“Terrorism and the “Third World” Wars”
(Lecture Notes for Human Ecology GEOG 3020 class by Dr. Eric T. Karlstrom circa 2000; California State University, Stanislaus)
TERMS TO REMEMBER
Export platform country
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1985 U.N. Resolution in Geneva
1) For globalization to work, America must not be afraid to act as the almighty superpower that it is… the hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist… McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley is called the United States, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
Thomas Friedman (New York Times columnist), 1999
2) I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscleman for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism.
Every war which Americans have fought or may fight in the future outside their own continental boundaries has been or will be a racket- a mean, cruel, yes, filthy racket. During our participation in the World War (I), our soldiers thought they were fighting to defend their homes, to make the world safe for democracy, were fighting a war to end wars. Rot! Pure, unadulterated, sickening rot!
War is largely a matter of money. Bankers lend the money to foreign countries and when they cannot pay, the President sends Marines to get it.
Why don’t those damned oil companies fly their own flags on their personal property- maybe a flag with a gas pump on it.
Retired Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, USMC (America’s most decorated soldier), from War is a Racket and speech in 1933
3) All warfare is based on deception….. Sun Tzu Wu
4) Truth is the first casualty of war….. General Hiram Johnson, WWI
5) War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President (1801-1809)
6) That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping the quarrels of nations is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.
Thomas Paine, 1792
7) I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend more on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations… This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a lage arms industry is a new in the American experience… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of society.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give it to them…. Beware of the military-industrial complex.
President/General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell address, 1961
8) On the domestic front, the Cold war…. gave the U.S. a way to compel its population to subsidize high-tech industry (GE and Boeing, etc., through the Pentagon system). It isn’t easy to sell all that to the domestic populations. The technique used was the old stand-by- fear of a great enemy.
Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants
9) Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Hermann Goering (Commander of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Police Gestapo and Marshal of the German Empirre, Hitler’s #2 man in the Third Reich) at the Nuremburg Trials.
10) It would be some time before I fully realized that the United States sees little need for diplomacy. Power is enough. Only the weak rely on diplomacy… The Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Nor does the United States.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Former UN Secretary General
11) The illegal we do immediately, the Unconstitutional takes a little longer.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, on the U.S. sellout of Kurds in Iraq, 1975
12) The potential for private profit in U.S. war making has become almost impossible to exaggerate.
Chalmers Johnson, from “The War Business: Squeezing a Profit from the Wreckage in Iraq” Harpers, 2003
13) It is now clear that we face an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of “fair play” must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counter-espionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.
1954 White House Commission Report
14) The ending of colonialism does not automatically inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity for liberated peoples. It could equally be the prelude to fraternal wars and new inhumanities…. It is my considered opinion that the Third World War has already begun- in the Third World. The new war is likely to be a cumulation of little wars rather than one big war. Though the form is new, it is basically a war between the great powers and one fought for the realization of their ambitions and the promotion of their national interests. However, this is not obvious because in this new world war, the great powers are invisible.
Sinathamby Rajaratnam, Singapore’s senior minister
15) For the past two years the US has carried out one of the most sustained bombing campaigns in history against essentially civilian targets in northeastern Laos…. Operating from Thai bases and from aircraft carriers, American jets have destroyed the great majority of villages and towns in the northeast. Severe casualties have been inflicted upon the inhabitants… Refugees from the Plain of Jars report they were bombed almost daily by American jets last year. They say they spent most of the past two years living in caves or holes.
Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, 1970
16) (The Laos operation) is something of which we can be proud as Americans. It has involved virtually no American casualties. What we are getting for our money there…. is, I think, to use the old phrase, very cost effective.
U. Alexis Johnson, U.S. Under Secretary of State
17) We (The U.S.) have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives… We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
George Kennan, Policy Planning Statement 23, U.S. State Department, 1948.
18) It takes relatively few people and little support to disrupt the internal peace and economic stability of a small country.
William Casey, CIA director
19) By a miracle I am able to tell you the story of my grand crime for which they threatened me with death. They took my son who was 18 years old, shot him, peeled off his skin and cut him into pieces. Then they hung him from a cross in a tree. They cut his testicles off and put them in his mouth. They did this to warn me because I was a celebrator of the word of God. That was my crime…. We had to leave because they persecuted the whole land. Our crime was to be poor and ask for bread. Here the laws only favor the rich. However, the great majority of people are poor. Those who have jobs are exploited daily in the factories and on the farms. Without land we cannot plant. There is no work. This brings more hunger, more misery. We are without clothes, schools or jobs. And so we demonstrate. But to speak of justice is to be called a communist, to ask for bread is subversive. It is a war of extermination…. It is a crime to be a Christian and to demand justice.
Salvadoran Campesino, April 1988
20) Why should we be worried about the death squads? They’re bumping off the commies, our enemies. I’d give them more power. Hell, I’d get some cartridges if I could, and everyone else would too… Why should we criticize them? The death squad- I’m for it… Shit! There’s no question, we can’t wait ‘til Reagan gets in. We hope Carter falls in the ocean real quick…. We all feel that he (Reagan) is our savior.
