Islamophobia and the "War on Terror": the Continuing Pretext for U.S. Imperial Conquest
(Seven Stories Press of New York is publishing an affordable softcover version of the invaluable scholarly volume, The Hidden History of 9-11. Here is their page dedicated to this updated second edition. To promote the book, Seven Stories has allowed us to publish an online version of the chapter by Professor Diana Ralph, dealing with the historical roots of "international terrorism", Islamophobia, and imperial aggression. This chapter is typical of the scholarly detail in "Hidden History". If you enjoy this chapter, please consider pre-ordering at Amazon, or Powell's, or ordering directly from the Seven Stories website. Anyone interested in purchasing a bulk quantity should email Lars: email@example.com )
© Diana Ralph, Ph.D.
The 9-11 attacks were the pretext which sold the myth of evil Muslim terrorists imminently threatening Americans. That tale allowed the Cheney-led members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) to implement their 1990 DPG plan for world control. The “war on terror” has nothing to do with protecting the U.S. and world’s people from “terrorists”, and everything to do with securing the American empire abroad and muzzling democracy and human rights at home. Designed to inspire popular support for U.S. wars of world conquest, it is modeled on Islamophobic stereotypes, policies, and political structures developed by the Israeli Likkud and Bush Sr. since 1979. To defeat this plan, we must overcome our Islamophobic fear of “terrorists” and stand in solidarity with Muslims.
1. Why a 9-11 Pretext?
…the War against Terror is not really about terror….It’s about a superpower’s self destructive impulse toward supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony. (Arundathi Roy, 2004, p. 34).
Researchers are uncovering extensive, credible evidence that the official account of the 9-11 attacks is untenable. Although al Qaeda may have had the resources to get hijackers onto planes with box cutters, it did not have the power to shut down FBI investigations of the suspected hijackers, to set up distracting war games on 9-11-01, to issue stand-down orders preventing effective military response, or to cause two WTC towers plus Building 7 to collapse using demolition explosives (Griffin, 2004; 2005). Western intelligence knew about the 9-11 attack plans as early as 1995, and may have facilitated and exploited them for their own ends. Some suggest that the U.S. may even have directly planned and carried them out flying the planes by remote control.1 Regardless of whether it simply facilitated the attacks or carried them out themselves, there is little doubt that the U.S. was involved (Ahmed, 2002, pp. 82-83).
If this is true, we need to ask, why would U.S. leaders risk such a colossal crime against the American people? What was the motive? What is the real agenda behind the “war on terror”? Is the security of Western (non-Muslim) people really threatened by Muslim fundamentalists, or have Muslims just replaced “communists” in the role of “enemy”?
This chapter explores the real motives and the Islamophobic cover story which underly the U.S. “war on terror”. It focuses on the inter-twined histories of Dick Cheney’s plan for world control and Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for a “war on terror” against those critical of Israel and the United States. The “war on terror” distorts the concepts of “terrorism” and “security” in order to frighten Americans into sacrificing their actual security and into colluding in an unprecedented imperial campaign for world control. It poses a false dichotomy between “radical” and “moderate” Muslims, demonizing them when it is convenient for Western powers, and rewarding them as “moderates” when they serve Western interests, regardless of their actual ideologies or practices. Both for Muslims worldwide and those living in Western countries, the consequences have been catastrophic.
1.1. How did our Oil get under their Sand?2
Bush’s “war on terror” evolved in the context of U.S. ambitions for Middle Eastern oil and geostrategic power after WWII. The U.S. emerged from World War II as the dominant power on the planet. Beneath the rhetoric of a democratic, “reluctant superpower” (Bacevich, 2002 p.7), it quickly established economic and military neo-colonial dominance over “the free world” in cooperation with its junior imperial partners, Britain, Canada, western and central Europe, and Japan. The United States effectively claimed “the exclusive right of managing the whole globe in accordance with what it defined as its national interests” (Amin, 2004, p. 4).
Like the British and French imperial powers it supplanted, the United States has consistently maneuvered to control the Middle East and Central Asia, because of the military and trade advantages of their location and for their natural resources, particularly oil. Together the two regions hold the world’s largest remaining sources of oil and natural gas, resources upon which modern capitalism is increasingly dependent (Bacher, 2000; Khalidi, 2005, pp. 78-117; McQuaig, 2005; Ruppert, 2004, pp.22-41).
Although anti-Soviet rhetoric justified U.S. engagement in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Soviet Union was never actually a credible threat to America. As William Blum points out:
[T]here was never any such animal as the International Communist Conspiracy. There were, as there still are, people living in misery, rising up in protest against their condition, against an oppressive government, a government likely supported by the United States. To Washington, this was proof that the Soviet Union…was again acting as the proverbial “outside agitator”. …What kind of …monolithic, evil international conspiracy bent on world domination would allow its empire to completely fall apart…without bringing any military force to bear upon its satellites to prevent their escaping? And without an invasion from abroad holding a knife to the empire’s throat? (2000, p. 14).
