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News ::
Understanding and Eradicating Terrorism: Deconstructing Great American Myths
22 Jan 2002
Modified: 03 Apr 2002
An attempt to deconstruct myths toward the attacks of September 11th and terrorism in general, with special emphasis on American foreign policy, the media's effect on the masses, and international opinion.


UNDERSTANDING AND ERADICATING TERRORISM:
Deconstructing Great American Myths



When the kamikazes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, I was living in Madrid, Spain. My friend Carlos called me and told me to turn on the television. Upon seeing the two commercial jets crashing into the towers and the subsequent collapse of both buildings, all of Madrid stood mouths wide open, completely shocked and mesmerized by the images. How could this have happened in the United States? My students and friends called me to ask if I was OK and if my friends and family were safe. The media covered little else than these terrible events for weeks to come, and most people spent a significant amount of time in front of the television eagerly awaiting news of the upcoming events of the "apocalypse". I was house bound at the time with a bad back and a lot of free time on my hands, which gave me an opportunity to watch CNN, the Spanish news, and read newspapers from various countries.

Although the European media coverage was in some ways similar to that of the United States, there was one notable difference: Many European countries, although allies of the United States, are not directly involved in the conflict, which generally means that the public are offered more objective news coverage on the subject. Just to offer a little background, Spain is a country that has been plagued by the menace of terrorism for many years by the Basque separatist group ETA. About once a week there is some type of car or building bombing, and many people have needlessly died as a result. I even have a friend whose father was killed by ETA. I mention this in order to make it abundantly clear that the Spanish are all too familiar with terrorism, which is why Spanish people were quite sympathetic to the plight of American civilians on September 11th of this year.

However, although most Europeans mourned for Americans and believed that what happened that day was thoroughly inexcusable, nine out of ten political commentators were also of the opinion that what happened on September 11th was the tragic consequence of global conditions stemming from years of U.S. foreign policy, which has resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people all over the world.

During the Gulf War, former State Department official William Blum described the bombing of Iraq as "dropping 177 million pounds of bombs on the people of Iraq in the most concentrated aerial onslaught in the history of the world." Amnesty Interntional also compiled an 82 page report of human rights abuses against Iraqis which included widspread torture and rape. In 1991 economist Rick Wolf spoke of the graphic images of Iraqi civilian casualties he had seen on French television, which had been censored in the American media. According to Wolf, these images were so horrific that "People with any sympathy for Arab people around the world have an intense hatred for the United States unlike anything that has ever happened before. A depth of feeling, an intensity and a rage which will come out God knows where, but it will come out." Unfortunately, he was right.

What most Americans do not know is that millions of innocent civilians not only in the Middle East but in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia have been slaughtered at the hands of United States imperialism. Before I go any further, I would like to state that although a harsh critic of some American policies, I am also a freedom loving American who appreciates the liberties I am able to enjoy as a citizen of this country, and like many, I am greatly concerned about America's future in light of recent events. Nevertheless, I believe that our foreign policy greatly contradicts many of the merits that this great nation was based upon. I also believe that most Americans are good people who unknowingly support bad policies as they are unaware that when it comes to our foreign policy, the freedoms given to Americans by the principles that this country was founded upon do not extend beyond the border of the United States of America. Stated in simple terms, our foreign policy does not treat people in other nations the same way it treats fellow Americans.

American foreign policy is so riddled with hypocrisy and double standards it is embarrassing . One of the first things I always hear from people in other countries is "Why are Americans such hypocrites?" Generally, I try to defend my people by telling them that it is the American government, not the American people who are hypocrites. To this claim they usually respond by declaring that, with few exceptions, it is very frustrating to discuss politics with most Americans because many are so hopelessly entangled in a web of denial about their own government that any discourse on the subject is an exercise in futility. Since I have often had that very same experience while speaking to fellow Americans, I cannot successfully argue to the contrary.

How many times has the United States government overthrown or murdered a democratically elected government leader and installed a brutal dictator as we have done in Chile, Iran, Haiti, The Congo, Indonesia, and Guatemala? How many tyrannical governments who have seized power through the massacre of thousand of innocent people have received political, economic, or military support by the U.S.? The Philippines, Zaire, El Salvador and Nicaragua are cases in point. How many hundreds of thousands of people have died from disease and malnutrition because of U.S. sanctions in countries like Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Haiti and Indonesia? How many millions of women and children have been raped, tortured, and murdered by CIA trained death squads bankrolled by U.S. tax dollars in ALL of Latin America? In how many countries do people (including children) work sixteen hours a day seven days a week in miserable conditions for ten dollars a month, so that Americans can live off the fat of their labors and land? Is first world exploitation of third world agriculture and labor not just another form of slavery? How many hundreds of thousands of civilians have been erased from the planet by U.S. bombing campaigns in Libya, Iraq, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan? And let's not forget the colonization of Puerto Rico. Perhaps the question we should really be asking ourselves is "How long did we think our government would get away with all this?" Sadly, many Americans do not appear to be very well informed about our history and consequently, they have no real understanding of why we were attacked. If we were better informed, would we really have the audacity to ask "Why do they hate us?".

Most Americans, it would seem, are not ready to face the ugly truth. Average Americans search for more comfortable explanations like jealousy or religious fanatisism. They desperately want to preserve America's polished image of freedom and democracy. Some may believe they will find the answers in the Koran. They won't. For many, confronting the possibility that this image might be fictitious at best is like opening Pandora's box: a very bitter pill to swallow .

It is the general consensus of the international community that the government of the United States has no respect for international law. They view our foreign policy as nothing more than an endless cycle of contradictions and double standards, most notably in our government's blatant disregard for international policies and resolutions set forth by the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Anti U.S. sentiment is not limited to the Middle East or underdeveloped countries. Even in Europe where people enjoy a high standard of living (in some ways higher than in the U.S.: they have public health care, a much lower murder rate, much longer paid vacation periods etc.), many consider our flag to be a symbol of global tyranny.

