11.24.2001


This article is full of "ruling class" vocabulary, as you would expect of something from a socialist web-site. However it draws together various skeins of information I've read in other places and makes an argument that ought to be calculated and either refuted or taken into any consideration of what is "actually happening" in our country at this moment.


US planned war in Afghanistan long before September 11

By Patrick Martin

20 November 2001

Insider accounts published in the British, French and Indian media have
revealed that US officials threatened war against
Afghanistan during the summer of 2001. These reports include the
prediction, made in July, that “if the military action went
ahead, it would take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan,
by the middle of October at the latest.” The Bush
administration began its bombing strikes on the hapless, poverty-stricken
country October 7, and ground attacks by US
Special Forces began October 19.

It is not an accident that these revelations have appeared overseas, rather
than in the US. The ruling classes in these countries
have their own economic and political interests to look after, which do not
coincide, and in some cases directly clash, with the
drive by the American ruling elite to seize control of oil-rich territory
in Central Asia.

The American media has conducted a systematic cover-up of the real economic
and strategic interests that underlie the war
against Afghanistan, in order to sustain the pretense that the war emerged
overnight, full-blown, in response to the terrorist
attacks of September 11.

The pundits for the American television networks and major daily newspapers
celebrate the rapid military defeat of the
Taliban regime as an unexpected stroke of good fortune. They distract
public attention from the conclusion that any serious
observer would be compelled to draw from the events of the past two weeks:
that the speedy victory of the US-backed
forces reveals careful planning and preparation by the American military,
which must have begun well before the attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The official American myth is that “everything changed” on the day four
airliners were hijacked and nearly 5,000 people
murdered. The US military intervention in Afghanistan, by this account, was
hastily improvised in less than a month. Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in a television interview November 18,
actually claimed that only three weeks went into
planning the military onslaught.

This is only one of countless lies emanating from the Pentagon and White
House about the war against Afghanistan. The truth
is that the US intervention was planned in detail and carefully prepared
long before the terrorist attacks provided the pretext
for setting it in motion. If history had skipped over September 11, and the
events of that day had never happened, it is very
likely that the United States would have gone to war in Afghanistan anyway,
and on much the same schedule.

Afghanistan and the scramble for oil

The United States ruling elite has been contemplating war in Central Asia
for at least a decade. As long ago as 1991,
following the defeat of Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, Newsweek magazine
published an article headlined “Operation Steppe
Shield?” It reported that the US military was preparing an operation in
Kazakhstan modeled on the Operation Desert Shield
deployment in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.

If the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union provided the opportunity for
the projection of American power into Central Asia,
the discovery of vast oil and gas reserves provided the incentive. While
the Caspian Sea coast of Azerbaijan (Baku) has been
an oil production center for a century, it was only in the past decade that
huge new reserves were discovered in the northwest
Caspian (Kazakhstan) and in Turkmenistan, near the southwest Caspian.

American oil companies have acquired rights to as much as 75 percent of the
output of these new fields, and US government
officials have hailed the Caspian and Central Asia as a potential
alternative to dependence on oil from the unstable Persian
Gulf region. American troops have followed in the wake of these contracts.
US Special Forces began joint operations with
Kazakhstan in 1997 and with Uzbekistan a year later, training for
intervention especially in the mountainous southern region
that includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan.

The major problem in exploiting the energy riches of Central Asia is how to
get the oil and gas from the landlocked region to
the world market. US officials have opposed using either the Russian
pipeline system or the easiest available land route,
across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, over the past decade, US oil
companies and government officials have explored a
series of alternative pipeline routes—west through Azerbaijan, Georgia and
Turkey to the Mediterranean; east through
Kazakhstan and China to the Pacific; and, most relevant to the current
crisis, south from Turkmenistan across western
Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.

The Afghanistan pipeline route was pushed by the US-based Unocal oil
company, which engaged in intensive negotiations
with the Taliban regime. These talks, however, ended in disarray in 1998,
as US relations with Afghanistan were inflamed by
the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for which Osama bin
Laden was held responsible. In August 1998, the
Clinton administration launched cruise missile attacks on alleged bin Laden
training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The US
government demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and imposed
economic sanctions. The pipeline talks languished.

Subverting the Taliban

Throughout 1999 the US pressure on Afghanistan increased. On February 3 of
that year, Assistant Secretary of State Karl
E. Inderfurth and State Department counterterrorism chief Michael Sheehan
traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan, to meet the
Taliban’s deputy foreign minister, Abdul Jalil. They warned him that the US
would hold the government of Afghanistan
responsible for any further terrorist acts by bin Laden.

According to a report in the Washington Post (October 3, 2001), the Clinton
administration and Nawaz Sharif, then
president of Pakistan, agreed on a joint covert operation to kill Osama bin
Laden in 1999. The US would supply satellite
intelligence, air support and financing, while Pakistan supplied the
Pushtun-speaking operatives who would penetrate southern
Afghanistan and carry out the actual killing.

The Pakistani commando team was up and running and ready to strike by
October 1999, the Post reported. One former
official told the newspaper, “It was an enterprise. It was proceeding.”
Clinton aides were delighted at the prospect of a
successful assassination, with one declaring, “It was like Christmas.”

The attack was aborted on October 12, 1999, when Sharif was overthrown in a
military coup by General Pervez Musharraf,
who halted the proposed covert operation. The Clinton administration had to
settle for a UN Security Council resolution that
demanded the Taliban turn over bin Laden to “appropriate authorities,” but
did not require he be handed over to the United
States.

McFarlane and Abdul Haq

US subversion against the Taliban continued in 2000, according to an
account published November 2 in the Wall Street
Journal, written by Robert McFarlane, former national security adviser in
the Reagan administration. McFarlane was hired
by two wealthy Chicago commodity speculators, Joseph and James Ritchie, to
assist them in recruiting and organizing
anti-Taliban guerrillas among Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Their principal
Afghan contact was Abdul Haq, the former
mujahedin leader who was executed by the Taliban last month after an
unsuccessful attempt to spark a revolt in his home
province.

McFarlane held meetings with Abdul Haq and other former mujahedin in the
course of the fall and winter of 2000. After the
Bush administration took office, McFarlane parlayed his Republican
connections into a series of meetings with State
Department, Pentagon and even White House officials. All encouraged the
preparation of an anti-Taliban military campaign.

During the summer, long before the United States launched airstrikes on the
Taliban, James Ritchie traveled to Tajikistan with
Abdul Haq and Peter Tomsen, who had been the US special envoy to the Afghan
opposition during the first Bush
administration. There they met with Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the
Northern Alliance, with the goal of coordinating
their Pakistan-based attacks with the only military force still offering
resistance to the Taliban.

Finally, according to McFarlane, Abdul Haq “decided in mid-August to go
ahead and launch operations in Afghanistan. He
returned to Peshawar, Pakistan, to make final preparations.” In other
words, this phase of the anti-Taliban war was under
way well before September 11.

While the Ritchies have been portrayed in the American media as freelance
operators motivated by emotional ties to
Afghanistan, a country they lived in briefly while their father worked as a
civil engineer in the 1950s, at least one report
suggests a link to the oil pipeline discussions with the Taliban. In 1998
James Ritchie visited Afghanistan to discuss with the
Taliban a plan to sponsor small businesses there. He was accompanied by an
official from Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia, which
was seeking to build a gas pipeline across Afghanistan in partnership with
an Argentine firm.

A CIA secret war

McFarlane’s revelations come in the course of a bitter diatribe against the
CIA for “betraying” Abdul Haq, failing to back his
operations in Afghanistan, and leaving him to die at the hands of the
Taliban. The CIA evidently regarded both McFarlane
and Abdul Haq as less than reliable—and it had its own secret war going on
in the same region, the southern half of
Afghanistan where the population is predominantly Pushtun-speaking.

According to a front-page article in the Washington Post November 18, the
CIA has been mounting paramilitary operations
in southern Afghanistan since 1997. The article carries the byline of Bob
Woodward, the Post writer made famous by
Watergate, who is a frequent conduit for leaks from top-level military and
intelligence officials.

Woodward provides details about the CIA’s role in the current military
conflict, which includes the deployment of a secret
paramilitary unit, the Special Activities Division. This force began combat
on September 27, using both operatives on the
ground and Predator surveillance drones equipped with missiles that could
be launched by remote control.