Fred Sherwood (CIA pilot during the overthrow of the democratically-elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 and president of American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala), in 1980
21) A study by Lars Schoulz, the leading academic specialist on human rights there, shows that “U.S. aid has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens.” It has nothing to do with how much a country needs aid, only with its willingness to serve the interests of wealth and privilege. Broader studies by economist Edward Herman reveal a close correlation worldwide between torture and U.S. aid, and also provide the explanation: both correlate independently with improving the climate for business operations. In comparison with that guiding moral principle, such matters as torture and butchery pale into insignificance.
Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants
22) America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defense of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.
Arnold Toynbee (historian), 1961
23) Coming to grips with these U.S./CIA activities in broad numbers and figuring out how many people have been killed in the jungles of Laos or the hills of Nicaragua is very difficult. But, adding them up as best we can, we come up with a figure of six million people killed- and this is a minimum figure. Included are: one million killed in the Korean War, two million killed the Vietnam War, 800,000 killed in Indonesia, one million in Cambodia, 20,000 killed in Angola, and 22,000 killed in Nicaragua. These people would not have died if U.S. tax dollars had not been spent by the CIA to inflame tensions, finance covert political and military activity, and destabilize societies.
John Stockwell, “The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order”
24) We have met the enemy and he is us….. Pogo, cartoon character
Brian Willson and Holley Rauen, co-directors of the Institute for the Practice of Non-Violence, have estimated that between 20 and 30 million people have died in the major wars in the Third World since World War II. Ex-CIA author, John Stockwell, estimates that at least 6 million more have died as a direct result of United States (CIA) covert operations (The United States in Search of Enemies). Berkeley Geography Professor Bernard Neitchmann asserts that the “Third World” war began in the hills of southern China and the northern part of India and Burma in 1948. It is now being fought on every continent except Antarctica. It has produced millions of casualties and massive dislocations of nation peoples, who now make up the majority of the world’s refugees. These “Third World” wars generally pit guerilla insurgencies (which represent the poor of indigenous nations) against the rich, represented by state governments. Most wars are over territories, resources, money, identity, and survival. The underlying causes generally relate to the global capitalist economy and the fact that the post-colonial world is still basically colonial in nature. Noam Chomsky (“The Responsibility of Intellectuals”, 1966 in The Chomsky Reader) puts the matter succinctly:
Recent history shows that it makes little difference to us what form of government a country has as long as it remains an “open society,” in our peculiar sense of this term- a society, that is, which remains open to American economic penetration or political control. If it is necessary to approach genocide in Vietnam to achieve this objective, then this is the price we must pay in defense of freedom and the rights of man.
Despite the fact that this five-decades-long war against the Third World ranks as the third deadliest in all of history in terms of noncombatants killed, it commonly goes unnoticed. The problem is that the media and academics are deeply rooted in the state, so they tend to consider struggles against states to be either illegitimate or invisible. Often the fighting is against peoples and countries that are not even on the map. Therefore only one half of the people are known and only one side has a name. This leads to a kind of “Smokescreen terminology”, wherein:
1) territorial invasion = “national integration”
2) occupation = “economic development”
3) resistance or that attempt to fight back = “terrorism”
4) nation peoples = “terrorists”, “separatists”, “dissidents”, “leftist insurgents”, “extremists”, “tribals”, “minorities”, “ethnic groups”
5) state-sponsored terrorism = “counter terrorism”, “counter-insurgency”, or “low intensity conflict”
So we need to unravel the who, what, where, and why of these conflicts. And since the media often use the words ‘state’, ‘nation’, and ‘nation-state’ interchangeably, we need to redefine each.
1) Nation = geographically bounded territory of a common people made up of communities who see themselves as one people based on their common language, history, society, ancestry, ideology, territory and often religion. (It does not require a central military-political bureaucracy). Their existence is ancient. Today, there are an estimated 3000 to 5000 nations. But there is no encyclopedia or atlas which lists them all. They range from very small to huge. Examples = Hopi, Navajo, Kurds, Mosquito Indians, Tibetans, etc.
2) State = centralized political system, recognized by other states which has civilian and military bureaucracy to enforce a set of laws and institutions. Only sometimes is there a common language and religion. They often claim many nations that may not consent to be governed; in fact 95% of modern states are multinational. There are currently 168 states that have sovereignty over the world’s 3000 to 5000 nations and peoples, all seven continents, 40% of the oceans, and the lower reaches of space.
3) Nation-state = is a rarity and is a common people with a common history and territory governed by an internationally recognized political system. Only a few exist in the world. For example, Poland, E. Germany, Iceland, N. and S. Korea, and a few more. Only a relative few of the world’s peoples live in nation-states. From “How Many Worlds and How Many Wars: Until the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, three world’s were officially recognized:
1) The First World consisted of the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, i.e., the “free world” of democratic, capitalistic Western States.
2) The Second World consisted of the “communist world”- the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, N. Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.
3) The Third World included the remaining poor states, the “developing” or “less developed countries” (LDCs) which were politically nonaligned and derived from the old European colonies. These include the states of Africa, Latin America, S. Asia, and the Pacific.
