Noam Chomsky Distorted Morality (2003)
Thanks I just got back from Brazil where they don't have any fire codes,
and if you think is uncomfortable you should see a meeting there.
People packed so tight that there was a good question whetherthe
oxygen level would suffice. Fortunately there wasn't a fire or it would have been a huge catastrophe.
Well, the title you noticed had a question mark after it and the
reason forthe question mark is that whatever has been happening for
the past several months and is going on now, and howeveryou evaluate it,
like it, hate it, orwhatever, it's pretty clearthat
it cannot be a war on terror. In fact that's close to a logical necessity- at least if we accept certain pretty elementary assumptions
and principles, so let me try to make those clear at the outset.
The first principle guideline if you like is that we
aught to, I wll try and I think that we should, bend over backwards
to give the benefit of the doubt to the United States government
whenever its possible. So, that if there is any dispute about howto interpret something, we wll assume they're right.
The second guideline is that we should take very seriously the
pronouncements ofleadership especially when they are made wth great
sincerity and emotion. So for example when George Bush tells us that
he is the most devote Christian since the Apostles, we should believe
him, take him at his word and we should therefore conclude that he
certainly has memorized, over and over again, in his Bible reading
classes and in church, the famous definition ofhypocrite that's given in the gospels.
Namely, the hypocrite is the person who applies to others standards that
he refuses to apply to himself. So if you are not a hypocrite you
assume that if something is right for us then it's right forthem and ifit is wrong when they do it, it is wrong when we do it.
That is really elementary, and I assume that the President would
agree and all ofhis admirers as well. So those are the principles that I would like to start wth.
Well, a side comment, unless we can rise to that minimal level of moral
integrity we should at least stop talking about things like human rights,
right and wrong and good and evil and all such high afflatus things
because all ourtalk should be dismissed, in fact dismissed wth
complete repugnance unless we can at least rise to that minimal level.
I think that's obvious and I hope there would be agreement on that too.
Well wth that much in place, just that much for background let me
formulate a thesis. The thesis is that we are all total hypocrites on
any issue relating to terrorism. Now, let me clariify the notion 'we'.
By 'we' I mean people like 'us'. People who have enough high degree
of privilege, of training, resources, access to information for whom it is pretty easy to find out the truth about things
If we want to. If we decide that that is ourvocation. And in the case in
question, you don't really have to dig very deep it's all right on the surface.
So when I say 'we', I mean that category. And I definitely mean to
include myselfin 'we' because I have never proposed that our leaders
be subjected to the kinds of punishment that I have recommended for
enemies. So that is hypocrisy. So if there are people who escape it
I really don't knowthem and have not come across them.
It's a very powerful culture; it's hard to escape its grasp.
So that's thesis number one. We are all total hypocrites, in the sense of the gospels, on the
matter of terrorism. The second thesis is stronger namely that
the first thesis is so obvious that it takes real effort to miss it.
In fact, I should go home right nowbecause it is obvious
Nevertheless, let me continue and say why I think both theses are correct.
Well to begin wth, what is terrorism? Got to say something about that.
That is supposed to be a really tough question. Academic seminars
and graduate philosophy programmes and so on - a very vexing and
complex question. However, in accordance wth the guidelines that
I mentioned, I think there is a simple answer, namely we just take the official US definition of terrorism.
Since we are accepting the pronouncements of our leaders literally,
lets take their definition. In fact that is what I have always done.
I have been writing about terrorism forthe last twenty years or so.
Just accept the official definition. So for example a simple and
important case is in the US army manual in 1984 which defines terrorism
as the calculated use of violence orthe threat of violence to attain
goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature.
Well that seems simple, appropriate. A particularly good choice because of the timing - 1984.
1984, you wll recall, was the time that the Reagan administration was
waging a war against terrorism. Particularly what they called
state supported international terrorism "a plague spread by
depraved opponents of civilization itselfin a return to barbarism
and the modern age". I'm quoting George Shultz who was the
administration moderate. The other guideline is that we wll keep to the moderates, not the extremists.