The Special Activities Division, Woodward reports, “consists of teams of
about half a dozen men who do not wear military
uniforms. The division has about 150 fighters, pilots and specialists, and
is made up mostly of hardened veterans who have
retired from the US military.

“For the last 18 months, the CIA has been working with tribes and warlords
in southern Afghanistan, and the division’s units
have helped create a significant new network in the region of the Taliban’s
greatest strength.”

This means that the US spy agency was engaged in attacks against the Afghan
regime—what under other circumstances the
American government would call terrorism—from the spring of 2000, more than
a year before the suicide hijackings that
destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.

War plans take shape

With the installation of George Bush in the White House, the focus of
American policy in Afghanistan shifted from a limited
incursion to kill or capture bin Laden to preparing a more robust military
intervention directed at the Taliban regime as a
whole.

The British-based Jane’s International Security reported March 15, 2001
that the new American administration was
working with India, Iran and Russia “in a concerted front against
Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.” India was supplying the
Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers and helicopter
technicians, the magazine said, and both India and Russia
were using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operations.

The magazine added: “Several recent meetings between the newly instituted
Indo-US and Indo-Russian joint working groups
on terrorism led to this effort to tactically and logistically counter the
Taliban. Intelligence sources in Delhi said that while
India, Russia and Iran were leading the anti-Taliban campaign on the
ground, Washington was giving the Northern Alliance
information and logistic support.”

On May 23, the White House announced the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to
a position on the National Security Council
as special assistant to the president and senior director for Gulf,
Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues. Khalilzad is a
former official in the Reagan and the first Bush administrations. After
leaving the government, he went to work for Unocal.

On June 26 of this year, the magazine IndiaReacts reported more details of
the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia
and Iran against the Taliban regime. “India and Iran will ‘facilitate’ US
and Russian plans for ‘limited military action’ against
the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don’t bend
Afghanistan’s fundamentalist regime,” the magazine
said.

At this stage of military planning, the US and Russia were to supply direct
military assistance to the Northern Alliance,
working through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, in order to roll back the
Taliban lines toward the city of Mazar-e-Sharif—a
scenario strikingly similar to what actually took place over the past two
weeks. An unnamed third country supplied the
Northern Alliance with anti-tank rockets that had already been put to use
against the Taliban in early June.

“Diplomats say that the anti-Taliban move followed a meeting between US
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and later between Powell and Indian Foreign
Minister Jaswant Singh in Washington,” the
magazine added. “Russia, Iran and India have also held a series of
discussions and more diplomatic activity is expected.”

Unlike the current campaign, the original plan involved the use of military
forces from both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well
as Russia itself. IndiaReacts said that in early June Russian President
Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of
Independent States, which includes many of the former Soviet republics,
that military action against the Taliban was in the
offing. One effect of September 11 was to create the conditions for the
United States to intervene on its own, without any
direct participation by the military forces of the Soviet successor states,
and thus claim an undisputed American right to
dictate the shape of a settlement in Afghanistan.

The US threatens war—before September 11

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, two reports appeared in the
British media indicating that the US government had threatened military
action against Afghanistan several months before
September 11.

The BBC’s George Arney reported September 18 that American officials had
told former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz
Naik in mid-July of plans for military action against the Taliban regime:

“Mr. Naik said US officials told him of the plan at a UN-sponsored
international contact group on Afghanistan which took
place in Berlin.

“Mr. Naik told the BBC that at the meeting the US representatives told him
that unless Bin Laden was handed over swiftly
America would take military action to kill or capture both Bin Laden and
the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

“The wider objective, according to Mr. Naik, would be to topple the Taliban
regime and install a transitional government of
moderate Afghans in its place—possibly under the leadership of the former
Afghan King Zahir Shah.

“Mr. Naik was told that Washington would launch its operation from bases in
Tajikistan, where American advisers were
already in place.

“He was told that Uzbekistan would also participate in the operation and
that 17,000 Russian troops were on standby.

“Mr. Naik was told that if the military action went ahead it would take
place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan,
by the middle of October at the latest.”

Four days later, on September 22, the Guardian newspaper confirmed this
account. The warnings to Afghanistan came out
of a four-day meeting of senior US, Russian, Iranian and Pakistani
officials at a hotel in Berlin in mid-July, the third in a series
of back-channel conferences dubbed “brainstorming on Afghanistan.”

The participants included Naik, together with three Pakistani generals;
former Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations
Saeed Rajai Khorassani; Abdullah Abdullah, foreign minister of the Northern
Alliance; Nikolai Kozyrev, former Russian
special envoy to Afghanistan, and several other Russian officials; and
three Americans: Tom Simons, a former US
ambassador to Pakistan; Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of
state for south Asian affairs; and Lee Coldren, who
headed the office of Pakistan, Afghan and Bangladesh affairs in the State
Department until 1997.

The meeting was convened by Francesc Vendrell, then and now the chief UN
representative for Afghanistan. While the
nominal purpose of the conference was to discuss the possible outline of a
political settlement in Afghanistan, the Taliban
refused to attend. The Americans discussed the shift in policy toward
Afghanistan from Clinton to Bush, and strongly
suggested that military action was an option.

While all three American former officials denied making any specific
threats, Coldren told the Guardian, “there was some
discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the
Taliban that they might be considering some military
action.” Naik, however, cited one American declaring that action against
bin Laden was imminent: “This time they were very
sure. They had all the intelligence and would not miss him this time. It
would be aerial action, maybe helicopter gunships, and
not only overt, but from very close proximity to Afghanistan.”

The Guardian summarized: “The threats of war unless the Taliban surrendered
Osama bin Laden were passed to the regime
in Afghanistan by the Pakistani government, senior diplomatic sources
revealed yesterday. The Taliban refused to comply but
the serious nature of what they were told raises the possibility that Bin
Laden, far from launching the attacks on the World
Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon out of the blue 10 days ago, was
launching a pre-emptive strike in response to
what he saw as US threats.”

Bush, oil and Taliban

Further light on secret contacts between the Bush administration and the
Taliban regime is shed by a book released
November 15 in France, entitled Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth, written by
Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie.
Brisard is a former French secret service agent, author of a previous
report on bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, and former
director of strategy for the French corporation Vivendi, while Dasquie is
an investigative journalist.

The two French authors write that the Bush administration was willing to
accept the Taliban regime, despite the charges of
sponsoring terrorism, if it cooperated with plans for the development of
the oil resources of Central Asia.

Until August, they claim, the US government saw the Taliban “as a source of
stability in Central Asia that would enable the
construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia.” It was only when the
Taliban refused to accept US conditions that “this
rationale of energy security changed into a military one.”

By way of corroboration, one should note the curious fact that neither the
Clinton administration nor the Bush administration
ever placed Afghanistan on the official State Department list of states
charged with sponsoring terrorism, despite the
acknowledged presence of Osama bin Laden as a guest of the Taliban regime.
Such a designation would have made it
impossible for an American oil or construction company to sign a deal with
Kabul for a pipeline to the Central Asian oil and
gas fields.

Talks between the Bush administration and the Taliban began in February
2001, shortly after Bush’s inauguration. A Taliban
emissary arrived in Washington in March with presents for the new chief
executive, including an expensive Afghan carpet. But
the talks themselves were less than cordial. Brisard said, “At one moment
during the negotiations, the US representatives told
the Taliban, ‘either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury
you under a carpet of bombs’.”

As long as the possibility of a pipeline deal remained, the White House
stalled any further investigation into the activities of
Osama bin Laden, Brisard and Dasquie write. They report that John O’Neill,
deputy director of the FBI, resigned in July in
protest over this obstruction. O’Neill told them in an interview, “the main
obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US
oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it.” In a
strange coincidence, O’Neill accepted a position as
security chief of the World Trade Center after leaving the FBI, and was
killed on September 11.

Confirming Naiz Naik’s account of the secret Berlin meeting, the two French
authors add that there was open discussion of
the need for the Taliban to facilitate a pipeline from Kazakhstan in order
to insure US and international recognition. The
increasingly acrimonious US-Taliban talks were broken off August 2, after a
final meeting between US envoy Christina
Rocca and a Taliban representative in Islamabad. Two months later the
United States was bombing Kabul.

The politics of provocation

This account of the preparations for war against Afghanistan brings us to
September 11 itself. The terrorist attack that
destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon was an important
link in the chain of causality that produced
the US attack on Afghanistan. The US government had planned the war well in
advance, but the shock of September 11
made it politically feasible, by stupefying public opinion at home and
giving Washington essential leverage on reluctant allies
abroad.