However, this arbitrary scheme completely left out the “Fourth World” nations, those 3000 to 5000 nations that are unrecognized politically. The “economic development” of third world states is often achieved by invasion and forced annexation of nation people’s lands and resources, not by production on state lands by state people. Often, Fourth World nations may be surrounded, divided or dismembered by one or more states. This includes about one third of the world’s peoples, most of the world’s distinct peoples, and 50% of all territory.
Some of these are industrialized (Latvians, Estonians, Catalans), some are herding peoples- (Samis, Navajos), some are subsistence agriculture specialists (Hopi), some ranching peoples (Western Shoshone of the U.S.), fishermen (the Haida of Canada), and some are hunting/gathering peoples (the bushmen and Australian aboriginals, who are now virtually gone). Many fourth world nations still do not recognize the sovereignty of the state that rules them, or their demands for allegiance, land and resources. For examples:
Many Irish in Northern Ireland don’t consider themselves part of Great Britain. Catalans and Basques do not recognize the sovereignty of Spain. The Palestinians do not recognize the sovereignty of Israel over the “disputed territories”. Likewise, the Mayans of Guatemala and Southern Mexico (Chiapas); the Kurds of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq; the Miskitos of Nicaraqua and Honduras; the Sami of Norway, Sweden, and Finland; the Haida and Shuswap of Canada; the Tibetans of China; the Navajo Nation in the U.S., etc.
The history of most of these peoples far precedes the creation of the modern states that now rule over them. So, many nations militarily resist the annexation of land and resources and the cultural absorption imposed by state regimes. Some are taking up arms and carrying out the world’s longest wars. They are fighting for the survival of their nation, their culture and their way of life. But this is distorted by the media and by academics as follows:
Nation peoples are almost always misidentified as “rebels”, “terrorists”, “leftist insurgents”, “separatists”, “extremists”, “dissidents”, “tribals”, “minorities”, “ethnic groups”, etc. In this way, they become non-people and the real issues are confused. We tend to do this in other wars also, of course: the Vietnamese became “gooks” or “charlie”, etc. during the invasion of Vietnam between 1964 and 1975, which resulted in the deaths of about 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans. If you are going to kill people, it helps to first demonize and/or dehumanize them.
Academics also use generic labeling, generally referring to these people as – “ethnic groups”, “pastoralists”, “proletarians”, “lower class”, “underclass”, “swidden agriculturalists”. And since almost none of the world’s ethnic groups are recognized internationally they have no legal rights and their struggles are mostly invisible.
However, it should be noted that most nation peoples never consented to being governed by the imposed states. How can the Miskitos be separatists if they never consented to joining the Nicaraguan state? Likewise, the Tibetans, the Irish, and the Hopi in China, Great Britain, and the U.S., respectively, etc. In the 1980’s alone, well over 150,000 peasants were killed by state-sponsored murder and torture in Guatemala and El Salvador. The “death squads” and right wing dictatorships and military of these countries were trained and financially supported by the U.S. Nicaragua, the target of an actual invasion by the U.S.- by the U.S.-supported mercenary “contras”- was also decimated in the 1980’s and suffered 10’s of thousands of mostly civilian casualties. The International Court of Justice upheld Nicaragua’s claim that they were victim of “unlawful use of force” by the U.S., but unfortunately for them, the U.S. considers itself to be above international law.
The reason that the U.S., the former USSR, and most other states are more likely to support states than nations in conflicts is because “it’s in our interests” and yields greater geopolitical-economic return. Many exceptions occur when it is perceived in our “interests”: For example, the U.S. supplied Miskito Indians with arms because they were fighting the Sandinistas of Nicaragua and we armed the Tibetans briefly in the 1950’s in their efforts against the communist Chinese- but generally we support the state. We supported the right wing governments of El Salvador and Guatemala (even training their Death Squads and political leaders at our military academies) during the 1980’s, even as they murdered and tortured over 150,000 nation peoples. In El Salvador, half of the farmland is owned by 2% of the people. Guatemala is essentially owned and controlled by “the Twenty Families”.
The Kurds, now living in 5 states, have been at war for 70 years and have periodically received assistance from the KGB of the Soviet Union, the CIA, and Iran against Iraq. They gathered a force of about a million by 1975 but were crushed by Iraq and abandoned by the CIA (see above quote by Kissinger). The same story occurred in Tibet when China invaded in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by murder, torture, starvation, etc. And their culture now nears the brink of extinction. Why? The identical reason. The Chinese word for Tibet is “western treasure house” and China has long coveted Tibet’s extensive natural resources (minerals, forests, etc.) and strategic location.
The press and politicians consistently had us believe that the hundreds of “Third World” wars were the result of 1) expansionist communism, 2) widespread poverty, 3) east-west proxy. However, the vast majority of wars and “armed conflicts” (45 in 2002, down from 48 in 2001, and 65 in 1993) are between states and nations. Most of these are in the Third World and are waged between Third World states and Fourth World nations, generally with First World (read US) training, money, and technical assistance. According to the AKUF, a conflict research group at the University of Hamburg, about 7 million people, most of them civilians, have been killed during these current wars and that the cost of these conflicts has been about $250 billion. The wars are over territory, resources and economic and political domination. And the common denominators are a nation’s resistance to state expansion, and all to commonly, economic domination by U.S.-led multinational corporations. States annex territory under name of “national integration”, “nation building”, “economic development”, “social progress”, or “manifest destiny” (in the case of the U.S.). The goal of most nations is to maintain control over their territories, resources, peoples and communities. Often they use widespread hit and run ambushes, small scale attacks, “guerilla war”. If the nations had territorial autonomy or some official status within their states, most of these wars would end.