To understand how the United States has now become what some people are calling the "big evil empire", one only needs a quick historical look at the relationship of a superpower with the rest of the world. Whether it is the Roman Empire, The Ottoman Empire, the French Empire, the British Empire or the Russian Empire, history always repeats itself. All superpowers were hated by most of the rest of the world, and the United States is no exception. Although many like to believe that the hatred stems from envy and jealousy, history demonstrates that much more valid reasons come into play. The principal requirement for superpower status has always been the ruthless and unlimited political, economic, and social oppression and exploitation of less powerful countries, above all those which we call the "third world". Throughout history all superpowers have engaged in hypocrisy, overwhelming brutality, and demonstrated a fundamental indifference to the basic rights of people in less powerful countries. There is no such thing as a "nice" superpower.


You won't hear very much about any of this on CNN, the Fox news channel, ABC, the New York Times, or any other mainstream news source with the possible exception of C-SPAN which encourages a wider range of viewpoints than the others. Sure, you will hear a little smidgen here and there from the opposing point of view, but just enough to manipulate you into thinking that the news is objective. There are two great myths in this country that I find very frustrating. The first is that we have a free press that equally expresses all points of view. If you believe this, you might as well believe in Santa Claus. In his book Acts of Aggression , Noam Chomsky refers to the presentation of "truth" in the U.S. media as "selective perception" in which the media serves as nothing more than a means of indoctrination of the masses. In his essay The Manufacture of Consent, Chomsky effectively argues that Americans are being brainwashed by a highly sophisticated, carefully maneuvered media presence in which all actions taken by the U.S. government are presented as noble if they are in our "national interest". Retired Admiral William Crowe (Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman) who served during Operation Desert Storm, recently stated on C-SPAN 2 that after the Gulf War he was "disgusted by what I was and was not allowed to say to the press", and that there is "an alarming lack of information in the media". In her essay The Media Fall in Line, Susan Douglas explains the media coverage of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the following terms: "The repeated use of pictures of Osama Bin Laden to personify all terrorists has contributed to warmongering, massive oversimplification, self delusions about American purity and innocence, and a mythologizing of one man instead of a discussion of the broader trends and global conditions that got us to this dreadful point".

When the population of any given country is convinced of the noble intentions of its government, it is much easier to justify unjustifiable acts with the consent of the majority. What most people in America cannot and do not want to see is that our press is controlled and manipulated at every level of our government. Politicians are puppets of Corporate America who finance the mainstream media, which is why you will never see this type of article in the New York Times. Before an investigative reporter can gain access to the eyes and ears of the American public, the information that he or she gathers often undergoes a government supervised screening process so rigorous that by the time the story is presented to the public, it often has little or nothing to do with what the original investigation uncovered. I have met reporters who have gone to third world nations and actually seen the atrocities committed by governments against civilian populations in countries whose governments we have avidly supported and deemed "democratic". When these professionals tried to release their stories in the U.S. press, they were basically told by government officials that an attempt to air their reports on national television or publish them in mainstream newspapers would result in the permanent destruction of their careers. I have met Salvadoran refugees who have been raped and tortured and had half their families killed right before their eyes by mercenaries trained by the CIA and bankrolled by American tax dollars. As what was left of their families sought refuge in the United States, our government sought to deport them on the grounds that El Salvador was a "democracy". The media expressed similar sentiments. These people are threatening you see, because they may spread the truth all over our country and God forbid, we would actually know what our tax dollars are paying for. Currently a case has reached the Virginia Supreme Court where a young girl was suspended from school for creating anti-war T-shirts and starting an anti-war club. So much for the First Amendment guaranteeing all American citizens the right to free speech.

Even before the attacks, civil liberties were in serious jeopardy. Since September 11th, the heightened attack on constitutional rights has become reminiscent of the witch hunts during the McCarthy era, and John Ashcroft is the new Joseph McCarthy. The young girl I mentioned earlier is unfortunately not an isolated example. It has been reported that well known political activists are being harassed at airports and prevented from boarding their planes by national guardsmen, and that peaceful demonstrators are being pepper-sprayed, charged with felonies that call for multi-year prison sentences, and fined between $35,000 and $50,000 (Free Speech R.I.P. by Hank Hoffman). Any American exercising his or her constitutional right to question the actions of his or her own government is now also being labeled as a "terrorist". Can we get some perspective please? This word seems to be the new buzzword, replacing the word "communist" to describe almost anyone who does not happen to agree with their government. I often wonder what might happen to me if I publish this article. Such blatant defiling of our constitution is bringing us frightfully closer to what we most criticize and despise: a police state. If our government continues to deny its citizens these basic rights, we will cease to be a democracy.

What has also struck me throughout this whole media circus is the way the press has been manipulating the voice of Muslims. The voice Americans most need to hear right now are not those of extremists, but of moderate Muslims who are currently being censored . Every time a moderate Muslim who likes America but is unhappy with its policies appears on CNN he or she is given ample time to discuss what is good about American culture, but when the time comes to criticize our policies, the newscaster immediately states "I'm sorry, but we're out of time". I have seen this time and time again with reporters from Arabic newspapers, the queen of Jordan, and politicians from various countries. Nobody with a rational voice is permitted to become too "uppity". The reason we let the extremists speak about American wrongdoings, but not the moderate Muslims, is evident: Extremists will never be given any credibility by the American public because they are terrorists, radicals, and dictators who are trying to implement an Islamic brand of neo-fascism in every Muslim country on the face of the earth. Their opinions are not threatening because Americans will never listen to them. Moderates, on the other hand, are often the voice of reason, and Americans just might take them seriously if they were actually given the chance to speak.

When referring to the Middle East crisis, CNN would have you believe that the Israelis are the victims, whereas in Europe you will watch another movie altogether. You will see Israelis using serrated rocks to saw off arms of Palestinians and shooting down unarmed 8 and 9 year old children. When Palestinian extremist groups kill a right-wing Zionist leader (hardly an innocent civilian) the U.S. government labels them "terrorists". When Israeli soldiers kill innocent Palestinian children they do not describe the Israelis in the same manner. Why is that?