Rather, it is U.S. control over oil which has motivated virtually all its post-WW II interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia. These have included many terrorist acts (Ahmed, 2004, p. 24; Khalidi, 2005, p. 74). For example, in 1951, when Dr. Muhammad Mussadeq, the elected leader of Iran, planned to nationalize its oil, the British blockaded the export and sale of Iranian oil, devastating Iran’s economy (Kamrava, 2005, p. 143). On August 19, 1953, CIA and British M16 engineered a coup which toppled him and installed the pro-Western Mohammad Reza Pahlevi as Shah (Ahmed, 2003, p. 34; Kamrava, 2005, p. 144, Ritter, 2002, p. 17). He ruled brutally with US-British approval until the Irani revolution of 1979.
In 1958, with broad popular support, General Abdul Karim Qasim toppled the (pro-British) Iraqi monarchy and launched policies of self-determination and equality. The U.S. tolerated this until Qasim announced plans to nationalize Iraqi oil and organized ties with other petroleum exporting countries (OPEC) (Everest, 2004, pp. 63-64). On February 6, 1963, the CIA orchestrated a military coup which deposed Qasim and installed the Ba’athist party. The CIA supplied Saddam Hussein, then head of Security, with “lists of [thousands of] people to be eliminated once power was secured” (Ahmed, 2003, pp. 61-62). In 1968, the CIA engineered another bloody coup bringing Saddam Hussein to power (Ahmed, 2003, p. 63). When Hussein nationalized its oil in 1972, the U.S. government then withdrew its support, placing Iraq “on a list of countries that allegedly supported terrorism” (Clark, 2002, p. 7). But after Iran’s revolution, when the U.S. needed Iraq’s strategic support and its oil, it again executed an about-face, removing Iraq from the terrorism list, selling it weapons, becoming its principal trading partner, and doing “anything and everything” to help Iraq prevail against Iran (Clark, 2002, p. 7).
In 1980, Jimmy Carter strengthened the U.S. claim to control of Middle Eastern Oil. His Carter Doctrine warned that: “Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force” (Carter, 1980). Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski “publicly encouraged Iraq to attack Iran” (Pitt, 2002, pp. 21-22). To weaken both sides, the ensuing Reagan administration funded both parties in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). The war killed 310,000 people and devastated the economies of both countries (Kamrava, 2005, pp. 172-183).
One day after the Iran-Iraq war ended (August 8, 1988), the U.S. began luring Iraq into attacking Kuwait, to give it a pretext to launch the first Gulf War. At the behest of the U.S., Kuwait waged what amounted to economic warfare against Iraq. It dramatically increased its oil production, causing OPEC crude oil prices to plummet, and costing Iraq $14 billion. In June 1989, Kuwait doubled its oil production, costing Iraq further billions. It then demanded that Iraq pay back the $30 billion it owed, which war-ravaged Iraq could not manage. By 1990, Iraq’s economy was collapsing. Kuwait (at the urging of the CIA) rebuffed all of Saddam Hussein’s diplomatic efforts at a resolution.3 When Hussein consulted Washington about plans to invade Kuwait (based on it having historically belonged to Iraq), U.S. spokespeople repeatedly told him the U.S. would stay neutral and not interfere. Iraq finally invaded Kuwait in August 1990, handing Bush Sr. the carefully-orchestrated pretext for the U.S. to launch the first Gulf War on January 16, 1991 (Ahmed, 2003, pp. 68-82; Blum, 2000, p. 169; Clark, 2002, pp. 12-24; Kamrava, 2005, pp. pp. 184-190). In contrast to the U.S.’s pious rationales of “protecting Kuwait”, its real motive was to emphasize that “oil pricing and the rate of production in the Gulf is to be decided by the lone superpower and cannot be tampered with by any regional leader, least of all by Saddam Hussein” (Aruri, 2000, p. 24).
On another front, between 1979 and 1989, the U.S. maneuvered to undermine Soviet control of Central Asian oil and national gas. It set up a trap to “bleed” the USSR (Khalilzad & Byman, 2000, p. 66). As Brzezinski later revealed,
…it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the President in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. …What was most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War? (Brzezinski, 1998)
The CIA poured $3.3 billion (matched by Saudi Arabia) into recruiting, funding, training, and advising the Islamist mujahedin (including bin Laden). As U.S.-backed “freedom fighters”, the mujahedin deposed the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, forcing the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and fight a disastrous war which ultimately destroyed the U.S.S.R. (Bodansky, 2001; Brisard & Dasquie, 2002; Coll, 2004; Rashid, 2001)
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the U.S.-led Empire has moved to consolidate its control over the world, and particularly over its oil, gas, water, and mineral resources (Klare, 2001). Both the first Gulf War and W. Bush’s assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq represent initial steps toward achieving this goal (Donnelly, 2004). There are strong indications that the U.S. next plans to attack Iran and Syria (Paul, 2005), and ultimately to conquer South Asia and China by 2025 (Donnelly, 2000; Caldicott, 2002, pp.178-179).
1.2. Cheney’s Plan for World Control: The Real Motive for the ‘‘War on Terror’’
Between 1990 and 2000, Dick Cheney and his neo-conservative colleagues developed increasingly sophisticated plans for world domination, which formed the framework for Bush’s “war on terror.” But they realized that the American people and U.S. allies would never support an unprecedented power grab by a small cadre of military and oil imperialists, especially if it involved expensive, preemptive wars and fundamental assaults on democracy, human rights, and international law.
