File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0109, message 14

Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 21:47:02 +0100
Subject: BHA: ZNet Commentary Sept 14

Hi all

I received the forwarded via the Marxist Cultural Network, UK. I too
thought everyone (on the Bhaskar list) would like to see it. Apologies
for cross posting if you've already seen it; if you haven't, no


  ------- Forwarded message follows -------
I thought everyone would appreciate these. Apologies for cross-
Craig Brandist.

Brief Preparatory Note:

A number of folks receiving ZNet Commentaries say they want help
dealing with their neighbors', school mates', friends', and family's
militaristic feelings and even with their own emotions. They wonder
how our recent essays, full of context and history, bear on all that.

There could be about 5,000 deaths from the horrific events in NYC.
If so, some relevant context is that the same level of human loss
would have to happen in the U.S. once every month, all year long,
for over fifteen years, for the death toll to match what U.S. policies
have imposed on Iraq. This grisly accounting doesn't make the pain
here any less, but it may help reveal that the pain elsewhere,
induced by U.S policies, is even greater, perhaps opening the way
to compassion and solidarity.

If there is a moral principle that ought to apply to bin Laden or the
Taliban or to anyone who may commit or abet acts of terror,
shouldn't that principle also apply to us? If so, a relevant bit of
context is that to employ terror was our stated policy in Iraq and
Yugoslavia, where in both cases we admitted and even bragged
that we were attacking the population to collapse the governments.
So who brings us to justice? And do we really think being brought
to justice ought to mean suffering terror, in turn?

In my experience, sometimes using the kinds of information in
ZNet's essays to make such connections opens avenues of
understanding. On the other hand, I have to admit, sometimes it
doesn't. Maybe others have better ideas about how to connect with
people and if so, sharing those ideas and experiences in coming
days may help. Changing minds is not easy or fast, but it is
certainly necessary, and contrary to what many pundits are
saying, I think the public is mostly confused, and not mostly
lusting for blood.


Inevitable ring to the unimaginable
By John Pilger

If the attacks on America have their source in the Islamic world,
who can really be surprised?

Two days earlier, eight people were killed in southern Iraq when
British and American planes bombed civilian areas. To my
knowledge, not a word appeared in the mainstream media in

An estimated 200,000 Iraqis, according to the Health Education
Trust in London, died during and in the immediate aftermath of the
slaughter known as the Gulf War.

This was never news that touched public consciousness in the

At least a million civilians, half of them children, have since died in
Iraq as a result of a medieval embargo imposed by the United
States and Britain.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Mujadeen, which gave birth to the
fanatical Taliban, was largely the creation of the CIA.

The terrorist training camps where Osama bin Laden, now
"America's most wanted man", allegedly planned his attacks, were
built with American money and backing.

In Palestine, the enduring illegal occupation by Israel would have
collapsed long ago were it not for US backing.

Far from being the terrorists of the world, the Islamic peoples have
been its victims - principally the victims of US fundamentalism,
whose power, in all its forms, military, strategic and economic, is
the greatest source of terrorism on earth.

This fact is censored from the Western media, whose "coverage" at
best minimises the culpability of imperial powers. Richard Falk,
professor of international relations at Princeton, put it this way:
"Western foreign policy is presented almost exclusively through a
self-righteous, one-way legal/moral screen (with) positive images of
Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating
a campaign of unrestricted political violence."

That Tony Blair, whose government sells lethal weapons to Israel
and has sprayed Iraq and Yugoslavia with cluster bombs and
depleted uranium and was the greatest arms supplier to the
genocidists in Indonesia, can be taken seriously when he now
speaks about the "shame" of the "new evil of mass terrorism" says
much about the censorship of our collective sense of how the world
is managed.

