IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.9
Part 2 - late additions
Parts 1, 2,
Hey everyone. Thanks for all the great responses to that last newsletter.
I was trying to write back to everyone. But it's become too overwhelming.
Too much is happening and with two jobs, I don't have the time and I certainly
don't have the energy. I'd like to apologize to everyone that I haven't
been able to respond to, friends and others. I wasn't expecting so much
So, the racial attacks are already happening everywhere. The news media
is acting like everything is calm and cool. But the shit is hitting the
fan and racist America is finally showing its face. People we know in
liberal Austin are being threatened even on the UT campus. These last
few days have been fucking horrible. Between trying to track down people
I know in New York and making sure that they're okay. And now having to
worry about a bunch of dumb shits driving around in pick up trucks looking
to beat down some unfortunate… Things are really fuckin' bad. Things
are gonna get worse.
Others have mentioned to me that since the news media isn't going to
report much on racist retaliation here in the states, maybe we should
start thinking about finding a way of making that information available.
We need some sort of bulletin board specifically to document it all. Does
anyone know if anything of that nature already exists?
Anyway, here are a few things that I feel express what I certainly never
could. For more articles of this nature I would highly recommend going
The awesome cruelty of a doomed people
By Robert Fisk
So it has come to this. The entire modern history of the Middle East
- the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the Balfour declaration, Lawrence
of Arabia's lies, the Arab revolt, the foundation of the state of Israel,
four Arab-Israeli wars and the 34 years of Israel's brutal occupation
of Arab land - all erased within hours as those who claim to represent
a crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and awesome
cruelty of a doomed people. Is it fair - is it moral - to write this so
soon, without proof, without a shred of evidence, when the last act of
barbarism in Oklahoma turned out to be the work of home-grown Americans?
I fear it is. America is at war and, unless I am grotesquely mistaken,
many thousands more are now scheduled to die in the Middle East, perhaps
in America too. Some of us warned of "the explosion to come''. But
we never dreamed this nightmare.
And yes, Osama bin Laden comes to mind, his money, his theology, his
frightening dedication to destroy American power. I have sat in front
of bin Laden as he described how his men helped to destroy the Russian
army in Afghanistan and thus the Soviet Union. Their boundless confidence
allowed them to declare war on America. But this is not the war of democracy
vs terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming hours
and days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian
homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in
1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana a few days
later and about a Lebanese militia - paid and uniformed by America's Israeli
ally - hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps.
No, there is no doubting the utter, indescribable evil of what has happened
in the United States. That Palestinians could celebrate the massacre of
20,000, perhaps 35,000 innocent people is not only a symbol of their despair
but of their political immaturity, of their failure to grasp what they
had always been accusing their Israeli enemies of doing: acting disproportionately.
But we were warned. All the years of rhetoric, all the promises to strike
at the heart of America, to cut off the head of "the American snake''
we took for empty threats. How could a backward, conservative, undemocratic
and corrupt group of regimes and small, violent organizations fulfil such
preposterous promises? Now we know.
And in the hours that followed yesterday's annihilation, I began to
remember those other extraordinary, unbelievable assaults upon the US
and its allies, miniature now by comparison with yesterdays' casualties.
Did not the suicide bombers who killed 241 American servicemen and almost
100 french paratroops in Beirut on 23 October 1983, time their attacks
with unthinkable precision?
It was just 7 seconds between the Marine bombing and the destruction
of the French three miles away. Then there were the attacks on US bases
in Saudi Arabia, and last year's attempt - almost successful it now turns
out - to sink the USS Cole in Aiden. And then how easy was our failure
to recognize the new weapon of the Middle East which neither Americans
or any other Westerners could equal: the despair-driven, desperate suicide
All America's power, wealth - and arrogance, the Arabs will be saying
- could not defend the greatest power the world has ever known from this
For journalists, even those who have literally walked through the blood
of the Middle East, words dry up here. Awesome, terrible, unspeakable,
unforgivable; in the coming days, these words will become water in the
desert. And there will be, naturally and inevitably, and quite immorally,
an attempt to obscure the historical wrongs and the blood and the injustices
that lie behind yesterday's firestorms. We will be told about "mindless
terrorism'', the "mindless" bit being essential if we are not
to realise how hated America has become in the land of the birth of three
Ask an Arab how he responds to 20 or 30 thousand innocent deaths and
he or she will respond as good and decent people should, that it is an
unspeakable crime. But they will ask why we did not use such words about
the sanctions that have destroyed the lives of perhaps half a million
children in Iraq, why we did not rage about the 17,500 civilians killed
in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, why we allowed one nation in the
Middle East to ignore UN Security Council resolutions but bombed and sanctioned
all others who did. And those basic reasons why the Middle East caught
fire last September - the Israeli occupation of Arab land, the dispossession
of Palestinians, the bombardments and state sponsored executions, the
Israeli tortures ... all these must be obscured lest they provide the
smallest fractional reason for yesterday's mass savagery.
