Written by Bryn Pryor on September 15th 2001
Relative merits of our democracy aside, recognize that all individuals who fight against a nation, be it their own or someone else’s, are terrorists. In modern times they only become revolutionaries if they win. History, after all, is written by the winners.
And historically, our attempts to spread democracy over the face of the world haven’t been all that benevolent, which is why were in this mess now. Let’s start in the 40s, since everyone has compared this to the attack on Pearl Harbor. What a load of crap. For one thing, we now know that Roosevelt, Admiral Stimpson and General Marshall knew the attack on Pearl was coming at least 24 hours before it happened. The Japanese consul was cooling his heels in Roosevelt’s outer office waiting to declare war so it wouldn’t be a sneak attack, but FDR wouldn’t see him.
They chose not to warn the commanders at Pearl because FDR had been trying to force the Japanese into attacking for most of 1941. They had, in fact, drawn up an 8-point plan to do exactly that. This is why they left many of the ships that were due to be decommissioned at Pearl: to be destroyed. And why? Because 80% of the American people were against getting involved in a foreign war. FDR had been elected to his third term based on promises not to get us into the war unless we were attacked first. On December 8, 1941 public opinion had done a 180. In that way, I guess the attack is similar to Pearl Harbor.
Other people have decried the terrorists for targeting civilians. Fine, let’s look at the other end of World War II. You know, the moment when the “Land of the Free” became the only nation in history ever to use nuclear weapons against an enemy. Twice. On August 6, 1945 we dropped “Little Boy” from the B-29 Enola Gay on Hiroshima, chosen simply because it had a few military factories.
The strong winds generated by the bomb caused the most damage, destroying most of the houses and buildings within a 1.5 miles radius. When the scorching wind reached the mountains, it was reflected back and again hit the people in the city center. 75,000 died instantly. The radiation generated by the bomb killed tens of thousands more in the long‑term. More than 140,000 people died by the end of the year, with the final number of dead estimated at 200,000. The citizens of Hiroshima included soldiers, but over 70% were civilians, including 20,000 Koreans who worked in factories within the city. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki added another 70,000 to the tally, again mostly civilians.
WE did that. Does that count as terrorism? Some have said that it was to “save lives” by forcing the Japanese to surrender when they might have fought on for years. The ironic thing is, we now know from documents released in 1995 that the Japanese had been trying to surrender for seven months, and first Roosevelt, and then Truman after him, wouldn’t allow it. Why? Because they wanted to drop the bomb… not to kill Japanese, but to intimidate the Russians, who had suffered the most casualties of any nation in the war (over ten million), and had no intention of giving back the Eastern European nations they occupied.
This was truly the beginning of America’s world rule, our Age of Empire and the seeds of the philosophy which has led to willingness of foreign nationals to give up their lives to strike at us. Over the next decades, we again and again violated our own constitution and the sovereignty of other countries to establish our own ends. Often, this was promoted as a cold war against communism, but more frequently it was to protect financial interests of major US companies. These actions usually backfired, resulting in little pockets of hatred for the US all over the world.
In 1958 in Guatemala, the CIA orchestrated the coup which removed President Arbenz, who had popular support, form office so that the United Fruit Company could continue growing there under conditions tantamount to slave labor. The same thing happened in Cuba when we supported Batista in an attempt to salvage the financial interests of United Fruit and IT&T. In Grenada and Panama, Burma, El Salvador, Chile, Hungary, and even South Africa, where we supported the Apartheid government financially and in the UN until it became too politically unpopular to do so. On the world stage, the US has again and again supported the interests of domestic industry and the despots who nurture it over those of the people who actually live in these countries.
Ask the people of Nicaragua, who watched some 50,000 of their own die at the hands of the “death squads” financed by the US, how they feel about America. Or the Cambodians, who had more than 150,000 tons of bombs dropped on them because the Viet Cong might have been traveling along their border, what they think of US foreign policy. To this day, no one knows how many civilians were killed by Nixon’s carpet bombing of Cambodia, but it is estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
And then there’s the Middle East. Having come to the table late as a focus of Islamic hatred after our support of Israel’s expansion following the Six Day war, we are only now coming to grips with what the British, Turkish, and even the French spent thousands of years learning: These people who live in the birthplace of civilization are much less likely to roll over under outside interference than other nations. They fight back, endlessly, viciously, and by whatever means is at hand. The very creation of Israel was, in large part, a response to the fact that the British, who were governing Palestine under a 1922 League of Nations accord, were tired of suffering terrorist attacks from both the Palestinians and the Jews.
What really sewed it up for us was refusing to support the UN’s conclusion that Israel must give back the territories seized in 1967. Much of this land was eventually returned in 1982, but for the last 35 years, we have doggedly supported every move made by Israel, and this, above all else, is what has made us such a target. Whichever side you stand on in the Israel/Palestine debate, you have to admit that supporting a country which routinely chooses to assassinate its chosen enemies – and whatever civilians might be around at the time – doesn’t much jell with the US’ public facade.
Last, but not least, and also extremely germane to the topic at hand is the CIA rigging elections and running black ops in Iran all through the 60s and 70s to keep the Shah in power so we could get cheap oil. When the people of Iran overthrew the Shah and put the Mullahs back in charge, is it any wonder that the U.S. became number one on their to do list? You might remember a little thing called the “oil embargo” during Carter’s presidency? It led to a little thing called the “Iran hostage crisis” executed by our 70’s-era Osama Bin Laden, the Ayatollah Khomeni? Remember him?
And what about Bin Laden? This certainly isn’t the first time he’s come up. Bill Clinton tried to kill him three times after various attacks on the U.S. (including the first bombing of the World Trade Center) and failed. Bin Laden’s a really sharp, wily, creative strategist. You know who trained him?
Yep. We did. He made his bones as a Moujahadin general driving the Russians out of Afghanistan with our backing. Unfortunately, once the USSR left, we abandoned the country to collapse upon itself and the same religious fanatics we used to be cozy with came to hate us because we didn’t give a shit about Afghanistan; we just wanted to beat the Russians.
So this is why we are where we are. Now we stand at the brink of a nebulous war, with whom? Well, does it really matter? After all, our major export is war. As George Carlin says, it’s the only thing we’re good at anymore. We average a major war in this country every ten years… and that’s not counting little military incursions like Bosnia or Ethiopia.
Have you ever wondered why? Could it possibly be because it means more money for the military, and a shot in the arm for the economy? That’s right, killing people in other countries is good for business. That’s why we left Saddam Hussein in power (even though we promised his people we’d support them in a revolution, resulting in all those who rose up against him being killed). It meant years of planes, bombs, rockets, and expensive military development.
When Kylie woke me up Tuesday morning to watch the news, one of the first things I said was, “you watch. They’re going to use this as a fundraiser.” Literally moments later, Dennis Hastert was on camera saying “This is proof we need to spend more on the military. Social Security is no longer a priority, education is no longer a priority.” So much for Dipstick Bush the younger’s embarrassing surplus shortfall. Now they’re going to write him a blank check to gut it all.