One of Blair's favourite words - "fatuous" - comes to mind. Alas, it
is no comfort to the families of thousands of ordinary Americans
who have died so terribly that the perpetrators of their suffering may
be the product of Western policies. Did the American
establishment believe that it could bankroll and manipulate events
in the Middle East without cost to itself, or rather its own innocent

The attacks on Tuesday come at the end of a long history of
betrayal of the Islamic and Arab peoples: the collapse of the
Ottoman Empire, the foundation of the state of Israel, four Arab-
Israeli wars and 34 years of Israel's brutal occupation of an Arab
nation: all, it seems, obliterated within hours by Tuesday's acts of
awesome cruelty by those who say they represent the victims of
the West's intervention in their homelands.

"America, which has never known modern war, now has her own
terrible league table: perhaps as many as 20,000 victims."

As Robert Fisk points out, in the Middle East, people will grieve the
loss of innocent life, but they will ask if the newspapers and
television networks of the west ever devoted a fraction of the
present coverage to the half-a-million dead children of Iraq, and the
17,500 civilians killed in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The
answer is no. There are deeper roots to the atrocities in the US,
which made them almost inevitable.

It is not only the rage and grievance in the Middle East and south
Asia. Since the end of the cold war, the US and its sidekicks,
principally Britain, have exercised, flaunted, and abused their
wealth and power while the divisions imposed on human beings by
them and their agents have grown as never before.

An elite group of less than a billion people now take more than 80
per cent of the world's wealth.

In defence of this power and privilege, known by the euphemisms
"free market" and "free trade", the injustices are legion: from the
illegal blockade of Cuba, to the murderous arms trade, dominated
by the US, to its trashing of basic environmental decencies, to the
assault on fragile economies by institutions such as the World
Trade Organisation that are little more than agents of the US
Treasury and the European central banks, and the demands of the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in forcing the
poorest nations to repay unrepayable debts; to a new US
"Vietnam" in Colombia and the sabotage of peace talks between
North and South Korea (in order to shore up North Korea's "rogue
nation" status).

Western terror is part of the recent history of imperialism, a word
that journalists dare not speak or write.

The expulsion of the population of Diego Darcia in the 1960s by the
Wilson government received almost no press coverage.

Their homeland is now an American nuclear arms dump and base
from which US bombers patrol the Middle East.

In Indonesia, in 1965/6, a million people were killed with the
complicity of the US and British governments: the Americans
supplying General Suharto with assassination lists, then ticking off
names as people were killed.

"Getting British companies and the World Bank back in there was
part of the deal", says Roland Challis, who was the BBC's south
east Asia correspondent.

British behaviour in Malaya was no different from the American
record in Vietnam, for which it proved inspirational: the withholding
of food, villages turned into concentration camps and more than
half a million people forcibly dispossessed.

In Vietnam, the dispossession, maiming and poisoning of an entire
nation was apocalyptic, yet diminished in our memory by
Hollywood movies and by what Edward Said rightly calls cultural

In Operation Phoenix, in Vietnam, the CIA arranged the homicide of
around 50,000 people. As official documents now reveal, this was
the model for the terror in Chile that climaxed with the murder of
the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende, and within 10
years, the crushing of Nicaragua.

All of it was lawless. The list is too long for this piece.

Now imperialism is being rehabilitated. American forces currently
operate with impunity from bases in 50 countries.

"Full spectrum dominance" is Washington's clearly stated aim.

Read the documents of the US Space Command, which leaves us
in no doubt.

In this country, the eager Blair government has embarked on four
violent adventures, in pursuit of "British interests" (dressed up as
"peacekeeping"), and which have little or no basis in international
law: a record matched by no other British government for half a

What has this to do with this week's atrocities in America? If you
travel among the impoverished majority of humanity, you
understand that it has everything to do with it.

People are neither still, nor stupid. They see their independence
compromised, their resources and land and the lives of their
children taken away, and their accusing fingers increasingly point
north: to the great enclaves of plunder and privilege. Inevitably,
terror breeds terror and more fanaticism.

But how patient the oppressed have been.

It is only a few years ago that the Islamic fundamentalist groups,
willing to blow themselves up in Israel and New York, were formed,
and only after Israel and the US had rejected outright the hope of a
Palestinian state, and justice for a people scarred by imperialism.