No, Israel was not to blame - that we can be sure that Saddam Hussein
and the other grotesque dictators will claim so - but the malign influence
of history and our share in its burden must surely stand in the dark with
the suicide bombers. Our broken promises, perhaps even our destruction
of the Ottoman Empire, led inevitably to this tragedy. America has bankrolled
Israel's wars for so many years that it believed this would be cost-free.
No longer so. It would be an act of extraordinary courage and wisdom if
the United States was to pause for a moment and reflect upon its role
in the world, the indifference of its government to the suffering of Arabs,
the indolence of its current president.
But of course, the United States will want to strike back against "world
terror'', who can blame them? Indeed, who could ever point the finger
at Americans now for using that pejorative and sometimes racist word "terrorism''?
There will be those swift to condemn any suggestion that we should look
for real historical reasons for an act of violence on this world-war scale.
But unless we do so, then we are facing a conflict the like of which we
have not seen since Hitler's death and the surrender of Japan. Korea,
Vietnam, is beginning to fade away in comparison.
Eight years ago, I helped to make a television series that tried to
explain why so many Muslims had come to hate the West. Last night, I remembered
some of those Muslims in that film, their families burnt by American-made
bombs and weapons. They talked about how no one would help them but God.
Theology vs technology, the suicide bomber against the nuclear power.
Now we have learnt what this means.
On the Bombings
The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach
the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan
with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies
and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked
an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much
worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous
crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people:
janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing
blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely
to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for
undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.
The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of the project of "missile
defense." As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly
by strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the
US, including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to
launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction.
There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But
today's events will, very likely, be exploited to increase the pressure
to develop these systems and put them into place. "Defense"
is a thin cover for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR,
even the flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened
In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who
hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside
the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks
like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than
they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.
As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror;
we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means
making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we
choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen
to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs
of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting.
Describing "The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated
people," he writes that "this is not the war of democracy versus
terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It
is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US
helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American
shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia
paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally hacking and raping and murdering
their way through refugee camps." And much more. Again, we have a
choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to
the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.
War Against the Planet
President George W. Bush of the United States appeared on television
sets across the world on the 11th of September and declared war against
the planet. Not only will those who committed the dreadful crimes of the
morning be brought to justice, he declared, but so too will those who
once harbored and now continue to harbor them.
Supply ships have started their way to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,
and toward Spain. A large part of the $40 billion designated by the US
Congress will go toward the preparations that have already begun within
the US military establishment, in close contact with its allies.
The Taliban, in Afghanistan, quickly pleaded that the suffering of its
poor should not be increased with the wrath of the cruise missiles. So
did Libya's Gaddafi.
Others, such as Pakistan, hastily declared their fealty to the US strike
back, and pledged to allow planes to fly over its territory. India was
not far behind, eager to allow its land for what may be the largest assault
since the bombardment of Cambodia and Iraq.
One commentator on the US television networks lamented that the US lost
its virginity at 845am on 9/11 when the first plane struck the World Trade
But the war did not begin at that time. This was not Pearl Harbor. The
war has been ongoing for quite some time now, at least for five decades.
Indeed, five decades ago the United States assumed charge of that band
of nations that stretches from Libya to Afghanistan, most of whom are
oil rich and therefore immensely important for global capitalism. The
civilizational mandate held by France and Britain came to a close when
World War II devastated Europe, and it fell to the US to adopt the white
man's burden. It did so with glee, indeed on behalf, for the most part,
of the Seven Sisters, the largest oil conglomerates in the world (most
of them US-based transnational corporations).