In 1990, Dick Cheney (then Bush Sr.’s Secretary of Defense) organized the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) group, including Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Eric Edelman, all hawks.4 Their task was to develop a secret, strategic plan to position the U.S. as a permanent, unilateral super-power poised to seize control of Eurasia, and thereby the entire world (Ahmed, 2003, pp. 16-17, 304, 305; Armstrong, 2002; Lemann, 2002). Their goal was to set themselves up as rulers of this global U.S. Empire.
In 1992, The DPG produced a 46-page classified document which “argued that the core priority guiding U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century should be the need to establish permanent U.S. dominance over virtually all of Eurasia” (Steinberg, 2002, p.3). It recommended “deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role and taking preemptive action against states suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction” (Steinberg, 2002, p. 4). It laid out strategies for controlling Western Europe, East Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia. Foreshadowing the post-9/11 U.S. assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan, it argues: “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil” (Special to The New York Times, 1992, p. 1.14).
When the New York Times got a leaked copy and blew open the story, it caused such a scandal that the document was “toned down beyond recognition” (Steinberg, 2002, p.4; Special to The New York Times, 2002, p. 1.14). This was Cheney’s first indication that American people would not condone such a plan.
In 1992, Bush Sr. was defeated after one term. Celebrating the end of the Cold War, people were clamoring for a peace dividend from reduced military expenditures and they elected Bill Clinton. Cheney and his colleagues watched in outrage as Clinton’s National Defense Panel shrank the U.S. defense budget from $339 billion in 1992 to $277 billion in 1996 (Donnelly, 2000, p. 69). For nine long years, the DPG fine-tuned their “Plan” for world conquest and maneuvered to get back into power to implement it.5
In 1995, Zalmay Khalilzad6 prepared a “grand strategy for the United States in the post-Cold War era” (1995, p. iii). In From Containment to Global Leadership he called for the United States to launch preemptive wars to “maintain its position of global leadership and preclude the rise of another global rival for the indefinite future” (Khalilzad, 1995, p.41). He argued that “the United States should be willing to use force if necessary” to protect its control over Persian Gulf oil (Khalilzad, 1995, p. ix). “For the foreseeable future,” he concluded, “this means having the capability for fighting two major regional contingencies nearly simultaneously (e.g. Korea and the Gulf)” (Khalilzad, 1995, p. x). These policies are echoed in Bush’s “war on terror.”
However, Khalilzad foresaw serious problems in getting the American public to back such an agenda. “Public opinion polls indicate that the American people are focused on domestic concerns. Such a perception discouraged a serious debate on national security issues in the last presidential election” (Khalilzad, 1995, p. 36).
In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a highly influential U.S. strategist under both Reagan and Carter, published The Grand Chessboard (1997).7 Arguing that whoever controls Eurasia – the Middle East and Central Asia – controls Europe, Asia, and Africa, this Machiavellian book spelled out “an integrated, comprehensive, and long-term geostrategy…to help ensure that…the global community [i.e. transnational corporations] has unhindered financial and economic access to” the world’s resources (Brzezinski, 1997, pp. 148-194). He recommended that the U.S. establish military control over Central Asia and the Middle East, and crush the Islamic fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to protect “several pro-Western Middle Eastern governments and…American regional interests especially in the Persian Gulf” (Brzezinski, 1997, pp. 53-54, 124, 133-5). Nowhere in the book does Brzezinski raise any concerns about terrorist threats to Americans.
Like Khalilzad, however, Brzezinski struggled with the problem of selling the scheme to the American public. “The pursuit of power and especially the economic costs and human sacrifice that the exercise of such power often requires,” he mused, “are not generally congenial to democratic instincts. Democratization is inimical to imperial mobilization” (Brzezinski, 1997, p. 210). To solve this problem, Brzezinski repeatedly hinted that the U.S. could mobilize public support if it created a pretext incident like the 9-11 attacks:
The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (pp. 24–25)
America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. (pp. 35–36)
Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat. (Emphasis added) (Brzezinski, 1997, p. 211)
That same year (1997), the DPG re-surfaced, now dubbing itself “The Project for the New American Century” (PNAC). It included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad. Twenty-one other ultra-conservatives joined the project – well placed academics, Pentagon advisors, media, politicians and lobbyists, Christian fundamentalists, and Likudniks (Zionist hawks for Israeli interests). Many of them are now senior officials in or associates of the Bush Jr. administration. The PNAC’s Statement of Principles reaffirmed the DPG goal of world conquest. To accomplish this goal, the PNAC set out four main policy directions, each of which now figures prominently in Bush’s “war on terror”:
- to increase defense spending significantly,
- to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values,
- to promote the cause of political and economic freedom [that is, neoliberalism] abroad, and
- to preserve and extend ‘‘an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles’’ (PNAC, 1997).
In 1999, Rand, an influential think tank, published an assessment of NATO plans to attack the Caspian region (Sokolsky & Chalick-Paley, 1999). It too emphasized the “need” to control existing and potential oil and gas routes from the Caspian Basin, but argued against a major military operation in the region at that time. The fact that the Air Force commissioned this study, however, reflects the seriousness with which it was exploring the option of invading Afghanistan three years before the 9-11 pretext. At the same time, military interests were also actively lobbying for the U.S. to topple Saddam Hussein’s government (Klare, 2001, p. 58).