UN Commission for Refugees recognizes 11 million refugees, but the total may be about 25 million. Often these are difficult to define and identify. Are the Mayans in Guatemala refugees? They never crossed a political boundary (they were the great Central American civilization up until about a thousand years ago), but their land is being taken from them by the “Twenty Families”. There are no rules in these wars, generally states follow a “scorched earth” policy. With dislocation of people and widespread “low intensity conflict”, the old rules don’t apply. And since only states can declare “war” officially, nations can only conduct “terrorism”- and there is no international protection for terrorists. Also, the Fourth World nations don’t wear uniforms, carry a flag, or make currency.
Perhaps we need to protect and preserve world’s ethnic diversity as well as its biological diversity: Reasons might include:
1) For their own sake. Like species, once a culture is extinct, it is gone forever. And with it goes, its unique wisdom, history, language, music, etc.
2) Indigenous peoples often best know how to care for the earth and live in harmony with its principles. Examples include Hopi of Arizona, the Tibetans, the rubber tappers of Amazon, etc.
3) Their native medicines from forests, etc., could prove very important in the future.
The Logic of the Cold War
According to MIT scholar Noam Chomsky (“What Uncle Sam Really Wants”) the conventional view of the Cold War (the period from World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990) was that it was a conflict between two superpowers, caused by Soviet aggression, in which we tried to contain the Soviet Union and protect the world from communism. However, Chomsky points out that the facts belie this commonly-held view. In fact, during this period, the U.S. intervened all across the world and became the first truly global power in history. On the domestic front, the Cold War gave the military-bureaucratic ruling class of the U.S. a way to consolidate its hold on power and simultaneously to compel the general population to subsidize high-tech industry (GE, Boeing, Lockheed, etc.) through the Pentagon system. In fact, we have had a “war economy” ever since World War II and this has been quite good for the major corporations that have won the military contracts. Of course, the only way you can justify massive military spending to the population year after year is if you conjure up widespread fear of a great enemy. The Soviet Union played the role of great enemy until 1990, at which point it was replaced by many smaller “bad-guys”, including Manuel Noriega of Panama, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Grenada, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, the “war on drugs”, and of course, most recently Osama bin Laden- and the global “war on terrorism”.
Interestingly, many of those designated as “terrorists” and enemies were quite recently our friends and allies: Noriega, for example, was on the CIA payroll during six U.S. administrations. We built Saddam Hussein’s military and political strength during the 1980’s when he was our ally against Iran. And the CIA recruited Osama bin Laden, among thousands of other Islamic mercenaries, during the 1980’s to help in their “jihad” (holy war) against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In fact, the CIA essentially orchestrated this jihad in order to bleed the Soviets by handing them an unwinnable war, like we had in Vietnam.
According to Chomsky, the Cold War also functioned as a tacit agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union under which both countries could control their primary enemies- their own domestic populations- by terrifying them with the (quite real) crimes of the other. And it provided the U.S. an excuse (“anti-communism”) by which it could conduct its wars against the Third World (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Korea, Afghanistan, Angola, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Libya, Grenada, etc. etc.- for more details, see Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA interventions since World War II by William Blum). Likewise, it gave the Soviet Union a means to maintain its own iron grip on its internal empire and its satellites in E. Europe. The real conflicts and casualties during this period of nuclear stalemate (the strategy was known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD) were not West vs. East but rather North vs. South, that is, rich against poor.
Under these rules, the measure of the value and fate of a Third World state is whether or not it accepts its service role to U.S. corporate interests. If it does, we care little about whether it is ruled by a democratic regime that honors and upholds human rights. (Witness our giving China “most favored nation” trading status, even while they use prison labor- often political prisoners- to make our shoes and other consumer goods and have hideous working conditions, wages, etc.). In fact, typically, the U.S. favors brutal, non-democratic regimes such as those of China, Indonesia under Suharto, Iraq under Sadam, Nicaragua under Samoza, the Philippines under Marcos, Iran under the Shah, Panama under Noriega, Chile under Pinochet (most of which were installed in CIA-orchestrated coups), etc. Impoverished, downtrodden people will work for much less than Americans.