Both the American public and dozens of foreign governments were stampeded
into supporting military action against
Afghanistan, in the name of the fight against terrorism. The Bush
administration targeted Kabul without presenting any
evidence that either bin Laden or the Taliban regime was responsible for
the World Trade Center atrocity. It seized on
September 11 as the occasion for advancing longstanding ambitions to assert
American power in Central Asia.

There is no reason to think that September 11 was merely a fortuitous
occurrence. Every other detail of the war in
Afghanistan was carefully prepared. It is unlikely that the American
government left to chance the question of providing a
suitable pretext for military action.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, there were press reports—again,
largely overseas—that US intelligence
agencies had received specific warnings about large-scale terrorist
attacks, including the use of hijacked airplanes. It is quite
possible that a decision was made at the highest levels of the American
state to allow such an attack to proceed, perhaps
without imagining the actual scale of the damage, in order to provide the
necessary spark for war in Afghanistan.

How otherwise to explain such well-established facts as the decision of top
officials at the FBI to block an investigation into
Zaccarias Massaoui, the Franco-Moroccan immigrant who came under suspicion
after he allegedly sought training from a US
flight school on how to steer a commercial airliner, but not to take off or
land?

The Minneapolis field office had Massaoui arrested in early August, and
asked FBI headquarters for permission to conduct
further inquiries, including a search of the hard drive of his computer.
The FBI tops refused, on the grounds that there was
insufficient evidence of criminal intent on Massaoui’s part—an astonishing
decision for an agency not known for its tenderness
on the subject of civil liberties.

This is not to say that the American government deliberately planned every
detail of the terrorist attacks or anticipated that
nearly 5,000 people would be killed. But the least likely explanation of
September 11 is the official one: that dozens of
Islamic fundamentalists, many with known ties to Osama bin Laden, were able
to carry out a wide-ranging conspiracy on
three continents, targeting the most prominent symbols of American power,
without any US intelligence agency having the
slightest idea of what they were doing.


World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org

Copyright 1998-2001
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved
--
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started, and to know the place for the first
time.
T. S. Eliot (from Four Quartets)
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

11.23.2001

Subject: Jim Hightower: Protest Is Patriotism

In a Time of Terror, Protest Is Patriotism
Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown, November 14, 2001