In September 2000, a year before the 9-11 attacks and a month before George W. Bush was “elected”, the PNAC published Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century (RAD) (Donnelly, 2000). It built on and expanded the DPG. “…Although the experience of the past eight years has modified our understanding of particular military requirements for carrying out such a strategy, the basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound ” (Donnelly, 2000, p. ii).
Significantly, RAD only mentions the word “terrorists” once passingly in the entire document (and does not mention “terrorist” or “terrorism” at all).
America’s global leadership, and its role as the guarantor of the current great-power peace, relies upon the safety of the American homeland; the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East and surrounding energy-producing region, and East Asia; and the general stability of the international system of nation-states relative to terrorists, organized crime, and other “non-state actors.” (Donnelly, 2000, p. 5, emphasis added)
In other words, the consistent, overwhelming motive for all these massively expensive plans was not Islamic terrorism, but global American military/ corporate control.
Fleshing out the earlier strategic plans for “America’s global leadership” (Donnelly, 2000, p. 5), RAD recommended many of the elements of Bush’s post-9-11 “war on terror”.
- Pre-emptive simultaneous wars ( p. 5)
- Homeland Defense ( p. 6)
- Missile Defense ( pp. v & 12)
- Cyber-war ( p. 57)
- Increasing Defense spending to 3.8 percent of GDP ( p. v)
- Long-term occupation of conquered states ( p.6)
- Expanding nuclear weapon testing and development (p. v, 8)
- Repositioning “American forces in critical regions around the world [as] the visible expression of the extent of America’s status as a superpower” ( pp. 14, 17, 18-19)
- Expanding and modernizing combat troops (pp. 22-49)
- Usurping the power of the UN (p. 11)
- Securing global hegemony (p. 5)
- Targeting Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (pp. 4, 75)
- Regime change (pp. 10, 61)
- Biological and chemical weapons development (p. 60)
Like Khalilzad and Brzezinski, RAD noted that selling its recommendations would be difficult without a pretext incident: “…the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” (Donnelly, 2000, p. 51).
To summarize, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Dick Cheney and his colleagues have evolved strategies to consolidate U.S. military dominance over the world and its oil. They gradually recognized that they needed a pretext incident (a tactic successfully used many times by previous U.S. governments) to sell this odious package to the American public and the world (Soloman, 2005; Saunders, 2003).8 In 2000, they maneuvered Bush Jr. into the Presidency by election fraud, for example by illegally removing eight to twelve thousand Florida Black voters from the rolls, using confusing ballots, double counting military absentee ballots, and having the Supreme Court stop the recount by declaring Bush the winner (Palast, 2002; Wilson, 2001). Nine months later, they set their plan in motion on September 11, 2001.
1.3. How Serious a Threat is Terrorism?
The 9-11 attacks were intended to shock, frighten, and outrage Americans into accepting the myth that “Muslim terrorists” pose such a serious threat to their security that they should cede virtually unlimited power and money to Bush to carry out a “war on terror.” However, terrorism has never posed a serious threat to American people. The chance of dying of a terrorist attack in the United States has always been virtually zero, even in 2001. (Moore, 2003, pp. 96-97).
Even if the 9-11 attacks had been perpetrated without U.S. collusion (which is highly unlikely), they did not qualify as a threat significant enough to turn the U.S. and its allies into security states, trampling international law and Constitutional protections, much less as a justification for launching unprovoked military conquests of Afghanistan and Iraq. For the victims, their families, and their communities, the 9-11 events were a horrific tragedy. But as shocking as they were, many 9-11 family members felt strongly that they did not justify vengeful, military assault:
Peaceful Tomorrows members have asked that violent responses to the September 11 tragedies, such as the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan, not be done in their names and the names of their loved ones. Members say they were concerned about the lack of discussion about options to respond to the events of September 11. …Our single-minded rush to war has been made without thoughtful consideration of long-term consequences for our safety, security, and freedom. We will use our voices to promote a discussion about better solutions, ones based on justice, not vengeance. (September 11 families for peaceful tomorrows, 2002)
Without in any way trivializing the 9-11 attacks, it is worth remembering that they lasted less than two hours, and posed no threat to the U.S. economy, infrastructure, or government. In spite of numerous false alarms, no other terrorist act has occurred in the U.S. since 9-11.
By contrast, many CIA-instigated terrorist initiatives, such as the Contra campaign against the Sandinistas, lasted for years and had disastrous, long-term consequences for entire nations (Chomsky, 1991, p. 4). John Stockwell, a former high-ranking CIA agent testified in 1987 about CIA terrorist interventions:
...What we're talking about is going in [to foreign countries] and deliberately creating conditions …where government administration and programs grind to a complete halt, where the hospitals are treating wounded people instead of sick people, where international capital is scared away and the country goes bankrupt. (Stockwell, 1987)
About 2,600 people died in the 9-11 attacks. As of February 22, 2006, 3,146 U.S. troops and “coalition” members have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. At least 225,412 Afghani and Iraqi people, including 186,825 civilians have been directly killed (Unknown News, 2005).9 That does not include the many more civilians who are dying from lack of food, water, electricity, medicine, and shelter.