So that's 1984. Reagan had come into office a couple of years earlier.
His administration had immediately declared that the war against
terrorism would be the focus of US foreign policy and they identified
two regions as the source of this plague by depraved opponents of civilization itself- Central America and the Middle East.
And there was quite wde agreement on that and so in 1985, for example,
every yearthe associated press has a pole of editors on the most important story of the year, and in 1985 the wnnerwas Middle East
terrorism. So they agree. Right towards the end of that year, 1985, Shimon Peres, Israel's Prime Minister, came to Washington and Reagan
and Peres denounced the evil scourge of terrorism, referring to the Middle East.
Scholarship and experts also agree. There is a huge literature
forthe last 20 years on terrorism, particularly state supported international terrorism. We don't have time reviewit but
a good illustration which I wll keep to is the December 2001 issue of the journal Current History- good and serious journal,
it's article called 'America at War' includes leading historians,
specialists and experts on terrorism and they identiify the 1980's
as the era of state sponsored terror, agreeing wth the Reagan administration.
I agree wth that too. I think it was the era of state sponsored
international terrorism. One leading author, Martha Crenshaw
says that in that era the United States adopted a pro-active
stance to deterthe plague. Mostly it's about the Middle East
but Central America is occasionally mentioned. For example US
support for one ortwo authors or co-authors from The Workman's
Institution describe the US Contra War against Nicaragua as a model for howto fight a war against terrorism.
They say that was a model for US support forthe Northern Alliance
in the current phase of the war against terrorism. The seeds
of contemporary terrorism however are much deeperthough.
The major historian in the group, David Rapoport - the leading
academic specialist on terrorism, editor of the Journal ofTerrorism and so on.
He points out that it goes back to the origins of modern
terrorism, like Osama bin Laden, it goes back to the early 1960's
and I am quoting him now, "when Vietcong terror against
the American Goliath kindled the hopes that the Western
heartland was vulnerable". I won't comment on that but,
just as an exercise, you might try to find a historical analog to that statement somewhere. I'Iljust leave it at that.
Without commenting, if you check through the scholarly literature you'll find the same story all the time, virtual exceptions.
The world agreed wth the Reaganites too. In 1985, right
after Reagan and Peres had denounced the evil scourge of
terrorism, the General Assembly passed a resolution
condemning terrorism, and in 1987, it passed a much stronger resolution and a much more explicit one denouncing terrorism
in all its forms and calling on all states to do everything they can to fight against the plague and everything you like.
It's true that that wasn't unanimous. There was one abstention
namely Honduras and two votes against - the usual two.
They gave their reasons forvoting against the major UN resolution
on international terrorism, namely both states, The United States
and Israel, pointed to the same paragraph as the reason for
their negative vote. It was a paragraph that said that 'nothing
in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the
right to self determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the United Nations Charter, of people forcibly
derived of that right, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation, or could deprive
them of the right to obtain support for others in these ends in accord wth the charterwth the United Nations'.
That was the offending paragraph, and it is easy to understand
why it raised a serious problem forthe United States and Israel.
The African National Congress was identified officially as a
terrorist organization in the United States and South Africa was officially an ally. But, the phrase 'struggle against colonial
and racist regimes' plainly referred to the struggle of the ANC against the apartheid regimes. So that's unacceptable.
The phrase foreign occupation, everyone understood referred
to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, then in
its 20th year. Extremely harsh and brutal from the beginning and continuing only because of decisive US military, economic
and diplomatic support that runs up to the present. So obviously that was unacceptable.
So therefore it was 153-2 wth one abstention. So it wasn't
totally unanimous. It wasn't reported and it has disappeared
from history. You can check to find out. Incidentally that's
standard practice. When the master says something is wrong its dowr the memory hole, doesn't get reported and its forgotten.
But it's there. If you want to look you can discover it, I'll give you the sources if you like.
