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