------------------------------------------------------------------
I'm flying a flag these days. The Stars and Stripes,
Old Glory, America's flag -- OUR flag! I've strapped
it to my '97 made-in-the-USA Ford Escort, and I'm
zipping around town as proudly as anyone else in the
red, white and blue, like some modern-day Patrick
Henry on wheels. As with so many others, I'm flying
our flag out of an assertive, perhaps defiant pride --
for I am proud, damned proud, to be an American
citizen, and, in this time of true woe and deep
national trauma, I'll be damned to hell before I
meekly sit by and allow this symbol of our nation's
founding ideals -- "liberty and justice for all" -- to
be captured and defiled by reactionary autocrats,
theocrats, xenophobic haters, warmongers,
America-firsters, corporatists, militarists,
fearmongers, political weasels, and other rank
opportunists. Our flag is no piece of sheeting for
authoritarians to hide behind as they rend our
hard-won liberties in the name of "protecting" us from
a dangerous world. We Americans are not that
frightened. Nor is our flag some bloody rag to be
waved by politicians hoping to whip us into such a
lust for vengeance that they can turn our people's
republic into a garrisoned state, armed to the teeth
and mired in a quasi-religious war that George W.
defines as "this crusade" to "rid the world of the
evildoers." We Americans are not that blind. Our flag
is the banner of freedom seekers, risk takers,
democracy builders, rebels, pioneers, mavericks,
barnraisers, and hellraisers -- a liberty-loving
people who are naturally suspicious of authority and
able to detect that the real threat to our land of the
free comes not from afar, but from within. Our flag is
made of strong democratic cloth, artfully designed and
painstakingly stitched together over 225 years --
liberty by individual liberty, people's movement by
people's movement. Our flag embodies a democratic
continuum that connects us today to the pamphleteers
and Sons of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence
and the Bill of Rights, the abolitionists and the
suffragists, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass,
the populists and Wobblies, Mother Jones and Joe Hill,
Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. "The first
job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open," wrote
German Nobel Prize winner Gunther Grass. The Powers
That Be are not interested in having a national
conversation, but I believe we must push for one from
the grassroots up. Open your mouth -- "Hey, I'm an
American, red-blooded and true, and here's what that
means to me; what do you think?" Americans
desperately need to talk -- about what our society is,
where we're headed, what kind of future we're creating
for the next generation. Our fellow citizens are eager
to engage. Early one morning, as I sat in a coffee
shop writing two days after the terrorist assault, a
fellow in a suit and tie stepped over to me. I didn't
know him, but he said that he occasionally read my
weekly columns and felt the need to acknowledge
something: "I mostly don't agree with you," he
blurted, "but I guess today, we're all Americans."
Indeed. Let's talk. What astonishes me is not that the
Powers That Be would want to stifle any talk that
doesn't assert lock-step "patriotism," but that so
many weak-kneed progressive leaders have counseled
hiding our light under a bushel and withdrawing from
the noble field of protest.
For example, an internal memo to Sierra Club
leaders mewed, "We strongly need to avoid any
perceptions that we are being disrespectful to
President Bush." Hello? Protest is not disrespectful.
It is the essence of American democracy, of America
itself, and it is especially essential when a
muddleheaded guy like George W. sits in the
President's chair, totally dependent on the military
establishment and corporate elite, thrusting our sons
and daughters (theirs won't have to go) into an
unlimited and secretive world war against terrorists
supposedly entrenched in 60 nations, while
simultaneously rushing to Congress with a package of
51 "emergency" antiterrorism bills to put some
convenient crimps and cuts in America's Bill of
Rights. If we don't protest now, when will it matter?
Yet the Sierra Club's memo-writer urges that we shut
our mouths for fear of being deemed unpopular: "Now is
the time for rallying together as a nation," he
whimpered. Excuse me, but rally together for what,
exactly? How to Destroy Democracy
Terrorists have no ability to destroy our
democracy -- but we do, simply by surrendering it, by
keeping our mouths shut while it is dismantled by the
authorities. "America is being tested," bellowed the
political and media establishments after September 11.
True, but the test is not merely of whether the
military has the brute force to smite our enemies,
though this will certainly continue to be mightily
tested in the far-flung, open-ended offensive drawn up
by the Bushites. The real test is going to be of our
democratic resolve. Will we citizens settle for life
in a guarded and gated corporate empire?
"Everything has changed," we're told. No, it
hasn't. This pitiful wail by politicians and pundits
went up as quickly as the Trade Center towers fell,
and now it's the prevailing excuse used by those who
tell us that to defend freedom we must surrender
freedoms, to stop terrorist assaults on our democracy
we must militarize our society. Republicans are the
harshest of the newly assertive autocrats in
Washington, but Democrats, too, were quick to accept
the post-September 11 conventional wisdom that
liberties now must be set aside: "We need to find a
new balance between freedom and security," asserted
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt just days after
the attack, adding ominously: "We are in a new world."
No, we're not. We're in the exact same world. It has
just come a lot closer to us, that's all, introducing
itself to us in a terrible and personal way that we've
basically been uninformed about until now. Yet we are
not some backward, powerless people who must flee to
our caves. The adjustment we most need to make is not
in our freedoms, but in our understanding of who else
is in this big world with us and what it will take for
all of us to get along. At a minimum, getting along
will require that our nation's political and economic
policies begin to reflect our people's democratic
values -- economic fairness, social justice, equal
opportunity for all. In practical terms, this means
putting America on the side of the poor and repressed
people of the world, rather than continuing to stand
alongside the thugs, dictators, corporatists, and
monarchists who prosper on the misery of an
increasingly angry Third World majority.
Far from building on these strengths, however,
the Powers That Be are appealing solely to our
nativism and pessimism, demanding that we withdraw
into Fortress America and meekly allow them to deal
secretively, paternalistically, and cataclysmically
with an uppity world. But it's our world, too, that
they plan to up-end. The same old pols like Dick
Cheney, Trent Lott, and Denny Hastert -- who built
their political careers on the hackneyed line that the
ten scariest words in the English language are "I'm
from the government and I'm here to help you" -- are
now squinting into the TV cameras and, with
tight-lipped greasy smiles, saying, "We're here to
protect you." A mess of the "protection" they have in
mind is collected into a hellish handbasket that
they've labeled the "Provide Appropriate Tools
Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act."
Yes, believe it or not, they've cynically constructed
an acronym that spells: PATRIOT.
Clever, what? T.J., Jimmy Madison, Old Ben, Tom
Paine, the original George W., and all the other
founding patriots would gag on this piece of
privacy-invading, liberty-denying nastiness. It brings
back racial profiling with a vengeance; it makes
wiretapping and Internet surveillance a free-for-all;
it authorizes the indefinite detention of anyone
"suspected" of any terrorist connection, without the
nicety of charging them with anything, and denies them
any appeal; it requires your bank to spy on you and to
report to federal agents any "unusual transaction"
(such as depositing or withdrawing as little as
$5,000); it leaves it to the FBI, CIA, and other
bastions of authoritarianism to define terrorist
activity (protest at a WTO meeting?) ... and so much
more.
If only that were the end of it. They also
propose to "unleash" the CIA. (When, exactly, was it
leashed, and to what?) They want our super-snoop
agency to be officially authorized to assassinate
people -- just like the terrorists do. They want it to
return to what George Bush the Elder calls the "dirty
business" of espionage, which is to say hiring
"unsavory people" as CIA agents to do what needs to be
done (Daddy Bush would know about unsavory, for he was
V.P. when our CIA financed Osama bin Laden). Now along
comes Bush the Younger with a dream-come-true for
those who yearn for more police power in our lives.
It's called the Office of Homeland Security, and he's
given it powers to match the National Security Agency
and a vague mandate that he glibly defines as "to make
sure that anybody who wants to harm America will have
a hard time doing so." The OHS was created by
executive fiat to be a White House agency. It will
have no congressional oversight of its activities or
budget. In addition, Bush has unilaterally decided to
establish a "Homeland Defense Command" within the
Pentagon, empowering the military to gain a foothold
over civilian authority and to act against U.S.
citizens at home. If this in not enough
democracy-quashing firepower, Congress is also
contemplating approval of a longtime civil-liberties
no-no: the national ID card. Welcome to your "new
world." It's really no big deal, says Republican
subcommittee chairman George Gekas, who notes that
something already exists that you might not know
about: the National Standard for the Driver's
License/Identification Card. It might be one thing if
any or all of these measures would actually stop
terrorism, but even their proponents won't make such a
claim. It's being done not because it makes sense, but
simply because there is an urgency to "do something,"
or at least appear to do something, and the easiest
thing to do in a national crisis is always to reach
for the hammer and cuffs to shut down everything from
people's movements to their mouths. Well, after all,
say the politicians and media with near unanimity,
we're at war. No, we're not. Yes, our forces are in
"hot pursuit" of the maniacal fiends who, in a
grotesque perversion of Islam (practicing a violent,
puritanical, fringe version called Wahhabism), have
exploded our buildings, our people, and our comforting
sense of isolation from an unsettled world's religious
wars. And yes, George W. has declared us to be "at
war" with these murderous zealots.
Good for him -- except, of course, that a
president has no authority to declare war. This is
more than a Constitutional nicety; it is basic to the
rule of law, which in turn is an absolutely essential
underpinning of democracy -- in fact, the founders
took on King George III in the Revolutionary War so
we'd be governed by law, not kings. Attorney General
John Ashcroft, never one to contend for a
civil-liberties award, has been especially pushy in
his assertion of martial-law-style executive power,
stamping his tiny feet and demanding at one point that
Congress pass his police-powers package "by next
week."
Likewise, the media, Congress, and the White
House have clamored to censor those who have dared to
dissent or diverge from the orthodox line. For
example, when comedian Bill Maher expressed some
unapproved thoughts on television, President Bush's
mouthpiece Ari Fleischer said: "Americans ... need to
watch what they say, watch what they do." Any time the
authorities lock arms and assert that "everything has
changed," grab your copy of the Bill of Rights and
rush to the barricades.
So What Can We Do? What should we ask our
government to do? On the military front, the United
States has no choice but to go after the bastards.
Terrorism ain't beanbags. The ruthless mass murderers
smacked our nation and all of civilization right in
the face, and turning the other cheek only means we'll
get smacked again. There's no subtlety to their
agenda. However, there must subtlety be to ours. The
trick in smacking back is in knowing who "they" are,
where they are, and particularly in smacking them
without slaughtering the innocents they hide among.
This requires a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, and it
requires a long, patient siege (years) that is
dependent more on creative diplomacy and old-fashioned
gumshoe espionage than on high-tech, made-for-CNN
missile shots. Bringing them to justice in a court of
law would be ideal, and we should seek their capture,
but these are suicidal, doctrinaire diehards, so blood
will flow.
With blood and billions of our dollars involved,
we have a right to demand a new honesty from
Washington. For starters, they should start telling us
the truth about the elites of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and
the United Arab Emirates, who are the primary source
of brains, money, and recruits for this Wahhabi jihad.
Leaders of these nations, however, are the oil
buddies, business partners, and longtime Middle
Eastern enforcers of America's corporate empire, so
Bush, Cheney & Co. won't cop to the fact that the
murderous theocratic movement now tormenting us is
based in the very nest where their corporate chums
have found such comfort and profit. Will Bush go there
to "smoke 'em out of their holes"?
How about a little honesty, too, on money
laundering? Bush has pointed furiously at foreign
banks, but how about the multibillion-dollar networks
of secret accounts in the "private banking"
departments of such U.S. giants as Citigroup (a major
Bush campaign contributor)? It's on the home front,
however, where we citizens must be most forceful in
holding Washington accountable. The looters are loose.
Not common looters rampaging through the streets, but
corporate looters rampaging through the Congress. They
are grabbing for bills and billions that have zero to
do with combating terrorism or rebuilding our economy
-- the Star Wars missile-defense shield, for example,
was zapped through a week after the attack, even
though a box-cutter defense shield would be much more
useful.
Then came "fast track" authority to ram more
global trade deals down the throats of the world's
people -- pushed by lobbyists and Bush's odious trade
chief in the name of patriotism!
The looters also want huge bailouts, massive
corporate tax cuts, oil drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge, slashing-capital gains taxes
(80 percent of this break goes to the wealthiest 2
percent of Americans), and a host of other thefts.
Instead of aiding the looters, Washington should
launch a major reinvestment in grassroots America.
First, stop the firing. Why should airlines get $15
billion from taxpayers while axing 100,000 employees?
The same with hotel chains, car-rental corporations,
and other industries that now demand bailouts. Yes,
these corporations are hard-hit, but so is America. To
stimulate the economy, put these bailout funds into
the hands of working families all across America.
Second, strengthen our national security by
making major, long-overdue public investments in our
infrastructure -- schoolhouses, hospitals, roads and
bridges, parks, etc. Add to this a new nationwide
project to reconnect our population corridors with
high-speed passenger trains. This makes so much sense
that even the tightly bowtied, right-wing,
anti-government scribe George Will has embraced it.
Then it's way past time we expanded renewable energy
sources to wean us off oil, which weds the Bush-Cheney
crowd to the Saudi royal family and their ilk.
Third, to deal with the recession: Instead of
cutting income taxes, cut payroll taxes; raise the
minimum wage; extend health care, unemployment
benefits, and day care. All of this spreads money,
like fertilizer, to the grassroots economy, rather
than piling it up inside global banks.
Finally, we must demand openness and full public
discussion on everything from war and peace to
restrictions on our liberties. Since September 11, I
find a deep hunger among most Americans for serious
discussion (including hearing dissent). This gives me
great hope in such a horrible time. Contrary to the
media's portrayal of Bellicose America, the people
I've encountered in meetings, in cafes and bars, and
elsewhere (including the majority of people writing
letters-to-the-editor in papers from coast to coast)
are expressing anger, grief, and shock -- but they
oppose the hush-hush and rush-rush we're getting, and
they want us to talk and think as a democratic
community. The better part of patriotism is for us to
raise hard questions, put out inconvenient
information, assert our values, and appeal to what
Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."

More of Jim Hightower's writing can be found in his
monthly newletter, The Hightower Lowdown. For more
information, see www.jimhightower.com.