Well, Reagan at that time, let's recall, he and Peres were
talking about the evil scourge of terrorism in the Middle East,
George Shultz didn't entirely agree. He thought that what he called the most alarming manifestation of state sponsored
terrorism was frighteningly close to home. Namely it was a 'cancer in our landmass, a cancer right nearby that was
threatening to conquerthe hemisphere wth a revolution wthout borders'.
A rather interesting propaganda fabrication revealed to be a fraud instantly but always used repeatedly afterwards, even by
the same journals that explained why it was as total fabrication.
It was just too useful to abandon. And there is also an interesting, if you think about it the
fabrication had a certain element of truth in it, an important
element of truth. We can come back to that if you like. Anyhowthis cancer in our land mass was threatening to conquer
everything openly followng Hitler's Mein Kampf and we plainly had to do something about that.
There is a serious day in the United States called Law Day.
Elsewhere in the world is called May Day. May 1st, a day for
the support of the struggles of the American
workers for an 8 hour day. But in the United States it's a jingoist holiday called Law Day.
On Law Day 1985, President Reagan declared a
National emergency because the government ofNicaragua 'constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the
national security and foreign policy of the United States'. That was renewed annually.
George Schultz informed Congress that 'we must cut the
Nicaraguan cancer out and not by gentle means',
things are too serious forthat and so to quote Schultz,
recall, the adminstration moderate. The 'good cop'.
To quote Schultz he said "Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across
the bargaining table". He condemned those who "advocate utopian legalistic means like outside mediation,
the United Nations, the World Court while ignoring the power element of the equation". I'll avoid quoting hard-liners.
At that time the United States was exercising the power element
of the equation wth mercenary forces based in Honduras
attacking Nicaragua. They were underthe supervision of
John Negroponte who was just appointed to run the diplomatic
side of the diplomatic component of the current war on terror as the UN Ambassador.
The military component of the current war on terror is
Donald Rumsfeld who at that time was Ronald Reagan's
special envoy to the Middle East; the other place where the plague was raging through 1985 in fact.
The United States at that time was also blocking utopian, legalistic means that were being pursued by the World Court,
the Latin American countries and others, and it continued to block those means, right until the end, until the final
victory ofits terrorist wars throughout central America. Well, howwas the war against state sponsored terrorism
waged in those two regions by the people who in fact are leading the newphase, so pretty close historical
continuity not just those two of course.
Well, just to illustrate, lets pick the peak year,
the worst year, 1985 in the Middle East.
Top story of the year. So who wns the prize forthe worst acts of terrorism in the Middle East in 1985?
Well I know of three candidates, maybe you can suggest a different one.
One candidate is a car bombing in Beirut in 1985. The carwas placed outside a Mosque.
The bomb was timed to go off when people were leaving to make sure it killed the maximum number of people.
It killed, according to the Washing Post, 80 people.
It wounded over 250, mostly women and girls leaving the mosque.
There was a huge explosion so it blewup the whole street
killing babies in beds and so on and so forth.
The bomb was aimed at a Muslim Sheik who escaped.
It was set offby the CIA in collaboration wth
British Intelligence and Saudi Intelligence and
specifically authorized by William Casey according to Bob Woodwards,
the History of Casey and the CIA. So that is a
clear-cut example of International Terrorism.
Very unambiguous and I think it is one of the
candidates forthe prize forthe peak year of 1985.
Another candidate surely would be the so-called Iron Fist operations
that Shimon Peres Government was carrying out in occupied
southern Lebanon in March of 1985. This is in Southern Lebanon,
which was under military occupation in violation of the
Security Council orderto leave, but wth US authorization.
The Iron Fist operations were targeting what the high command called 'terrorist villagers in Southern Lebanon'.
It included many massacres and atrocities and kidnapping of people for interrogation and taking them to Israel and so on.
It reached new depths of calculated brutality and arbitrary
murder according to a western diplomat familiarwth the region,
who was observing. There was no pretense of self-defense rather it was openly undertaken for political ends. It was conceded
it wasn't even argued. So that's a clear case ofinternational terrorism although here we might say that it is aggression.
