Mumia Abu-Jamal

On War and Terror[*]

Selected Political Columns


  1. WHY?

  2. The Forgotten Terrorists

  3. In Search of a Holy War

  4. The New Colonialism

  5. Secret Wars

  6. Another Side of the War

  7. Secret roots of War

  8. Now, On to Iraq

  9. Voices from the other America

  10. A Daly Terror

  11. Military Courts and Congress

  12. The Business Side of War

  13. An Imperial War Expands

  14. War against Terror or War to Govern the World?

  15. The Imperial Exception to Law



    The woman's voice on the phone was as plaintive as a tear, as she implored the non-responsive talk show host to please tell her, "Why do they hate us so much? Why?".

   Her voice, while not commonly projected in the current media, resonates in the consciousness of millions of Americans, who look at the carnage of the World Trade Center, shiver at the violent audacity of it, and wonder, "Why?".

  This is a particularly American response, one made in a culture that has no yesterdays, and only a tomorrow of creature comforts, no-fat ice cream, and luxury cars.

 History, to millions of Americans, is John Wayne, or the vaunted Founding Fathers, who have no blemishes, nor flaws.  Much of the outer world are of no import, as they are subjects of the Empire, and thus expendable.

 Their histories, deeply intertwined with the U.S., are of no serious consequence.  Hence, the question, "Why?".  

 This almost willful ignorance of millions of Americans allows them to look at the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and the veering jet liners of 11 September, 2001, and ask,


 If you, the reader, don't want to hear an answer to this rhetorical question, feel free to turn the page, for the writer's response will not please you.

 The airplane bombing of the WORLD TRADE center towers and of the Pentagon didn't begin on Sept. 11, 2001. Nor are they, as some politicians glibly suggest, "A war against civililization."  But it ain't the job of politicans to inform you.

 It is the job of the media, but their central concern is to sell you, and therefore they don't want to upset you. Their primary responsibility is not to their readers, but to the owners, or the stockholders.  And it is the interests of the military-industrial-complex that millions remain uninformed and misinformed.

 The suicide flights over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania had their beginning in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, in the 10-year guerilla war against the former Soviet Union.  That war was supported and facilitated by the U.S. CIA, which pumped billions into the anti-Soviet insurgency.  The result?  An Algerian sociologist told an American journalist in Algiers, "Your government participated in creating a monster."  The sociologist added, "Now it has turned against you and the world – 16,000 Arabs were trained in Afghanistan, made into a veritable killing machine." (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 1996).  A U.S. diplomat in Pakistan echoed these sentiments when he said, "This is an insane instance of the chickens coming home to roost.  You can't plug billions of dollars into an anti-Communist *jihad*, accept participation from all over the world and ignore the consequences.  But we did.  Our objectives weren't peace and grooviness in Afghanistan.  Our objective was killing Communists and getting the Russians out" (Los Angeles Times,   Aug. 4, 1996, p. 2).

 How did the Afghanis pay for the weapons, in such a poor, war-ravaged country?  How many know that Afghanistan is the world's greatest producer of heroin?

 Short on hard dough, the Afghan *mujaheddin* traded heroin for arms with their CIA suppliers, and the "Golden Crescent" heroin ring was born.

 When the Soviets were whipped, and the war ended, the insurgents looked around and saw, not Soviet, but U.S. dominance in the region.  They saw the U.S. military presence in the Islamic holy places in Saudi Arabia, its backing of anti-democratic client states, its ravaging of Iraq, and its one-sided support of Israel at the expense of the beleaguered Palestinians, and as they examine the U.S., they see the imperial similarities to the Soviets.

 Afghanistan, one of the poorest, most rugged places on earth, has a population with a male life expectancy of 46 (45 for females!).  It has a literacy rate of about 29%.  It looks at the swollen opulence of the Americans, the global reach of the American empire, and bristles.

 This nationalist, cultural, religious and class distance fuels a deep and abiding hatred of American dominance.

 Humiliation, of which the Islamic world has had a great deal since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, and the colonial era of the early-to-middle Twentieth Century, is a powerful force.  It brought a humbled German to the brink of world conquest after World War I.  It is not to be taken lightly.

 Afghanistan may prove another turning point in world history, which is why we all should learn about it.



 2. "The Forgotten Terrorists"

 For far too many Americans, the word 'terrorism' has acquired a whole new meaning in the dusty aftermath of 11 September 2001.  The word now instantly refers to the mental imagery of the shattered twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, or the broken edifice of the Pentagon building in Washington, or even the smouldering mound of earth in southwestern Pennsylvania.

 They refer to the thousands of people, from dozens of countries, who lost their lives when the buildings were shattered, broken and leveled into dust.  But, if truth be told, they refer mostly to Americans.

 When an airliner in the far-off South China Sea area develops engine trouble, and plummets into the ocean depths, reporters always rush to inform us, "Flight 502 of a PanAm to Hong Kong went down over the South China Sea today: 15 Americans were onboard."  In such a common report, it is implicitly assumed that those of other nationalities are of lesser importance.  They don't *really* matter.

 It is indeed possible to look at the events of 11 September in a somewhat similar light.  For, if it is indeed found that the acts of that day may be traced to terrorists, working out of Middle Eastern organizations, what most will ignore is another kind of terrorism.  It is waged against the poor and powerless of many nations.

It kills, maims, tortures, and destroys many thousands of people every year.

 It is the spectre of State Terrorism.