It is widely known in the rest of the world that the Israeli government has killed more innocent civilians than the Palestinians, yet in our media it is always the Palestinians who are referred to as the "terrorists". Although there are Palestinian terrorists, they are not represented by the government of Yasser Arafat. He has spoken out time and time again condemning the barbaric actions of these individuals. He even went as far as to demand that the Palestinians respect the rules of a cease fire, stating that they were not to attack Israelis even in the case of self defense. Since the recent attacks on Israeli civilians by the terrorist group Hamas, some right-wing Israelis are now comparing Arafat to Bin Laden, which is ludicrous, because the terrorists themselves have accused him (Arafat) of being a traitor to Islam. Like many leaders whose countries are plagued with the terrorist menace (e.g. Spain, Northern Ireland, Jordan, etc.), he (Arafat) is not able to control them (the terrorists).

The Israeli government on the other hand, is a state sponsored terrorist. In his article The Old Way of Thinking ,Howard Zinn stresses the importance of understanding the anger of the Muslim world with regard to the Palestinian cause if we are going to successfully eradicate terrorism. He states that Muslims are furious with the United States because "Palestinians live under a cruel military occupation while our government supplies Israel with high tech weapons". The United States currently gives the Israeli government 3.5 billion dollars a year. Just for the record, the only other country in the United Nations that supports America's unilateral position with regard to Israel is England, who sent the Jews to Palestine in the first place. Could two countries be right and one hundred and eighty seven wrong?

Another Oscar worthy media performance was the news coverage on Nicaragua in the eighties. Before the elections, the CIA attempted to demolish the Sandinistas with Honduran mercenaries called The Contras whose brutality, according to the world press was said to be so unspeakably savage that the State Department was forced to publicly condemn The Contras' terrorist activities. Congressional intelligence committees were informed by former Contra leaders, the CIA, and by other witnesses that the Contras "raped, tortured and killed unarmed civilians, including children" and that "groups of civilians including women and children were burned, dismembered, blinded, and beheaded'." One survivor of a raid in the Jinotega province recalls the following: "Rosa had her breasts cut off. Then they cut into her chest and took her heart out. The men had their arms broken, their testicles cut off, and their eyes poked out. They were killed by slitting their throats and pulling the tounge out through the slit".( Blum)

At that time it was disclosed that "the CIA had prepared a manual of instruction for its clients which, among other things, encouraged the use of violence against civilians." (Blum) In fact, it was later stated by former Contra members that civilian targets were given priority over Sandinista targets. The Contras were instructed to go into small villages and kill one or two families in each, with the express purpose of setting an example to the rest of the villagers as to what fate will be awaiting them if they decide to support the Sandinistas. Then came the elections. The Sandinistas won, and the United States didn't like that at all . Our government then insisted that the elections were rigged despite the fact that entire electoral process was internationally supervised by the United Nations whose observers stated that not only were they fair, but among the fairest they had ever seen. According to the U.N. report, all parties from the extreme right to the extreme left were equally represented in the media, something that has never occurred in any U.S. election.

The Sandinistas originally came to power through an armed struggle against the infamous U.S. backed dictator Anastasio Samoza II (his father had been installed in Nicaragua by the U.S. government decades earlier) The Samoza government was said to be responsible for large scale, rape, torture and massacre of peasants, as well as extortion, robbery, and running of brothels. In spite of the fact that these claims were confirmed by the world media, what most people learned on the ten o'clock news in this country was that the Samoza dynasty was a "democracy" the Sandinistas "communist tyrants" and the Contras "freedom fighters".

You may ask "Why wouldn't they tell us the truth? What do they have to lose?" The answer is quite simple: The media is financed and thereby controlled by Corporate America. They have little interest in keeping Americans well informed. Quite the contrary, the mission of the media is to keep people misinformed, thereby controlling the will of the American voter. This way the American government is free to go into other countries, commit all kinds of crimes against humanity, and call it "defending freedom". If Americans discovered the truth, we might be forced to follow our consciences and vote for people who really do believe in democracy and human rights Then the very rich might have to settle for being merely wealthy with three houses in Europe and the Caribbean instead of ten. Any successful reporter or journalist pursuing a career in the United States learns the rules of the game early on. The truth, as unsavory as it may be, must be sugarcoated in order to appease the delicate palate of the American public, and the shareholders of Corporate America. The term "free press" is similar to "clean war" in the sense that both are oxymorons. Access to the mainstream press is limited to those who are wealthy enough to buy it.

That brings us to the second great American myth. Because of the way the truth is so shamelessly distorted by the American media, many people in this country actually believe that our foreign policy is dictated by the principles of democracy and human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our foreign policy is dictated by one thing and one thing only: American economic interest. Anyone who believes that we go into these countries to defend the freedom of others is just plain politically naive. Since the end of the Second World War, there have not been any U.S. interventions in any country that weren't in some way related to multi-million dollar companies. For example, the United Fruit Company is one of the main reasons for our Latin American policies, and in the Middle East it is of course the petroleum companies.

A very effective and frequently used propaganda strategy employed by the United States government is the selective demonizing of dictators and other politicians who won't cooperate with the United States. We rant and rave about what a horrible dictator Castro is, yet we have supported dictators who have considerably worse human rights records like the Shah in Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines, Duvalier in Haiti, and Samoza in Nicaragua. The truth is, that although Castro is indeed a dictator and has done some questionable things, he like many other great enemies of the United States, is a North American creation. The Cuban Revolution was a result of the repression inflicted upon Cuban people by the U.S. backed puppet government of Batista. The more the Batista government allowed itself to be controlled by Corporate America and the United States government, the less popular it became with Cuban people. By 1958, it lost all support by fellow Cubans and became "a pure apparatus of terror and extortion" (Robin Blackburn, The Cuba Reader: The Making of a Revolutionary Society). Revolution was inevitable, and Castro was the result.

Another legendary United States villain is of course, Saddam Hussein. Often times a hero one day is a villain the next. In his article "Theater of Good and Evil" Eduardo Galeano points out that in American politics "Heroes become monsters and monsters heroes. The actors switch masks according to the script." Although Saddam Hussain has always been a monstrous thug, he was one of George Bush Sr.'s biggest allies and preferred commercial associates before the Gulf War. At that time it was of little importance to our government that this man was killing thousands of innocent people. There had been a democratic movement in Iraq against the tyranny of Hussein which requested the aid of the U.S. government. Our government refused to help them because at that time Saddam was still being a "good boy" and complying with U.S. economic demands. But when he no longer wanted to "play nice" Saddam Hussein was suddenly being compared to Hitler. Before the Gulf War, Hussein was loathed by Iraqi people. Unfortunately, U.S. intervention increased his popularity. The very same man who was previously considered a monster by his people will probably go down in the nation's history books as a hero who stood up to the "Satanic West". We didn't care what an evil rogue he was before he threatened our oil interests. We didn't help Iraqi people when they really needed it, and now he is an object of admiration for many Muslims, which is especially dangerous considering present circumstances.