Their distant voices of rage are now heard; the daily horrors in
faraway brutalised places have at last come home.

John Pilger is an award-winning, campaigning journalist.

September 13, 2001



Edward S. Herman

One of the most durable features of the U.S. culture is the inability
or refusal to recognize U.S. crimes. The media have long been
calling for the Japanese and Germans to admit guilt, apologize,
and pay reparations. But the idea that this country has committed
huge crimes, and that current events such as the World Trade
Center and Pentagon attacks may be rooted in responses to those
crimes, is close to inadmissible. Editorializing on the recent
attacks ("The National Defense," Sept. 12), the New York Times
does give a bit of weight to the end of the Cold War and
consequent "resurgent of ethnic hatreds," but that the United
States and other NATO powers contributed to that resurgence by
their own actions (e.g., helping dismantle the Soviet Union and
pressing Russian "reform"; positively encouraging Slovenian and
Croatian exit from Yugoslavia and the breakup of that state, and
without dealing with the problem of stranded minorities, etc.) is
completely unrecognized.

The Times then goes on to blame terrorism on "religious
fanaticism...the anger among those left behind by globalization,"
and the "distaste of Western civilization and cultural values" among
the global dispossessed. The blinders and self-deception in such a
statement are truly mind-boggling. As if corporate globalization,
pushed by the U.S. government and its closest allies, with the help
of the World Trade Organization, World Bank and IMF, had not
unleashed a tremendous immiseration process on the Third World,
with budget cuts and import devastation of artisans and small
farmers. Many of these hundreds of millions of losers are quite
aware of the role of the United States in this process. It is the U.S.
public who by and large have been kept in the dark.

Vast numbers have also suffered from U.S. policies of supporting
rightwing rule and state terrorism, in the interest of combating
"nationalistic regimes maintained in large part by appeals to the
masses" and threatening to respond to "an increasing popular
demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of
the masses," as fearfully expressed in a 1954 National Security
Council report, whose contents were never found to be "news fit to
print." In connection with such policies, in the U.S. sphere of
influence a dozen National Security States came into existence in
the 1960s and 1970s, and as Noam Chomsky and I reported back
in 1979, of 35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in
the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United States. The idea that
many of those torture victims and their families, and the families of
the thousands of "disappeared" in Latin America in the 1960s
through the 1980s, may have harbored some ill-feelings toward the
United States remains unthinkable to U.S. commentators.

During the Vietnam war the United States used its enormous
military power to try to install in South Vietnam a minority
government of U.S. choice, with its military operations based on
the knowledge that the people there were the enemy. This country
killed millions and left Vietnam (and the rest of Indochina)
devastated. A Wall Street Journal report in 1997 estimated that
perhaps 500,000 children in Vietnam suffer from serious birth
defects resulting from the U.S. use of chemical weapons there.
Here again there could be a great many people with well-grounded
hostile feelings toward the United States.

The same is true of millions in southern Africa, where the United
States supported Savimbi in Angola and carried out a policy of
"constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa as it carried
out a huge cross-border terroristic operation against the frontline
states in the 1970s and 1980s, with enormous casualties. U.S.
support of "our kind of guy" Suharto as he killed and stole at home
and in East Timor, and its long warm relation with Philippine
dictator Ferdinand Marcos, also may have generated a great deal
of hostility toward this country among the numerous victims.

Iranians may remember that the United States installed the Shah
as an amenable dictator in 1953, trained his secret services in
"methods of interrogation," and lauded him as he ran his regime of
torture; and they surely remember that the United States supported
Saddam Hussein all through the 1980s as he carried out his war
with them, and turned a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons
against the enemy state. Their civilian airliner 655 that was
destroyed in 1988, killing 290 people, was downed by a U.S.
warship engaged in helping Saddam Hussein fight his war with Iran.
Many Iranians may know that the commander of that ship was
given a Legion of Merit award in 1990 for his "outstanding service"
(but readers of the New York Times would not know this as the
paper has never mentioned this high level commendation).