I'll call it just international terrorism in line wth the principle that we bend over backwards to give the United States
the benefit of the doubt. Of course this is a US operation. Israel does it because they are given arms and aid diplomatic
support by the United States.
So we wll decide to call this just international terrorism
not the much more serious war crime of aggression.
The same incidentally was true of the much worst operations of
1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and killed maybe twenty thousand or so people. Again, crucial US military, economic and
diplomatic support. The US had to veto a couple of Security Council resolutions to keep the slaughter going, provided the arms and
so on for it. So it's a US/Israeli invasion if we are honest.
"The goal was to install a friendly regime in Lebanon and oust the PLO, which would help persuade the Palestinians
to accept Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza". That's actually accurate and I have to compliment the
New York Times in saying that on January 24th.
As far as I knowthis is the first time in mainstream US literature
that anyone has dared to say what was absolutely common knowledge
in Israel and in the dissident literature 20 years ago. I was writing this in 1983 just using Israeli sources but it
couldn't penetrate US commentary. You might check and see. As far as I know, this was the first break through.
I am not sure the reporter understood what he was saying.
But anyway he did say that - James Bennet January 24th,
prize for James Bennet fortelling the truth after 20years.
And its true, and of course it's a textbook illustration of
international terrorism. This time we have to bend over backwards pretty farto call it international terrorism because
it is hard to say why this isn't overt aggression - the kind of action forwhich US and Israeli leaders should be subjected to
Nuremberg trials. Real serious war crimes. But again lets keep to the guidelines and lets say its only international terrorism.
Well that's the second example. The Iron Fist operations.
Third. The only other example from 1985 that I know of took
place two days before Shimon Peres arrived in Washington to
join Reagan in denouncing the evil scourge of terrorism.
Shortly before that, Peres sent the Israeli airforce to bomb Tunis killing 75 civilizations, torn to shreds wth smart bombs.
It was all rather accurately and graphically depicted by a
highly respected Israeli reporter in the Hebrewpress in
Israel and cooperated by other sources. The United States
cooperated wth that by wthdrawng the 6th fleet so that they did not have to inform their ally, Tunisia, that the bombers
were on theirway. Presumably getting refueled on the way. So that's the third candidate. I don't know of any other
candidates that even come close to being candidates for?
Incidentally, George Schultz, the moderate, immediately afterthe
bombing, he telephoned the Israeli Foreign Ministerto say that
the United States had considerable sympathy forthis operation but he backed away from open support for massive international terrorism
or maybe aggression when the security council unanimously condemned the attack as an attack of armed aggression.
The United Stated again abstaining against that.
So those are the top three cases that wn the prize for 1985 to
my knowledge and again I'll assume that these are just
international terrorism so we are not calling for Nuremberg trials.
Just more international terrorism by depraved opponents of civilizations itself, and examples which are pretty hard to miss
remember because these are the peak stories of the year. International terrorism in the Middle East there's three
perfect examples. In fact the only three major examples that I know of.
However, they aren't candidates. In fact, they are not even in the running. They are not competitive.
The examples that are in the running are for example cited in the Current History issue, to which I referred,
which does discuss 1985 and gives two examples of the evil scourge of terrorism. Namely the hijacking ofTWA897,
killing one American navy diver and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro which led to the
killing of Klinghoffer, a crippled American.
Both surely terrorist atrocities. Those are the two examples that are in the running,
that are memorable, that count for international terrorism. Well the hijackers forthe TWA plane claim,
correctly in fact, that Israel was regularly high jacking ships in the international waters in transit between
Lebanon and Cyprus, killing people and kidnapping others, taking them to Israel, eitherfor interrogation
or simply as hostages, keeping them in jail foryears. Some people are still in jail wthout charges.
But that doesn't justiify the hijacking on the assumption, which I accept at least, that violence is not legitimate
in retaliation against even worst atrocities or as preemption against future atrocities.