Even if 9-11 had been a real terrorist incident (as opposed to a made-in-the U.S. fraud), normal criminal justice, international law, or diplomatic options for redress were rejected.
There was no move to consider international law, to give the Taliban any avenue of retreating with some honour and dignity, no intention or sign of giving a measured and reflective response to the threat of al Qa’eda, nor any introspection as to the reasons behind why these attacks occurred. (Geaves & Gabriel, 2004, p. 7)
In its rush to war, Washington briskly dismissed Taliban offers to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country and Iraqi assurances that it was fully complying with U.N. sanctions and that it had no weapons of mass destruction. Leaping to a military response (especially threatening global war) is an unprecedented response to a terrorist attack like this (Pillar, 2001, pp. 29, 50-56).
Prior to 11 September 2001, … the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not regard transnational Islamic terrorism as a strategic threat. …In fact, in the past states have generally chosen to downplay or minimize military response to terrorist campaigns. (Stevenson, 2004, pp. 7-8)
In his “war on terror” speech, Bush promised to fight “until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated” (2001, p. 4). The phrase “of global reach” is the key here, since the U.S. actually continues to condone active terrorist groups on its soil. Anti-abortion groups like the Army of God have been responsible for at least six murders and 15 attempted murders, and 200 bombings and arsons (Clarkson, 2005). White supremacist, paramilitary, and neo-fascist groups such as the Northern Michigan Regional Militia (of which Timothy McVeigh was a member) terrorize non-whites and Jews. And right-wing Cuban-American groups like Alpha 66 and the Commanders of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU) have carried out more than 50 bombings and blown up a Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard (Franklin, 2001).
All three types of U.S. terrorist groups have financial and political ties to Bush. So the United States certainly “harbors” terrorist groups, and Bush, himself, has financial ties to anti-Castro Cuban terrorist groups (as well as to bin Laden) (Franklin, 2001). To be consistent with his “war on terror” policies, Bush should have bombed Michigan and Florida, and turned himself in to be detained and possibly tortured as an “enemy combatant”.10
As well, the United States has often directly financed, trained, and facilitated terrorists. The Bay of Pigs fiasco against Cuba, the Contra campaign against Nicaragua, the violent overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, and the short-lived coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela are well-known examples of U.S.-backed terrorism. But there are many more.
We're talking about 10 to 20 thousand covert actions [the CIA has performed since 1961]. …[Regarding t]he Indonesian covert action of 1965… [n]ot only did it eliminate the effective communist party (Indonesian communist party), it also eliminated …the ethnic Chinese, Indonesian Chinese. And the CIA's report put the number of dead at 800,000 killed. And that was one covert action. We're talking about 1 to 3 million people killed in these things. (Stockwell, 1987)
In addition to directly fomenting terrorism, the U.S. has often installed leaders, only to hunt them down later as “terrorists”. Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, and bin Laden are all recent examples. The U.S. supported the Taliban as “freedom fighters”, and only labelled them “terrorists” after it realized they could not provide political stability for the natural gas pipeline Unocal wanted to build across Afghanistan (Monbiot, 2001; Power, 1999; Ruppert, 2004, pp. 94-100).
In other words, the Bush administration’s approach to “terrorism” is expedient, related almost exclusively to protecting oil and military interests, rather than the security of ordinary Americans. In fact, far from making Americans safer, the “war on terror” has increased the risk of violent retaliation against outrages perpetrated by Americans and their allies (Anonymous, 2004). More importantly, it has undermined the infrastructure on which people’s actual security rests: health, education, housing, social services, environmental protection, democratic accountability, due process, human rights, the U.N. and international law. The failure of prevention and rescue operations in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 dramatically exposed the human costs of this war that was supposed to protect Americans (Sheer, 2005).
The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors. (Bennis, Phyllis & Leaver, Eric, 2005, p. 6)
For Muslims worldwide, and especially for Afghani and Iraqi people, the “war on terror” has not only failed to protect their security, but actively destroyed it. The billions Bush has poured into unprovoked assaults on Afghani and Iraqi people, money siphoned from fulfilling basic human needs, threatens to plunge U.S. and world economies into a disastrous depression (Fram, Feb. 14, 2005). The “war on terror” threatens everyone on the planet with military assaults through the Missile “Defense” system, which also has the potential to end life on the planet by creating nuclear winter (Behrens, 2004; Caldicott, 2002, pp. 10-11).
The concept of a “war on terror” pre-dates 9-11 by 22 years. Its seeds were first planted in 1979 at the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism (JCIT) organized by Benjamin Netanyahu (future Israeli Prime Minister). JCIT kicked off a campaign for a “war on terror” against “international terrorism” (Netanyahu, 1981). It featured: pre-emptive attacks on states that are alleged to support “terrorists”; an elaborate intelligence system apparatus; slashed civil liberties, particularly for Palestinians targetted as potential terrorists, including detention without charge, and torture; and propaganda to dehumanize “terrorists” in the eyes of the public (Ahle, 1990; Asa, 1979; Netanyahu, 1995, pp. 43-44; Peres, 1981, p. 10).