The unbending U.S. backing for Israel as that country has carried
out a long-term policy of expropriating Palestinian land in a major
ethnic cleansing process, has produced two intifadas-- uprisings
reflecting the desperation of an oppressed people. But these
uprisings and this fight for elementary rights have had no
constructive consequences because the United States gives the
ethnic cleanser arms, diplomatic protection, and carte blanche as
regards policy.

All of these victims may well have a distaste for "Western
civilization and cultural values," but that is because they recognize
that these include the ruthless imposition of a neoliberal regime
that serves Western transnational corporate interests, along with a
willingness to use unlimited force to achieve Western ends. This is
genuine imperialism, sometimes using economic coercion alone,
sometimes supplementing it with violence, but with many millions--
perhaps even billions--of people "unworthy victims." The Times
editors do not recognize this, or at least do not admit it, because
they are spokespersons for an imperialism that is riding high and
whose principals are unprepared to change its policies. This bodes
ill for the future. But it is of great importance right now to stress the
fact that imperial terrorism inevitably produces retail terrorist
responses; that the urgent need is the curbing of the causal force,
which is the rampaging empire._

The awesome cruelty of a doomed people
 By Robert Fisk

So it has come to this. The entire modern history of the Middle
East - the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the Balfour declaration,
Lawrence of Arabia's lies, the Arab revolt, the foundation of the
state of Israel, four Arab-Israeli wars and the 34 years of Israel's
brutal occupation of Arab land - all erased within hours as those
who claim to represent a crushed, humiliated population struck
back with the wickedness and awesome cruelty of a doomed
people. Is it fair - is it moral - to write this so soon, without proof,
without a shred of evidence, when the last act of barbarism in
Oklahoma turned out to be the work of home-grown Americans? I
fear it is. America is at war and, unless I am grotesquely mistaken,
many thousands more are now scheduled to die in the Middle
East, perhaps in America too. Some of us warned of "the explosion
to come''. But we never dreamed this nightmare.

And yes, Osama bin Laden comes to mind, his money, his
theology, his frightening dedication to destroy American power. I
have sat in front of bin Laden as he described how his men helped
to destroy the Russian army in Afghanistan and thus the Soviet
Union. Their boundless confidence allowed them to declare war on
America. But this is not the war of democracy vs terror that the
world will be asked to believe in the coming hours and days. It is
also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes
and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in
1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana a few
days later and about a Lebanese militia - paid and uniformed by
America's Israeli ally - hacking and raping and murdering their way
through refugee camps.

No, there is no doubting the utter, indescribable evil of what has
happened in the United States. That Palestinians could celebrate
the massacre of 20,000, perhaps 35,000 innocent people is not
only a symbol of their despair but of their political immaturity, of
their failure to grasp what they had always been accusing their
Israeli enemies of doing: acting disproportionately. But we were
warned. All the years of rhetoric, all the promises to strike at the
heart of America, to cut off the head of "the American snake'' we
took for empty threats. How could a backward, conservative,
undemocratic and corrupt group of regimes and small, violent
organizations fulfil such preposterous promises? Now we know.

And in the hours that followed yesterday's annihilation, I began to
remember those other extraordinary, unbelievable assaults upon
the US and its allies, miniature now by comparison with
yesterdays' casualties. Did not the suicide bombers who killed 241
American servicemen and almost 100 french paratroops in Beirut
on 23 October 1983, time their attacks with unthinkable precision?

It was just 7 seconds between the Marine bombing and the
destruction of the French three miles away. Then there were the
attacks on US bases in Saudi Arabia, and last year's attempt -
almost successful it now turns out - to sink the USS Cole in Aiden.
And then how easy was our failure to recognize the new weapon of
the Middle East which neither Americans or any other Westerners
could equal: the despair-driven, desperate suicide bomber.

All America's power, wealth - and arrogance, the Arabs will be
saying - could not defend the greatest power the world has ever
known from this destruction.