Violence is not legitimate in such cases so we can dismiss those claims though they are in fact correct.
Incidentally, the US-Israeli hijackings, and remember, if Israel does it we are doing it,
those hijackings are also out of the historical records.
Occasionally you find a reference to them in the
bottom of a column on something or other, but they are not part of the history of terrorism.
The hijackers of the Achille Lauro claimed that this was retaliation forthe bombing ofTunis
a couple of days earlier. Well, we dismiss that wth contempt on the same principle,
namely violence is not justified in retaliation or preemption.
Assuming that we can rise to the minimal, moral,
level that I mentioned earlier- if we are not confirmed
hypocrites in otherwords - then some consequences follow about other acts of retaliation and preemption, but that's too obvious
to talk about, so I wlljust leave it foryou to think about. Well that's 1985 - the peak year ofinternational terrorism
in the Middle East.
As a research project, you might see if I have left out anything that is a competitorforthe prize
that I am not aware of. None are mentioned on the literature on terrorism.
As I said at the beginning you don't really have to work very hard to see these things.
You have to work very hard not to see them; it takes a really good education to miss this.
1985 was of course not the first orthe last act of
international terrorism in the Middle East. There are many others that are very important.
For example, in 1975, Israel, meaning Israeli pilots wth US planes and US support,
in December 1975 they bombed a village in Lebanon killing over 50 people. No pre-text was offered,
but everybody knewwhat the reason was.
At that time the UN security council was meeting to
consider a resolution which was supported by the entire world wth marginal exceptions, only one crucial exception,
the United States which vetoed the resolution, calling for a diplomatic settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict,
incorporating the UN 242 and all ofits wording of the main resolution, security and territorial integrity
and all those nice things on the internationally recognized border.
The offending part of this one was that it also
referred to Palestinian National Rights and that's not acceptable
to the United States. It rejected them then, and it rejects them now, contrary to a lot of nonsense that you read.
The US vetoed the resolution that continued year afteryear, and is still going on now, of efforts of diplomatic settlement,
which the US has unilaterally blocked. Israel does not have a veto at the Security Council
so they reacted to the debate by bombing Lebanon and killing about 50 people wthout a pretext.
That's not in the annals ofinternational terrorisms either.
The US supported both of them, lots of deaths,
hundreds of thousands of people driven out and so on. Clinton had to back offhis support forthe 1996 invasion
afterthe Qana massacre, over a hundred people in a UN refugee camp. At the point he said, can't handle this any more, you better leave.
There was no pretext of self-defense in this case.
This is just outright international terrorism or maybe aggression.
And it continues. So lets go up to the current intifada,
which broke out on September 30th of year 2000. In the first couple of days there was no fire from Palestinians,
some stone throwng, but Israel was in fact using US attack helicopters to attack civilian appartment complexes and so on,
killing and wounding dozens of people in the first few days. The Clinton administration responded to this by,
I'll borrow our President's phrase, by 'enhancing terror'.
You recall President Bush condemned the Palestinians for
enhancing terror last month, so I'll use his phrase in line
wth the guidelines. The Clinton Administration committed
itself to enhancing terror on October 3rd by making a deal forthe biggest shipment in a decade of military helicopters
to Israel along wth spare parts forthe Apache attack helicopters that were sent a couple of weeks earlier.
That's enhancing terror. In days right after, these helicopters were being used to murder and wound civilians, attacking apartment
complexes and so on. The press cooperated by refusing to report this.
Note: Not failing to report it - refusing to report it. It was specifically brought to the attention of editors and
they simply made it clearthat they were not going to report it. There is no question about the facts incidentally, but to this
day it has not been reported, except in the margins. That policy continues, skip to December 2001,
George Bush was condemning the Palestinians for enhancing terror and he contributed in the conventional ways to enhancing terror,
in crucial ways in fact.
