Note to readers: A few recent visitors to this web site have e-mailed me asking if perhaps this article (previously posted elsewhere on this site) shouldn’t be taken down or rewritten in light of the events of September 11, 2001. Having forgotten what the article actually said, I decided to review it for myself. After doing so, I decided that it shouldn’t be taken down or rewritten, and is in fact more relevant today than the day it was written. Notice that all of the reactionary ‘security’ measures now being openly called for by all avenues of the U.S. political and media apparatus were already being quietly called for long before any ‘terrorist’ attack took place. Of course, a year ago these measures would have met with stiff resistance from the American people. That is decidedly not the case now. It is left to the reader to decide if this represents the prescient wisdom of our fearless leaders, or a self-fulfilling prophecy.
September 19, 2001
The National Commission on Terrorism, a ten-member panel assembled by the U.S. Congress to deal with supposedly rising levels of international terrorism, released a sixty-four page report this June in which a variety of measures designed to hasten the rise of the overt police state were recommended. According to the panel, these recommendations were based on a conclusion reached after conducting a six-month world-wide investigation.
This investigation led the bipartisan commission to the rather remarkable conclusion that “a well-financed, fanatical and global terrorist network poses exceedingly difficult problems for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” Commission chairman L. Paul Bremer III, a former State Department ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism (which is to say, a spook) summed up the problem thusly: “the threat is changing, and it’s becoming more deadly.” (1)
An adviser to the commission – who also boasts of being a senior adviser to the president of the Rand Corporation, a long-time intelligence front – described the report as “a passionate document determined to bring about a fundamental change in mind-set.” He praised the commission for recognizing that “while progress has been made in combating terrorism, the terrorist threat has evolved … Large scale indiscriminate violence has become the reality of today’s terrorism, raising concerns that tomorrow’s terrorists will move beyond truck bombs to employ chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons.” (2)
Fanatical bands of global terrorists toting nuclear weapons and launching them indiscriminately? That’s pretty scary stuff. The thing that really sucks is that it comes at a time when we thought we had finally made the world safe by eliminating the menace of “international communism.” And now this.
It’s really a bitch being the world’s only superpower. Never a moment’s rest. Of course, being that we are – as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has stated – “the indispensable nation,” we will do the right thing and make sacrifices at home and abroad to deal with this new global threat. Luckily, the commission has given us a blueprint for what we need to do.
First, the good news: the aforementioned commission chairman was quick to clarify that the report is “not recommending martial law.” (3) Whew! That sure is a relief (of course, it would be even more of a relief if the good chairman had not even felt the need to bring up the subject of martial law). There are a few changes we’re going to have to make though.
For starters, we need “more wiretaps on Americans.” That will show those fanatical bastards that we are getting serious about fighting a war on terrorism. We also need to start “using the Army to replace civilian law enforcement” (though how you tell the difference anymore between ‘civilian’ law enforcement and military personnel is beyond me). And even more importantly, we need to start “stigmatizing foreign students who switch their majors to science,” (4) lest they scurry back to the terrorist-harboring rogue state that they call home and start building nuclear warheads.
It’s also high time that we begin “loosening restrictions on the Central Intelligence Agency.” (1) Enough with the incredible restraint the agency has shown for the last fifty-three years – let’s put some real teeth into the CIA. For one thing, let’s “drop the guidelines that restrict the recruitment of unsavory informants who have committed human right abuses.” (2)
This is, of course, an age-old problem for the agency. In the past, guidelines have been so restrictive that mass murderers like Klaus Barbie were barely able to slip in the door. Rumor has it that Salvadoran death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson had to lie on his application to get on the payroll. It’s really rather foolish to think that an intelligence agency can function effectively without a few Nazis, Mafioso, drug lords and assassins on the roster. We’re trying to fight a war here.
