These two academics neatly summarise the broad anti-US arguments circulating on the web after September 11.
For the record, Crikey condemms Islamic fanaticism and supports the US taking military action to protect its citizens from future attacks. And we also broadly support past US foreign policies. There have been plenty of mistakes but in net terms the credits clearly outweigh the debits, most notably because of their role in two world wars and for eventually winning the Cold War against totalitarianism dressed up as Communism.
But this won’t stop us publishing some of the anti-US material floating around. Let’s start with this piece by an academic Dr Phil West before moving along to a piece from another left-wing academic Dr William Thompson.
US reaps what it sows
By Dr Phil West
Hundreds of US citizens and dozens of citizens from other countries – including Australia – were murdered in the attacks against the US. Nothing can justify what happened. The carnage was awful.
However US civilians are possibly reaping what its Government’s CIA and military has sown over many decades.
The US has been partly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people over many years. Most of the victims have been people in poor, third world countries. Mostly, the Western media has taken little notice of these deaths.
The US is a crude and arrogant superpower. For decades, it has believed that it has the right to do anything it wants, anywhere in the world, and get away with it. The US has funded violent insurgents in many parts of the world or supported State-sponsored terrorism in many countries.
Mostly, the US has of course not been directly involved, it has used proxies or provided trainers, arms and logistics.
In Central America, in the 1980s, the US was jointly responsible for up to 150,000 deaths. Often US CIA operatives were directly involved, such as with the blowing up of oil reserves in Nicaragua. Also, in that country, CIA operative, Eugene Hasenfuss, was shot down in a plane which had left from a US air base in El Salvador. Hassenfus had been supplying the US-financed Contras. The US called them ‘freedom fighters’. In fact, they blew up civilian buses, peasant cooperatives, wedding parties and even child care centres. In one attack, on a civilian bus, 32 people were murdered, including eight pregnant women. The Contras were just as much terrorists as Bin Laden’s gangs. The US Congress provided $100 million to the Contras in 1986 alone.
In El Salvador, the US-supported military essentially acted as a terrorist state. Thousands of unarmed civilians were massacred in cold blood, including approximately 1000 peasants (of whom about 600 were children) around the town of El Mozote in 1981, by a US-trained battalion. Thousands of other ‘innocent civilians’ were tortured, raped and murdered by the Salvadoran military over 10 years.
I have a document from the US embassy in El Salvador from 1990, in which the head of the US Military Advisory Group, states openly that his troops were training a ‘paramilitary terrorist group’ at a military base.
In Guatemala, from the 1960s to the 1980s, mass-murder and state terrorism was also supported by US agencies such as the CIA. The Guatemalan Truth Commission, chaired by the Catholic Archbishop, specifically identified the role of the CIA in supporting murder and torture by the military dictatorship. Indeed, a report by the US Congressional Intelligence Oversight Board revealed evidence that several CIA agents in Guatemala had ordered, planned or taken part in assassinations in Guatemala.
The reality is that the US has lived by the sword for many decades. What happened in New York and Washington was terrible, not to mention the horror for the people on the planes. It can never be justified. However, what happened to thousands of innocent tortured, raped and murdered civilians in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and many other countries – directly or indirectly financed and supported by the US – was equally terrible.
I visited a children’s hospital in Nicaragua in 1986 and saw some child victims of the US-supported Contras who had attacked a farming cooperative. A six year old girl had lost her legs and a nine year old boy was dying with a bullet in his brain.
The US Government – including then Vice President George Bush – justified this violence against innocent civilians (saying they were simply civilians ‘caught in the cross-fire’) and funded the people who carried it out.
The death of women, children and men in El Salvador – massacred by a US-financed and trained army battalion, or pregnant women in Nicaragua blown up on a bus by CIA ‘assets’ – is just as bad as the death of the people in the US. However, the Western media and democratic Governments have never shown much concern for these thousands of innocent victims of US-sponsored violence.
Ironically, the United States even funded Osama Bin Laden when he was a ‘freedom fighter’ fighting for the Mujahadeen against the Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan.
If you live by the sword, you may die by the sword. US civilians are now reaping what the CIA and Pentagon have sown.