Alliances forged with right-wing forces in these regions found fellowship
from the US, just as the Left fashioned relations with the USSR. The United
States participated in the decimation of the Left in north Africa and
west Asia, from the destruction of the Egyptian Communist Party, the largest
in the region, to the rise of people like Saddam Hussein to take out the
vibrant Iraqi Communist Party, and of the Saudi financier Osama bin Laden
to take down the Communist Afghan regime.
We hear that 9/11 was the "worst terrorist attack in history,"
but this ignores the vast history of bombardment, in general, tracked
by Sven Lindquist in his new book (for the New Press), and it certainly
ignores the many terrorist massacres conducted in the name of the United
States, for instance, such as at Hallabja in Iraq or else in South America
by Operation Condor. These are just a few examples. But what is that history
before 845am on 9/11, and will it show us that "retaliation"
misses out the fact that the US has been at war for many decades already?
I. The Afghan Concession.
In 1930, a US State Department "expert" on Afghanistan offered
an assessment which forms the backbone of US social attitudes and state
policy towards the region: "Afghanistan is doubtless the most fanatic
hostile country in the world today." Given this, the US saw Afghanistan
simply as a tool in foreign policy terms and as a mine in economic terms.
When the Taliban (lit. "religious students") entered Kabul on
27 September 1996, the US state welcomed the development with the hope
that the new rulers might bring stability to the region despite the fact
that they are notoriously illiberal in social terms. The US media offered
a muted and clichéd sense of horror at the social decay of the
Taliban, but without any sense of the US hand in the manufacture of such
theocratic fascists for its own hegemonic ends. In thirty years, Afghanistan
has been reduced to a "concession" in which corporations and
states vie for control over commodities and markets without concern for
the dignity and destiny of the people of the region. Oil, guns, landmines
and heroin are the coordinates for policy-makers, not the shadowy bodies
that hang from the scaffolds like paper-flags of a nation without sovereignty.
Shortly after the Taliban took power in Kabul, the US State Department
offered the following assessment: "Taliban leaders have announced
that Afghans can return to Kabul without fear, and that Afghanistan is
the common home of all Afghans," announced spokesperson Glyn Davies.
The US felt that the Taliban's assertion in Kabul would allow "an
opportunity for a process of reconciliation to begin." Reconciliation
was a distant dream as the troops led by the Tajik warlord, Ahmed Shah
Masood and the troops led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Hazara-dominated
Hezb-e-Wahdat party disturbed the vales of Afghanistan with warfare. Citizens
of the advanced industrial states mouthed clichés about "timeless
ethnic warfare" and "tribal blood-feuds" without any appreciation
of the history of Afghanistan that produced these political conflicts
(in much the same way as the media speaks of the Tutsi-Hutu turmoil without
a sense of colonial Belgium's role in the production of these politico-ethnic
In 1964, King Zahir Shah responded to popular pressure from his subjects
with a constitution and initiated a process known as "New Democracy."
Three main forces grew after this phase: (1) the communists (who split
into two factions in 1967, Khalq [the masses] and Parcham [the flag]);
(2) the Islamic populists, among whom Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami
from 1973 was the main organization (whose youth leader was the engineering
student, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar); (3) constitutional reformers (such as Muhammad
Daoud, cousin of Zahir Shah, whose coup of July 1973 abolished the monarchy).
Daoud's consequent repression against the theocratic elements pushed them
into exile from where they began, along with the Pakistani Jamaat-I-Islami
and the Saudi Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami, to plot against the secular regime
in Afghanistan. In 1975, for instance, the theocratic elements, led by
Hikmatyar in Paktia, attempted an uprising with Pakistani assistance,
but the "Panjsher Valley incident" was promptly squashed. The
first split amongst the theocratic elements occurred in the aftermath
of this incident. Instability in Afghanistan led to the communist coup
in 1978 and the eventual Soviet military presence in the region from 1979.
The valiant attempts to create a democratic state failed as a result of
the inability of hegemonic states to allow the nation to come into its
From 1979, Afghanistan became home to violence and heroin production.