And let’s follow another of the commission’s recommendations and begin “threatening sanctions against states normally regarded as friendly to U.S. interests, such as Greece and Pakistan.” (1) Why? Because they are “not cooperating fully” in the U.S.-sponsored war on terrorism. And if they don’t clean up their act, they may just find themselves listed as “a ‘state sponsor’ of terrorism, a label now officially attached by the State Department to just seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba.” (1)
In fact, maybe we should just start issuing threats to any nation at random. You never know where those crafty terrorists could be hiding. As Brian Michael Jenkins – the adviser to the commission – noted: “the new murkier structures are harder to identify, more difficult to penetrate.” (2) Almost, in fact, as if they don’t even exist at all.
Finally, let’s definitely implement the commission’s recommendation that “in the case of a catastrophic terrorist attack … the Department of Defense be designated the lead federal agency, instead of the FBI or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.” (2) I can’t speak for anyone else, but it certainly makes me feel safer knowing that the agency in charge will be one that admits to being a military entity, rather than one that pretends not to be.
Perhaps it is time to pause here for a reality check – the cold, hard reality being that there is no international terrorist threat to the United States. It simply does not exist. But you don’t have to take my word for it – the U.S. State Department itself has graphically illustrated this fact in their annual report entitled “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999.” A few of the charts included in this report will suffice to show that the State Department is well aware of the fact that there is no terrorist threat to the United States, even as this same government agency attempts to exploit the wholly manufactured fear of this non-existent threat to further curtail the few civil liberties still remaining in this country.
The first thing that should be immediately apparent is that terrorist attacks – or at least what the U.S. government considers terrorist attacks, which obviously does not include the acts committed by America or its various surrogates around the world – have shown an overall decline since reaching a peak in 1987. In fact, the years 1996-1998 showed the lowest levels of terrorist activity since the U.S. government started keeping records of such things. While there was a slight increase in the past year, the truth is that this increase was not by any means due to what any rational-minded person would consider ‘terrorist’ activity.
As the report acknowledges, the increase was due to three factors: “In Europe individuals mounted dozens of attacks to protest the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and the Turkish authorities’ capture of Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan” and “radical youth gangs in Nigeria abducted and held for ransom more than three dozen foreign oil workers. The gangs held most of the hostages for a few days before releasing them unharmed.” In other words, in some parts of the world there was active resistance to flagrantly illegal acts committed by the United States, which included: the destruction of the infrastructure of a sovereign nation and the deliberate infliction of massive environmental damage on that same nation, all in violation of any number of international laws; the direct complicity in the kidnapping of the leader of a resistance movement leading a struggle against a corrupt U.S.-backed government whose ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Turkish and Iraqi Kurds has already claimed tens of thousands of lives, by the State Department’s own figures; and the century-long exploitation of the planet by U.S. oil interests. The next two charts illustrate the gravity of the risk that we here in America face from terrorist attacks.
It would appear that the fear that we are encouraged to feel towards terrorist attacks may be just a little, shall we say, out of proportion to the actual risks. There have been exactly fifteen terrorist attacks in North America in the last six years resulting in exactly seven casualties. That’s barely over one person per year killed or injured by a terrorist attack in all of North America. The reality is that the odds of becoming a victim of a terrorist attack in the United States are so slight as to be statistically insignificant. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that – given that the United States has been complicit in some of the most barbaric crimes against humanity of the past century, through the exercise of a foreign policy described by one former U.S. Attorney General as “the greatest crime since World War II” – there haven’t been more attacks launched against the U.S.
But what, you may ask, about those ‘rogue states,’ designated by the State Department as “state sponsors of terrorism”? Surely they pose a threat, right? In truth, the seven nations listed as sponsors of terrorism – Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria – do not even pose a regional threat, let alone a threat to the United States. And all of them have been the victims of illegal and unconscionable acts of terrorism by the United States.
Cuba has suffered through forty years of U.S.-imposed sanctions and every manner of covert operation imaginable, including repeated assassination attempts, biological warfare attacks directed against food crops and livestock, industrial and economic sabotage, and that nasty little Bay of Pigs affair. All of this aggression towards the tiny island is of course to punish the Cuban people for having the gall to overthrow the rule of the criminally corrupt Fulgencio Batista, after the U.S. went to all the trouble to install him in power.