On December 15th the UN Security Council debated a European
initiated resolution, calling on both sides to reduce violence and
calling forthe introduction ofinternational monitors to assist
in monitoring a reduction of violence. That's a very important step. That was vetoed by the United States. It went to the... who want
to enhance violence It's hard to think of any other interpretation of this. The press didn't have to bother giving an interpretation
The press didn't have to bother giving and interpretation because it was barely reported.
It then went to the General Assembly where it wasn't reported
at all and there was an overwhelming vote supporting the same resolution. This time the United States and Israel were not
entirely isolated in opposition as several Pacific Islands joined in - Nauru and one ortwo others. So therefore, not the usual
I don't recall that that was reported. About 10 days before that
there was another major contribution to enhancing terror.
The fourth Geneva conventions, according to the entire world,
literally, outside of Israel, applied to the occupied territories.
The United States refuses. It doesn't vote against this when it comes up in the United Nations. It abstains. I presume the reason
is the United States doesn't want to take such an open blatant stand in violation of fundamental principles ofinternational law,
particularly because of the circumstances underwhich they were enacted.
If you recall the Geneva Conventions were established right after
the 2nd world war in orderto criminalize the acts of the Nazis,
so saying they don't apply is pretty strong statement. However,
outside of the United States and Israel, the whole world agrees.
The international Red Cross, which is the Agency responsible for
applying and interpreting them agrees. In fact, as far as I am aware, there is no further question about this. Swtzerland, which is the
responsible state, called a meeting of the high contracting parties forthe Geneva conventions, that is, those like the United States
that are legally obligated by treaty to enforce them.
A high solemn commitment, called a meeting on December
5th in Geneva and the meeting took place and passed a strong
resolution determining that the Geneva conventions do apply to the Occupied Territories which makes illegaljust about
everything that the United States and Israel do there. They went through the list - settlements, displacements and
everything that goes on.
The United States boycotted the sessions. They got another
country to boycott them - Australia. According to the Australian press, under heavy US pressure Australia joined
in boycotting them. If the US boycotts it its like a negative vote at the Security Council orthe General Assembly.
It doesn't get reported and it's out ofhistory. But that's another important step to enhancing terror.
All this took place incidentally in the midst of a 21 day truce.
A one sided truce. The Palestinians weren't carrying out any
acts but a couple of dozen Palestinians were killed, including a dozen children. That was right in the middle of
these efforts to enhance terrortook place. Maybe that's an unfair interpretation and there is some other motive that I'm
not thinking of, but that's what they look like to me. You can think about that. In any event International Terrorism
in the Middle East certainly continues and has a long history and if you look overthe record of course it is mixed and
complicated but I think you wll find that the balance is pretty much along the lines that I described, in fact the
balance reflects the means of violence available as it usually does.
If you look around at terror, in fact, that's why, in the whole
range of terror, state terror is farworse than individual terror forthe obvious reason that States have means of violence that
individuals don't have, or groups. And that's what you find if you look, I think overwhelmingly. It is commonly said that
That's completely false - at least if you accept the official
US definition of terror. If you do that then terror is overwhelming the weapon of the strong like most otherweapons.
Well that's history but all of this stuffis out ofhistory. History is what is created by well-educated intellectuals and
it doesn't have to have any resemblance to that thing called history by naive people and if you check this I think you wll
find this true.
Well that's the Middle East; lets turn to Central America
the other main focus of the plague by depraved opponents of
civilizations itself. Here I wll be briefbecause the core parts are uncontroversial. At least uncontroversial among
people who have minimal regard for international lawand international institutions and so on. Actually the size of that
category is very easily estimated. Namely, ask yourselfhow often what I'm about to say has appeared in the discussions
about the evil plague of terrorism in the past five months.
Huge flood but howmuch has been devoted to some uncontroversial
cases, again uncontroversial if you think the World Court and
Security Council and international lawhave some significance.
Well in 1986, the International Court of Justice condemned the
United States for international terrorism - unlawful use of force in its war against Nicaragua. Again I am going to keep
to the guidelines, bend over backwards, and allowthis to be interpreted just as international terrorism, not the war crime
of aggression. So we wll call it international terrorism. The court ordered the United States to terminate the crimes
and to pay substantial reparations - millions of dollars.