Money from the most unlikely sources poured into the band of mujahidin
forces located in Pakistan: the US, the Saudis (notably their general
intelligence service, al-Istakhbara al-'Ama), the Kuwaitis, the Iraqis,
the Libyans and the Iranians paid the theocratic elements over $1 billion
per year during the 1980s. The US-Saudi dominance in funding enabled them
to choose amongst the various exiled forces -- they, along with the Pakistanis,
chose seven parties in 1981 that leaned more towards theocratic fascism
than toward secular nationalism. One of the main financiers was the Saudi
businessman, Osama bin Laden. Five years later, these seven parties joined
the Union of Mujahidin of Afghanistan. Its monopoly over access to the
US-Saudi link emboldened it to assassinate Professor Sayd Bahauddin Majrooh
in Peshawar in 1988 when he reported that 70% of the Afghan refugees wanted
a return to the monarchism of Zahir Shah (who waited in a Roman suburb
playing chess). Further, the Interim Islamic Government of Afghanistan
called a shura (council) in 1989; the seven parties nominated all the
representatives to the body. All liberal and left wing elements came under
systematic attack from the shura and its armed representatives. The US-Saudi
axis anointed the theocratic fascists as the heirs to Afghanistan.
With over $1 billion per year, the mujahidin and its Army of Sacrifice
(Lashkar-i Isar) led by Hikmatyar (who was considered the main "factor
of stability" until 1988) built up ferocious arsenals. In 1986, they
received shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that they began to fire indiscriminately
into civilian areas of Afghanistan. Asia Watch, in 1991, reported that
Hikmatyar paid his commanders for each rocket fired into Kabul. Claymore
mines and other US-made anti-personnel directional fragmentation mines
became a staple of the countryside. Today, about 10 million mines still
litter the vales of Afghanistan (placed there by the Soviets and by the
US-Saudi backed mujahidin). In 1993, the US State Department noted that
landmines "may be the most toxic and widespread pollution facing
mankind." Nevertheless, the US continues to sell mines at $3/mine
(mines cost about $300-$1000/mine to detect and dismantle). Motorola manufactures
many of the plastic components inside the mines, which makes the device
undetectable by metal-detectors.
The CIA learnt to extend its resources during the Southeast Asian campaigns
in the 1970s by sale of heroin from the Golden Triangle. In Afghanistan,
the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) [Pakistan's CIA], the Pakistani military
and civilian authorities (notably Governor Fazle Huq) and the mujahidin
became active cultivators, processors and sellers of heroin (a commodity
which made its Southern Asian appearance in large numbers only after 1975,
and whose devastation can be gleaned in Mohsin Hamid's wonderful novel,
Moth Smoke). The opium harvest at the Pakistan-Afghan border doubled between
1982 and 1983 (575 tons), but by the end of the decade it would grow to
800 tons. On 18 June 1986, the New York Times reported that the mujahidin
"have been involved in narcotics activities as a matter of policy
to finance their operations." The opium warlords worked under cover
of the US-Saudi-Pakistani axis that funded their arms sales and aided
the conveyance of the drugs into the European and North American markets
where they account for 50% of heroin sales.
Heroin is not the only commodity flogged by the mujahidin. They are
the front-line troops of an ensemble that wants "commercial freedom"
in Afghanistan so that the Afghan people and land can be utilized for
"peaceful" exploitation. The California-based oil company Unocal
(76), then busy killing the Karens and other ethnic groups in alliance
with the Burmese junta and with the French oil company Total, had its
eyes on a pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean, through Afghanistan.
Only with an end to hostilities, at any cost, will the international corporations
be able to benefit from the minerals and cheap labor of the Afghans. So
far, the corporations have reaped a profit from sales of arms to the Afghans;
now they want to use the arms of the Afghans for sweatshops and mines.
For corporations and for corporatized states (such as the US), an unprincipled
peace allows them to extract their needs without the bother of political
dissent. The Taliban briefly offered the possibility of such a peace.