 Don't expect to find eye-catching exposes in the Daily Blah, or to hear about it on your favorite network news program in the evening on the tube.  You have to look hard for this stuff.  Consider the views of John Stockwell, a former CIA station chief (Angola), who considers the work that he was doing overseas, on behalf of the US government, to be supporting terrorism.  He looks at the time when a man named Bush headed the CIA:

 "CIA Director George Bush allegedly worked to convince the former OPMONGOOSE operators to reorganize outside the United States.  In June 1976, they went to the Dominican Republic and founded CORU, a counter-revolutionary group.  On October 26, 1976, they blew up an airplane that was taking off from Barbados, killing 73 passengers on board in a raw act of terrorismLuis Posada Carrilles and Orlando Bosch were jailed in Venezuela for that bombing.  There is evidence that  members of this same CIA/Cuban exile community participated in the killing of  President John F. Kennedy in 1963. We also know that the CIA's 1980 contra  program later managed to get Luis Posada Carilles out of prison in Venezuela.  They put him to work for Felix Rodriguez, who was reporting directly to then Vice- President Bush's Office.  As Felix Rodriguez told the press, `We needed him.`"

 He was referring to Carilles, the terrorist airplane bomber (See The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order, Boston: South End Press, 1991).

 These are the words of a man who spent over a decade in the CIA, and even served briefly on a subcommittee of the National Security Council, during the Kissinger era.  Even though his work had to be cleared by CIA censors to be published, his view of how the United States government has functioned, through its CIA, is telling:

 "To summarize, the CIA has overthrown functioning constitutional democracies in over 20 countries.  It has manipulated elections in dozens of countries.  It has created standing armies and directed them to fight.  It has organized ethnic minorities and encouraged them to revolt in numerous volatile areas" (p. 73)

 Looking at CIA activities abroad, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this former station chief offers a conservative estimate of how many people, all over the world, "...would not have died if U.S. tax dollars had not been spent by the CIA to inflame tensions, finance covert political and military activity, and destabilize societies," and comes up with a figure of: 6,000,000.  Six million people, he says, "and this is a minimum figure" (p. 81).

 Are Afghan-trained rebels, from various Middle Eastern states, responsible for the carnage of 11 September, 2001?  Who armed them?  Who trained them?  Who loosed them upon the world?

 Their very deadly expertise are your tax dollars at work.

 Americans mean one thing, when they think of terrorism.

 Americans from the South, in Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador, Chile, etc., think of something else.

 People from Indonesia, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the like, think of something else.




3. In Search of a Holy War


 "Fervor is the weapon of choice of the impotent." 

Frantz Fanon


Throughout American history, one thing has remained constant; the continuous effort of the state, and its ruling elites, to demonize some person, or some group, as a predicate for war.

 We are all in the midst of but the latest expression of this exercise. This was visible in the very first hours after the suicide bombings and destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the aerial strike against the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Remember when the politicians lectured the nation about, "This is a battle between good and evil"?  How about, "This is against those who oppose civilization itself"?

 There is a close tie, but the latest figures for global demonization are Usama bin-Ladin and the ruling clique in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the Taliban.

 What is interesting, when you look back a few years, is the similarity with other historical figures, like Saddam Hussein, or Manuel Noriega of Panama.

 Why are these disparate figures similar?

 Well, before the U.S. media machine assured us they were devils incarnate, they boasted of their friendship with the Americans.  Messrs. bin-Ladin, Hussein and the forerunners of the Taliban were armed, and/or trained by the CIA, or directly by the military industries, to fight against the Russians (then the Soviets) and the Iranians under the late Ayatollah Khomeini.  General Noriega was best buds with George I (the former President) Bush, as long as he was helping U.S. efforts to destabilize the Sandinistas when they ran Nicaragua.  When he got tired of playing along with Washington, the media began its drumbeat against the General.  "He's dealing in drugs!" "His government isn't democratic!"

 The Taliban's biggest exposure, before 11 Sept., 2001, was the destruction of ancient Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan.  When I heard of it, I could not help but think of the acts of Pope Gregory I, of whom it is said:

 Marble statues of ancient Rome were torn down, most notably by Gregory the Great, and made into lime. Architectural marbles and mosaics were either made into lime or went to adorn cathedrals all over Europe and as far away as Westminster Abbey in London.  The ravaging of marble works accounts for the thin ornate slabs WITH ANCIENT INSCRIPTIONS STILL    FOUND IN MANY CHURCHES TODAY (See: H. Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History, [1995], p. 50).

 Are the Taliban unique in their aversion to women?  The great Church Father, Tertullian once said of women:

 "You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him (Adam) whom the devil  was not valiant enough to attack.  You destroyed so easily God's image, man.

 On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die" (Ellerbe, p. 115).

 The 6th Century Christian philosopher, Boethius once wrote, in his The Consolation of Philosophy, "Woman is a temple built upon a sewer."

 Few are the writers and historians who point to such Christian historical figures and label them as "religious fanatics."

 And before some wag claims I am an apologist for the Taliban, I need only point out that it was the U.S. CIA, who paved the way for them to come into being, by their support of the destruction of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government.  Afghanistan is the way it is today, because the American CIA, and Pakistani intelligence wanted it that way.

 Let us beware of religious wars.

 Being human, we have more than enough madness to go around.




4. The New Colonialism

 "Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent". Benjamin Disraeli, British Statesman

 With the news that American political leaders are involved in intense meetings with the deposed King of Afghanistan is the revelation that the United States is trying to install a king over another people.

 What's wrong with this, people?

 How does it make sense for a nation that calls for democracy to impose, with its guns and military might, a royal house upon a foreign people?