And then there is the tragic case of Iran. Years ago Iran was a westernized free country not unsimilar those of Europe and the United States. But then our government overthrew the democratically elected government of Mossadegh and installed the Shah in its place. Consequently, the Iranian people became so enraged by the hypocrisy of the West that an Islamic revolution was the end result. The Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini didn't leave a trace of the democratic freedoms that the Iraqi people had previously enjoyed.

Before September 11th, the United States government had little interest in the fact that the Taliban government were stoning women to death for exposing their ankles, denying them the right to work or to an education, denying them access to health facilities, forcing young children to slit their own mother's throats, holding public lynching ceremonies, destroying ancient Buddhist statues in spite of the firm request of the international community to preserve them, or chopping off the hands of people who were forced to steal so that their families would not starve to death. Now we see people like Laura Bush on the news "enlightening" us about what a repressive, tyrannical government they were. Interestingly, you don't see anything on the news about the Saudi Arabian government where women live in very similar circumstances, simply because Saudi Arabia is still a "friend" of the United States .

In the past, the United States supported the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists who professed to be vehemently anti-American, solely because they also happened to be anti-Soviet. Everybody wants to blame the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Bill Clinton for his failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, but few people realize what past presidents have done to facilitate the events of September 11th. In Afghanistan, aside from the Taliban, the United States government supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was described by both the CIA and State Department officials as "scary", "vicious", "a fascist" and "definite dictator material". "His followers first gained attention by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil." (William Blum 1986).) While the United States "showered him with large amounts of aids" (Blum) his followers were screaming "Death to Americans". They continued to support Hekmatyar and his followers even after "some of them had kidnapped the American ambassador in the capital city of Kabul, leading to his death in the rescue attempt." (Blum) And if that were not enough, the American government did not cut off its support for Hekmatyar even after "their brother Islamic fundamentalists in next-door Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran and held 55 American hostages for over one year" (Blum).

Despite the obvious threat that Islamic fundamentalists posed to American citizens, Ronald Reagan referred to Hetmakyar and his boys as "freedom fighters" just because they were simultaneously fighting the wrath of the "Soviet Evil Empire" (Blum). Several years later the CIA trained Osama Bin Laden, who was said to be "loved and armed by the U.S. government" who "taught him everything he knows about terrorism" (Galeano 2001). Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

Some politicians have a nasty habit of looking for short term simple solutions to very complex problems, with the intention of boosting their own popularity. Unfortunately, many of these "solutions" have more serious long term consequences which are frequently overlooked by these opportunistic politicians, who, because they want to be remembered as heroes, rely on the short attention span of the American public for personal gain. What generally happens is that Americans point the finger at the wrong person (in this case Clinton), because for many people, an easy scapegoat offered on the nightly news is preferable to the effort required in taking a trip to the library and opening up a few history books.

One thing that was conveniently overlooked in the Iran-Contra hearings was the fact that Ronald Reagan actually delayed the release of the hostages in Iran in order to increase his popularity and steal the 1980 election from Jimmy Carter. At that time Barbara Honegger was the White House Policy Analyst and dedicated member of the Reagan-Bush 1980 presidential campaign. Although a devout Republican, her disgust at the corrupt nature of her coworkers' behavior caused her to abandon her post with the Bush- Reagan administration stating that "Ronald Reagan cut a deal with Iran before the 1980 election to send arms in exchange for Iran's agreeing to delay the release of our 52 (remaining) hostages". This was a ploy to make the American public believe that Jimmy Carter was unable to rescue the hostages so that Reagan could sabotage the elections. It worked. It just so happens that the hostages were released on January 21st, 1980, the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration. Anybody who is willing to even entertain the possibility that this was just a coincidence is probably too far gone to continue reading this essay.

If you have any doubt about the validity of the claims made about the aforementioned Watergate style electoral coup which put the lives of Americans in further danger, or any other claims made about U.S. foreign policy in this essay, I suggest you watch the documentaries entitled "Cover Up" and John Stockwell’s “Secret Wars of the CIA”. John Stockwell was high ranking member of both the CIA and the National Security Council who left well paying government jobs to expose the evildoings of these clandestine organizations. He now writes books and lectures on college campuses, and undoubtedly makes much less money, but feels very strongly that the truth must be exposed. .The two documentaries feature credible first hand testimonies by former CIA agents, former members of the Contra, and other right-wing officials directly involved in the Iran-Contra and other foreign policy scandals, as well as some very unsettling domestic conspiracies. You may have noticed that I quote former State Department official William Blum throughout this essay. Please take note that Blum, like Barbara Honegger, was directly involved in U.S. foreign policy making and, like Honegger, resigned from his duties as a reaction to the criminal acts he witnessed being perpetuated by the U.S. government.

George W. Bush is also looking for a quick fix. If he does find Bin Laden he will be the "good guy" and Clinton the "bad guy". Attacking Afghanistan with the goal of eliminating global terrorism is like covering a big infectious wound with a bandaid without taking antibiotics. When we treat deep wounds with such superficiality, we end up with gangrene. We may not hear from the terrorists for a while, but the decision to attack Afghanistan will lead to more severe terrorist attacks in the future, although maybe not until the next president is in office. Terrorist cells exist in every corner of the world, including the United States of America. There are many highly intelligent, well trained, well funded, abundantly supplied, and greatly organized high commanders planning massive attacks on the United States and other parts of the world whose names we have yet to discover. Killing Bin Laden ,the Taliban, a few Al Qaeda members, and Afghan civilians (although accidental) in Afghanistan will accomplish nothing more than the further alienation of Muslims globally, which will strengthen the terrorist cause instead of debilitating it. Global terrorism will continue with or without Osama Bin Laden.