George H. W. Bush Sr. and George Schultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State enthusiastically endorsed this concept. Bush Sr. gave a speech at JCIT advocating precisely the type of “war on terror” that his son implemented in 2001. But he acknowledged that such a policy would be highly unpopular :
...I must urge drastic surgery as the only reasonable course – and by that I mean determined action, firmness under the duress of blackmail, and swift and effective retribution. …The problem for the open society is how to have, build up and preserve this essential tool of defence – which in the long run is indispensable for the protection of ordinary people – and not so outrage the liberal conscience that the legitimate exercise of state power is frustrated. (George H.W. Bush, 1981, p. 333, 337)
2.1. Israel’s ‘‘War on Terror’’11
Following the 1979 JCIT, Israel independently implemented these policies. It planned a massive invasion of Lebanon, called “Peace for Galilee” to secure its hold over the Occupied Territories. The pretext incident and the 1982 invasion itself hauntingly foreshadowed the 9-11 “attacks” and the Bush “war on terror”. In both cases, a “terrorist” pretext justified pre-emptive military conquest and long-term occupation.
In July, 1981, Israeli planes bombed Palestinian targets in southern Lebanon, killing hundreds of civilians. In 1982, it initiated over 2,600 violations of Lebanese airspace and waters, attempting unsuccessfully to spark a reaction from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) reaction that could serve as a pretext for an Israeli invasion. On June 3, 1982, Abu Nidal’s terrorist group (which since has been exposed as a Mossad-infiltrated front, and which had been battling the PLO for years) tried to assassinate Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov in London. Israel “retaliated” by heavily bombing Lebanon, even though the Abu Nidal group did not operate there. The PLO responded by shelling West Bank settlements, finally giving Israel its excuse to launch a full-scale invasion of Lebanon (Chomsky, 1999, pp. 196-197). In West Bank cities, Israel also dissolved the elected city councils, dismissed mayors, arrested city employees, and attempted to impose puppet governments. Israeli troops continued to occupy southern Lebanon for 22 years, until May 24, 2000 (Chomsky, 1999, pp. 204-205; Bard, 2005).
The parallels to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq are clear. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Bush administration insisted Iraq posed an immanent threat to the West based on false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda. Despite massive worldwide protests and the U.N. Security Council refusing to approve an invasion, the U.S. went ahead with a preemptive, brutal invasion, overthrowing the Hussein government it had originally installed, and replacing it with puppets. Labelling those who resist U.S. occupation “terrorist insurgents”, it has announced plans (already laid out in RAD) for a semi-permanent occupation (Rampton & Stauber, 2003).
2.2. The Reagan Doctrine: The U.S. Adopts ‘‘International Terrorism’’
Members of Reagan’s administration, particularly George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and George Bush Sr., supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon (Bard, 2005; Netanyahu, 1995, p. 68). But Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, the Democratic Congress and public opinion did not. Netanyahu recognized that:
...the key to the elimination of international terror was having the United States lead the battle, and …this American leadership would harness the countries of the free world into line, much as a powerful locomotive pulls the cars of a train. But it was no simple matter to change the minds of American opinion makers on this subject. (Netanyahu, 1995, p. 66)
From his perspective, the problem was that Americans foolishly believed “that terrorism was the result of political and social oppression, the inescapable conclusion was that terror could not be eliminated without first bringing these conditions to an end” (Netanyahu, 1995, p. 66).
Netanyahu and Moshe Arens, the Israeli Ambassador lobbied hard both to win U.S. support both for the Lebanon invasion and for the broader war against “international terrorism”.
...We believed that the American position … could be changed by a vigorous effort to present the truth to the American public. The United States was hostile to this operation, and the Reagan administration applied various pressures to rein in the assault [on Lebanon], including suspending delivery of fighter planes to the Israeli Air force. Arens did much to reverse the American position, especially through the special relationship he was able to establish with Secretary of State George Shultz and President Ronald Reagan. (Netanyahu, 1995, pp. 66-67)
The campaign succeeded. The second JCIT conference was held in Washington in 1984. George Shultz “was determined to effect a change in American anti-terror policy from one of passive defense to a more active one, taking the battle against the terrorists to their bases abroad and to the countries supporting them” (Netanyahu, 1995, p. 68). Shultz advocated “defense through appropriate preventive or preemptive actions against terrorist groups before they strike” (Netanyahu, 1995, p. 69).
The result was the Reagan Doctrine, in which the U.S. “took the lead in mounting an unprecedented war against international terrorism” including sanctions against Libya, Syria, and Iran and bombing Libya (Netanyahu, 1995, p. 69-70). Overtly, the Reagan Doctrine mandated attacks on liberation resistance groups like the Sandinistas and the PLO as “international terrorists”. But covertly, the Doctrine called for the U.S. itself to finance and organize “terrorist” attacks. As Noam Chomsky dryly notes:
There are many terrorist states in the world, but the United States is unusual in that it is officially committed to international terrorism, and on a scale that puts its rivals to shame. …under the Reagan Doctrine, the US had forged new paths in international terrorism…not only constructing a semi-private international terrorist network but also an array of client and mercenary states – Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and others – to finance and implement its terrorist operations. (1991, p. 4).