11.22.2001

While I'm sure that this is sound foreign policy thinking, the title and strategy force one to consider any number of countries which could be substituted for Iraq, and the mental exercise is instructive: Guatemalans, Chileans, Salvadoraneans, Saudis, Americans.... (add your own.). Furthermore, it does not raise the often uncomfortable question of how they lost their country.(Normal media myopia) Alas, one can't have everything. Mr. Makiya touches on a shameful betrayal of the Iraqui people which was not widely reported in our media, and he correctly expands the perameters of his focus to place current exercises in Afghanistan in a larger perspective.

November 21, 2001
Help Iraqis Take Their Country Back
By KANAN MAKIYA

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Watching the collapse of the Taliban and the scenes of Kabul being taken by troops of the Northern Alliance resurrects painful memories of what might have been, but wasn't, in the Persian Gulf war fought against Saddam Hussein.
In 1991 the United States, swayed in part by the concerns of allies like Saudi Arabia, left Mr. Hussein in place, his dictatorial power to make life hell for Iraqis still intact. Ordinary people, who had stood on rooftops cheering on the Allied planes that were bombing them, and who had risen against the dictator, overpowering his police and armed forces in more than two-thirds of Iraq, were left locked up in a box called "international sanctions" and "containment," with the keys firmly in Saddam Hussein's hands.
Ten years after the American victory, American policy for stability in the Middle East has all but collapsed. Even the Arab-Israeli peace process, which pushed "the Iraq question" to the back burner, has bitten the dust. And American officials are still arguing over what to do about Saddam Hussein. Is it any wonder that the Iraqi people and others in the Arab world have grown more bitter and more anti-American than they were 10 years ago?
The cracks in this American policy toward Iraq were beginning to show in 1996, when for the first time since the gulf war, the United States let Mr. Hussein get away with invading a city — Arbil — in what used to be the safe haven of northern Iraq. That was the year when the American-backed Iraqi opposition to Mr. Hussein was rooted out of the north of the country. More than 100 members of the Iraqi opposition died in Arbil waiting for American air support that never came.
That was a pivotal moment because the United States shrank from supporting an opposition that would have brought about deep structural change in Iraq — a change that would have included the Kurds and the Shiites in a pro-Western, non-nationalist, federally structured regime. Instead, America held back in favor of what it thought to be much safer — an officer-led coup that would replace one set of Baath Party leaders with another. But that judgment proved to be wrong.
The coup plot, organized by the Central Intelligence Agency and supported by the Saudis, was penetrated by Saddam Hussein's agents. Nearly 200 Iraqi military officers were executed in the summer of 1996. And the Clinton administration continued to consider the Northern-based opposition — the only hope for fundamental change in Iraq — as ineffective. The reverberations of that episode and the perception in the Middle East that the United States is an unreliable ally continue to be felt to this day.
Whatever direct or indirect involvement Saddam Hussein turns out to have had in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, let us not forget that the attacks were conceived, planned and executed by Arabs, not Afghans or Pakistanis or Muslims in general. Arabs constitute less than 20 percent of the worldwide Muslim population. The view that tars the whole Muslim world with the same brush as a part of its Arab component is deeply misconceived. Consider the case of the Taliban; it is a creation that has nothing to do with Afghan history or traditions. The roots of its support in Pakistan were financed by Saudi oil money from the mid-1990's.
It was Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia who urged backing for the Taliban. Wahhabism is, like the ideology of the Taliban, a retrograde strain of Islam that is obsessed with the question of purity. So extreme is this purist creed that it views all non-Muslims (as well as non-Wahhabi Muslims like myself) as a form of "pollution" of the entire "land of Muhammad," the phrase that Osama bin Laden uses when he talks about the presence of the American military forces in Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden not only grew up with this ideology, the staple of the Saudi school system, but he turned it against his own regime when it violated these principles during the gulf war.
For decades, the Saudi royal family could count on support from the United States even as it allowed Wahhabism to project its hate-filled vision of Islam around the world. Such support, so contrary to American principles of freedom and toleration, is widely interpreted in the region as indifference to the suffering of ordinary Arabs in the Middle East, like those in Iraq. I use the Iraqi case to illustrate that indifference. American policy, if redirected, can determine the future of that nation. It is, after all, a country that the United States went to the trouble of defeating militarily, only to stand aside as its citizens were slaughtered by the tyrant Americans had come to fight.
Iraq's infrastructure, its middle class, its secular intelligentsia, its high levels of education — even its military-industrial complex and current capability to produce weapons of mass destruction — are all reasons for thinking that a new kind of westward-looking political order can, with help from the West, be set up in Iraq just as it was set up in Germany and Japan after World War II. And unlike Afghanistan, Iraq, with untapped oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's, can pay for its own reconstruction.
But change of this nature requires a major rethinking of American foreign policy in the Middle East. And that will not come about through another bombing campaign. Iraq has been bombed enough. Change for the better can only be engineered in Iraq, over time, led by Kurds in the North and the Iraqi opposition based in both North and South. Experience in 1996 suggests that Saddam Hussein's regular army can be won over or bribed into changing sides. What is desperately needed is an iron American resolve to end the existing regime, backed up with financial resources for the opposition and stronger security guarantees to the Kurds than are in place now. Operating from secured bases in the country, and perhaps in Kuwait or Jordan, Iraqis can do the rest.
There is now a tremendous opportunity to end American indifference and inaction toward the political cancer that Saddam Hussein represents in this region. This is a part of the world that needs a radical shift in American policy. If the challenge represented by the attacks of Sept. 11 is going to be met, then overthrowing Saddam Hussein by reaching out to the people of Iraq is where it has to begin.
Kanan Makiya, a professor of Middle East studies at Brandeis University, was born in Baghdad and is the author of "Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq" and "The Rock: A Seventh Century Tale of Jerusalem."


The Debt, by Randall Robinson


This is one of the most compelling books I've read in many years. It's haunting, because it adresses a problem that we think we know well, especially progressive people. We don't. Robinson's evocation of the psychic (and consequently social) costs of slavery are painful to read and consider even for a moment. His argument for black reparations is, to me, irrefutable. I include two short quotes from the book to whet your interest, hopeful that you might buy it and read it in full. Peter Coyote.

" They had been declared free---four million of them. Some had simply walked off plantations during the war in search of Union forces. Others had become brazenly outspoken to their white masters toward the war's conclusion. Some had remained loyal to their masters to the end. Abandoned, penniless and unskilled, to the mercies of a humiliated and hostile South, millions of men, women, and children trudged into the false freedom of the Jim Crow South with virtually nothing in the way of recompense, preparation, or even national apology.
It is from this condition that today's black male emerged."
page 213