Formed in 1994 under the tutelage of the ISI and General Naseerullah Khan
(Pakistan's Interior Minister), the Taliban comprises southern Pashtun
tribes who are united by a vision of a society under Wahhabism which extols
a form of Islam (Tariqa Muhammadiya) based on its interpretation of the
Quran without the benefit of the centuries of elaboration of the complexities
of the Islamic tradition. In late September 1996, Radio Kabul broadcast
a statement from Mullah Agha Gulabi: "God says that those committing
adultery should be stoned to death. Anybody who drinks and says that that
is not against the Koran, you have to kill him and hang his body for three
days until people say this is the body of the drinker who did not obey
the Koran and Allah's order." The Taliban announced that women must
be veiled and that education would cease to be available for women. Najmussahar
Bangash, editor of Tole Pashtun, pointed out shortly thereafter that there
are 40, 000 war widows in Kabul alone and their children will have a hard
time with their subsistence. Further, she wrote, "if girls are not
allowed to study, this will affect a whole generation." For the US-Saudi-Unocal-Pakistan
axis, geo-politics and economics make the Taliban a worthy regime for
Afghanistan. Drugs, weapons and social brutalities will continue, but
Washington extended a warm hand towards Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Taliban.
US foreign policy is driven by the dual modalities of containment (of
rebellion inspired by egalitarianism) and concession (of goods which will
bring profit to corporate entities). Constrained by these parameters,
the US government was able to state, in 1996, "there's on the face
of it nothing objectionable at this stage."
Certainly, on 10 October 1996, the State Department revised its analysis
of the Taliban on the basis of sustained pressure from Human Rights and
women's groups in the advanced industrial states as well as pressure from
the conferences held by Iran (at which numerous regional nations, such
as India participated). In conflict with its earlier statement, the US
declared "we do not see the Taliban as the savior of Afghanistan.
We never really welcomed them." The main reason offered for this
was the Taliban's "uniquely discriminatory manner" with women.
The US state department would have done well to mention the heroic attempt
made by the communist regime to tackle the "woman question."
In late 1978, the regime of Nur Mohammad Taraki, President of the Revolutionary
Council of Afghanistan, promulgated Decree no. 7 which aimed at a transformation
of the marriage institution by attacking its monetary basis and which
promoted equality between men and women. Women took leadership positions
in the regime and fought social conservatives and theological fascists
on various issues. Anahita Ratebzad was a major Marxist leader who sat
on the Revolutionary Council; other notable leaders included Sultana Umayd,
Suraya, Ruhafza Kamyar, Firouza, Dilara Mark, Professor R. S. Siddiqui,
Fawjiyah Shahsawari, Dr. Aziza, Shirin Afzal and Alamat Tolqun. Ratebzad
wrote the famous Kabul Times editorial (28 May 1978) which declared that
"Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education,
job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation
for building the future of the country....Educating and enlightening women
is now the subject of close government attention." The hope of 1978
is now lost and the pessimism must not be laid at the feet of the Taliban
alone, but also of those who funded and supported the Taliban-like theocratic
fascists, states such as the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The real reason for the US frustration with the Taliban was its recalcitrance
toward global capitalism (as an example, the Unocal scheme fell apart).
The Taliban, created by many social forces, but funded by the Saudis (such
as bin Laden) and the CIA, was now in the saddle in the center of Asia,
and it soon became a haven for disgruntled and alienated young men who
wanted to take out their wrath on the US rather than fight against the
contradictions of global capital. Bin Laden, the CIA asset, became the
fulcrum of many of their inchoate fears and angers.
II. Oil, Guns and Saddam.
During the Gulf War of 1991, a decade ago, the US-Europe discovered
the Kurds for a few years. The Kurds and the Kuwaitis provided the war
aims for the Alliance, since we kept hearing how Saddam Hussein's armies
had exploited both. Oil is not the reason, we were repeatedly told; we
are only concerned for the ordinary people of the region oppressed by
these madmen, such as Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Assad and the Ayatollahs.