 Muhammad Zahir Shah, an octogenarian who was overthrown from the Afghani throne back in 1973, is now living in Rome and is being groomed to be reinstalled in Kabul by the U.S. government.

 Gone from his homeland for almost thirty years now (28, to be precise) why does the U.S. want to seat him, when the Afghani people have expressed no significant interest in his return for almost three decades?

 It is hard for one to resist the temptation that the U.S. wants to put in a puppet that it can manipulate, control and rule through.

 What seems clear is that the U.S. is doing, this time through military means, what it has done before in the region through spycraft.

 In the 1950s, the CIA brought about the removal of Iranian premier, Muhammad Mossadegh, to return the Shah to power, which in turn led the nation down the road that turned Iran into a repressive state, to keep oil under Western control.

 Are the Afghanis somehow too primitive (in U.S. eyes) to appreciate the principle of democracy?

 What emerges from this U.S. attempt to install a potentate is the reality that the Americans don't really give a damn about democracy.

 Almost all of the states in the region that the U.S. calls allies are as far from democracies as the earth is from the moon.  If the U.S. cared about democracies, why has U.S. foreign policy for the last half-century been the protection, sustaining and arming of anti-democratic dictators?  From Marcos in the Phillipines, Suharto in Indonesia, the Duvaliers in Haiti, and to Mobutu in Zaire, and on, and on.

 Indeed, we need not go that far.

 The recent elections in Florida, which featured racial and ethnic profiling of Black, Haitian and Jewish voters there, and thereby denying them the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the U.S. democracy by voting, proves that Americans need not go abroad to protect or promote democracy.

 There is something unseemly about a nation that came into being by declaring independence from a king to urge a king upon a foreign people.  Democracy begins at home.




5. Secret Wars

 As this is written, the obscene whine of bombs pierces the night sky over the capital city of Kabul, in the war-shattered nation of Afghanistan.  Once again, the American Empire has come to the Middle East, armed with the glittering array of war.

 Although national opinion polls assure us that this nebulous war against "terrorists, and all who support them," is a popular one, high opinion poll ratings mask the very real and very deep anxiety that people feel, in their hearts, and in their guts, about the prospect of victory.  That anxiety underlies a deep distrust that Americans have historically felt about the government. What don't they know?  What are Americans not being told? *How will this end?*

 In truth, there is a good reason for this sense of anxiety, as many Americans are, without their knowledge or okay, a part of the secret wars that are raging around the world.

 When the United States was a very young, and indeed, an infant nation, a well-known national leader hatched a secret plot to invade and overthrow Libya.  An agent of his was given tens of thousands of dollars, and 1,000 guns to raise a secret army against Libya.  This U.S. State Department official was attached to the Navy and given the title, "Agent for the United States Fleet in the Mediterranean."  This secret agent, working without the knowledge or permission of the U.S. Congress, entered Egypt, organized a mercenary army, and waged war against Libya, but was not able to destabilize the government.

 The government agent was Capt. William Eaton.  He was acting under the secret orders of U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, after a secret meeting of them on December 10, 1803. (See Jerry Fresia's Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution & Other Illusions (Boston: South End Press, 1988), p. 102).

 Such secret wars have dotted the history of the U.S., and made her the enemy of millions, on several continents.  For the poor in Latin America, in the Caribbean, in Africa and parts of Asia, the U.S. is seen as a powerful, yet schizophrenic child. She will arbitrarily remove leaders of governments, insert agents of disorder, and wage vicious propaganda wars against other countries through her media machine.

 In an alleged 'democracy', why is there even *ever* a need for secret war?

 In a nation that claims to represent the interests of the people, how can a secret war be waged?  The two are simply incompatible, for if the government is (in Lincoln's famous words) "... of the people", how can the government keep secrets from itself?

 While the media may manipulate public opinion to justify the waging of wars, the real beneficiaries are rarely known, and indeed, rarely are the real causes known.  The causes are, more often than not, economic.  While citizens and soldiers wave flags, corporations wave wallets.

 For example, you may still find old-timers, who will tell you that the big, "WW II", was fought against the Nazi ideology of Hitler.  Few would argue with the old geezer.  But how many of us know that American corporations traded with the Nazis, *even during the war?*  Charles Higham, in his 1984 book, Trading With the Enemy (Dell Books) wrote:

 What would have happened if millions of Americans and British people,  struggling with coupons and lines at the gas stations, had learned that in 1942 Standard Oil of New Jersey [part of the Rockefeller Empire]  managers shipped the enemy's fuel through the neutral Switzerland and that the enemy was shipping Allied fuel?  Suppose the public had discovered that the Chase Bank in Nazi-occupied Paris after Pearl Harbor was doing millions of dollars worth of business with the enemy with the full knowledge of the head office in Manhattan [the Rockefeller family among others]?  Or that Ford trucks were being built for the German occupation troops in France with authorization from Dearborn, Michigan?  Or that Colonel Sosthenes Behn, the head of the international American telephone conglomerate ITT, flew from New York to Madrid to Berne during the war to help improve Hitler's         communications systems and improve the robot bombs that devastated London?  Or that ITT built the FockeWulfs that dropped bombs on British and American troops?  Or that crucial ball bearings were shipped to Nazi-associated customers in Latin-America with the collusion of the vice-chairman of the U.S. War Production Board in partnership with Goering's cousin in Philadelphia when American forces were desperately short of them?  Or that such arrangements were known about in Washington and either sanctioned or deliberately ignored? [pp. 184-5] (Fresia's book, pp. 108-90).

 There are wars, and there are *wars*, apparently. Unfortunately, there are also secret wars, and the ones who are in the battle fields, or wave flags, are the last ones to know.