Iran was the victim of a bloody coup in 1953 – directed by Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of Teddy and cousin of FDR) and approved by John Foster Dulles – that resulted in the imposition of fascist rule by the U.S.-controlled Shah, who maintained power by means of SAVAK – the gestapo-like security force that resulted from the reorganization of the Iranian National Police by Brigadier General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (haven’t I heard that name somewhere before?). In 1976, Amnesty International reported that SAVAK had the worst human rights record on the planet. The U.S. has continued to meddle in the affairs of the nation of Iran to the present day.
Iraq, for those with very short memories, has been the victim of a combination of bombings and sanctions for nearly ten years now. The infrastructure of the country is in a shambles, food and medical supplies are in short supply, sanitation is poor and disease runs rampant. Estimates of the death toll in the last decade run as high as two million – with 60% or more being children. Any purported terrorist acts committed by the nation of Iraq pale in comparison to the genocidal crimes being perpetrated against the Iraqi people by the United States.
Libya was the victim of an illegal and cowardly, unannounced, night-time bombing raid against a civilian population center ordered by President Reagan that resulted in numerous deaths. North Korea buried more than a million of its citizens in the 1950’s due to U.S. military actions ordered by President Truman, and has endured sanctions and continual covert military operations ever since. The Sudan was the victim of an unprovoked cruise missile strike ordered by President Clinton that wiped out a pharmaceutical plant supplying the majority of antibiotics and other drugs to the region – resulting in countless thousands of deaths. Syria was the victim of a failed coup approved by the ubiquitous Dulles brothers and orchestrated by Kermit and Archibald Roosevelt (another of Teddy’s grandsons).
Any alleged terrorist acts by these nations against U.S. interests are then – if not entirely justified – certainly understandable. But the truth is that most of them have not actually sponsored any terrorist acts for many years, even by the State Department’s self-serving definition of what constitutes a terrorist act. Though the 1999 report goes to great lengths to conceal that fact, the prior year’s report noted that: “there is no evidence of Libyan involvement in recent acts of international terrorism”; “there is no evidence of direct Syrian involvement in acts of international terrorism since 1986”; “Cuba no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America or elsewhere”; and “North Korea has not been linked definitively to any act of international terrorism since 1987.” (5)
The report does note though that North Korea “continues to provide safehaven to terrorists who hijacked a Japanese airliner to North Korea in 1970.” (5) And don’t think that we’ve forgotten about that either. No, according to the more recent report: “The United States is committed to holding terrorists and those who harbor them accountable for past attacks, regardless of when the acts occurred. The United States has a long memory …” (6) And we really know how to hold a grudge. Which is why we must track down these terrorists wherever they may lurk. According to the State Department, they can usually be found “seek(ing) refuge in ‘swamps’.” (6) If this is true, then U.S. intelligence forces should feel right at home wading in after them.
On a more serious note, it is abundantly clear that the call for yet more repressive police state measures has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the American people from international terrorism. The true agenda – the further repression of democratic rights in this country – couldn’t be any more clear. And neither could the task before the American people be any more clear. It’s up to us to rid the world of the primary sponsor of international terrorism, and we’d better get started pretty goddamn soon.
1. “US Commission Urges Anti-Terrorist Measures,” AFP, June 4, 2000
2. Brian Michael Jenkins “Prepare for Worst in a Dangerous World,” Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2000
3. Joseph Tanniru “US Panel Calls for Stepped-Up Repression and Police Spying,” World Socialist Web Site, June 12, 2000
4. Hussein Ibish and Salam Al-Marayati “Should the Army Keep Terrorists at Bay?,” Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2000
5. “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1998,” United States Department of State, April 1999, http://www.usemb.se/terror/rpt1998/index.html
6. “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999,” United States Department of State, April 2000, http://www.usemb.se/terror/rpt1999/index.html
See also Killing Hope, by William Blum, for a more complete accounting of covert and overt military operations directed against Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and a few dozen other countries.