The bottom line is that large multinational corporations began leaving the U.S. in the 1970’s in search of areas with cheaper labor costs. The U.S. government obliged by responding with the Nixon Doctrine, intended to extend our interventionist capabilities abroad. The aim was to create regional powers (“regional influentials”) in each significant region, arm them as best as possible, and be ready to support them when needed. Between 1970 and 1978, Iran bought $20 billion in arms and Israel received $33 billion in grants and aid. The multinational corporations then cultivated “export platform countries” as export platforms for their products, etc. Of course, there developed a close coincidence of export platforms and the regional influentials. In Latin America, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile were the regional constellations of American power. In Asia, it was Indonesia, South Korea, Malaya, and to a lesser extent, the Philippines. In the Middle East, it was Iran and Israel. In Africa, things were more unsettled but the best available were Nigeria, Zaire, and South Africa. So there was close coordination between the strategic design and the political economy of U.S. imperialism abroad- this thing we now call global capitalism. Eqbal Ahmad (Confronting Empire) notes that the regional allies of the U.S. were mostly tyrannies and (Iran and Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and South Korea, the Philippines of the Marcos period, Brazil with its military generals, Argentina with its killing generals, Chile with Pinochet, etc.). These fascist regimes were committed to the developmental model of export platforms. And several of the most extreme violators of human rights in the world- Indonesia, South Korea, Israel, and Turkey, remain deeply committed to the U.S.
The hapless regimes that have tried to place the interests of their own people ahead of U.S. corporate interests (for example, democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Aristide in Haiti, Allende in Chile, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Ho Chi Minn in Vietnam, and even John F. Kennedy in Dallas, etc.), have commonly been toppled by CIA-orchestrated coups, or by full-scale military invasions. Even tiny Grenada (133 square miles; population: 110,000m; main exports: cocoa, nutmeg, and bananas) found itself invaded by its giant neighbor in 1983 by the Reagan administration. It’s sin? The sin of directing some of its resources to the poor. It was the threat of a “good example”, that is, going their own way regardless of the interests of U.S. corporations. Nicaragua, Vietnam and many other impoverished countries paid a similar price for the identical mistake.
This alternative interpretation of the Cold War is supported by the facts of history: At the end of the cold war, when the Soviet Empire collapsed, military spending and military engagements by the U.S. did not decrease at all, but rather increased. Witness the invasions of Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, and most recently, Afghanistan. Incidentally, CIA covert activities are generally accompanied by significant drug smuggling- as in the cases of Vietnam, Nicaragua, and now Afghanistan, which is the world’s major producer of heroin. And Japan, the one third world country that was not colonized, is the one that is now part of the industrialized world.
Retired marine, General Smedley Butler, succinctly explained U.S. military-foreign policy in a 1931 speech to the American legion:
I spent 33 years… being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1916. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (bank) boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. In China, in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. I had… a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions…. I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate a racket in three cities. The Marines operated on three continents.
Given these realities, we can consider whether or not the U.S. is an “imperial” power and do these other countries still have the function of “colonies”. According to Webster:
Imperial; a. of a country having control or sovereign rights over other countries or colonies.
Colony; n. a territory distant from the state having jurisdiction or nominal control over it.
Given these definitions, we must acknowledge that the U.S. is definitely “the global imperial power” and that other countries, while nominally independent entities, function very much like the colonies of old.
Terrorism: Theirs and Ours
According to Noam Chomsky (Chronicles of Dissent):
“The word terrorism” came into general use at the end of the 18th century, and it was then used to refer to acts of violent states that suppress their own populations by violence. Terror was the action of a state against its own people. That concept is of no use whatever to people in power. So, predictably, the term has come to be changed. Now it’s the actions of citizens against states… the terrorism of small, marginal groups, and not the terrorism of powerful states”.
Because of this awkward fact, official state documents virtually never define terrorism, but rather refer to it in terms designed to illicit an emotional response, such as Secretary of State George Schultz’ statement: “Terrorism is a menace to the moral values of Western civilization”. However, for a more objective definition we can refer to Webster’s dictionary:
Terrorism, n. Use of terror or violence to intimidate, subjugate, etc., especially as a political weapon or policy.
Hampshire College professor Eqbal Ahmad notes five kinds of terrorism (in order of descending impact: state, religious or “sacred”, criminal, pathological, and terrorism by private groups). In (Confronting Empire), he notes that the ratio of people killed by state-sponsored “terrorism” to those killed by terrorism of private groups is, conservatively, about 1000 to 1. He also notes, however, that state-sponsored terrorism is never called terrorism. It is called “counter-terrorism”, “counter-insurgency”, or “low-intensity conflict”. Interestingly, Chomsky notes that the definition of “low intensity conflict”, which is the official policy of the U.S., is nearly identical to that of terrorism. Thus, he states that may nations conduct their wars of terror against their own domestic and indigenous populations (as when, for instance, Turkey and Iraq, with U.S. weapons, exterminated thousands of Kurds within their own borders, or the U.S.-funded Death Squads in Guatemala and El Salvador killed hundreds of thousands of peasants), but this is never called terrorism. The Contras of Nicaragua and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan were completely CIA creations- designed to destabilize and topple governments. Often, the wars against these mostly civilian populations are justified on the basis of the fact that they are communist, when in fact, they usually are only poor peasants trying to preserve their lives, land, and way of life. However, when private groups which have been armed by the US, such as those led by Osama bin Laden, retaliate against state power, they are labeled as “terrorists”. According to Chomsky, this is because the state also owns the doctrinal system. Incidentally, when CIA-creations such as Sadam, the Shah of Iran, Osama, or Noriega get too powerful and too nationalistic (this is called the “boomerang effect”), he is typically removed and/or killed.”
Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the CIA war in Afghanistan
Interestingly, Osama bin Laden was one of about 100,000 extremist Moslem mercenaries that the CIA recruited for the jihad (holy war) that they (the CIA) helped foment against the Soviet Union between 1979 and 1989. Osama bin Laden was a prize recruit: He was a multi-millionaire from Saudi Arabia willing to use his own money in the cause and to recruit Muslims from numerous other countries. Together these Islamic mercenaries from throughout the Muslim world comprised the mujahideeN (holy warriors) who eventually chased the Soviets out of Afghanistan (with the assistance of about $3 billion of CIA-U.S. money-the largest covert operation ever). Osama bin Laden and the other mujahideen were certainly terrorists, but since they were fighting our enemies, the Soviets, our press and President Reagan called them “freedom fighters”. In 1985, Ronald Reagan welcomed a number of these “freedom fighters” to the White House, calling them, on television, “the moral equivalents of America’s Founding Fathers”. So you see, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It depends on one’s perspective. Now that Osama is fighting the U.S. for essentially the same reasons as he was fighting the Soviets (to get us to remove our troops from his home, Saudi Arabia), he is considered the most evil of terrorists. In fact, Professor Michel Chossudovsky (War and Globalization) is convinced that Osama is still a CIA asset.
Eqbal Ahmed explains some of the reasons Osama bin Laden might be angry with the U.S. in “Confronting Empire:”
U.S. forces were invited into (Saudi Arabia) by King Fahd, who insisted that the Americans withdraw all their military forces once the threat of Iraqi aggression had ended. The Americans did not keep their promise, and today thousands of U.S. military personnel are still based in Saudi Arabia, with key operatives inside the Saudi ministries of defense and interior, just as they were in Iran before the fall of the shah… Saudi oil is essentially controlled and marketed by American interests. Saudi wealth is invested in the United States and Europe. The Saudis went into the arms market early in the 1980’s. The United States has dumped something like 100 billion dollars’ worth of armaments in that place. The Saudi people are going to be discontented…. They have a wealth of oil and that wealth is not reaching them.
And there’s more to the story. The mujahideen were both warriors and drug smugglers. When they forced the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan (again, using U.S. arms, money, CIA training camps, etc.) the U.S. simply walked away, leaving about 10 different ethnic factions to fight amongst themselves for control of their now-decimated country. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union fell apart, creating six new independent predominantly Muslim republics in Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, and Azerbaijan. Guess what? These republics happen to be rich in oil and gas. So at this point, American oil corporations (Texaco, Amoco, and Unocal) move in. It becomes clear that the best way to get the oil and gas out of these republics is through a pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus avoiding our enemy Iran. This meant that U.S. corporate interests needed a government in Afghanistan amenable to the pipeline. Of the 10 warring mujahideen factions, they chose the craziest of the Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Taliban, to ensure the safety of the pipeline. The reason is that the Taliban come from the Pashtun ethnic group which are a majority people with a large presence in Pakistan (15 million). Pakistan had already proven its loyalty to U.S. interests. Hence, better to have the pipeline under the control of people whom the Pakistan government could influence. So it was the U.S. that helped the Taliban come to power in Afghanistan in the first place! Eqbal Ahmad notes: “The U.S. concern is not who is fundamentalist and who is progressive, who treats women nicely and who treats them badly. That’s not the issue. The issue is who is more likely to ensure the safety of the oil resources that the United States or its corporations could control?”
But back to terrorism. Does the U.S. utilize terrorism to achieve it’s geopolitical, economic aims? Certainly it does, although it also often uses proxy client states, such as Israel, or mercenaries, such as the “contras” or mujahideen, to carry out its terror. In fact, after World War II, the U.S. recruited and employed Nazi war criminals such as Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie (the “butcher of Lyon”) to help write official manuals of torture and generally, to continue their activities on our behalf. Our own back yard, Central America, provides, vivid and quite recent examples of the “scientific” techniques used:
“People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador- they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones, while parents are forced to watch.”
Reverend Santiago, El Salvador
If this isn’t “terrorism”, what is?
But what about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the U.S. and all other states ratified in 1948? In fact, it is a document which guarantee human rights of life, liberty, freedom from slavery, torture, etc. for all people- that the U.S. and many other states blatantly ignores and/or subverts. Whereas all states give lip service to these kinds of ideals, nearly all states ignore them. (See “The Umbrella of U.S. Power; The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of U.S. Policy,” by Noam Chomsky).
Similarly, The 1985 U.N. Resolution in Geneva provides a statement of lofty, reasonable ideals that the world’s powerful ignore. This document states “indigenous nations and peoples may engage in self defense against state action in conflict with their right to self-determination.” It defines “genocide” as physical or cultural killing of a people”. Again, it is important to realize that genocide did not stop with the infamous Nazi Holocaust but has, in fact, continued all over the world- in China (Tibet, Mongolia, Manchuria), Central America, S.E. Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East, and North America, etc. Again, since WWII, the nature of global warfare has changed and most have been guerrilla wars of independence from colonial powers. They are insurgencies by Fourth World nation peoples against the states created from “re-colonialization”, which is essentially a state invasion to take over and annex an external state or nation.
