No. 1 terrorist

by Pete Brown
(from Communist Voice #28, January 2002)


. U.S. president Bush tells us that al-Qaeda is "the Mafia of terrorism" and Osama bin Laden is the world's number one terrorist. True, bin Laden is a reactionary bourgeois who organized the massacre of thousands of people for his own selfish ends. But Bush is spouting hypocrisy when he tries to claim the mantle of "good" fighting a holy war against "evil. " As chief executive of U.S. imperialism, Bush heads up a government that since World War II has terrorized and killed millions of ordinary working people for its own selfish ends. Most of the terrorism currently afflicting the world stems from the reactionary bourgeoisie, and this includes in the first place U.S. imperialism.

Nuclear terror

. Let's go back to the end of World War II. At that time the U.S. developed a new weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb. As soon as this new weapon was successfully tested, it was rushed into the war and used against Japan. At this point Japan was already, for the most part, defeated. It had no navy and very little air force left. What was left of its overseas army was about to be overwhelmed and rounded up by the Soviet army in Manchuria and Korea. But without any ultimatum or warning the U.S. rushed to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, incinerating tens of thousands of noncombatants. Within days a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

. After the war the U.S. tried to maintain a monopoly on these new weapons of mass destruction. When that became impossible, the U.S. joined with other big-power members of the nuclear club to try and restrict proliferation. But it was the U.S. that first developed these weapons, and still today the U.S. government is the only one that has ever used them. During the Cold War era the U.S. brought the world close to nuclear war a number of times, especially during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. When U.S. officials denounce "nuclear terrorists", they should aim their remarks at themselves first of all.

Vietnam: assassinations at home and abroad

. As at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. imperialism exhibited the same disregard for civilian lives in other conflicts it later got involved in. For example in the Korean war (early 1950s) American soldiers and airmen were ordered to fire on crowds of refugees to supposedly prevent "infiltration. " And during the Vietnam war (1960s-70s) many, many terrorist atrocities were carried out by U.S. forces. A few of these were later condemned, such as the My Lai massacre. But most were not. Massive bombing raids were carried out against North Vietnam's cities to try and terrorize the civilian population. Rural areas of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were designated "free-fire zones" where U.S. forces routinely dumped bombs on noncombatants. The government of South Vietnam, propped up by U.S. imperialism, savagely suppressed any dissent among its own civilian population.

. Recent news reports exposed a terrorist still with us from those days. That is Bob Kerrey, formerly a Democratic Senator and now president of New York University. In the Vietnam war young Kerrey was a Navy SEAL officer in charge of an assassination squad. Its job was to go into villages at night, kidnap local leaders and kill them. There were no trials, not even military tribunals; the accused were simply seized and murdered. The individuals targeted were not military leaders but simply village leaders suspected of sympathizing with the Viet Cong. Actually, this has been known and accepted by polite American society for decades. What got Kerrey notoriety were recent reports that his squad massacred an entire village, including women and children, not just one or a few targeted individuals. Kerrey's memory of the incident is pretty hazy, but in any case, he says, whatever his squad did was OK because this was in a free-fire zone. All people living in this area were considered Viet Cong sympathizers, so according to the military's rules of engagement it was perfectly OK to kill anyone in the area -- women, children, grandparents, whatever. Kerrey's military career is the very definition of state-sponsored terrorism.

. State-sponsored terror was also active on the home front, where there was a lively opposition to the war at the same time that the African-American people's struggle against racism was also in an upsurge. The FBI tried to infiltrate, split, and suppress any radical or even mildly oppositional organizations. FBI-sanctioned police murders did away with some of the most prominent radicals including Fred Hampton and George Jackson. Reformist leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. were also harassed. The FBI used the same techniques used by the CIA in foreign countries: hiring and training informants and provocateurs while at the same time publicly disavowing "unconstitutional" methods. This allowed them to act merely mystified, embarrassed and incompetent in cases such as the Greensboro massacre of 1979, when FBI provocateurs organized the local Klan to murder leaders of an anti-racist demonstration.