And speaking about the bombing of Afghanistan, there is also a disturbing American phenomenom which is predicated on the belief that American lives are much more valuable than the lives of people in other countries. Amnesty International currently estimates that 4000 Afghan civililians have beeen killed as a result of the bombing (more casualities than in New York and Washington) yet our goal of finding Bin Laden has not been achieved.

One of the greatest misconceptions Americans have is that our global policies exist to protect the interests of the average American. The failure of Americans to realize that the majority of our foreign policy serves only to protect the "rights" of obscenely wealthy business tycoons may lead to the eventual demise of the entire human race. The refusal of George W. Bush to sign the Kyoto Accords is an indisputable example of the imminent danger all of humanity is facing at the hands of a very small, greedy and capricious national and global minority. Although environmental experts say that if the bill is not passed, the damaging effects of global warming will be irreparable in as little as 20 years, our president was the only person of 176 people who refused to sign. His flimsy excuse was that some third world countries were not asked to sign the accords which is absurd, considering that these countries do not have big businesses which are polluting the environment. We may all die in the very near future just so that large corporations may continue to needlessly pollute our air and our water. Americans have been asleep for a very long time, which is why many have blindly supported these types of policies under the misguided assumption that all is being done in the name of freedom, democracy, human rights and the American way of life. The atrocities we commit against third world countries are rooted in the same phenomenon. On September 11th of this year, many average Americans were killed as a reaction to suffering of epidemic proportions prompted by the greed of large American corporations. These policies are not created to protect Americans. They are created to protect 2 or 3% of the American population at the expense of the rest of the world. The only difference between now and before September 11th, is that this is the first time that American citizens have felt the sting of the flagrant injustice caused by American foreign policy.

If our government really believed in democracy and freedom it would let other nations choose their own destiny instead of playing the role of international police. When the CIA overthrew and murdered democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende who was greatly loved by his people, and replaced him with Agosto Pinochet who was greatly feared by those very same people, were they thinking about democracy? Why are we always using buzzwords like "communism" and "democracy" to justify undemocratic acts? I think we should probably reconsider the term. Perhaps "selective democracy" would be more appropriate. If our government could be a little bit more honest and say to the rest of the world "Look, we will let you have democratic elections as long as we approve of who you vote for, because let's face it, we're hypocrites." The rest of the world already believes that we are hypocrites. They are just waiting for us to admit it. We cannot revere the principles of democracy and human rights by denying other countries those very same principles. Denying other nations the right to freely elect their leaders on the basis of what type of government they choose denies them democracy. The right to self government is the defining characteristic of a democratic system and cannot be contingent upon whether a freely elected leader happens to be a capitalist, communist, nationalist, socialist or any other type of "ist" as long as he or she is chosen by his or her own people.

For many years one of the most effective mind control strategies employed by the government of the United States was a tendency to call any leftist or person critical of American policy a "communist". This was a method used time and time again to discredit almost anybody in any country (including the U.S.) who opposed globalization and its destructive consequences. Anyone who spoke out against exploitation, hunger, poverty, puppet dictators, and large scale human rights violations committed by CIA trained death squads was conveniently labeled a "communist". This was and still is to some degree used as a way to undermine the democratic process. "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist." (Dom Helder Camara) . For decades the United States government gave massive amounts of military and economic aid to the notoriously violent and repressive Duvalier family dictatorship in Haiti. When finally, in 1986 Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (son of the infamous Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier) was ousted and sent into exile, the United States did everything in its power to bring him back and to make certain the left-leaning democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristede did not rise to power. The operative word used by the United States government was predictably "communist". William Blum remarks "What does the government of the United States do when faced with a choice between supporting: (a) a group of totalitarian military thugs guilty of murdering thousands, systematic torture, widespread rape, and leaving severely mutilated corpses in the streets ...or ( b) a non-violent priest, legally elected to the presidency by a landslide, whom the thugs have overthrown in a coup?.........But what if the priest is a "leftist"?

The Haitian example is unfortunately one of many. Similar events have taken place in Nicaragua, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Iran, and the feeble justification was always "stopping the spread of communism." despite the fact that most of these governments were not even communist. The majority of these government leaders were nationalists who wanted to use their country's resources for the benefit of their own people instead of letting them starve to death just so that 3 percent of the North American population could continue to make more money than any human being could possibly spend in ten lifetimes. The American government has been enormously successful in manipulating and perverting the word "communism" to the point that most Americans use this word loosely without really understanding what it means. Because of this there has always been a popular belief in America that a communist country cannot be democratic. Contrary to what some Americans believe, communism and democracy are not polar opposites. Capitalism and communism are economic systems. Totalitarianism and democracy are political systems. Whether or not a democratic system will prevail in any given country is usually dictated by whether the government came to power by fair elections with a system of checks and balances, or by a military coup imposed upon a helpless population. Historically, this is what has had the most bearing on what type of political system will exist. This is why imperialist colonies of both the Soviet and American Empire have not been democracies. The Soviet colonies were communist dictatorships and the American colonies were capitalist dictatorships. These misguided associations that many Americans have between communism and tyranny, and capitalism and freedom have no basis whatsoever in reality. Whether the economic system is capitalist or communist has little to do with democracy. It is a grave mistake to believe that most capitalist systems are modeled after the United States. We are a developed nation. Many third world capitalist societies are nothing short of horrific, many of whom the United States government has adamantly supported. In some of the aforementioned capitalist systems I would be put to death just for writing this type of article. Repression and human rights violations are in no way exclusive to communist countries.

Unfortunately, American citizens cannot, and more importantly do not want to take off their rosy colored glasses and see the gray and dismal reality which lurks behind the American facade of justice, freedom and "liberty for all". There is a social disease running rampant in our country that I like to call "blind patriotism" which really adds to the problem. It is one thing to be proud of America's good points (e.g. social, economic and political progress) and quite another to indiscriminately support any actions taken by the United States government without question, just because you happen to be an American. Although I am a firm believer in standing behind your convictions, I also believe that it is dangerous to form strong, unsubstantiated opinions based solely on the clichés and rhetoric of politicians and media commentators whose affluent sponsors are pulling the strings. For this reason I always seek the broadest range of opinions possible in my quest for the truth.