 6. Another Side of War

"... [W]e have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population ... Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will have to dispense with all sentimentality..."

 "We should cease to talk about vague and... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization".

  George Kennan, U.S. State Dept., "Policy Planning  Study 23" (1948)


 We live in an awkward age of war, where discussion is curtailed by the iron curtain of fear, and the choking fog of uncertainty.

 At this time, when the American military is embarking on an open-ended, and virtually unlimited expedition overseas, in search of undefined 'enemies,' and in pursuit of a goal that seems more appropriate for international police than an imperial military, there is a strange circumscription of national dialogue.  At this time, more than any other, U.S. foreign policy, which should be in the very forefront of the national debate, hides in the shadows, like sellers of illicit, somewhat tainted substances, like crack cocaine, or smut.

 Nations, no less than people, can be caught up in the very real grip of madness, as Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy well-proved over a half century ago.  Apartheid South Africa, which waged armed war against children, who were armed with little more than the righteousness of their African resistance, is yet another.  And one need not go across the Atlantic to see similar instances of national madness, as evidenced by the notorious MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, where, as one cop said ominously, "We saw the children as combatants!", or the equally mad expressions of state terrorism as shown in Waco, Texas, or the Ruby Ridge incidents.

 "Power", to paraphrase Lord Acton's well-known axiom, "does more than corrupts, it makes men mad."

 It is precisely in this time of madness, of emotional depth and mental unhingement, that other voices need to be heard, and other perspectives leavened into the debate.  For, if madness has one cure, it is reason.

 Mr. Enver Masud may be one of the voices that adds some of that reason.  An engineering management consultant who once worked for the World Bank, USAID in Egypt, and in half a dozen countries over the earth, Masud can hardly be termed an 'Islamic fundamentalist' (what-ever that is), or even a radical.  He seems to be a fairly bourgeois fellow, who grew up in an Indian Muslim family of wealth, means and influence, who never really engaged the deeper waters of his faith, until later in life.  His father was the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and his mother is the descendant of a noble family in India.

 A year ago, Masud wrote and published a book that was the compilation of perhaps five years of commentaries written for the little-known Washington, D.C.-based newspaper, Eastern Times, called The War on Islam (Arlington, Va.: Madrasah Books, 2000).  In it, Masud critically engages, questions, and controverts many of the big stories of the day, from the 1991 report that "Libyan terrorists" were sent to the U.S. by President M. Ghaddafi to assassinate Americans, including the President (in fact, these were 350 Libyans, *trained by the U.S. CIA to knock off Ghaddafi!*), to the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps under the direction of Israeli then-defense minister (now President) Ariel Sharon in 1982.

 Using American, British, and other sources, Masud raises important questions, and also provides remarkable answers.

 While The War on Islam was published long before the events of 11 September, 2001, it still has important lessons for those who wish to examine an opposing view.  Consider the comments he prints of Americans who were critical of the U.S. bombings in Sudan and (yes) Afghanistan in 1998:

 "It is dangerous to divorce terrorism from politics, yet the U.S. media continue to talk about an abstract war against terrorism without mention of the issues or context that lie behind them." ; or, "Terrorism is a political act, a response to U.S. foreign policy.  It is an act of war waged by people too weak to have a conventional army or one large enough to take on the United States."

 The first quote was written by Graham E. Fuller, former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council of the CIA, for the L.A. Times (24.08.1998); the second was by Charley Reese, an ex-soldier who does a column for the Orlando Sentinel (18.08.1998), the title of which told the story: "Face It: U.S. Foreign Policy Contribute to Acts of Terrorism."

 One really wonders if these guys could, or even would, write the same kinds of things today.

 What is perhaps more troubling, is not whether either man would write such thoughts today, but whether a publisher of a newspaper would print it today!

 As experience has shown, this is a very real question, that becomes even more provocative in the face of reports that a number of newspapers in the nation have withdrawn the wildly popular comic strip, Boondocks, because of some of its pokes at the National Security State.  Boondocks, for the few who don't know, is a daily feature which, ala Doonesbury, pokes fun at American political, cultural, and racial mores.  Its central character, a tiny revolutionary boy named Huey Freeman, raises the ire of the adults around him, with his questions, observations, and actions. In one banned strip, he calls up the FBI's so-called terrorist hotline, to tell them that he knows someone who is a terrorist, and proceeds to spell, "R-E-A-G--", for former U.S. President (and Libya bomber) Ronald Reagan.

 Although Aaron McGruder's strip runs in over 200 U.S. papers, roughly a dozen have pulled the most recent strips since the events of the 11th of September.

 Similarly, I doubt few of America's papers would run the thoughts, opinions and ruminations of Enver Masud. It is indeed, for this very reason that his thoughts may prove valuable to thinking people in America, who really take offense at how the corporate media treats adults like kids, who need to be protected, not from bombs, or plummeting planes, but from non-conventional ideas.

(The War on Islam is published by The Wisdom Fund, Madrasah Book Division, P.O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202.)



 7. The Secret Roots of War

  Why does a war begin?

  That is, as the saying goes, one of those "$64,000 questions!" (As Mama used to say)

 For there are as many answers, as there are wars.

 Consider the Viet Nam War, which raged for over a decade, leaving over 2,000,000 Vietnamese and over 60,000 Americans dead, as well as a nation ecologically ravaged.

 On August 2, 1964, according to American press reports, North Vietnamese coast guards attacked two U.S. Destroyers sailing in the Gulf of Tonkin. Within a week the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting the president war powers, and the Vietnam War was launched.