For journalists, even those who have literally walked through the
blood of the Middle East, words dry up here. Awesome, terrible,
unspeakable, unforgivable; in the coming days, these words will
become water in the desert. And there will be, naturally and
inevitably, and quite immorally, an attempt to obscure the historical
wrongs and the blood and the injustices that lie behind yesterday's
firestorms. We will be told about "mindless terrorism'', the
"mindless" bit being essential if we are not to realise how hated
America has become in the land of the birth of three great religions.

Ask an Arab how he responds to 20 or 30 thousand innocent
deaths and he or she will respond as good and decent people
should, that it is an unspeakable crime. But they will ask why we
did not use such words about the sanctions that have destroyed
the lives of perhaps half a million children in Iraq, why we did not
rage about the 17,500 civilians killed in Israel's 1982 invasion of
Lebanon, why we allowed one nation in the Middle East to ignore
UN Security Council resolutions but bombed and sanctioned all
others who did. And those basic reasons why the Middle East
caught fire last September - the Israeli occupation of Arab land, the
dispossession of Palestinians, the bombardments and state
sponsored executions, the Israeli tortures ... all these must be
obscured lest they provide the smallest fractional reason for
yesterday's mass savagery.

No, Israel was not to blame - that we can be sure that Saddam
Hussein and the other grotesque dictators will claim so - but the
malign influence of history and our share in its burden must surely
stand in the dark with the suicide bombers. Our broken promises,
perhaps even our destruction of the Ottoman Empire, led inevitably
to this tragedy. America has bankrolled Israel's wars for so many
years that it believed this would be cost-free. No longer so. It would
be an act of extraordinary courage and wisdom if the United States
was to pause for a moment and reflect upon its role in the world,
the indifference of its government to the suffering of Arabs, the
indolence of its current president.

But of course, the United States will want to strike back against
"world terror'', who can blame them? Indeed, who could ever point
the finger at Americans now for using that pejorative and
sometimes racist word "terrorism''? There will be those swift to
condemn any suggestion that we should look for real historical
reasons for an act of violence on this world-war scale. But unless
we do so, then we are facing a conflict the like of which we have
not seen since Hitler's death and the surrender of Japan. Korea,
Vietnam, is beginning to fade away in comparison.

Eight years ago, I helped to make a television series that tried to
explain why so many Muslims had come to hate the West. Last
night, I remembered some of those Muslims in that film, their
families burnt by American-made bombs and weapons. They talked
about how no one would help them but God. Theology vs
technology, the suicide bomber against the nuclear power. Now we
have learnt what this means.


By Jeff Sommers

In CIA parlance missions that are “successful” create backlashes.
The CIA aptly calls this “Blowback.”

At the end of WW II the US took empire from a weakened Britain
and France. Among the first casualties was East Europe, which
was sacrificed on the mantle of superpower relations.  That same
deal between superpowers saw Greece put down by England and
the US, with Soviet compliance. The Soviets and the West also
concluded that the people of both their respective spheres would be
put down if necessary in the interests of “stability.” Democracy on
both sides of the Cold War divide was shelved.

The US maintained order during its tenure of hegemony through
use of both covert and overt operations that helped signal the very
blowback we witnessed on the 11th. In 1953 Allen Dulles, brother
of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, thought it clever to
maintain order in Iran by overthrowing its democratically elected
leader, Mohammed Mossadegh. The popular Mossadegh “erred”
when he decided Iran’s oil belonged to Iran and not the multi-
national corporations who held “rights” to it. He nationalized Iran’s
oil. Allen Dulles sent in the CIA with suitcases full of money (the
CIA had no oversight and so could spend liberally) to destabilize
the government. They sent their agent Kim Roosevelt to remove
Mossadegh. Kim Roosevelt was the grandson of that famous
defender of the Spanish American War that brought the US no end
of blowback. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf accom panied
him—no, not the General we all know who commanded US forces
in the Persian Gulf war, but his father. Schwarzkopf trained the
Shah of Iran’s secret police in all sorts and manners of techniques
that brutal dictatorships employ against their citizens. This bought
“stability” and the return of oil to its “rightful” owners. The US oil
companies got 40%, the Brits 40%, the Dutch 14% and the French
6%. Yet, in overthrowing Mossadegh a 25-year-long period of
repression was launched against dissenters in Iran with significant
blowback for all parties concerned. Most significantly this created a
radical Islamic fundamentalist response that led to the rise of the
Ayatollah Khomeni. In part, yesterday’s tragedy is blowback from
Washington policies executed 50 years back.