American bombings rarely lead to democracy
By William J. (Bill) Thomson, Ph.D
Yesterday’s horrible events in New York and Washington DC require all of us to express collective disbelief at the appalling loss of innocent human life and to express our heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families and their friends. Such brutal slaughter must be unconditionally condemned whenever and wherever it occurs. No cause, no matter how nobly perceived by its followers, can justify such wanton destruction of innocent people.
Today, as we inevitably begin the healing process and the search for answers and solutions, there is much speculation about who the perpetrators of these acts might be, and what form an appropriate retaliation might take. This morning’s New York Times states that “the best defense against terrorism is good, timely intelligence”, and other media, government and military officials suggest a wide range of retaliatory options, ranging from overwhelming military strikes to Draconian suspensions of our most cherished freedoms and liberties–freedoms and liberties which define the unique American experience.
In order to understand yesterday’s events and to prevent their reoccurrence, I believe that we need to consider two ideas. First, I think we must accept the fact that there is not, and can never be, a 100% foolproof intelligence or military remedy for terrorist acts. I would even go so far as to say that unless certain basic changes are made in our political and economic outlook as Americans, such acts will inevitably reoccur, and they will become increasing deadly. Just as we today look at the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center as “mild” in comparison to yesterday’s events, I believe that with the increased miniaturization of nuclear capability and the widespread availability of chemical and biological toxins, some day we will be faced with events of overwhelmingly tragic dimensions. Just as there is no way to stop people from committing murder if they are willing to give up their lives, there can also not be any way to guarantee our collective safety from individuals or groups who are willing to sacrifice their lives in a terrorist attack.
The second consideration is ask a question which has been completely absent in the analysis of yesterday’s tragedy–why would a person or group commit such a heinous act? Why would the United States be chosen, and why would the particular targets of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon be picked? Whoever is found to be the perpetrators of yesterday’s terrorism, it is certain that they will be demonized and characterized as somehow being outside the pale of human understanding. And if we demonize sufficiently, we might be able to justify our need for revenge, but we will have missed a crucial opportunity for understanding, and for gaining the insight and wisdom that are the only tools with which we might avoid future attacks.
At the risk of sounding like an apologist for a despicable act, I would like to provide some possibilities for understanding the roots of this tragedy:
1. We Americans, comprising some 4% of the world’s population, consume approximately 40% of its resources. We appear to assume that the resources found in other parts of the world are somehow our birthright. Imagine how this is experienced in third world countries, many of whom have been the recipient of United States military attacks.
2. We maintain this consumption, in large part, because we have the most powerful military in the world, and since WW II we have not hesitated to use it for political and/or economic gain in places like China (1945-46), Korea (1950-53), China (1950-53), Guatemala (1954), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-60), Guatemala (1960), Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-70), Guatemala (1967-69), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-present), Sudan (1998), Afghanistan (1998) and Yugoslavia (1999). We have bombed each of these countries in turn, and in NO case did a democratic government, respectful of human rights, occur as a direct result. Through our weapons and/or proxies, innocent civilians of Indonesia, East Timor, Chile, Nicaragua and Palestine have also been victims of the United States. Is it any wonder that the level of hatred of the United States is so high? Former President Jimmy Carter stated, “We have only to go to Lebanon, to Syria, to Jordan, to witness firsthand the intense hatred among many people for the United States, because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers, women and children and farmers and housewives, in those villages around Beirut…as a result, we have become a kind of Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of hostages and that is what has precipitated some terrorist attacks.” (New York Times, 3/26/89)
3. Forty-nine percent of our income tax dollar goes for present and past military-related activities. On April 16, 1953, former President Dwight Eisenhower noted that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” For the cost of a Stealth bomber, we could put an additional teacher or social worker in every middle and high school in the United States. The cost of the proposed missile defense shield would add several more. Which of these options would add most to our national security?
In short, I believe that we are paying a terrible price for a very shortsighted and egocentric American political and economic worldview, and unless we change this worldview, I am concerned that yesterday’s tragedy will be only a down payment on the retribution yet to come.