 Years later, after the fires of war cooled to ashes, we learn the press reports were lies.

Former CIA man John Stockwell wrote, in The Praetorian Guard (1991):

After midnight on July 30, 1964, Norwegian-built "SWIFTS" or "NASTIES," manned with CIA crews, attacked the North Vietamese radar station on Hon Me island and bombarded Hon Nguin the Gulf of Tonkin.  The North Vietnamese  sent a formal protest to the United States. The frigate USN Maddox, which was patrolling inside North Vietnamese waters to provide cover for CIA marauders, remained on station.  Clearly provoked and pursuing the CIA marauders, North Vietnamese moved to challenge the Maddox.  The Maddox fired first; the Vietnamese answered with torpedoes that missed.  A garbled version of the incident, blaming the North Vietnamese, was trumpeted through a cooperative media to the U.S. public and was used to justify formal moves by Lyndon Johnson to launch the Vietnam War (which had been in open planning stages for two years).  The rest is history.  (p. 81)

 A history written in blood, gore and genocidal death.  That, however, was then; what about now?

 All American eyes are now focused on Afghanistan – the land ravaged by over 8 years of war with the former Soviet Union.  Again, according to U.S. media reports, the U.S. entered the country in response to the Soviet incursion, to aid the mujahadin – right?

 In 1988, former U.S. national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, granted an interview to the French newspaper, Le Nouvel Observateur, stating that the U.S./CIA was in Afghanistan months before the Soviets:

         ZB:   According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, ... after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec. 1979.  But the reality, secretly guarded until                now, is completely otherwise.  Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.  And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention ...

 LNO:    You don't regret anything today?

 ZB:       Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea.  It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? (p. 76)

 The "Afghan trap" led to over 2,000,000 Afghan deaths, 6,000,000 exiles, and 20,000 Soviet troop casualties.

 Provocations.  Inducements.  Media manipulations. Traps.  Spies. Covers.

 Millions dead.  Millions exiled.

 Why does a war begin?

 As Mama used to say, "Boy, that's the $64,000 question!"




8. Now, on to Iraq

With the endgame emerging into view of a bomb-drenched Afghanistan that is now apparently newly-pacified, we are seeing the re-emergence of Iraq as America's demon-of-the-month.

The justification for this new media-military targeting of Iraq is that the country possesses 'weapons of mass destruction'!

Well, what country doesn't?

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has tried the Iraq card before, when he charged that the Baghdad government may not be the only nation in possession of weapons of mass destruction, but the Iraqis alone have used them.

 The eminent historian Howard Zinn, author of the acclaimed A People's History of the United States, remarked only a nation blind to history could accept a claim such as Clinton's; "He could only say this to a population deprived of history.  The United States has supplied Turkey, Israel, and Indonesia with such weapons, and they have used them against civilian populations.  But the nation most guilty is our own.

No nation in the world possesses greater weapons of mass destruction than we do, and none has used them more often, or with greater loss of civilian life.  In Hiroshima hundreds of thousands died, in Korea and South Vietnam millions died as a result of our use of such weapons."

 The sheer hypocrisy of such a nation threatening another nation on the basis of its possession of 'weapons of mass destruction' is stunning.  Asians and Arabs must be shaking their collective heads in mass disbelief.

 Clinton's lurch to the right during his second term is now mirrored by Bush fils as he recycles his predecessor's lie, the old 'weapons of mass destruction' tale, a justification for Bush the Younger's efforts to repair Bush the Elder's failure to properly discipline Iraq for daring to act as a sovereign state, instead of a vassal-state (or client-state) to the U.S. Empire.

 To take the hypocrisy to an even higher pitch, consider that some of Iraq's weapons were indeed weapons of mass destruction, a fact well known to Washington because U.S. hardware was delivered to the Iraqis, the better to kill their Iranian enemies with.  The U.S., London and other Western countries made mountains of wealth selling such weapons not only to Iraq, but to Iran as well.  Both sides used such weapons with deadly efficiency in an 8-year war that left over 800,000 (and perhaps over a million) men, women and children slain.  The U.S., smarting over the expulsion of the Shah from Iran, and the rise of the late Ayatullah Khomeini, rubbed their hands with mercantile glee as they armed and egged on the neighboring Iraqis.

 Yesterday's ally is today's adversary.

 And tomorrow, after the dust falls from the sustained bombing back to the hard, cold Afghan earth, America seeks to extend her New Crusades to Iraq.

 This, after 10 years of sustained bombing of Iraq by the West.  This, after perhaps 500,000 civilian casualties.  This, after Iraq has been bombed until it became a toxic waste dump.  The threats, targeting and bombing of Iraq had nothing to do with Iraqi 'weapons of mass destruction' in 1991, in 1993, in 1998 – or now.

 Why is Iraq the boogie-man of choice today?

 U.S. Brig. General William Looney, who directed the bombing of Iraq in the late 1990s, put the point out bluntly:

 "If they turn on their radars we're going to blow up their goddamn SAMs [surface-to-air missiles].

  They know we own their country.  We own their airspace... We dictate the way they live and talk.  And that's what's great about America right now.  It's a good thing, especially when there's a lot of oil out there we need." [Wm. Blum, Rogue State (Common Courage, 2000) p. 159]

 Voilà.  There it is.  Oil.

 Why isn't that a crime against international law?



9. Voices from the Other America

 People in the United States, drunk on imperial pride, think of themselves as quintessential Americans, and think of the rest of the people of the world as something else; something lesser: the Other.