Congress reacted by instantly escalating the war by newfunding
to escalate the war. Nicaragua took the matterto the Security Council, which debated a resolution calling on all states to observe
international law, mentioning no one but everyone who was meant. The US vetoed it. Nicaragua then went to the general Assembly
which past similar resolutions in successive years. The United States and Israel apposed and in one yearthey got
All of this is out ofhistory. It has to be. It is just inconsistent
wth their preferred image of what history is supposed to be and,
as I say, you can check howmuch, these uncontroversial cases have been referred to recently and rememberwho were the individuals
responsible. People like Negroponte, Proconsul ofHonduras,
Rumsfeld, special envoy to the Middle East, and so on, plenty of continuity.
The US, as I said, reacted by escalating the war and forthe first time giving official orders to its mercenary forces to
attack what are called 'soft targets'. That's what the Southern Command called them - 'soft targets' meaning
undefended civilian targets like agricultural cooperatives and so on. That was knowr and it was discussed
in the United States.
It was considered legitimate by the 'Left', so
Michael Kinsley who represents the 'Left' in the main stream debate,
in an interesting article, he was then editor of the New Republic, in which he said that, we shouldn't be too quick to condemn
State department authorization for attacks on undefended civilian targets, because we have to apply pragmatic criteria.
We have to carry out cost benefit analysis and see whether, as he put it, the amount ofblood poured in is compensated
by a good outcome namely democracy.
What we wll determine to be democracy and what that means
you can see by looking at the states next door like
El Salvador and Guatemala which were OK democracies.
And ifit passes ourtest then that's it, OK. So, in otherwords,
international terrorism is fine assuming it meets pragmatic criteria nowacross the spectrum. Left or Right among 'we',
that is educated and privileged intellectuals, not the population of course. In Nicaragua the population had an
army to defend it. It was bad enough, ten's of thousands of people killed, the country practically devastated,
may never recover, but it had an army to defend it. In El Salvador and Guatemala, that wasn't true, the army
was the State terrorists. The US supported state terrorists. They were the army. There was no one to defend the population
and in fact the atrocities were farworse. Also they are not
a State so they could not go to the World Court orthe Security Council to followlegal means, of course wthout any effect,
because 'we', people like us, have determined that the world is going to be ruled by force not by lawand since we have the power,
as long as we determine that, a state that tries to followa legitimate means of responding to international terrorism
doesn't having anything to do.
But that's our choice, nobody else's choice. You can't blame
anyone else on that. There was however popular resistance, not elite resistance, but popular resistance, to the atrocities
there that the US had to resort to an international terrorist network- an extraordinary international terrorist network.
Rememberthe US is a powerful state its not like Libya. If Libya wants to carry out terrorist acts they hire Carlos
The Jackal or something
The United States hires terrorist states - we're big guys.
So the terrorist network consisted ofTaiwan, Britain, Israel, Argentina, at least as long as it was underthe rule of the
neo Nazi generals. When they were unfortunately removed, they fell out of the system, Saudi Arabian funding.
Quite a substantial international terrorist network, never been anything like it. In contemporary terms we
might call it an 'Axis of Evil' I suppose.
The outcome, again keeping to the guidelines - we believe
our leaders, was hundred of thousands of people slaughtered
and millions of orphans and refugees. Every conceivable atrocity.
The region devastated. The single uncontroversial case,
Nicaragua, which was the least of them, that alone far surpasses
the crimes of September 11th and the others suffered farworse. Again we are bending over backwards and giving the US the
benefit of the doubt so we are only calling it international terrorism organized by depraved opponents of civilization itself.
Well that's the second major area, Central America.
All of this however is off the record too, the
Current History journal, and its typical in this respect, nothing that I have just referred to is mentioned.
Nor is it in the whole scholarly literature in fact, except way at the margins. You can check and see.
It just doesn't count. The 80's are described as the era of state sponsored international terrorism, but they
are not referring to any of these things.