Many Americans want to believe in America's virtue so much that they selectively tune out all evidence to the contrary, without even so much as a glance at the facts. They have such a strong investment in their sense of national pride that trying to get through to them is like chipping away at an ice glacier with a nail file. Like religion, pride in one's country gives people a sense of security and belonging. For this reason, this type of person will stop reading this essay after the first paragraph. I do not object to patriotism as long as people are looking through a clear and focused lens. A real patriot is not someone who believes that the American government can do no wrong. He or she does not believe everything that is stated on the nightly news without reservation. A genuine patriot is the educated patriot: someone who knows their country's history and considers varying view points; someone who takes pride in what America does well and recognizes and tries to change what America is doing wrong. He or she knows that things are much more complicated than they may appear to be on the surface, and does not seek quick superficial solutions for complicated deep-rooted problems.

In order to eradicate terrorism, we must first understand its roots. The typical "blind patriot" is someone who reacts to the terrorist attacks by believing all the media propaganda and demanding revenge. This will only make things worse than they already are. These people say things like "America is the best country in the world." and "We have the right to defend our freedom." During the Gulf War they wore Operation Desert Storm T-shirts as if spraying Baghdad with bombs was a Rolling Stones tour. They decorate their homes, cars and offices with American flags. They watch Rambo movies and the nightly news and think that they understand war and world politics. In my experience, this type of person is someone who, apart from being completely misinformed about what goes on in the world, has never lived in another country thereby having no basis for comparison when announcing that the "U.S. is number one.," He or she is a person who believes that the U.S. should do what it has always done in past conflicts which is to come stampeding like King Kong into every country that won't concede to our demands, and crush them. They believe that if we bully them enough, we will eradicate terrorism. What they do not realize is that not only will bullying other countries fail to stop terrorism, it will create even more. These are the same people who join the military and fight wars they don't even understand. They use words like "communism" and "democracy" without really understanding what they mean. This type of ignorance can be extremely dangerous, especially now when what we need most is the support of Islamic nations.


I have lived in three different countries in cities with big international communities and whether I speak to someone from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia or Latin America, nobody sees the situation quite the way we do; not even my conservative Spanish and Mexican business students. Are Bin Laden's people terrorists? Sure they are. Is what they have done justifiable? Of course not. Every civilized person knows that Islamic fundamentalists are repressive, misogynist, anti-Semitic, cold-blooded assassins. They agree with us on those points, but they also believe that The United States is guilty of so many acts of state sponsored terrorism that although killing American civilians is not acceptable behavior, the anger and hate that motivated the attacks is more than understandable.

Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence referred to the international opinion of the attacks on New York and Washington as "The big schoolyard bully getting a punch in the nose". One question we should probably be asking ourselves is "How would Americans react to foreign occupation?" How much hate would you feel towards an alien government who came into YOUR country, overthrew YOUR democratically elected president and installed a bloodthirsty tyrant in his place who killed thousands of YOUR people ?! What if death squads from another country came into the United States and raped, tortured, and murdered your family? What if this other country gave money and arms to a dictator who seized control of the American government through the massacre of thousands or millions of American citizens and stripped us of all our basic rights? It appears that most Americans do not ever take the time to imagine what it feels like on the other side. What would it be like to live in extreme poverty, unrelenting repression, and hideous cruelty in the name of some other country's corporate greed? In the article "A Twisted Sense of Duty and Love" Barbara and Rose Ehrenreich state the following: " Imagine growing up surrounded by suffering, hopelessness, poverty and pain in the ruins of Kabul, in the Gaza Strip, in Algeria's ransacked towns, or the bleak streets of Baghdad. Imagine being brought up to believe that the suffering you see around you is caused by the hypocrisy, greed, obtuseness, and injustice of the arrogant and licentious American superpower". For people who are living in these conditions, this war began long before September 11th. If you think you are angry for what happened on September 11th, multiply that anger by about one thousand and then and only then, will you begin to understand the hate and anger that motivated the attacks on September 11th.


What most people do not realize is that Osama Bin Laden is more intelligent than many people in the United States government. He is what some might call an" evil genius". He has set a trap for us, and we have fallen right into it. The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were just the preliminaries of a much bigger plan. Those attacks were the bait, and we took it. Bin Laden knew that the events on September 11th would lead to military strikes in Afghanistan. He also knew that the strikes would continue through Ramadan, the most sacred time of the year for Muslims. In doing this we will be alienating a large portion of the Islamic world which will only serve to increase support for the terrorist network which has already reached alarming levels. Our government does not want us to know this, which is why all the coverage of violent anti-U.S protests in Islamic countries have suddenly disappeared from the spotlight. Bin Laden has been launching a very effective propaganda campaign which is gaining more ground every day. He has managed to convince millions of Muslims that this is a war against Islam. Every Islamic country that we invade will only serve to strengthen this claim, especially since the attacks continued through Ramadan. We (Americans) know that this is not a war against Islam, but that is of little importance. What does matter is that Muslims will interpret it as such. Since the attacks on Afghanistan began, Bin Laden's popularity has increased tenfold. Think of it from a logical standpoint: Do you really believe that someone as sophisticated and intelligent as Osama Bin Laden did not bother to prepare himself for the inevitable (and predictable) reaction of the U.S. government? Despite reports that we have successfully killed Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, I believe that the majority left the area before September 11th, not to mention all the Al Qaeda members who are spread out in other parts of the world. Even if we do find Bin Laden he will only become a martyr in the eyes of Muslims globally, especially if we kill him, which will make him more powerful than ever. Many young Islamic men are ready, willing and able to take his place at any given moment. They were all thoroughly trained for this occasion long ago.

So you see we are actually doing EXACTLY what Bin Laden wanted us to do. All of this was meticulously premeditated. The techniques we are using to stop terrorism will backfire and have the opposite effect. The next major attack will more than likely involve more terrorists, more money, and a higher death toll for American citizens. If they ever find a way to blow up one of our nuclear reactors, millions of Americans could be wiped out at the bat of an eyelash. In our attempt to starve the Al Qaeda network we may actually be feeding it. Killing a few Al Qaeda members in one country is like infiltrating the activities of a single Ku Klux Klan operation in one small southern town. It will barely make a dent in the overall infrastructure.