 It would surprise such people to learn that there are indeed millions of people, in other countries, who see themselves as Americans, and see residents of the United States (and Canada) as norteamericanos.

Chileans are Americans.  Cubans are Americans. Argentines are Americans.

 And they have their own perspectives on things that have happened in the U.S., like the planes slamming into the twin towers of New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  Although their perspectives may not merit the attention of the big networks, or of the mega-corporate media, their perspectives provide valuable insights into how they think, and how they see the norteamericanos.  Consider how Chileans reacted.

Novelist Ariel Dorfman saw it as a morbid kind of déjà-vu:

During the last 28 years, Tuesday September 11 has been a date of mourning, for me and millions of others, ever since that day in 1973 when Chile lost its democracy in a military coup, that day when death irrevocably entered our lives and changed us forever ...

 Dorfman wrote of Chile's painful history, of the U.S.-backed coup that supported the bombing of the Presidential Palace, which led to the removal and death of the elected Salvador Allende, and also to the installation of the military dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

 For many Chileans, Sept. 11th marks the day democracy died.  When foreign terrorists (like the U.S. CIA) supported a reign of dark terror upon the people of Chile, when thousands were tortured or killed by the military, a military trained in terror by the U.S. at the infamous School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia.  While surely many feel sympathy for Americans, their feelings must be somewhat mixed.

 Panamian commentator Ricardo Stevens looked at Sept. 11, and saw mirrors in his country's history:

 But how much alike these new victims are to the boys and girls, to those who were unable to be born that December 20 [1989] that they imposed on us in Chorrillo; [a poor ghetto/barrio in Panama City, where an unknown number were killed by U.S. forces] how much alike they seem to the mothers, the grandfathers and the little old grandmothers, all of them also innocent and anonymous deaths, whose terrors were called Just Cause and the terrorist called liberator [fr. Radio La Vo del Tropico (Panama) 15.10.2001].

 Argentine columnist Membo Giardinelli, in his Sept. 13th Pagina 12 piece wrote of the 30,000 "disappeared" during the Dirty War when the U.S.-backed military slaughtered unionists, students and leftists.  He damned "the United States' leading role" in such events that led to a harvest of hatred, not toward Americans, "but your arrogant leaders ..."

 Regardless of the sweet speech of diplomats, writers often give voice to the true feelings of peoples.  Americans should know how that  Other America feels.  Perhaps they will ask why.


[Information can be found in the NACLA: Report on the Americas, Nov/Dec. 2001; Website: – phone: #212-870-3146]



  10. A Daily Terror

 The power of the media to condition consciousness is vast. For, with the merest mention of a word, say, for instance, "terror," a flood of images roar through the mind, like a well-placed row of dominoes, each falling one into the other, tumbling like a hard, dry, crackling wave: terror, terrorism, the twin towers of midtown Manhattan, planes circling like metallic vultures, plunging into solid rock and steel, flames, smoke, and humans blown into dry dust.  Osama bin-Laden; Mullah Omar; Saddam Hussein, (fill in the blanks).  Those are the thoughts we have been conditioned to think by the media.  We have virtually no choice in the matter.

 There is though, another terror that ravages the land.  It affects not thousands, but millions.  It affects Whites, Blacks, Anglos, Latinos, Citizens, Immigrants, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Jew, Gentile, Northerner, Southerner, from Maine to Mississippi.

 It is the terror of financial failure. The terror of not getting next week's paycheck. The terror of being fired; of being unable to pay rent (or the mortgage); of seeing one's children wracked by hunger.

 This is the silent terror; the hidden terror. Indeed it is the invisible terror that is all too real.  It is one that the State not only refuses to fight, but refuses to acknowledge.

 After the September 11th disaster, at least 800,000 people have lost their jobs.  Dishwashers, maids, hotel workers, computer employees, travel agents, booking agents, and the like.  But as stunning as that figure seems to be, it is but a mere percentage of a larger problem.

 Before the 11th of September, indeed according to economic indicators since March 2001, at least 8 million people were out of work due to the economic recession.

 8,000,000 people!

 8,000,000 invisible souls, unemployed, gripped by a terror that almost defies description.

 Why is that not a national emergency?

 Why no mass mobilization, nor media-orchestrated outrage?  Is it because they are poor, and the poor are expendable?

 The corporate media, the possession and instrument of the wealthy, has no interest (and sees no profit) in educating either the poor or working poor in the failures of an economic theory or system which works for them yet betrays the poor.

 It is not in the interest of the established to show the holes in the "economic miracle."  Globalists wish to ignore this ugly reality.

 What does the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or the S&P rate, or the latest Nasdaq mean to 8 million unemployed?

 A year ago, economists were proclaiming the end of the business cycle, boasting that the only way stocks could go was up.  Their boasts came on the eve of a recession.

 In a time when the poor are treated like lepers, when their dreams are dashed, a daily terror reigns.



11. Military Courts and Congress

 In the aftermath of 9/11/01, the Bush Administration has announced plans to form, staff and adjudicate military tribunals to try anyone the U.S. deems a "terrorist."  These courts will be presided over by military officers, as will any appeals process, with the final arbiter, either the defense secretary or the president, ending the case.

 No civil judge, of any division or rank of the federal judiciary, will ever hear any syllable of appeal from anyone tried before such a tribunal.

So frenzied is the American mood, so supine the liberal elite, and so prostrate the nation's legal community to power, that barely a murmur is heard in protest to this gross, naked power grab by the Administration.