The US was trying to prevent state sponsored international terrorism by taking pro-active means like the most massive
international terrorist network that's ever been know.
That's very typical of the scholarly literature journalism and again you can do a check. There has barely been a word
on any of this as the second phase of the war on terrorism has been declared once again wth pretty much the same people
and every reason to expect some more outcomes.
Well, from all of this an obvious conclusion follows: There is an
operational definition of terrorism, the one that is actually used.
It means terrorthat they carry out against us - that's terrorism,
nothing else passes through the filter. As far as I knowthat's a
historical universal. I can't find an exception to that, you might try.
For example the Japanese in China and Manchuria were defending
the population against Chinese terrorist and going to create an
earthy paradise forthem if they could control the terrorists.
The Nazi's in occupied Europe were defending the legitimate governments likes Vichy and the population from the terrorist
partisans who were supported from abroad, as indeed they were. They were run from London, Poland and France and so on.
The fact that I say I can't find an exception, you might try, also as far as I am aware this is virtually universal among
intellectuals, educated folks like us.
Apart from statistical errorthis is the line that they take.
Nowit doesn't look that way in history, but you have to remember
who writes history. That ought to leave you wth a little skepticism. If you look at actual history not the one that's written I think
you wll find that this is the case and I could even maybe suggest it as a research topic to some enterprising graduate student
who aspires to a career as a taxi driver.
Just to continue to the present, lets just take the last couple
of months. September 11th was the perfectly clear example of
international terrorism, no controversy about that so we don't have to waste time on it. What about the reaction? Well it
turns out the reaction is also an uncontroversial case of international terrorism. Again lets keep to the guidelines
we'Iljust listen to what our leaders say.
So on October 11th President Bush announced to the Afghan people that we wll keep bombing you until you hand over
people who we suspect of terrorist acts although we refuse
to provide any evidence and we refuse to enter into any
negotiations for extradition and transfer- a clear case of international terrorism. On October 28th the British counterpart
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who is the Chief of the British Defense staff, took it a step further. Remember, getting rid
of the Taliban Regime was not a war aim, that was an afterthought.
Three weeks afterthe bombing began that was added presumably
so that intellectuals would have something to feel good about
or something, I don't know, anyway three weeks afterthe bombing, that was added as a newwar aim and Admiral Boyce announced to
the Afghan people accordingly, I think this was the first mention of this war aim, that "we wll continue bombing you until you
change your leadership".
First, that was all very prominent, page 1 of the New York Times
in both cases. Two, both cases are textbook illustrations of
international terrorism if not aggression, but we are still
bending over backwards, and it's all off the record by usual
convention. We're doing it so it doesn't count. It's only when they carry out what we officially define as terrorism that it counts.
Well, it's easy to go on, but let me just return to the weak thesis;
there can't be a war against terrorism as terrorism is defined in
official US documents. It's a logical impossibility. This is a small sample ofillustrations, you can go on easily,
but it's enough to showthat that can't be true. Well that's the weak thesis. What about the strong thesis that it is all
so entirely obvious that it would be embarrassing to talk about it because its all right on the surface
nothing hidden about any of this.
Everything that I mention is perfectly well knowr you don't
have to penetrate anything to discover. No obscure sources, nothing. Just the obvious evidence.
And you can easily add to it. There's a ton ofliterature about it forthe last 20 years, but that literature also can't be
discussed because it comes out wth the wrong conclusion. So it's treated the same way terrorism is in our intellectual culture.
Again, choice not a necessity.
So we end up wth a kind of dilemma. If we are not honest,
forget it. If we are honest there's a dilemma.
One possibility is just to acknowledge that we are total hypocrites
and then to at least have the decently to stop talking about
human rights, right and wrong and good and evil and so on and say we are hypocrites and we have force and
we are going to run the world by force, period. Lets forget about everything else.
The other option is harderto pursue but it's imperative unless we would like to contribute to still worst disasters
that are likely to lie ahead.
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