Reagan was glad to collaborate with Islamic radicals to further his interests. In 1979, the same year as the JCIT, the CIA lured the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan, by funding and equipping Islamic mujahedin to overthrow the pro-Soviet Afghani government (Coll, 2004, pp. 42-43; Khalilzad & Byman, 2000, p. 66). Also in 1979, to damage Carter’s re-election campaign, Reagan’s campaign manager, William Casey (later head of the CIA), secretely got Khomeini to hold off releasing the Irani Embassy hostages until after the U.S. presidential elections in 1980. In return, Reagan would approve Israel’s sale of American military equipment to Iran for use in its (U.S. and Israeli supported) war against Iraq. Reagan won by a landslide, in large part because of the scandal of the hostage crisis. The hostages were released “about twenty minutes after Reagan took the oath of office” (Kamrava, 2005, p. 160).
In 1995, Netanyahu proposed a series of policies against “international terrorism” many of which have been incorporated into the foreign policy of the U.S. and its allies, particularly since 9-11. These included: diplomatic, military, and economic sanctions on “terrorist” states; preemptive attacks on “terrorist enclaves…precisely as [Israel] does in south Lebanon”; freezing financial assets of “terrorist” organizations; sharing intelligence with other countries; passing laws to allow increasing surveillance of and action against “groups which are actively planning terrorist actions”; pursuing “terrorists” with special anti-terrorism forces; and detaining “terrorists” indefinately (Netanyahu, 1995, pp. 132-147). Israel’s unilateral assault on the West Bank and Southern Lebanon in the name of fighting “internatonal terrorism” became the model for Bush’s “war on terror.”
What happened on Sept. 11 is that the Likud doctrine, previously used only against Palestinians, was picked up by the most powerful nation on Earth and applied on a global scale. Call it the Likudization of the world, the real legacy of Sept. 11. …It was the guiding philosophy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may well extend to Iran and Syria. (Klein, 2004)
2.3. The ‘‘War on Terror’’: Creating the Islamophobic Myth
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, the “communist menace” could no longer justify military intervention. The U.S. needed to invent a new “enemy”. President Clinton tried out several options:
...in place of the International Communist Conspiracy, Washington now tells us, on one day or another, it’s fighting a War Against Drugs, or military or industrial spying, or the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction”, or organized crime, or on behalf of human rights, or, most particularly, against terrorism. And they dearly want the American public to believe this. (Blum, 2000, p. 16)
“Muslim terrorists” are an ideal “enemy”, because they provide an excuse for imperial conquest of the Middle East and Central Asia. As Margaret Thatcher crowed shortly after 9-11, “Islamism is the new bolshevism” (Thatcher, Feb. 12, 2002).
To initiate a war, there first must be a perceived enemy. That one grand enemy was now claimed to be Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. …There are a number of people inside the US intelligence agencies who know this is a false picture. (Marrs, 2004, pp. 14-15)
To lend credibility to the ‘‘Muslim terrorist threat,’’ the CIA and FBI worked with al-Qaeda to carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (Ahmed, 2005, pp. 32–39).*
The leaders of the radical Islamic network responsible for the [February 26, 1993] bombing...were given financial aid and training by the CIA. Furthermore, at several critical junctures where the conspiracy could have been exposed and its leaders arrested, federal law enforcement either ignored that network or actually provided crucial help to it. (Grigg, 2005)
The CIA and FBI also failed to prevent the bombing, in part, because the Egyptian agent to whom they had paid $2 million would have revealed that they were deeply implicated in funding terrorist campaigns in Bosnia through Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman’s al-Qaeda cell, which had planned the WTC bombing (Ahmed, 2005, pp. 35–39).
The CIA was also deeply implicated in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (Hoffman, 1998; Jones, 2001). Washington and the media initially blamed Muslim terrorists, resulting in a wave of hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. (Council of American-Islamic Relations, 1995). Although the FBI rejected this theory and charged Timothy McVeigh and John Nichols, the White House actively promoted the story that Saddam Hussein was behind both the 1993 and the 1995 bombings. It based this allegation on Laurie Mylroie’s book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, published in 2000 by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neoconservative think tank.
Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the '93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade…. She is, in short, a crackpot…. But her neocon friends who went on to run the war in Iraq believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America. (Bergen, 2003)
Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz not only endorsed her book, but actively fed her false information (Bergen, 2003).
In the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, mainstream media again trotted out Mylroie’s allegations of Iraqi terrorist threats.12 Both the 1993 and 1995 bombings were, at least in part, designed to lend verisimilitude to the myth that Islamic terrorists threaten Americans.