It is not enough that the institution of such courts are the very antithesis to the grand American claim to "due process." Nor is it sufficient to argue that such war measures are inappropriate in the absence of a formal, congressional declaration of war (this Congress would have no real trouble doing so).  This Congress, already jittery in light of reports of anthrax contamination of some offices, rushed through in record speed (with little debate, no public hearing, and neither a committee report nor a conference) the unprecedented, complex, and radically repressive USA Patriot Act.

 The presidential decree ordering military tribunals is, on its face, unconstitutional.  Indeed, the very provision which grants the president Commander In Chief powers, also limits his powers over judicial matters. Here's what it says:

 [Art. II: Sect. 2, Constitution of the U.S.]

 The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, ... He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate ...; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court ...

 And from Article III; Section 1 of the Constitution:

 The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

 There it is. The president, acting in concert with the Senate, nominates and appoints Supreme Court judges, and Congress ordains and establishes new courts.

 Congress can't abdicate this duty to the executive.

 The president's order establishes a court, one which has all of its officers under his direct control and command.  This is a classic kangaroo court, of the very kind that Americans condemned when the Fujimori regime established them in Peru (interestingly, to fight 'terrorism').

 Nor is this meant to heap false praise on U.S. civil courts, which are fundamentally political institutions.  Have we all forgotten the trial of Tim McVeigh, the domestic terrorist, where it was later learned that the FBI withheld thousands of pages of documents, until days before his execution? Civil courts merely winked at this violation, as a minor irritancy.

 And while the government had its way (by executing McVeigh) it was embarrassed by reports of their handling of the case. That won't happen now, will it?

 Under the Bush Administration, military tribunals serve as an instrument of administrative whim.

Under the command structure of the military, each judge, each jury, each prosecutor, and each court officer is a sworn officer of the military, in the sworn service of the Commander in Chief.  If they want to further their career in the armed services, even if they ever wanted promotion, they follow their administrative cues.  What do you think they would do to a foreign national, who is already tagged as "the enemy"?

 With either Bush, the Secretary of Defense, or even another military panel serving as a Supreme Court of Appeals, what would be the result?

 But, after all, the accused are (to use the term of popular appeal) 'sand niggers' (the Brits would call them 'wogs'), Arabs, Pakistanis, a few Afghans – so, why care?

The same was said in the '20s when Russian Jews were exiled from the U.S. after the Palmer Raids, or in the '40s when Japanese were thrown into concentration camps; they're just 'commie Jews', or 'slants' – right?

 Such events were said to be separate, involving 'others', yet they tainted the judicial process and U.S. claims of fair play, up to the present generation. Let us fight this madness, or it will return to haunt us all.




12. The Business Side of War

 Long-time readers of this writer will recall the claim that all wars have an economic interest, and are fought for economic reasons or resources.

 Is this so with Afghanistan? On its face, most would not agree.

 But, check this out.

 Would you believe that important business interests began discussing the removal of the Taliban, years ago? Or that wealthy oil interests have been plotting on ways to re-organize the Central Asian region, in order to exploit the abundant supplies of oil that are in the Caspian Sea area?  Or that the area is also abundant in natural gas reserves?

 In early 1998, a major oil executive for the Unocal Corporation, a Mr. John J. Maresca, Vice-President of the company, gave a briefing to a House subcommittee on International Relations.  In his remarks, we see the reasons for U.S. industrial interest in the area – a pipeline:

 One obvious potential route south would be across Iran.  However, this option is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation. The only other possible route option is across  Afghanistan, which has its own unique challenges.

The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades. The territory across which the pipeline would extend is controlled by most other nations.  From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of our proposed pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company        ["A New Silk Road: Proposed Petroleum Pipeline in Afghanistan", Monthly Review, Dec. 2001, pp. 32-33]

 Unocal noted that other industrial powers are interested in the proposed oil pipeline, including Japan.

Their interests are their own – their national, and international economies.

 Did Unocal negotiate with the now-accursed Taliban?

 Well, they say they haven't, but they also say that they have.

  Again, the words of Vice-President Maresca are important indications of how Unocal did its business:

 Although Unocal has not negotiated with any one group, and does not favor any group, we have had contacts with and briefings for all of them.  We know that the different factions in Afghanistan understand the importance of the pipeline project for their country, and have expressed their support of it. [p. 33]

 In the halls of government, and in the meeting places of big business, powerful people carve up the world according to their own interests.

 Wars are declared, and thousands are slain, for the enrichment and the well-being of the few.

 War is more than the instrument of big business; it is big business.



13. An Imperial War Expands

 With characteristic imperial arrogance, George W. Bush's 'State of the Empire' speech was a blustering threat to several states that have yet to learn how to kneel properly to the United States – Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

 By calling them the world's "Axis of Evil," the Bush regime is clearly trying to mobilize public support for some sort of militarist adventure in those regions of the world.  If they cannot be tied to the acts of September 11, 2001, then they are violative of the US edict that no state, except by their leave, may acquire or construct "weapons of mass destruction."

 For many Americans still smarting from the blows of September 11, and unseated by the aerial bombardment and humbling of the Taliban in the dusty ruins of Afghanistan, the challenges of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea may seem tempting.

 What makes Washington's charge almost laughable (if it were not so serious) is that at least two of those states were either clients or customers of the U.S., in their drive to become regional military powers.