ARMS SALES AND PROXY WARS
One major impetus behind the ‘Third World’ wars is the arms industry- which at over $1 trillion/year is one of the most world’s most lucrative businesses (along with oil and illegal drugs, which are about the same). This figure equals the debt of the developing nations. The U.S. spends over a third of this- now over $400 billion annually- officially to protect us against terrorists. (Meanwhile, a high proportion of U.S. citizens are afraid to go out alone at night and in 1990, 30 million suffered from malnutrition. And worldwide, 1.3 billion don’t have access to safe drinking water, 770 million are malnourished, 14 million children starve to death each year, 100 million don’t have adequate shelter, and 880 million can’t read or write). Arms imports and expenses take funds from people and put them into war-merchants’ pockets.
Every day, over $3 billion in arms is bought and sold. The U.S. supplies more than one half of all arms worldwide, often to brutal dictators such as Saddam Hussein and “terrorists” such as Osama bin Laden. The “defense corporations” make a 20 to 25+% profit. (You’ve perhaps heard of the Pentagon being charged $200 for a hammer, $700 for a toilet seat, $3600 for a coffee pot, etc.) In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $ 2.5 trillion (this is the announced figure, the real figure is probably higher) on the largest arms buildup in the history of the world. The countries’ debt increased by that amount. The Pentagon has recently (as of 2003) admitted that it cannot account for $3.3 trillion!!
The U.S.A. has fought 15 wars in 200 years, but has put its military’s in other countries over 200 times to bend other country’s to its will (an average of over once a year). Recall Butler’s quote: “War is a racket”. Since World War II, the U.S. has been at war with- and bombed- China (1945-46, 1950-1953); Korea (1950-1953); Guatemala (1954, 1967-69); Indonesia (1958); Cuba (1959-60); the Belgian Congo (1964); Peru (1965); Laos (1964-73); Vietnam (1961-73); Cambodia (1969-70); Grenada (1983); Libya (1986); El Salvador (1980s); Nicaragua (1980s); Panama (1989); Iraq (1991-99); Bosnia (1995); Sudan (1998); Yugoslavia (1999) and now Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq again (2003). As noted, John Stockwell estimates that since WWII, CIA-instigated wars have killed well over 6 million (including 2 million Vietnamese, 1 million Koreans, 1 million Indonesians, 1 million Cambodians, 1 million Laotians, 20,000 Angolans, and 22,000 Nicaraguans). Stockwell (“The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order” and “The United States in Search of Enemies”) calls this the “American Holocaust”.
1) Between 1974 and 1985, Third World debt increased by $580 billion. Of this, nearly half ($250 billion) represents arms imports from the developed world.
2) Less than 0.5% of the money spent on arms worldwide would pay to develop agriculture so that developing nations could feed themselves.
3) In 1986, on average the world spent $30,000/soldier and $455/child for education
4) The cost of three weeks of arms spending would pay for primary health care for all children in developing world.
5) For one half of the cost of one hours world military spending ($102 million), the UN mostly stopped a locust plague in Africa in 1986, saving enough grain to feed 1.2 million people.
6) Military spending of industrial countries is 30 times the amount they give in aid.
7) The “Nuclear Club” = USA, Russia, Ukraine, France, UK, China, now North Korea, India, Israel, as well as S. Africa and Pakistan
8) The U.S. has 38,000 tons of chemical warfare agents (including 500 to 1000 tons of nerve gas.)
9) In the 1980’s, 70% of National Science Foundation grant funding went to star-wars related research.
10) Interestingly, although military power is at an all time high, aggression has become less successful in some ways. In this century, aggressors have won only 4 of 10 wars. In the 80’s, that ratio was down to 1 in 10. But the main losers are the civilians that the military is supposed to be protecting.
Truth is the First Casualty of War
Today, the government and media have adopted a number of the strategies “Big Brother” utilized in George Orwell’s 1984. They incite hatred of “designated enemies” with rhetoric such as “evil empire”, “another Hitler”, etc. They have also become masters at censorship, “double-think” and “newspeak”. Civilian casualties are “collateral damage”, bombs are “ordnance”, bombing raid are “visits”, body bags are “human remain pouches” and indeed, in the ultimate Orwellian twist, war is “peace or peace keeping”. And 8 months after Ambassador Glaspie’s fateful July 25 interview with Saddam Hussein in which she stated the U.S. had “no opinion” on his border dispute with Kuwait, effectively giving him the “green light” to invade Kuwait, Glaspie now tells us she also told him that “we insist that you settle your disputes nonviolently”. So now the State Department is also in the business of re-writing history. Complicity of the press is, of course, required in these processes but is usually accomplished because all the major media are owned by Fortune 500 companies, the same people that run the government. NBC is owned by GE, the largest nuclear bomb maker in the world (some 35,000 since WWII).