"What were the five greatest human rights tragedies that occurred in the world over the last five hundred years?
Pose this question to Europeans, Africans, and Americans, and I would guess that you would get dramatically divergent answers.
My guess is that both the Americans and the Europeans would place the Jewish holocaust and Pol Pot's extermination of better than a million Cambodians at the top of their list. Perhaps the Europeans would add the Turkish genocide against Armenians. Europe and America would then agree that Stalin's massive purges would qualify him for third, fourth, or fifth place on the list. The Europeans would omit the destruction of Native Americans, in an oversight. The Americans would omit the Native Americans as well, but more for reasons of out-of-sight than oversight. Perhaps one or both would assign fifth place to the 1994 Hutu massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda. No one outside of Africa would remember that from 1890 to 1910 the Belgian King Leopold II ( who was viewed at the time in Europe and America as a "philanthropic " monarch) genocidally plundered the Congo, killing as many as ten million people.
All of these were unspeakably brutal human rights crimes that occurred over periods ranging from a few weeks to the span of an average lifetime. But in each of these cases, the cultures of those who were killed and persecuted survived the killoing spasms. Inasmuch as large numbers, or even remnants of these groups, weathered the savageries with their cultural memories intact, they were able to regenerate themselves and their socieites. They rebuilt their places of worship and performed again their traditional religious rituals. They rebuilt their schools and read stories and poems from books written in their traditional languages. They rebuilt stadia, theaters, and ampitheaters in which survivors raised to the heavens in ringing voices songs so old that no one knew when they had been written or who had written them. They remembered their holidays and began to observe them again. They had been trapped on an island in a burning river and many had perished. But the fire had eventually gone out and they could see again their past and future on the river's opposite banks.
The enslavement of black people was practiced in America for 246 years. (emphasis mine.) In spite of and because of its longevity, it would not be placed on the list by either the Americans or the Europeans who had played a central role in slavery's business operations. Yet the black holocaust is far and away the most heinous human rights crime visited upon any group of people in the world over the last five hundred years.
There is oddly no inconsistency here.
Like slavery, other human rights crimes have resulted in the loss of millions of lives. But only slavery, with its sadistic patience, asphyxiated memory, and smothered cultures, has hulled empty a whole race of people with inter-generational efficiency. Every artifact of the victims' past cultures, every custom, every ritual, every god, every language, every trace element of a people's whole hereditary identity, wrenched from them and ground into a sharp choking dust. It is a human rights crime without parallel in the modern world. For it produces its victims ad inifintum, long after the active stage of the crime has ended.
Our children have no idea who they are. How can we tell them? How can we make them understand who they were before the ocean became a furnace incinerating every pedestal from which the ancient black muses had offered inspiration? What can we say to the black man on death row? The black mother alone, bitter, overburdened and spent? Who tells them that their fate washed ashore at Jamestown with twenty slaves in 1619?
But Old Massa now, he knows what to say. Like a sexually abusing father with darting snake eyes and liquid lips he whispers'--
I know this has hurt and I won't do it again, but don't you tell anybody....
Then, on the even of emancipation, in a wet, wheedling voice, Old Massa tells the fucked-up 246 year old spirit-dead victims with posthypnotic hopefulness--
Now y'all just forget about everything. Gwan now. Gwan.
Go where? Do what? With what? Where is my mother? My father? And theirs? And theirs? I can hear my own voice now oud in my ears.
America has covered itself with a heavy wet material that soaks up annoying complaints like mine. It listens to nothing it does not want to hear and wraps its unread citizens, white and black, in the airless garment of curcumambient denial, swathing it all in a lace of fine, sweet lies that furthyer bluer everyone's understanding of "why black people are like they are."
Randall Robinson, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, Plume Books, Jan. 2001

11.21.2001

The New York Times

November 17, 2001

Senators Urge Bush Not to Hamper Israel

By ELAINE SCIOLINO


WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 ‹ In a letter to President Bush today, 89 senators urged
him not to restrain Israel from retaliating fully against Palestinian
violence and to express his solidarity publicly with Israel soon.

The six-paragraph letter was intended to prevent Secretary of State Colin L.
Powell from including direct or indirect criticism of Israel and from
offering inducements to the Palestinians in a speech he will give at the
University of Louisville on Monday.

"There is constant concern about the administration's wavering," said
Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who is one of the
signatories. "Powell talks about the cycle of violence that suggests one
produces the other and that there is a moral equivalency, which is not true.
Terrorists killing civilians is totally unjustified, and Israel's response
is self-defense."

In the letter, the senators praised Mr. Bush for what they called "the
correct course" in refusing to meet the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat,
and urged the president to continue to refuse to meet him until Mr. Arafat
has taken steps to end the violence against Israel.

The State Department was unusually critical of Israel last month, demanding
the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian- controlled
areas of the West Bank, which the department said contributed to an
escalation in violence. It also deplored the killing by Israeli soldiers of
numerous Palestinian civilians during a weekend of violence and called on
Israel to ensure that its armed forces exercise "greater discipline and
restraint."

Without referring to those statements, the senators' letter made clear that
such a position was unacceptable to them. "The American people would never
excuse us for not going after the terrorists with all our strength and
might," the letter said. "Yet that is what some have demanded of the Israeli
government after every terrorist incident they suffer. No matter what the
provocation, they urge restraint."

The letter, which stemmed from a meeting two weeks ago between leaders of
the American Jewish community and key senators, was proposed by Senator
Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican. Particularly active in
providing advice on the letter was the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, the principal lobbying group for Israel.

Secretary Powell still has not decided exactly what he will say about the
Middle East in his speech. "The feeling is that he will continue to work on
it over the weekend," an aide to Secretary Powell said. "He'll decide what
he is going to say when he gets up to say it." The aide added that even
officials in the State Department's Near Eastern Bureau "look perplexed
because they haven't seen a draft."

The State Department has prepared a speech designed to serve as an emotional
appeal to both sides to take concrete steps toward peace, but it is not at
all clear to what extent Secretary Powell will ask both sides to take
responsibility for the violence.

Secretary Powell has recognized the deep resentment and anger in the Muslim
world because of the situation in Palestine. Following the Sept. 11 attacks,
he acknowledged in an interview with Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite
channel, that violence in the Middle East had created a "sense of
hopelessness," adding that terrorism was fueled by these "grievances."

The Bush administration, meanwhile, is facing new pressure from its European
allies to end its detachment from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
assume a more active role in peacemaking, which they believe is crucial for
any progress.

They urge full implementation of the six-month-old plan prepared by former
Senator George Mitchell, which recommends a cease-fire, a cooling-off
period, a freeze on the construction of homes for Israeli Jews in the West
Bank and in Gaza, and other confidence-building measures leading to peace
talks.

President Jacques Chirac of France has called for an immediate resumption of
talks.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who arrived in
Cairo today to begin talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, said he was
hoping for a "new dynamic" in Middle East peace talks before the end of the
year.

"There is no such thing as a free press. You know and I know it. There is not one of you who would dare to write his honest opinion. The business of a journalist is to destroy truth, to lie outright, tp pervert, to vilify, fall at the feet of Mammon, and sell himself for daily bread. We are tools, vessels of rich men behind the scenes. We are jumping jacks. They pull the strings, we dance. Our talents, our possibillities and our lives are the properties of these men. We are intellectual prostitutes."
-- John Swainton, the ex-editor of the NY Times, addressing his staff on the day of his retirement.




Al-Ahram Weekly Online
15 - 21 September 2001
Suicidal ignorance by Edward Said.


By now, at least, it should be clear: the US just doesn't get it. Time for
a change of policy, writes Edward Said

The extraordinary turbulence of the present moment during the US military
campaign against Afghanistan, now in the middle of its second month, has
crystallised a number of themes and counter themes that deserve some
clarification here. I shall list them without too much discussion and
qualification, as a way of broaching the current stage of development in
the long, and terribly unsatisfactory history of relationships between the
US and Palestine.

We should start perhaps by re-stating the obvious, that every American I
know (including myself, I must admit) firmly believes that the terrible
events of 11 September inaugurate a rather new stage in world
history. Even though numerous Americans know rationally that other
atrocities and disasters have occurred in history, there is still
something unique and unprecedented in the World Trade Center and Pentagon
bombings. A new reality, therefore, seems to proceed from that day, most
of it focused on the United States itself, its sorrow, its anger, its
psychic stresses, its ideas about itself. I would go so far as saying that
today almost the least likely argument to be listened to in the United
States in the public domain is one that suggests that there are historical
reasons why America, as a major world actor, has drawn such animosity to
itself by virtue of what it has done; this is considered simply to be an
attempt to justify the existence and actions of Bin Laden, who has become
a vast, over-determined symbol of everything America hates and fears: in
any case, such talk is and will not be tolerated in mainstream discourse
for the time being, especially not on the mainstream media or in what the
government says. The assumption seems to be that American virtue or honour
in some profoundly inviolate way has been wounded by an absolutely evil
terrorism, and that any minimising or explanation of that is an
intolerable idea even to contemplate, much less to investigate
rationally. That such a state of affairs is exactly what the
pathologically crazed world-vision of Bin Laden himself seems to have
desired all along -- a division of the universe into his forces and those
of the Christians and Jews -- seems not to matter.

As a result of that, therefore, the political image that the government
and the media -- which has mostly acted without independence from the
government, although certain questions are being asked and criticism
articulated about the conduct of the war itself, not its wisdom or
efficacy -- wish to project is American "unity." There really is a feeling
being manufactured by the media and the government that a collective
"we" exists and that "we" all act and feel together, as witnessed by such
perhaps unimportant surface phenomena as flag- flying and the use of the
collective "we" by journalists in describing events all over the world in
which the US is involved. We bombed, we said, we decided, we acted, we
feel, we believe, etc., etc. Of course this has only marginally to do with
the reality, which is far more complicated and far less reassuring. There
is plenty of unrecorded or unregistered scepticism, even outspoken
dissent, but it seems hidden by overt patriotism. So, American unity is
being projected with such force as to allow very little questioning of US
policy, which in many ways is heading towards a series of unexpected
events in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the meaning of which many people will
not realise until too late. In the meantime, American unity needs to state
to the world that what America does and has done cannot brook serious
disagreement or discussion. Just like Bin Laden, Bush tells the world, you
are either with us, or you are with terrorism, and hence against us. So,
on the one hand America is not at war with Islam but only with terrorism,
and on the other hand (in complete contradiction with that, since only
America decides who or what Islam and terrorism are), "we" are against
Muslim terrorism and Islamic rage as "we" define them. That there has been
so far an effective Lebanese and Palestinian demurral at the American
condemnation of Hizbullah and Hamas as terrorist organisations is no
assurance that the campaign to brand Israel's enemies as "our" enemies
will stop.