We heard little about the recently closed Iran-Iraq war, about the various
contradictions in the region, indeed about the role of the US-Europe for
several decades in the fabrication of the regimes that ruled here. As
the cruise missiles fell on Iraq, we did not then hear that the first
major aerial bombardment in modern times took place in December 1923 when
the Royal Air Force pummeled the rebellious Kurds (they felt the wrath
of the guns again in March 1924, not being disciplined firmly enough by
In 1932 the British put in place the puppet royal dynasty, the al-Saud
family to rule the Arabian Peninsula as Saudi Arabia. This regime was
to protect the "interests" of global capitalism, particularly
after oil was discovered there in the early 1930s. The British put King
Faisal over the newly created Iraq, a Sunni leader over a predominantly
Shi'ite land. Workers movements in the region came under attack from these
regimes, many of which violently crushed democratic dissent in the name
of the dollar. Henry Kissinger was later to create political theory of
a policy that had been long in the works: that the US should lock arms
with any political leader who will resist the will of socialism, who will
ensure that international capitalism's dictates be maintained and who
can therefore be a "factor of stability." The rogue gallery
of this policy includes a host of CIA assets, such as the Noreiga, Marcos,
Pinochet, Suharto, the Shah of Iran, the various Gulf Sheikhs, and latterly
such fundamentalist friends as the BJP in India. Even when some of these
leaders flirted with the Soviets (Saddam and al-Assad), their usefulness
to US policy prevented a break in their links to the CIA, mainly to contain
domestic left-wing dissent. The Ayatollah may have been a natural asset,
but his regime was stamped by a radical and patriarchially egalitarian
Shi'ism that terrified the Oil Kingdoms, whose tenuous rule was now bolstered
even further by the armies of the imperial powers and their proxy state
at this time, Iraq. When the Iran-Iraq war broke out, people spoke of
it as a sectarian war between Shias and Sunnis, but few pointed out that
Iraq has a large Shia population and that Iraq fought primarily with the
backing of the US and its alliance to "contain" the Iranian
revolution and the rule of the Mullahs. Saddam, then, was friend not foe.
During these years, no one mentioned the Kurds. For decades the communist
movement grew amongst the Kurds, both in Turkey and in northern Iraq.
But by the early 1970s, the CIA entered the battlefield to cut down the
left and bolster the right. Between 1972 and 1975 the CIA paid $16 million
to the eccentric and untrustworthy Mullah Mustafa Barzani as a "moral
guarantee" of US support for this activities. In 1959, Barzani had
expelled the communists from his mainly Iraqi party and he had sent Iranian
Kurds to their death in the camps of the Shah. Barzani was an asset that
the US cultivated, and is now a close ally of Saddam Hussein, another
US asset. In 1975, Marxist-Leninists within the Kurdish resistance formed
the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which pushed many Kurds to the
Left, including those in the Iraqi Kurdish Front formed in 1988. Saddam
Hussein was given the green light by Washington to take out the PUK, and
he conducted chemical bombing on them in 1983 (at Arbil) and most spectacularly
in 1988 (at Halabja, where five thousand died, and many thousand continue
to suffer). The outrage of Halabja created a momentary stir in the Left
media, but nothing was done then because Saddam was a US ally and asset
- it returned to do ideological work during the Gulf War. As many died
at Halabja as on 9/11, but their death does not factor in when NPR announces
that 9/11 was the "worst terrorist attack in history." When
terror is conducted in our name, then it is not terror but "retaliation."
III. Revenge or Justice?
President Bush promises to get those who did the bombings in New York
and Washington, but he also promises that those who harbor them will feel
the wrath of the US. This is the most dangerous statement so far. Not
only does it violate all manner of international laws, it ignores the
fact that the US has harbored these criminals for years, mainly at the
expense of the global Left. Saddam and bin Laden are products of the US,
even as they, like Frankenstein's beast, turn against their master now.
The lesson is not to continue the madness, to go after the symptom with
$40 billion of firepower. The lesson, for all democratic minded people,
is to undermine the basis of our global insecurity.
First those people who did the horrendous deed on 9/11 must be found,
arrested and brought to trial. The path of justice should not be short-circuited
by the emotions of the moment.
Second, our fight in the US continues, as we continue to point out that
US foreign policy engenders these acts of barbarism by its own desire
to set-up strong-arm "factors of stability" in those zones of
raw materials and markets that must be subservient to US corporate interests.
Vast areas of anger, zones of resentment will continue to emerge - this
is not the way forward. Another indiscriminate bombardment will bring
forth more body bags for the innocent.
History shows us that the US was not innocent on 9/11, even as thousands
of innocent people died. We should not confuse these two things: the terrorists
made no distinction between those who conduct political and economic terror
over their lives, between a regime that they dislike, corporate interests
that they revile and innocent people who live in the same spaces. The
terror of the frustrated works alongside the terror of the behemoth to
undermine the powerful and democratic urges of the people. Both of those
terrors must be condemned.
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