Massacring the opposition

. Indonesia is another southeast Asian country in which the U.S. terror network was active in the 60s. There the CIA and U.S. military intelligence played a significant role in one of the biggest massacres of the century, the 1965 destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party. At that time the Indonesian CP was one of the largest "communist" (actually revisionist) parties not in power. The CPI had hundreds of thousands of members and played an influential role in the government of Sukarno, who tried to maintain a nationalist stance balanced between the Western and Soviet imperialist camps. But in the fall of 1965 Sukarno's hold on power fell apart as the Indonesian army, egged on by the U.S. military and CIA, moved to wipe out the CP. American agents provided names and addresses of particular activists, and the Indonesian army provided the manpower to hunt them down. The army trained and unleashed death squads of Islamic fundamentalists full of hatred for the "godless communists. " Anti-CP pogroms also turned into ethnic slaughter, as the death squads attacked ethnic Chinese. The resulting blood bath killed hundreds of thousands of people and ushered in the 32-year presidency of General Suharto. Until he was forced out of office in 1998, Suharto ruled in a state of virtual martial law, with harsh limitations on democratic structures and working class organization.

Reagan's contra war

. Another notorious example of U.S. -sponsored terrorism was Reagan's contra war against Nicaragua. There the Sandinistas, a petty-bourgeois revolutionary force, overthrew the dictator Somoza in 1979. Reagan began mobilizing "resistance groups" of mercenaries representing bourgeois reaction against the Sandinistas when he came into office in 1981. The contras, organized by the CIA, would not confront Sandinista combat troops but instead carried out terrorist raids against Nicaraguan peasants. Reagan's dirty war also involved mining Nicaraguan ports, strangling its economy with boycotts and an embargo, and carrying out large-scale practice invasions in next-door Honduras.

. Reagan's terrorist policy against Nicaragua had bipartisan support in Washington. In 1984 the liberal Democrat leaders passed the Boland Amendment restricting direct military aid to the contras, but at the same time they allowed private aid to be sent to the contras using U.S. military transport. They allowed Reagan to solicit contributions for the contras' military equipment from private sources and also from other governments such as Israel. They also voted tens of millions of dollars worth of direct "humanitarian" aid to the contras, supposedly for "refugee relief. " The liberal Democrats wanted to find a way to promote an image of the U.S. as being part of an international coalition, not acting unilaterally, and to promote an image of the U.S. as being concerned with "human needs" rather than with terrorist slaughter. But at the same time the Democrats allowed Reagan's CIA-directed proxy war to go on, and in fact as time went on they tried to jump onto Reagan's war wagon more and more. Any move the Sandinista leaders made that smelled of independence from U.S. dictate the Congressional Democrats used as an excuse to step up the terrorist pressure against Nicaragua.

. Reagan's solicitation of funds for the contras included selling American military equipment to Iran. The contra operation also raised money by smuggling drugs to the U.S. Their planes would fly guns from Florida to Honduras and return to Florida loaded with drugs.

. The CIA trained the contras to pick out pro-Sandinista sympathizers for murder, especially educated leaders such as teachers and doctors. The CIA's secret manual of operations for the contras (which eventually came to be publicized) included instructions on how to blow up school buses, killing as many innocent civilians as possible to terrorize the population.

Death squad terror

. In the same period Reagan also backed the terrorist right-wing government of El Salvador. Salvadoran revolutionary forces had organized armed guerrilla groups and had taken control of some areas. Reagan supported the government in its war against the guerrillas. But also the government tried to end support for the guerrillas by terrorizing the civilian population through the use of death squads, unofficial vigilante groups that would kidnap and kill the leaders of workers and peasants organizations. Anyone suspected of organizing dissent against the government was subject to being killed. This included the Catholic archbishop Romero, who had expressed that the government should take it a little easier on the masses, and a group of Maryknoll nuns whose only offense was they did some social work among the poor. Though operating in secret, the death squads usually made no secret of their handiwork, leaving mutilated bodies out in public view to terrorize the populace. This was classic state terrorism: the state has official rules against arbitrary arrest and punishment, so the government organizes a second shadow state that violates all these norms but cannot be publicly condemned as government policy because the government disavows it. And once again the U.S. and the CIA played a major role of support. The Democrats in Congress helped Reagan by voting hundreds of millions of dollars for military and other aid to the Salvadoran regime, winking at its death-squad activities.