Doublespeak: Terms of Political Discourse
“Manufacturing Consent,” by Chomsky and Herman, details the ways in which propaganda is used in the U.S., generally without coercion, to control public opinion and the domestic population in general. Chomsky notes: “To make sense of political discourse, it’s necessary to give a running translation into English, decoding the doublespeak of the media, academic social scientists, etc.” Terms typically have two meanings, the “dictionary meaning” and the “doctrinal meaning.” For example, the dictionary meaning of “democracy” is a form of government wherein people can participate in a meaningful way in managing their affairs, by voting, etc. The doctrinal meaning, on the other hand, “refers to a system in which decisions are made by sectors of the business community and related elites and periodically ratified by the public”… If segments of the public depart from their apathy and begin to organize and enter the public arena, that’s not democracy. Rather, it’s a “crisis of democracy.”
“Free enterprise” refers in practice to a system of public subsidy and private profit, with massive government intervention in the economy to maintain a welfare state for the rich. “Defense against aggression” is used, predictably, to refer to “aggression.” When the U.S. attacked South Vietnam in the early 1960’s, Adlai Stevenson (among others) explained that we were defending South Vietnam against “internal aggression”- that is the aggression of South Vietnamese peasants against the U.S. air force and a U.S.-run mercenary army, which were driving them out of their homes and into concentration camps where they could be “protected” from the southern guerillas. Likewise, “pacification” refers to “mass murder.” Thus, we carried out “pacification” in Vietnam, killing about 2 million Vietnamese in the process. In “What Uncle Sam Really Wants,” Chomsky continues:
Take the term “special interest.” The well-oiled Republican PR systems of the 1980s regularly accused the Democrats of being the party of the special interests: women, the elderly, the young, farmers- in short, the general population. There was only one sector of the population never listed as a special interest: corporations and business generally. That makes sense. In PC discourse their (special) interests are the “national interest,” to which we must all bow.
Finally, take the term “conservative,” which has now come to refer to advocates of a powerful state, which interferes massively in the economy and in social life. They advocate huge state expenditures and a postwar peak of protectionist measures and insurance against market risk, narrowing individual liberties through legislation and court packing, protecting the Holy State from unwarranted inspection by the irrelevant citizenry- in short, those programs which are the precise opposite of traditional conservatism. Their allegiance is to “the people who own the country” and therefore “ought to govern it,” in the words of Founding Father John Jay.
Confucius was once asked what would be the first thing he would do if he were to lead the state. He replied, “Rectify the language”. He was wise and subtle. As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent too, until eventually intelligent, informed communication becomes nearly impossible. Probably the greatest living linguistics expert, Noam Chomsky, states: “Language is, after all, a tool for thought. If you debase the language, you debase the thought.”
On the Brighter Side: What We Can Do
Worldwide, there are now many thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They work on a huge range of issues. Their aims are to counter the vested interests in the arms race, to counter the influence of those who oppose the transfer of resources from North to South (rich to poor), and to protect the environment. In short, to promote political, economic and environmental justice. They include, to name a few: Amnesty International, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, European Green Party, Nuclear Disarmament Party in Australia, Beyond War, Greenpeace, Sea Shepard, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc.
Real National Security
Many environmentally-oriented NGO’s would assert that our real national security now depends not upon money, oil, or weaponry, but rather, upon the maintenance of healthy human communities within a healthy natural environment. To forge a genuine new world order, that is, a sustainable, peaceful and environmentally-secure society, we must first work for justice, for humans as well for the environment. Second, we must begin to utilize the strategies nature has developed over the past 4.6 billion years. Nature operates on solar power, recycles energy and materials, and maintains a healthy diversity of species. We can bring the human economy into better accordance with nature’s economy by;
reducing our consumption of resources,
shifting from nonrenewable to renewable fuels
demilitarizing our economy
learning to respect the rights of other nation peoples to manage their own affairs and resources
requiring our government to abide by international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1985 U.N. Resolution in Geneva, and international law in general.
Obviously, this would require changes in our values. We could adopt the Buddhist ideal of “maximum well being on minimum consumption” discussed in E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful;” reject materialism as an end and militarism as a means; and begin to restrain the destructive, exploitive forces presently so entrenched within our corporate-state-capitalist system. Professor Eqbal Ahmed (author of “Confronting Empire”) stresses that if we in the U.S. wishes to stem the spread of “international terrorism” we should:
1) Stop engaging in it
2) Maintain a consistent definition of terrorism and oppose it whether it is engaged in by our allies (Israel, El Salvador, etc.) or by our enemies
3) Stop supporting CIA covert activities (“low intensity conflicts”), which are breeding grounds for terrorism and drugs
4) Support and strengthen institutions of international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc.
5) Take back our democracy by becoming better informed and more involved in the political process. Get informed and get into groups! The institutions of the U.S. are still basically democratic. True, they have been co-opted by the corporations and do not function for the benefit of the people any longer. But it is still possible for individuals and groups to reclaim the democracy and to change the course of events and the future.
6) The UN Environmental Programme now estimates that in order to allow Third World countries to develop economically, people in First World countries need to reduce their resource consumption to one tenth of current levels.
We might also be well advised to finally heed Christ’s commandments to “Love your enemies” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Or the Buddha’s words “Anger is never overcome by anger, only by love is anger overcome”.
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