspectors, who were dismantling the weapons. But the inspectors were
      dismissed by the invaders and the sites were left unguarded. The
      inspectors nevertheless continued to carry out their work with
      satellite imagery. They discovered sophisticated massive looting of
      these installations in over 100 sites, including equipment for
      producing solid and liquid propellant missiles, biotoxins and other
      materials usable for chemical and biological weapons, and
      high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear and
      chemical weapons and missiles. A Jordanian journalist was informed by
      officials in charge of the Jordanian-Iraqi border that after US-UK
      forces took over, radioactive materials were detected in one of every
      eight trucks crossing to Jordan, destination unknown.

      The ironies are almost inexpressible. The official justification for
      the US-UK invasion was to prevent the use of WMD that did not exist.
      The invasion provided the terrorists who had been mobilized by the US
      and its allies with the means to develop WMD -- namely, equipment they
      had provided to Saddam, caring nothing about the terrible crimes they
      later invoked to whip up support for the invasion. It is as if Iran
      were now making nuclear weapons using fissionable materials provided
      by the US to Iran under the Shah -- which may indeed be happening.
      Programs to recover and secure such materials were having considerable
      success in the '90s, but like the war on terror, these programs fell
      victim to Bush administration priorities as they dedicated their
      energy and resources to invading Iraq.

      Elsewhere in the Mideast too terror is regarded as secondary to
      ensuring that the region is under control. Another illustration is
      Bush's imposition of new sanctions on Syria in May 2004, implementing
      the Syria Accountability Act passed by Congress a few months earlier.
      Syria is on the official list of states sponsoring terrorism, despite
      Washington's acknowledgment that Syria has not been implicated in
      terrorist acts for many years and has been highly cooperative in
      providing important intelligence to Washington on al-Qaeda and other
      radical Islamist groups. The gravity of Washington's concern over
      Syria's links to terror was revealed by President Clinton when he
      offered to remove Syria from the list of states sponsoring terror if
      it agreed to US-Israeli peace terms. When Syria insisted on recovering
      its conquered territory, it remained on the list. Implementation of
      the Syria Accountability Act deprived the US of an important source of
      information about radical Islamist terrorism in order to achieve the
      higher goal of establishing in Syria a regime that will accept
      US-Israeli demands.

      Turning to another domain, the Treasury Department has a bureau (OFAC,
      Office of Foreign Assets Control) that is assigned the task of
      investigating suspicious financial transfers, a central component of
      the "war on terror." In April 2004, OFAC informed Congress that of its
      120 employees, four were assigned to tracking the finances of Osama
      bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, while almost two dozen were occupied
      with enforcing the embargo against Cuba. From 1990 to 2003 there were
      93 terrorism-related investigations with $9000 in fines; and 11,000
      Cuba-related investigations with $8 million in fines. The revelations
      received the silent treatment in the US media, elsewhere as well to my

      Why should the Treasury Department devote vastly more energy to
      strangling Cuba than to the "war on terror"? The basic reasons were
      explained in internal documents of the Kennedy-Johnson years. State
      Department planners warned that the "very existence" of the Castro
      regime is "successful defiance" of US policies going back 150 years,
      to the Monroe Doctrine; not Russians, but intolerable defiance of the
      master of the hemisphere, much like Iran's crime of successful
      defiance in 1979, or Syria's rejection of Clinton's demands.
      Punishment of the population was regarded as fully legitimate, we
      learn from internal documents. "The Cuban people [are] responsible for
      the regime," the Eisenhower State Department decided, so that the US
      has the right to cause them to suffer by economic strangulation, later
      escalated to direct terror by Kennedy. Eisenhower and Kennedy agreed
      that the embargo would hasten Fidel Castro's departure as a result of
      the "rising discomfort among hungry Cubans." The basic thinking was
      summarized by State Department official Lester Mallory: Castro would
      be removed "through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic
      dissatisfaction and hardship so every possible means should be
      undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba in order to
      bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government."
      When Cuba was in dire straits after the collapse of the Soviet Union,
      Washington intensified the punishment of the people of Cuba, at the
      initiative of liberal Democrats. The author of the 1992 measures to
      tighten the blockade proclaimed that "my objective is to wreak havoc
      in Cuba" (Representative Robert Torricelli). All of this continues
      until the present moment.

      The Kennedy administration was also deeply concerned about the threat
      of Cuban successful development, which might be a model for others.
      But even apart from these standard concerns, successful defiance in
      itself is intolerable, ranked far higher as a priority than combating
      terror. These are just further illustrations of principles that are
      well-established, internally rational, clear enough to the victims,
      but scarcely perceptible in the intellectual world of the agents.