U.S. citizens would be well advised to stay far away form airplanes, tall buildings, bridges and nuclear power plants, especially during Christmas and Hanukkah, which is probably when they will strike next. I figure that if we are attacking them during their holy month, that they may decide to attack us during one of our holy days. It doesn't matter if the attacks on Afghanistan eventually lead to a better way of life for Afghan people where Islamic fundamentalists are concerned. I myself wanted the Taliban out of Afghanistan long before September 11th. If we were doing this to help Afghan people it might be considered a noble cause, but with the immense rise in popularity of Islamic fundamentalism since September 11th, any U.S. intervention in Islamic countries will only be seen as an attack on Islam, especially when innocent civilians are being killed.

We must keep in mind that not a single Afghan has been linked to the terrorist attacks against the United States. Many of the Taliban are not Afghans. They are Saudis and other Arabs who have chosen Afghanistan as a battleground to be used against both the Afghan people and the United States. Before September 11th most Afghans did not even know who Osama Bin Laden was. The war in Afghanistan is a war against terrorism. Unfortunately, most Muslims today are more than likely to see the bombing campaign as not only a clash of civilizations, but as the richest country in the world bombing the poorest. If we are to put an end to terrorism, we must not only consider our actions, but also how our actions will be interpreted in other parts of the world.

On many occasions U.S. government is so clumsy that they shoot themselves in the foot without any awareness of doing so, and I believe that this may be one of them. We desperately need the backing of moderate Muslims and Muslim nations in the war against terrorism. The fact that we accidentally bombed a mosque on the eve of Ramadan will not help our cause. Bin Laden knows this. He has outsmarted us every step of the way and the consequences could be even more devastating than what happened on September 11th. This is not a conventional war and cannot be won by conventional means. It is both frightening and profoundly disturbing to see the twisted image that Muslims have of Osama Bin Laden since the attacks on Afghanistan began. He is currently becoming an international hero, the Che Guevara of the Islamic world.

Americans need to realize something. We can no longer take for granted what we have taken for granted in the past. The world has changed, and terrorism will not disappear until American foreign policy is radically altered. We have arrested and successfully convicted terrorists in the past, yet it did not prevent the genocide of 4000 Americans on September 11th. We are now dealing with a faceless international enemy who is becoming more powerful every day. The government of the United States will not be able to fund a national security campaign of such immense proportions for an indefinite period of time. For every terrorist head we cut off, another will grow in its place. We will not be able to choke them financially without the cooperation of the Muslim world. Terrorists and terrorist cells connected to Osama Bin Laden have been said to exist in every part of the world including The United States, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. For each day that we continue to bomb Muslim nations (there is now talk that Iraq will be our next target) the population of Islamic extremists grows. The more people who join the "holy war" the more pressure will be imposed on their governments to refuse to support America's war on terrorism. Most Islamic terrorists are financed by some of the wealthiest business men in the Muslim world. Many of their followers are poor, desperate people living in miserable, tragic circumstances most Americans could never even begin to imagine or appreciate. As long as these conditions exist, the hate and anger will fester and grow. We were viciously attacked on September 11th. For many people however, what happened to us on that one day is a way of life. They feel the same anger, sadness, fear, and hate every day of their lives and Osama Bin Laden is their messiah.

Bin Laden has stated repeatedly that until his people live in safety and security, neither will Americans. He is determined to make us feel the way Muslims all over the world feel. We have seen what he is capable of, so let's stop underestimating him. The Muslims greatly outnumber us. They ruled the world for hundreds of years and they could do it again. We are novices. Things happen for a reason. Every superpower that has ever existed in the past was certain of its immortality, yet they have all crumbled. We should not be so confident as to believe that the same cannot happen to us. Islamic fundamentalists may be guided by a twisted and terrifying sense of religious duty, but that does not invalidate the legitimacy of their grievances against the United States government. Of the many reporters and terrorist experts who have interviewed Osama Bin Laden over the years, all say that they do not believe him to be crazy. These aren't just a bunch of insane people with too much time on their hands. They hate us so much that they are willing to die just to hurt us.

How strong of a desire to destroy the United States would somebody need to be willing to die in the process? It is time for Americans to put their prejudices aside and try to understand the real reasons for the events of September 11th. Why do you think there are protests (although recently censored) in every Islamic country with signs in English that read "America is the world's biggest terrorist." The signs are written in English because they know that we will be reading them when we watch the news. They are trying to tell us something. Why when Islamic people are being interviewed on the news do they say things like "You asked for it." or "America is like a mad elephant who only thinks about its own interests." Right now the future Bin Ladens are seven and eight year old boys who have pledged their willingness to die for the "jihad". People in other parts of the world have also expressed strong anti-American sentiment. In Latin America for example, people were quoted as saying such hateful things as "Two towers are not enough." If the majority of the world believes that America is the world's biggest terrorist, there must be at least an element of truth to it.

The word "terrorist" is very subjective. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda did murder innocent people. But his twisted justification, as I see it is the following: For many years, millions of innocent people have been dying all over the world at the hands of U.S. foreign policy, but nobody seemed to notice or care until 3000 Americans were killed. Suddenly, everyone is paying attention to what is happening in the world. Bin Laden has committed this horrendous act to bring worldwide attention to the immense suffering his people have endured for many years. Let me clearly state here that I do not believe that the end justifies the means. The deliberate murder of innocent people should never be sanctioned anywhere, at anytime, under any circumstances. However, it is important to note that as inexcusable as Bin Laden's actions seem to civilized people, in his warped mind he believes that the slaughter of three or four thousand Americans is a worthy sacrifice if it will save the lives of millions of Muslims in the future. Keep in mind that as loathsome a monster as Bin Laden may be, this is a man who came from one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia, and traded in an extremely comfortable lifestyle to hide out in caves in the dead of winter, just to help (although I use the term loosely) his people. Nobody makes this type of sacrifice without a valid reason.

