The Anti-Empire Report #23
By William Blum – Published July 14th, 2005
London, another casualty of the War on Terror
In the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, from many quarters came the warnings of the great chaos and violence this would lead to in various parts of the world, the many new anti-Americans – terrorists and otherwise – who would be produced. But I think it can be said now that the consequences have been even worse than predicted. Indonesia, for example, more than once. Turkey more than once. Pakistan repeatedly. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Madrid. And now the people of London have just experienced what the people of Baghdad, Fallujah and many other Iraqi cities have been experiencing almost daily for more than two years. This is but to name some of the most serious attacks amongst the thousands of terrorist acts against American targets and Washington’s allies since the United States imposed its so-called War on Terror upon the world. Contrary to the lie machine, the world has not been made safer.
Do we need any more evidence that there’s no security solution to terrorism? No military solution? How can you stop subway and bus bombs? Check every passenger throughout the day, every day, forever? X-ray all bags and backpacks at Times Square during the rush hour? Whether we like it or not, we must admit that Terror is a message and we better learn to listen to it with as unindoctrinated a mind as we can summon from our depths. There are the violent messages and there are the verbal messages. A group calling itself the Organisation of Al-Qaeda Jihad in Europe claimed credit for the attacks in London in an Internet posting. The group said the attacks were “in response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan. … We continue to warn the governments of Denmark, Italy and all the Crusaders that they will meet the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.” Notice that, as usual, there was no reference to Western values, wealth, freedom, democracy, or any of the other things George W. never tires of telling us the terrorists hate and are the reasons they attack the West. 1
It doesn’t particularly matter if this statement is or is not an official statement from the official al-Qaeda group (if such a group still exists or ever existed), or if the group had any direct connection to the four men from Leeds named as the perpetrators. The offsprings and the sympathizers of “al-Qaeda” are out there and are increasing in number and anger with each passing day that the United States and its allies remain in Iraq and Afghanistan. If British-born, cricket-playing, suburban Muslims can be inspired to become suicide bombers, then the United States and the United Kingdom have only two options to choose from: Remove the source of the inspiration by changing their foreign policy, or continue in politically convenient denial.
Getting out of Iraq
Exit strategy … that’s the buzz word on the Sunday morning talk shows and from members of Congress, conservatives and liberals alike, calling upon the White House to announce a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. For many it serves as their criticism of the administration’s Iraq policy; it’s about as tough as their criticism gets (along with demands for more troops, more armored vehicles, and more body armor). But even if we were to take such talk seriously, what does it actually mean? I suggest that to evaluate these demands we have to know what the speaker believes is the real reason for the US presence in Iraq. If one believes that the basic motivation behind Washington’s invasion and occupation was altruistic – overthrowing a dictatorship and establishing a truly free, independent, democratic, secular, and prosperous society – then, of course, one could argue that the US should not leave inasmuch as the present situation is light years removed from such a noble goal. However, if one is not actually suffering from this advanced stage of dementia and knows, or at least seriously suspects, that things like oil, Israel, the dollar vs. the euro, the empire, and US corporations were, and remain, the raison d’etre of the American presence, then what would be the purpose of calling for a timetable for withdrawal? The oil, et al. are continuing considerations for the White House. There was no exit strategy because there was no strategy to exit. Thus the only demand to be made must be to get out now, start packing up tomorrow. If not tonight.
Every day the occupation continues adds to the terrible suffering of the Iraqi people. The daily bombings and murders may well end as soon as the US leaves; the end of the occupation has certainly received more than passing attention in the communiques from insurgents. The fact that the US is creating more anti-American “jihadists” each day – which the CIA has recently confirmed 2 – is reason enough all by itself for leaving. A question someone should ask Bush or Rumsfeld: “If you knew for certain that the bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations in Iraq would cease immediately upon the US leaving, would you leave immediately?”
Those who warn of a civil war in Iraq if the US pulls out are reminiscent of those who warned of a communist bloodbath in Vietnam if American forces left. This warning was repeated in the media to the point of cliché. However, there was never any kind of bloodbath. All that happened was that some of the collaborators with Vietnam’s enemies were sent to “re-education” camps, a lot more civilized treatment than in post-World War Two Europe where many of those who had collaborated with the Germans were publicly paraded, shaven bald, humiliated in other ways, and/or hung from the nearest tree.
The United States will eventually have to leave Iraq, at least partially. But when that happens, watch carefully. Observe who has retained control of the oil and other economic entities; and who has retained various privileges. In the early days of the occupation, the Coalition Provisional Authority under American official Paul Bremer passed a number of laws which guaranteed American corporations all kinds of benefits with minimal risk. Those laws are still on the books and, as written, will be very difficult to change. And what Iraqi governing body will be able to make the US close its bases, including the new ones currently being built?
Saving Africa. For whom?
We’ve just gone through one of the periodic Save Africa campaigns – the G-8 was meeting, Live 8 was performing, aid was increasing, debts were canceling … Paul McCartney, Bono, Stevie Wonder … “Make Poverty History” … But does anyone doubt that after the songs have been sung and the current campaign is history Africa will be swimming in the very same river of misery? Even if all the G-8 pledges of aid are fulfilled, which, if history is any guide, will not come close; and by 2010, the target date for the aid, those making the pledges are likely to be out of office for some time. One can offer any number of reasons for this sad state of affairs, not least of which are the workings of globalization as championed by the G-8, particularly their subsidies for their own agricultural products, which African farmers can’t compete with, and IMF structural adjustment, which forces countries receiving aid to cut back on all manner of social services and open up the economy to the multinationals. It is to advance such ends that the G8 exists; it is not, truth be told, a charity to help poorer nations.