The U.S. was, and indeed remains, the world's pre-eminent arms dealer.  When the bloody, 8-year Iran-Iraq war raged on, the U.S. supplied it's then-ally (Iraq's Saddam) with what can only be termed weapons of mass destruction, as in the poisons used by Iraq to liquidate their Kurdish minorities on their border regions.  As for the Iranian theocracy, it would not exist today were it not for the U.S./CIA intervention which overturned the Iranian parliamentary democracy of Mohammed Mossadegh of the early 1950s, and the backing of the autocratic Shah.  Were it not for this Western rape of Iranian democracy there would not now be the rule of the clerics in Iran.  The Khomeini-led Islamic revolution was, in essence, a reactive movement that strove to purge the nation of the Western and foreign influences pushed by the Pahlevi regime.  Why did the US CIA and British M1-5 oppose the Mossadegh government?  It had nothing to do with "democracy," for Mossadegh's was, if anything, too democratic for their tastes, for he backed nationalization of British oil, to provide more for the nation.  The U.S. didn't back democracy, it backed a neocolonial, repressive autocracy.

 From Iran's perspective, where does the "axis of evil" lie?  What must they think of a nation that deposed their president, installed a brutal, fascist regime, and then armed their neighboring enemy (Iraq) with conventional and chemical weapons, which led to over half a million dead on both sides?

Isn't that "mass destruction?"

But being an empire means never having to say you're sorry; it means telling others what they must do, or else.  It means always seeking enemies.





14. War Against Terror or War to Govern the World? 

         It is helpful sometimes, in times of great and confusing events, to consider simple things, which can shed light on things that are far more complex.

       The events of 9/11, and in turn the resultant aerial bombardment of Afghanistan by American military, is now the opening act of what promises to be a global military campaign that threatens to be waged in Iraq, perhaps Iran, Somalia, and even the far Phillipines.


We are told that this war will be waged for years, perhaps for decades, in far-flung areas of the earth. It is, in Bush Administration terms, a 'war against terrorism,' a 'war against evil,' and a 'clash of civilizations'. (Of course, the royal "we" are the perfect good; "they" are the eternal evil).

One wonders, when is a 'terrorist,' not a terrorist?

The late Pakistani scholar, Eqbal Ahmad, points to how history and circumstance can change characterizations:


Until the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish underground in Palestine was described as "terrorist." Then something happened: around 1942, as news of the Holocaust was spreading, a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people began to emerge in the Western world. By 1944, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly began being described as "freedom fighters." If you look in history books you can find at least two Israeli prime ministers, including Menachem Begin, appearing in "Wanted" posters saying, TERRORISTS, REWARD [this much]. The highest reward I have seen offered was 100,000 British pounds for the head of Menachem Begin, the terrorist (Yitzhak Shamir is the other) [Eqbal Ahmad, Terrorism: Theirs & Ours, Seven Stories, 2001), p. 11]


The terrorism of yesterday has become the nationalism of today.

     The interests and objectives of the US, and its Western partners, have less to do with terrorism, than with making the world quiescent and calm in the face of a neo-colonialist, corporate capitalism.

     What is at stake is not democracy, for if this was so why does the West support regimes, like the Saudis or the Emirates, that don't even have a pretense of a democratic form of government? What is at stake is western control over resources, like oil, or natural gas.

     What is at stake is hegemony, or the continued dominance over the emerging world by the industrial, corporate West, under the flag of globalism.

     What is globalized is the use of force to suppress local, national and regional movements seeking liberation or autonomy. What is globalized is the media machinery of the wealthy elites to justify an inequitable status quo. What is globalized is terror, on a world scale, to protect the system.


15. The Imperial Exception to Law

     "One of these days, the American people are going to awaken to the fact that we have become an imperial nation ... It happened because the world wanted it to happen ... no European nation can have
– or really wants to have – its own foreign policy." Irving Kristol, (Wall St. Journal, 18.08.1997)

     In the new post-Cold War world, the United States, due to its heavy emphasis on military power, has emerged as more than a lone superpower. The French, perhaps envious of her emergence in world affairs without a serious rival, refers to the United States as a hyperpower.

     Not since ancient Rome, or perhaps the 500-year reign of the Ottomans, has one nation had such impact on such a vast portion of the world.

    With such outsized power, such pacified borders, such stratospheric wealth, what nation, or global entity, can bring her to heel?

    None exists.

    Several decades ago, when the Soviet Union existed but was precipitously in decline, the United States, following its Cold War imperatives, was charged with violating international law for sponsoring a terrorist rampage against Nicaragua. As linguist and scholar, Noam Chomsky notes, the U.S. thumbed its nose at the laws:

     "... [T]he U.S. is, after all, the only country condemned by the World Court for international terrorism -- for "the unlawful use of force" for political ends, as the Court put it -- ordering the U.S. to terminate these crimes and pay
substantial reparations. The U.S. of course dismissed the Court's judgment with contempt, reacting by escalating the terrorist war against
Nicaragua and vetoing a Security Council resolution calling on all states to observe international law ..." (Noam Chomsky, Seven Stories Pr., 2001, pp. 9-11).

      For, to an Empire, what other body exists that can judge its actions? To an Empire, it is the only source of law that matters.

     Thus, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty can be consigned to the garbage can. Thus, the Kyoto Protocols can be tossed into the gutter. Thus, the Geneva Conventions can be ignored as Taliban soldiers of Afghanistan are shuffled, under sensory deprivation and drugs, into chain-linked cages under a Cuban sky. Anyone who declares the U.S. should be subject to international treaties (which the U.S. has signed!) is seen as a traitor.

     Thus, the imperial government can establish special, military tribunals, where military officers serve as judges, and executive branch politicians sit as a final court of appeals, and death awaits those who go through this
perilous process. What does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights matter?

     It doesn't, to an empire. Nothing does.


[*] Copyright © 2001-2002 Mumia Abu-Jamal. All rights reserved.