      If reducing the threat of terror were a high priority for Washington
      or London, as it certainly should be, there would be ways to
      proceed--even apart from the unmentionable idea of withdrawing
      participation. The first step, plainly, is to try to understand its
      roots. With regard to Islamic terror, there is a broad consensus among
      intelligence agencies and researchers. They identify two categories:
      the jihadis, who regard themselves as a vanguard, and their audience,
      which may reject terror but nevertheless regard their cause as just. A
      serious counter-terror campaign would therefore begin by considering
      the grievances , and where appropriate, addressing them, as should be
      done with or without the threat of terror. There is broad agreement
      among specialists that al-Qaeda-style terror "is today less a product
      of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel
      the United States and its Western allies to withdraw combat forces
      from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries" (Robert Pape,
      who has done the major research on suicide bombers). Serious analysts
      have pointed out that bin Laden's words and deeds correlate closely.
      The jihadis organized by the Reagan administration and its allies
      ended their Afghan-based terrorism inside Russia after the Russians
      withdrew from Afghanistan, though they continued it from occupied
      Muslim Chechnya, the scene of horrifying Russian crimes back to the 19
      th century. Osama turned against the US in 1991 because he took it to
      be occupying the holiest Arab land; that was later acknowledged by the
      Pentagon as a reason for shifting US bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq.
      Additionally, he was angered by the rejection of his effort to join
      the attack against Saddam.

      In the most extensive scholarly inquiry into the jihadi phenomenon,
      Fawaz Gerges concludes that after 9/11, "the dominant response to Al
      Qaeda in the Muslim world was very hostile," specifically among the
      jihadis, who regarded it as a dangerous extremist fringe. Instead of
      recognizing that opposition to Al Qaeda offered Washington "the most
      effective way to drive a nail into its coffin" by finding "intelligent
      means to nourish and support the internal forces that were opposed to
      militant ideologies like the bin Laden network," he writes, the Bush
      administration did exactly what bin Laden hoped it would do: resort to
      violence, particularly in the invasion of Iraq. Al-Azhar in Egypt, the
      oldest institution of religious higher learning in the Islamic world,
      issued a fatwa, which gained strong support, advising "all Muslims in
      the world to make jihad against invading American forces" in a war
      that Bush had declared against Islam. A leading religious figure at
      al-Azhar, who had been "one of the first Muslim scholars to condemn Al
      Qaeda [and was] often criticized by ultraconservative clerics as a
      pro-Western reformer, ruled that efforts to stop the American invasion
      [of Iraq] are a `binding Islamic duty'." Investigations by Israeli and
      Saudi intelligence, supported by US strategic studies institutes,
      conclude that foreign fighters in Iraq, some 5-10% of the insurgents,
      were mobilized by the invasion, and had no previous record of
      association with terrorist groups. The achievements of Bush
      administration planners in inspiring Islamic radicalism and terror,
      and joining Osama in creating a "clash of civilizations," are quite

      The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from
      1996, Michael Scheuer, writes that "bin Laden has been precise in
      telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the
      reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy,
      but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim
      world." Osama's concern "is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western
      policies toward the Islamic world," Scheuer writes: "He is a practical
      warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon." As
      Osama constantly repeats, "Al Qaeda supports no Islamic insurgency
      that seeks to conquer new lands." Preferring comforting illusions,
      Washington ignores "the ideological power, lethality, and growth
      potential of the threat personified by Osama bin Laden, as well as the
      impetus that threat has been given by the U.S.-led invasion and
      occupation of Muslim Iraq, [which is] icing on the cake for al Qaeda."
      "U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the
      Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with
      substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result,
      [Scheuer adds,] it is fair to conclude that the United States of
      America remains bin Laden's only indispensable ally."

      The grievances are very real. A Pentagon advisory Panel concluded a
      year ago that "Muslims do not `hate our freedom,' but rather they hate
      our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about
      bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than
      self-serving hypocrisy." The conclusions go back many years. In 1958,
      President Eisenhower puzzled about "the campaign of hatred against us"
      in the Arab world, "not by the governments but by the people," who are
      "on Nasser's side," supporting independent secular nationalism. The
      reasons for the "campaign of hatred" were outlined by the National
      Security Council: "In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United
      States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab
      nationalism. They believe that the United States is seeking to protect
      its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and
      opposing political or economic progress." Furthermore, the perception
      is understandable: "our economic and cultural interests in the area
      have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the
      Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations
      with the West and the status quo in their countries," blocking
      democracy and development.

      Much the same was found by the Wall Street Journal when it surveyed
      the opinions of "moneyed Muslims" immediately after 9/11: bankers,
      professionals, businessmen, committed to official "Western values" and
      embedded in the neoliberal globalization project. They too were
      dismayed by Washington's support for harsh authoritarian states and
      the barriers it erects against development and democracy by "propping
      up oppressive regimes." They had new grievances, however, beyond those
      reported by the NSC in 1958: Washington's sanctions regime in Iraq and
      support for Israel's military occupation and takeover of the
      territories. There was no survey of the great mass of poor and
      suffering people, but it is likely that their sentiments are more
      intense, coupled with bitter resentment of the Western-oriented elites
      and corrupt and brutal rulers backed by Western power who ensure that
      the enormous wealth of the region flows to the West, apart from
      enriching themselves. The Iraq invasion only intensified these
      feelings further, much as anticipated.

      There are ways to deal constructively with the threat of terror,
      though not those preferred by "bin Laden's indispensable ally," or
      those who try to avoid the real world by striking heroic poses about
      Islamo-fascism, or who simply claim that no proposals are made when
      there are quite straightforward proposals that they do not like. The
      constructive ways have to begin with an honest look in the mirror,
      never an easy task, always a necessary one.

      This was the Amnesty International Annual Lecture hosted by TCD,
      delivered by Noam Chomsky at Shelbourne Hall, the Royal Dublin
      Society, January 18, 2006. Noam Chomsky's most recent book is
      Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World..



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