. The remnants of this savage policy remain with us today. Central America remains mired in poverty and political backwardness as the reactionary, wealthy monopolists remain in power. And what about the criminal terrorists who organized this war? Reagan is the highest saint of the Republican Party, honored alike by Democratic Party leaders. Col. Oliver North, who supervised the contra war out of the White House basement, is a prominent figure in Republican Party politics. And John Negroponte, who as Reagan's ambassador to Honduras supervised the day-to-day operations of the contras and the CIA based in Honduras, is today President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations. This is the man who stands up in the UN and condemns terrorism!

A school for terrorists

. Meanwhile U.S. -sponsored terrorism in Latin America continues. In Colombia, where leftist guerrillas have taken over significant sections of the country, the government's military forces have organized a shadow military that carries out death-squad operations on a daily basis. Many of Colombia's military officers were trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, a notorious institution that instructs Latin American military officials in how to fight "instability" in their home countries. Nearly 60,000 military officers have been trained there, including some of Latin America's infamous military dictators. The school, now located at Fort Benning, Georgia (and renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation), instructs its students in the fine arts of assassination and torture. State-sponsored terror now murders hundreds of trade union and peasant leaders in Colombia every year. But it hasn't been enough to smash the leftist movement there, and so the U.S. government is now contemplating the use of American troops in Colombia. Bush will advertise this as part of his "war on terror", but in fact it is an escalation of state-sponsored terror against the masses.

A Mideast rogue state

. The U.S. 's closest ally in the Mideast is the rogue state of Israel. From its beginning Israel was a cocked gun aimed at the Arab regimes, threatening them with military retribution if they dared to stray too far from the designs of Western imperialism. The Israeli state had its own terror network, but this network generally worked in collusion with Western imperialist states, and as the decades wore on Israel came to be particularly close to the U.S. The U.S. -Israeli alliance manifested on an inter-state level the old terrorist technique of "hiding the hand that threw the stone. " Israel carries out everyday massacres of the Palestinians and other Arab peoples while the U.S. government stands back, pretends to be neutral, and sometimes even criticizes the Israelis publicly. But meanwhile the billions of dollars in aid, grants, loans, etc. keep flowing from the U.S. to Israel, and Israel continues to receive up-to-date military hardware and intelligence.

. Israel owes its very existence to terrorist actions. After World War II Zionist terrorists carried out actions against British colonial troops, helping to force the British withdrawal from Palestine. As the British prepared to pull out in late 1947, they and the other imperialist powers dominating the United Nations decided that the Palestine area should be divided between two new states, one Jewish (Israel) and one Arab (Palestine). This partition meant rewarding the terrorists. But the Zionists were not satisfied. They launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing to terrorize the Palestinian Arab masses. This included the mass slaughter perpetrated at the village of Deir Yassin in early April 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes and became refugees. Eventually the UN rewarded the terrorists again by awarding Israel all the extra Palestinian land they had seized.

. Thus Israel was founded on the basis of ethnic cleansing and terrorist expansion, with support from the big powers dominating the UN. At this time the Israelis flirted with both the U.S. and Soviet Union. Both imperialist powers wanted to speculate on this new force in the Mideast and use it to intervene in an area that had previously been dominated by France and Britain. The U.S. and Soviets were the first countries to recognize Israel, and the Soviets supplied Israel with arms to use against the Arabs. But the Israeli leaders were not really interested in the Soviet camp and threw in their lot with the Western powers. Thus in 1956, when Egypt's President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, Israel invaded Egypt overland while Britain and France attacked it with air and naval forces.

. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel seized the rest of Arab Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza, and the Old City of Jerusalem) and kept it under military occupation for decades. Israel partially withdrew from some of these areas after the Oslo accords and the "peace process" of the 1990s, but today Israeli forces are reoccupying some of these areas while launching a new campaign of terror against Palestinians.

. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Israel tried to explain away its invasion as a search-and-destroy mission against terrorist groups. But this explanation wore thin as Israel continued bombing the main population centers of Beirut. This was aimed at terrorizing the entire population of Lebanon. Estimates vary, but probably at least 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians were killed during the invasion. This includes approximately two or three thousand massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

. At Sabra and Shatila the U.S. seemingly stood two steps removed from the terrorist action. Israel set up a pro-Israeli death squad network in Lebanon called the South Lebanon Army headed by a Major Haddad. It was Haddad's men who went into the camps and slaughtered the Palestinian refugee women and children (fighting age men had already left or been disappeared). Israeli army officers arranged the scheduling and transport of Haddad's men, opened the gates of the camps to them and stood aside, listening to the screams. On a larger scale, this is the same role played by the U.S. during the Israeli invasion as a whole. The U.S. opened the gates to Lebanon -- gave Israel the green light to go ahead with the invasion, supplied Israel with arms and equipment, then stood aside and listened to the screams. And once again in international forums the U.S. accepted Israel's justifications as "defensive security actions", even though the Israelis had been planning to expand into Lebanon for decades. As far back as the mid-1950s the Israeli leaders had been scheming how to foment civil war in Lebanon by secretly supporting the Christian Phalange party, bribing and supporting Lebanese army officers to attack Muslim Arabs, and then intervening in Lebanon to bring "peace and security" to the fractured country.

. Since its invasion of Lebanon the Israelis' role of imperialist cop in the Mideast has been pretty widely exposed. Israel's harsh suppression of the Palestinian popular uprising, the intifada, drew comparisons to the South African racists and the American racists' attacks on the civil rights struggle. Israel suffered its own version of "blowback" when Hamas, a Muslim militia first cultivated and supported by the Israelis as an alternative to secular nationalist forces in the PLO, turned against Israel. But through thick and thin, Israel remains the U.S. terror network's main bastion in the Mideast.

Fighting fire with gasoline

. U.S. imperialism is the world's no. 1 terrorist. This does not justify or excuse the September 11 terrorist attack on U.S. targets. But it does repudiate the call for an imperialist-directed response to September 11. Asking the U.S. imperialists to lead the fight against terrorism is like asking a notorious arsonist to be your local fire department chief. Launching the U.S. military into a "war against terrorism" is like pouring gasoline on fire.

. Some left-liberal forces, leery of Bush's call for a worldwide "war against terrorism", argue that the U.S. needs to have a "measured, just" response to the September 11 attacks. They urge Bush to be satisfied with putting al-Qaeda leaders on trial and try to dissuade him from launching another war against Iraq. But this is like asking Bill Gates to be satisfied with a minimal share of the software market. It's like asking Israeli leaders to be satisfied with their 1948 boundaries. Driven by a thirst for oil profits, for strategic positions, and by militarism, the U.S. imperialists don't understand the first thing about a "measured, just" response to anything.

. Instead a fight against terrorism must first of all target imperialism itself and the reactionary bourgeois of all countries. We must take a class approach to the issue, building up proletarian opposition to the bourgeois who are all too ready to sacrifice the masses for their own selfish ends. This includes medievalist bourgeois like bin Laden. It includes those who carry out ethnic cleansing and the terrorist suppression of democratic and national rights, for example in Kosovo, Chechnya and Palestine. It includes the death-squad bourgeoisie of Colombia. And it includes the U.S. imperialists led by Bush, major props in the world system of imperialism. <>

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