If you really want to stop terrorism, educate yourselves. Don't believe all the hype. Don't listen to George W. Bush when he speaks of "the battle between good and evil" and how much we do to help underprivileged nations. We are hardly the Mother Theresa of the international community. Presenting the image of the United States in these terms is simplifying things at best. Turn off your big screen TV and open up a history book which hasn't been written by a conservative American. Look for more objective news sources which are not manipulated by the government such as independent documentaries and publications. Attend teach-ins and seminars which feature viewpoints from different parts of the world. The next time you vote, make sure you really understand what your candidate stands for. Learn to define terrorism in concrete terms, and once you are clear about what constitutes a terrorist act, insist that your very own government does not inflict upon the rest of the world the very acts it condemns. If terrorism is measured by civilian casualties, the United States government really is more of an international terrorist than Osama Bin Laden.

Try to get some perspective on the psychological roots of religious fanatisism. People become attracted to extremism when they are suffering because it offers them hope and helps them to make sense of the senseless. It gives them a feeling of unity and purpose. When people believe that their deity is the answer to their misery, they are vulnerable to religious propaganda and are easily seduced by sophisticated "demigods" like Osama Bin Laden. The disciples of Bin Laden interpret their faith as a mission. In their eyes the West is a satanic force that must be abolished if the will of Allah is to prevail. We are their anti-Christ. These "believers" are growing by the millions and becoming an even bigger threat to Americans than they were on September 11th. The only way to discredit this form of thinking is to stop giving people reasons to believe in Bin Laden. They will not become unindoctrinated until they are given viable alternatives. If they are offered a better way of life, Bin Laden will lose the power to brainwash them, and they will no longer yield helplessly to his manipulative recruiting tactics.

It is now more crucial than ever to be able to distinguish between national and corporate interest. National interest serves the majority of U.S. citizens and corporate interest only serves a small minority. Are you really willing to die so that 2 or 3 percent of American citizens can continue to spend more money on one dinner than you make in an entire year? If you believe that my words are just slanted liberal psycho-babble, I cordially invite you to check the sources I have mentioned earlier; research them, and decide for yourself how convincing they are. Keep in mind that at least half of my sources are people who have worked for the United States government. If after reading this you are willing to consider that there may be truth to what I say, follow your conscience and take a stand not only for Americans but for the future of the entire human race.

Holy war is not a new phenomenon, and neither is religious terrorism. The blood of many innocent people has been shed in the name of religion. One only has to remember the Spanish Inquisition, the situation in Northern Ireland, the war in Israel, the nerve gas incident in Japan, the Crusaders, or the assassination of Ghandi to understand the devastating consequences of religious dogma. Terrorism may eventually disappear if we start treating the rest of the world with a little more human decency. It will not disappear by waving your flags and singing the national anthem. That's the line of thinking that got us into this situation in the first place.


Jennifer Elizabeth Johnson, New York




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Comments

Brava, Jennifer! Brava!
22 Jan 2002
I wonder whether there is any way to make people wake up. Or will we end like most Germans after WW2: stunned and bewildered at the atrocities committed in our name, pariahs in the world for many years, avatars of unthinking obedience to malign authority?
Bless Indy Media!
23 Jan 2002
This is a very important piece of writing, and I am glad that it can be viewed. It is unfortunate that the American people have allowed themselves to be so heavily indoctrinated by the media and government, their understanding of anything outside of the US is at about the level of grade 6. I hope people will start accepting some responsibility, and start at least educating themselves, and stop listening to the drivel from the main stream media!
five stars
24 Jan 2002
I have never seen the US foreign policy portrayed so eloquently, so truthfully, so powerfully. This is quite possibly the best article i have ever read regarding the issue. Every sentence is so strong... but alas this sounds like a book review. Anyway, i think you for sharing your knowledge with us. With your permission i'd like to reproduce this and possibly hand it out (on paper).
Some great points
30 Mar 2002
Although I have limited knowledge of our foreign of policy and world history, I think that you are right in many cases.

For example, I do have a hard time believing that the third world country hates us because they are poor and jealous of Americans (which was what the media wanted me to believe – v. stupid btw). Or the fact that America supports the wrong people/nations at the wrong time, and then drops them when they really need American support. Or the fact that America is looking out for its own financial interest in the world. That is why for example they attacked Iraq as soon as Iraq took over Beirut (their supply of oil was in danger), but they seem not to mind at all that Israel has occupied Philistine’s ground for ages (and if Philistinians fight for their land and freedom, they are called terrorists) – it is simply because they have no financial interest in Philistine, but they do have a lot of financial interest in Israel)

However, I do find this article a bit too pessimistic. It is hard to believe that there is such a huge conspiracy in US. A conspiracy that has lasted decades, and none of us knows about it? I have a hard time believing for example that there are so many CIA agents that are raping, torturing, and killing innocent people around the world just because of greed in corporate America? Each CIA agent is a human being and each one will make their own decisions and each one is after all an average American.. The same story goes for Politicians.. Each politician is an American, each one is a human, each one is living in US, grew up with humanity and freedom in mind.. It is hard to believe that they are all part of this bigger conspiracy plot.

Anyhow, I did enjoy reading your article, and I do agree with you that our foreign policy was the underlying cause of 9/11 attacks. We as responsible citizens have to demand the government to make effective changes in that area. Especially when it comes to world peace and war.

Keep on writing,
USA = WWF
03 Apr 2002
This is one of the most interesting and enlightening articles I have read. Having lived in the US, Europe and Middle East, I have been often surprised by the US media's lack of objectivity and obvious 'one sidedness'. In my mind eye, I envision a section of the American public (the 'blind patriots' as you called them) as the same ones chanting 'USA, USA' at wrestling matches. I often wonder if the simplistic approach of the US government's foreign policy is not unlike a good vs. evil wrestling match. Given the popularity of professional wrestling in the States and the fact that many Americans probably know the entire history and view point of Hulk Hogan rather than their governments history and doings, it is of no surprise to me that 'terrorists' may think that the American public require a 'taste' of other peoples suffering. The comforts, simplicty and lack of pain in American life has perhaps made many Americans unaware that there are important issues in the world and real pain and suffering that must be addressed. The conspiracy of corporate America is quite evident. Consider how they have made the majority of Americans into workhogs; Having to work long hours, always busy running around just to make ends meet and not having time to take care of their children and their lives. Its no wonder that this mass population is vastly uninformed and voting blindly just to feed the purse pockets of 'obesely' rich and morally corrupt business leaders and their paid puppets, the politicians. I feel just as sorry for these poor americans as I do for those brainwashed by terrorists.