In the meantime, both George Bush and Tony Blair have realised that
indeed something needs to be done about Palestine, even though I believe
there is no serious intention of changing US foreign policy to accommodate
what is going to be done. In order for that to happen, the US must look at
its own history, just as its media flacks like the egregious Thomas
Friedman and Fouad Ajami keep preaching at Arab and Muslim societies that
that is what they must do, but of course never consider that that is
something that everyone, including Americans, also needs to do. No, we are
told over and over, American history is about freedom and democracy, and
only those: no mistakes can be admitted, or radical reconsiderations
announced. Everyone else must change their ways; America remains as it
is. Then Bush declares that the US favours a Palestinian state with
recognised boundaries next to Israel and adds that this has to be done
according to UN resolutions, without specifying which ones, and while
refusing to meet Yasser Arafat personally.

This may seem like a contradictory step also, but in fact it isn't. For
the past six weeks there has been an astonishingly unrelenting and
minutely organised media campaign in the US more or less pressing the
Israeli vision of the world on the American reading and watching public,
with practically nothing to counter it. Its main themes are that Islam and
the Arabs are the true causes of terrorism, Israel has been facing such
terrorism all its life, Arafat and Bin Laden are basically the same thing,
most of the US's Arab allies (especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia) have
played a clear negative role in sponsoring anti-Americanism, supporting
terrorism, and maintaining corrupt, undemocratic societies. Underlying the
campaign has been the (at best) dubious thesis that anti-Semitism is on
the rise. All of this adds up to a near-promise that anything to do with
Palestinian (or Lebanese) resistance to Israeli practices -- never more
brutal, never more dehumanising and illegal than today -- has to be
destroyed after (or perhaps while) the Taliban and Bin Laden have been
destroyed. That this also happens to mean, as the Pentagon hawks and their
right-wing media machine keep reminding Americans relentlessly, that Iraq
must be attacked next, and indeed that all the enemies of Israel in the
region along with Iraq must totally be brought low, is lost on no one. So
brazenly has the Zionist propaganda apparatus performed in the weeks since
11 September that very little opposition to these views is
encountered. Lost in this extraordinary farrago of lies, bloodthirsty
hatred, and arrogant triumphalism is the simple reality that America is
not Israel, and Bin Laden not the Arabs or Islam.

This concentrated pro-Israeli campaign, over which Bush and his people
have little real political control, has kept the US administration from
anything like a real re- assessment of US policies towards Israel and the
Palestinians. Even during the opening rounds of the American
counter-propaganda campaign directed to the Muslim and Arab world, there
has been a remarkable unwillingness to treat the Arabs as seriously as all
other peoples have been treated. Take as an example an Al- Jazeera
discussion programme a week ago, in which Bin Laden's latest video was
played in its entirety. A hodge-podge of accusations and declarations, it
accused the US of using Israel to bludgeon the Palestinians without
respite; Bin Laden of course crazily ascribed this to a Christian and
Jewish Crusade against Islam, but most people in the Arab world are
convinced -- because it is patently true -- that America has simply
allowed Israel to kill Palestinians at will with US weapons and
unconditional political support in the UN and elsewhere. The Doha-based
moderator of the programme then called on a US official, Christopher Ross,
who was in Washington to respond, and then Ross, a decent but by no means
remarkable or even fluent Arabic speaker, read a long statement whose
message was that the US, far from being against Islam and the Arabs, was
really their champion (e.g. in Bosnia and Kosovo), plus the US supplied
more food to Afghanistan than anyone else, upheld freedom and democracy,
etc.

All in all, it was standard US-government issue. Then the moderator
asked Ross to explain why, given everything that he said about US support
for justice and democracy, the US backed Israeli brutality in its military
occupation of Palestine. Instead of taking an honest position that
respected his listeners and affirmed that Israel is a US ally and
"we" choose to support it for internal political reasons, Ross chose
instead to insult their basic intelligence and defended the US as the only
power that has brought the two sides to the negotiating table. When the
moderator persisted in his questioning about US hostility to Arab
aspirations, Ross persisted in his line too, more or less claiming that
only the US had the Arabs' interests at heart. As an exercise in
propaganda, Ross's performance was poor of course; but as an indication of
the possibility of any serious change in US policy, Ross
(inadvertently) at least did Arabs the service of indicating that they
would have to be fools to believe in any such change.

Whatever else it says, Bush's America remains a unilateralist power, in
the world, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, everywhere. It shows no
sign of having understood what Palestinian resistance is all about, or why
Arabs resent its horrendously unjust policies in turning a blind eye to
Israel's maleficent sadism against the Palestinian people as a whole. It
still refuses to sign the Kyoto convention, or the War Crimes court
agreement, or the anti-land-mine conventions, or to pay its UN dues. Bush
can still stand up and lecture the world as if he were a schoolmaster
telling a bunch of unruly little vagrants why they must behave according
to American ideas.

In short, there is absolutely no reason at all why Yasser Arafat and his
ever-present coterie should grovel at American feet. Our only hope as a
people is for Palestinians to show the world that we have our principles,
we occupy the moral high ground, and we must continue an intelligent and
well-organised resistance to a criminal Israeli occupation, which no one
seems to mention any more. My suggestion is that Arafat should stop his
world tours and come back to his people (who keep reminding him that they
no longer really support him: only 17 per cent say they back what he is
doing) and respond to their needs as a real leader must. Israel has been
destroying the Palestinian infrastructure, destroying towns and schools,
killing innocents, invading at will, without Arafat paying enough serious
attention. He must lead the non-violent protest marches on a daily, if not
hourly basis, and not let a group of foreign volunteers do our work for
us.

It is the absence of a self-sacrificing spirit of human and moral
solidarity with his people that Arafat's leadership so fatally lacks. I am
afraid that this terrible absence has now marginalised him and his
ill-fated and ineffective PA almost completely. Certainly Sharon's
brutality has played a major role in destroying it too, but we must
remember that before the Intifada began, most Palestinians had already
lost their faith, and for good reason. What Arafat never seems to have
understood is that we are and have always been a movement standing for,
symbolising, and getting support as the embodiment of principles of
justice and liberation. This alone will enable us to free ourselves from
Israeli occupation -- not the covert manoeuvring in the halls of Western
power, where until today Arafat and his people are treated with
contempt. Whenever, as in Jordan, Lebanon and during the Oslo process, he
has behaved as if he and his movement were just like another Arab state,
he has always been defeated; only when he finally understands that the
Palestinian people demand liberation and justice, not a police force and a
corrupt bureaucracy, will he begin to lead his people. Otherwise he will
flounder disgracefully and will bring disaster and misfortune on us.

On the other hand, and I shall conclude with this now, leaving the
subject for my next article to develop in detail, we must not as
Palestinians or Arabs fall into an easy rhetorical anti-Americanism. It is
not acceptable to sit in Beirut or Cairo meeting halls and denounce
American imperialism (or Zionist colonialism for that matter) without a
whit of understanding that these are complex societies not always truly
represented by their governments' stupid or cruel policies. We have never
addressed the currents in Israel and America which it is possible, and
indeed vital, for us to address, and in the end to come to an agreement
with. In this respect, we need to make our resistance respected and
understood, not hated and feared as it is now by virtue of suicidal
ignorance and indiscriminate belligerence.

One more thing. It is also far too easy for a small group of
unexceptional expatriate Arab academics in America to keep appearing on
the media here in order to denounce Islam and the Arabs, without having
the courage or the decency to say these things in Arabic to the Arab
societies and peoples they so easily rail against in Washington and New
York. Nor is it acceptable for Arab and Muslim governments to pretend to
be defending their people's interests at the UN and in the West generally,
while doing very little for their people at home. Most Arab countries now
wallow in corruption, the terror of undemocratic rule, and a fatally
flawed educational system that still has not faced up to the realities of
a secular world.