But also high on the list of reasons for failure is corruption. In the past, much of whatever real aid was forthcoming didn’t reach those most in need, while African government officials drove around in Mercedes Benzes and flew to Switzerland to be closer to their money. What can be done about this? Find better leaders of course; leaders genuinely concerned about the welfare of those on the bottom. Hmmm. But what would happen if a Salvador Allende or a Jean-Bertrand Aristide or a Fidel Castro or a Hugo Chavez came to power in an African country? The United States would do its very best to overthrow him, or, failing that, make his rule as difficult as possible. Such was the fate of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in the 1960s, and Agostinho Neto in Angola beginning in the 1970s. Washington also installed its own special monsters like Hissan Habré in Chad in the 1980s and Joseph Mobutu in Zaire for three decades ending in the 1990s. The US didn’t have to subvert Nelson Mandela because in office he was not particularly progressive, instituting an extensive program of privatization and IMF structural adjustment, which did nothing to relieve the destitution of millions of South Africans.
Once more with feeling
On July 2, an American airstrike in the mountains of Afghanistan destroyed a house, and as villagers gathered to look at the damage, a US warplane dropped a second bomb on the same target. The second bomb killed 17 civilians, including women and children, according to the governor of the province. The US military confirmed civilian deaths but said the numbers were unclear, stating that the targeted house was a known operating base for terrorist attacks. The statement added that US forces “regret the loss of innocent lives.”
Two days later, after the Afghanistan government of American ally Hamid Karzai also criticized the bombing attacks, the US State Department declared: “We deeply regret any loss of civilian life in the course of military actions.” 3
In 1999, during the 78-day NATO (read US) bombing of Yugoslavia, “We regret the loss of innocent lives” was a common expression from the mouths of NATO spokesmen. It was also an expression regularly used by the IRA following one of their misdirected bombings in Northern Ireland. But the IRA actions were regularly called “terrorist”.
If all the economists were laid end to end they still wouldn’t reach any useful conclusions
The poor people of the world fell off the cosmic agenda centuries ago. In India, the homeless are large enough to constitute fair-sized cities, the slums large enough to constitute a major metropolis; “crushing poverty” or “dirt poor” don’t quite capture it; “a food-free diet” comes closer. We all know the picture. The Wall Street Journal, though, sees things we don’t. “India’s economy expanded a larger-than-expected 7 percent during the three months ended March 31,” they breathlessly informed us July 5. “India’s gross domestic product has recorded some of the biggest growth in the world this year.”
Gross domestic product … that’s a real beauty that one; you can put almost anything you want in it, like it’s a garbage can; anything called a product, anything called a service. You wanna be a good citizen and increase the GDP? Burn down a building (which then has to be rebuilt), or go out and kill someone (services of undertakers, cemeteries, lawyers, etc.) As one economist has noted, marry your cleaning person, and you will make GDP drop (a paid service changing to an unpaid one). So much of it is arbitrary, so arbitrarily complex; and then the complexity is multiplied by comparing the GDP among different countries. Who knows what India puts into its particular garbage can? Is it the exact same garbage calculated in the exact same manner as in the United States? Hardly likely.
But economists, politicians, the media, they all make use of their favorite Leading Economic Indicators to paint the kind of picture they want us to see; since India is waist-deep in the joys of globalization it’s vital to globalization cheer leaders like the Wall Street Journal to paint smiley faces.
What would you like to believe against all evidence to the contrary?
“A few months ago I told the American people that I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.” President Ronald Reagan, 1987 4
Reagan may well have been in his pre-Alzheimer’s condition when he made his famous denials about not trading arms for the American hostages held in Iran, but what is the excuse for the fantasies of present-day Republicans?
Like Vice President Dick Cheney, revealing unsuspected gifts as a humorist by declaring in June that prisoners at the US detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba are well treated. “They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.” 5
Not to be outdone, Congressman Duncan Hunter of California held a news conference a few days later concerning Guantánamo. Displaying some yummy traditional meals, he said the government spends $12 a day for food for each person. “So the point is that the inmates in Guantánamo have never eaten better, they’ve never been treated better, and they’ve never been more comfortable in their lives than in this situation. 6
Normally, I don’t bother commenting on the tales told by the dial-a-lie Bushpeople; such stuff is as surprising and newsworthy as Paris Hilton posing in scanty attire. But what I find interesting is how well the Bushpeople have grasped a fundamental truth, first given great currency by a certain Mr. A. Hitler, originally of Austria. This individual, though often castigated, actually arrived at a number of very perceptive insights into how the world worked. One of them was this:
The great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil … therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. 7
Can it be doubted that many Americans who heard or read the remarks of Cheney or Hunter found it very difficult to believe that they were out-and-out lies? And the next time these good citizens encounter charges of abuse at Guantánamo, they will be skeptical. It works.
- For a discussion of this issue see the author’s essay “Myth and Denial in the War Against Terrorism: Just why do terrorists terrorize?”
- New York Times, June 22, 2005, p.10
- Associated Press, July 4 and 6
- Washington Post, March 5, 1987, p.1
- CNN.com, June 23, 2005
- Scripps Howard News Service, June 28, 2005, column by Reg Henry
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1971; original version 1925), Vol. 1, chapter 10, p.231
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.