During the 1980s the US found another opportunity for CIA mischief
in the Middle East. In 1978 the Soviet Union frowned upon the more
radical Marxist government that arose on its border in Afghanistan.
Given that the Soviets cynically wielded terms like “Marxism” in the
same way the US has often done with “democracy,” the Soviets felt
no compunction about overthrowing a radical Marxist government
with democratic impulses. As a superpower it sought obedience.
The Soviets installed a government in Afghanistan loyal to
themselves and would suffer blowback that in part led to the very
dissolution of the USSR.

Coming off its own failed decades long attempt to install and
maintain unpopular governments in Vietnam, the US was bemused
by the Soviets finding themselves in a similar situation in
Afghanistan. Among opponents of the Soviet backed regime in
Afghanistan were Islamic fundamentalists. The CIA fanned the
flames of fundamentalist fervor in order to fuel the ant-Soviet
Afghani movement, the Mujahadeen. Yet, here too there would be
blowback. When the Soviet Union collapsed the highly motivated
fundamentalist force the US helped create and train in covert
operations (the stuff of terrorism) they now turned their sights on
their former benefactor. The marriage between Afghani
fundamentalists and the CIA was purely one of convenience. When
no longer “convenient” these highly-trained militants could now turn
on that other source of misery in the Middle East: the US. Again,
this was blowback.

This begs the question of why the US was perceived as a source of
“evil” by Islamic extremists? We are all familiar with the reasons.
A decade of bombing and embargoes have left Iraq’s electric,
water, and health infrastructure in tatters. Saddam Hussein
remains in power, but millions live in abject misery, and the United
Nations’ own data shows over 700,000 children having died as a
consequence of these US measures against Iraq. The Iraqi
leadership has been unaffected. Hussein has punished the Kurds
in the north of Iraq with impunity and the Shiite Muslims of the
south treated to Hussein’s bloody fist too. Yet, Iraq did not dissolve
into separate nations. This was the goal of US policy. This has
been achieved at a terrible human cost and is another reason for
blowback against the US.

The specter of US policy toward Israel continues to haunt America.
Copious amounts of aid flows liberally to the Israeli government and
spills out into Palestinian communities in the form of state
violence. But, peace between Israel and Egypt is critical to Middle
East stability. The US gets little of its oil from the Middle East, but
US oil companies are present there and more importantly oil must
flow freely and predictably for the smooth functioning of the global
economy over which the US presides. Palestinians homes are
routinely bulldozed and its people live under military occupation.
When the Arabic nations try and address this matter civilly in the
United Nations, as they just tried last week at the Durban
conference, they are rebuffed by the US. Consequently, Palestinian
children greet with delight the news of thousands of innocent
people dying in the US on the 11th. This is blowback.

America will make many choices in the near future regarding how
to engage the US. Let’s hope it remembers that actions have
consequences. Jingoistic responses can backfire. Blowback might
erupt quickly, or simmer for decades. When it strikes the
consequences are devastating. We are poised to escalate the
violence or begin to plumb the depths of our history in ways that
might reveal how we can end these cascading series
of tragedies. Hopefully, reason will prevail.
Dr. C.S. Brandist
Bakhtin Centre / Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies,
University of Sheffield, Arts Tower,
Western Bank, Sheffield. S10 2TN.
Great Britain.
Tel. + 44 (0)114 2227413.
Fax. + 44 (0)114 2227416.

Mervyn Hartwig
13 Spenser Road
Herne Hill
London SE24 ONS
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7 737 2892

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