But I shall leave that all until my next
article. ______________________________
For more information on the situation in Palestine, visit the following
sites:
www.palestinemonitor.org
Thanksgiving: Time to Build an alternative to Modernity and
Fundamentalism (or saying No to Bush and Bin Laden)
By Rabbi Michael Lerner


Posed as a struggle between the principles of post-Enlightenment
democratic Modernity and fundamentalist authoritarianism, the war in
Afghanistan wins near universal approval, almost an update of the 2nd
world war for a new generation hungering to do the right thing and
experience the pleasures of nationalist solidarity denied us in the
Vietnam era. Yet President Bush's initial inclination to call this a
crusade may have been a more candid and insightful account of what is
at stake.
Before we bomb another society into modernity, we might
consider ways in which what we call Modernity may in fact function as
another religious system, and then understand why history may view
this as another in the long series of religious wars that have caused
so much pain in human history. This Thanksgiving may be a perfect
moment to consider another alternative-by taking the spiritual
message of Thanksgiving seriously.
We like to think of modernity as a kind of "neutral" value-free,
advance of rationality. Modernity has wonderful aspects-the
recognition of the importance of individual freedom and protection
from state power, the insistence on a private realm free from public
interference by the community, the freedom of individuals to choose
our own level of religious belief and observance, the pursuit of
science and the rejection of sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, and
homophobic worldviews.
Yet the form of modernity the West has offered to the rest of the
world has been tied to a capitalist ethos and economics which has
brought not only growing gaps in income between the top 20% of the
world's wealthy and the bottom 20% (that gap was 30:1 in 1960, 60:1
in 199-0, and 76:1 in 1998) but also a worldview which has been
militantly materialistic, insisting that institutions or social
practices be judged rational, productive and efficient only to the
extent that they maximize money and power. Though we've told
ourselves we were offering economic well being (which is true, for a
section of third world populations), and claimed that would bring
democracy and human rights as well, the actual experience of many
people is that they are being offered a cultural economic package in
which consumption is the highest good, and cannot be constrained for
the sake of preserving the world's environment or human values. This
is a new religion, as much as we once acknowledged communism to be a
religion as well, and the human consequences of this religion are
already visible in many Western societies: a collection of
individuals who know how to "look out for number one" but who are
emotionally and spiritually illiterate, narcissistic, and have great
difficulty in sustaining lasting relationships or building solid
families. Human relationships are frequently reduced to "what's in
it for me" and our capacity to respond to nature with awe is replaced
by a narrow pragmatism that sees commodities rather than mystery.
This globalization of selfishness and materialism is
experienced by practitioners of other religions as a crusade every
bit as intense as those which was led by earlier Western invaders,
though more subtly executed because this time the West has created
local elites (the small upper and upper-middle classes of 3rd world
countries) who themselves become beneficiaries and advocates for this
new religious system which they impose on their own people with the
help of American military and economic assistance. When Jewish
fundamentalists in Israel burned bus-stop advertisements for American
products displaying scantily dressed women provocatively posed, their
anger was not at the product being sold but at the ways that sex is
transformed from a holy act of love to a cheapened means of mass
manipulation.
Yet the fundamentalist alternative is even worse,
articulating the failures of capitalist ethics but then proposing a
return to authoritarian, undemocratic, sexist, and anti-Semitic world
views. George Bush says we must choose which side we are on, but this
is a moment when some people have begun to look for a third path, one
which rejects both the corporate version of modernity and the
fundamentalist way of resisting modernity.
A first step in developing that third path is to seek A New
Bottom Line-so that we judge institutions productive, efficient and
rational not only to the extent that they maximize wealth and power
but also to the extent that they maximize our capacities to be
caring, ecologically aware, ethically and spiritually sensitive, and
capable of responding to the universe with awe, wonder and radical
amazement at the grandeur of creation. A politics that sought to make
that its standard of rationality would soon recognize that many of
our social, economic and political institutions are irrational,
precisely because they do not tend to produce or sustain human beings
who are loving, spiritually sensitive, ethically and ecologically
aware, or filled with awe and wonder.
I propose the Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution as a first step: require that any corporation operating
in or from the U.S. with income over $20 million/yr. Be required to
get a new corporate charter every 20 years, which would only be
granted to those which could prove a history of social responsibility
as measured by an Ethical Impact Report and assessed by a grand jury
of ordinary citizens. Similar steps should be taken to make every
societal institution responsive to a New Bottom Line.
This may seem visionary and impractical to a people obsessed
with protecting itself from anthrax and criminal hijackers. Yet its
even more impractical to think that we are going to find protection
from those who really hate us unless we can dry up the swamps of
anger from which these evil people recruit their accomplices. It
would be far harder for the Bin Ladens of the world to recruit if
they were facing an America which was known in the world for:
a. Leading the effort to redistribute the world' wealth, eliminate
poverty, hunger and homelessness (a first step would be to take the
$1.4 trillion tax cut and use it to build the economic
infra-structure of the third world)
b. Leading the effort to protect the environment rather than blocking
environmental treaties.
c. Actually embodying an ethos of open-hearted generosity both to its
own poor and to the poor of the world, and changing its social system
so that spiritual values were as central as materialism to its
conception of the good.

The first step toward building such an America is to overcome the
pathological fear that "there is not enough" and that "we are not
enough" and instead open ourselves to an attitude of joyful
celebration and daily thanksgiving for the goodness that is already
there in the human race and in the universe. Instead of letting the
terrorists be the frame through which we view the world, we could
view the world through the frame of the hundreds of people who risked
(and sometimes lost0 their lives on September 11th because they
wanted to help others. We are surrounded by huge amounts of goodness,
but the religious system of corporate capitalist modernity doesn't
really teach us how to appreciate what is there, but only to focus on
getting more.
It's time to let genuine Thanksgiving permeate our
souls. And allow that attitude to then shape our reactions to the
world. We'd quickly begin to see ourselves as connected to all other
human beings, not in deadly competition with them. And the generosity
and openheartedness that would begin to shape our social policies
would make it much much harder for those who hate us to find a
responsive ear in the peoples of the world.
These seem like idealistic goals that have nothing to do with
"reality" because we are so deeply entrenched in the religious system
of corporate capitalist Modernity that we can no longer even imagine
a different set of values shaping our daily lives. But unless we
develop an Emancipatory spirituality, we will be stuck with two bad
choices: Bush or Bin Laden. Many of us want to say "no" to both. And
the ethos of Thanksgiving gives us a good place to start.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of TIKKUN Magazine. He is the author
of Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul, rabbi
of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco, and editor of Best
Contemporary Jewish Writings.

To read the Founding Statement, see the current issue of
TIKKUN Magazine (what? you don't subscribe? then rectify that by
sending $29 to TIKKUN, 2107 Van Ness Ave, Suite 302, S.F., Ca. 94109
--$43 if you live outside the US). Actually, to tell the full story,
you can also find the founding statement on www.Tikkun.org. For
information on the founding conference of The TIKKUN COMMUNITY, see
www.tikkun.org . To contact Rabbi Lerner:
RabbiLerner@tikkun.org

11.20.2001



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Home · Current issue · Archives · Subscriptions · Calendar · Newsletters · Gallery · NYRB Classics
Search the Review

Contents of this issue
Email this article


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The New York Review of Books
November 29, 2001

War in the Dark
By Tim Judah

Khoja Bahaudin, northern Afghanistan

In the Afghan fashion we sat around the edge of the room while a small banquet of rice and mutton was served. We were in Dasht-e-Qala, a village five miles south of the border with Tajikistan. Our host was Alam Khan, the leader of hundreds of refugee soldiers from Mazar-e-Sharif, a key city, fifty miles from the Uzbekistan border, that opposition anti-Taliban forces hope to take.[1] When the meal was over, sweets were served as dessert. One of Alam Khan's aides is Faziludin, who lost his right arm fighting in Kabul many years ago. His wife and children are still living in a village near Mazar-e-Sharif and he has not seen them since the city fell to the Taliban three years ago. I asked him what he would do when he got home. As he sucked his coffee-flavored boiled sweet, he thought a while, shrugged, and said: "I will kill Pakistani, Arab, and Chechen Taliban but not Afghan ones because they are my brothers."

read more