This myth was also strengthened by Pentagon-backed, Islamophobic Hollywood films, television, video games, and relentless media reports about Islamic “terrorists”. Especially since 1990, the Pentagon has financially bribed, pressured, and censored movie makers to adapt story lines to support its propaganda (Fleischer, 2004; Millar, 2002; Robb, 2004). Reviewing over 1,000 Hollywood movies, Jack Shaheen found that:
Today’s imagemakers regularly link the Islamic faith with male supremacy, holy war, and acts of terror, depicting Arab Muslims as hostile alien intruders, and as lecherous, oily sheikhs, intent on using nuclear weapons. When mosques are displayed onscreen, the camera inevitably cuts to Arabs praying, and then gunning down civilians. (Shaheen, 2001, p. 7)
Especially since the first Gulf War, journalists have been heavily pressured to use only official U.S. sources, to be “embedded” with the U.S. military, and to self-censor their work. Because “few American correspondents have extensive knowledge of the Arab world…and few Americans get on-the-scene information from the Arab world”, they tend to uncritically quote official sources (Pippert, 2003, p. 76)
2.4. The Instant War
By 2001, the Bush administration and the media had learned to play the 9-11 events as an Islamophobic catastrophe movie. The public, well-conditioned to identify the Hollywood good guy vs. villain storyline, swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
Bush’s “war on terror” rests on the story that Islamic extremists, directed by Osama bin Laden, hijacked planes to fly into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that “America is under attack” by al Qaeda, and that fanatical Muslims continue to constitute the major threat to the security of both Americans and the “civilized” world.
The Bush Cabinet began promoting this official story even before the first plane hit the North tower. “Before the planes hit the World Trade Center, CIA Director George Tenet warned [Senator David Boren] ... that he was worried about a possible attack by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network” (Thompson, 2005). Almost immediately after the first plane hit the WTC, Dick Cheney told counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, “It's an al Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over” (Thompson, 2005). By 9:30 a.m. President Bush delivered a polished speech, surrounded by photogenic, multi-racial school children, announcing “an apparent terrorist attack” and promising to chase down the perpetrators. By 3:30 that afternoon, the CIA claimed to have identified the al Qaeda operatives. And by prime time that evening, Bush gave a speech announcing punitive retaliatory military strikes against “the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” and committing “the United States to a broad, vigorous and potentially long war against terrorism” (Balz & Woodward, 2002, p. A01; Woodward, 2002, p. 71).
The next day, Bush’s cabinet argued over how to make the most opportunistic use of the 9-11 pretext (rather than about actually protecting Americans):
Rumsfeld worried that a coalition built around the goal of taking out al Qaeda would fall apart once they succeeded in that mission, making it more difficult to continue the war on terrorism elsewhere. …[He] raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? …His deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war on terrorism. …[Colin] Powell, who opposed striking Iraq at this point, countered that they were focusing on al Qaeda because the American people were focused on al Qaeda. “Any action needs public support. It’s not just what the international coalition supports; it’s what the American people want to support.” (Woodward, 2002, pp. 48-49)
Nine days later, in an address to a joint session of Congress, Bush presented his “war on terror” speech outlining the new Bush Doctrine. It launched a global war on “nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism” as well as on “every terrorist group of global reach” (Bush, 2001, pp. 3-5). Telling the world’s nations, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” he threatened to treat any country which failed to support this war as “a hostile regime” (Bush, 2001, p. 5). This “war on terror,” he promised, would be “a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen”.
The “war on terror” also would turn the United States and its allies into “security states.” Bush announced “the creation of …the Office of Homeland Security” which would coordinate “defensive measures against terrorism” (Bush, 2001, p. 5). Three days after September 11, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft “proposed the laws that became the USA Patriot Act,” an unprecedented attack on civil liberties, privacy, and due process, which was shoved through Congress without any debate and signed into law on October 26, 2001 (Cassel, 2004, pp. 11-17). Within the year, the Britain, Canada, and Australia had implemented similar laws (Weeding, 2004). In early 2002, Bush laid out a detailed National Security Strategy which threatened war against Iraq as well as Afghanistan and implemented “the largest government reorganizaton since the Truman Administration” ( Bush, 2002, p. 5).
From the speed with which the Bush administration fingered al Qaeda and launched a complex array of innovations (identical to those proposed by in RAD published a year earlier), we can infer that the Bush Doctrine had been planned well in advance of 9-11. An unusually large military buildup surrounding Afghanistan in the week before 9-11 also suggests years of planning for the Afghan war. Operation Swift Sword sent 25,000 British troops to Aman, in the largest armada since the Falklands war. Two U.S. aircraft carriers arrived in the Gulf of Arabia off the coast of Pakistan. In early October, 2001, CentCom hosted Operation Bright Star involving 60,000 troops in Egypt (Ruppert, 2002).
2.5. Islamophobia in Bush’s ‘‘War on Terror’’ Speech
None of this could have garnered public support without the 9-11 pretext and years of careful Islamophobic preparation. Bush’s “war on terror” speech is liberally sprinkled with Islamophobic myths. An Islamophobic hate crime, reminiscent of Hitler’s diatribes, the “war on terror” speech was designed to whip up fear and vengeance against Muslims. It is full of lies, distortions and projections:
- ‘‘Who attacked our country?...al-Qaeda’’: There has been no definitive proof that bin Laden had anything to do with the 9-11 attacks. The U.S. never produced Colin Powell’s promised White Paper of evidence, and Tony Blair’s White Paper ‘‘proof ’’ was widely dismissed as a weak exercise in public relations (Blair, 2001). As Francis Boyle points out:
"[T]here was no real case against al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Such was the conclusion of senior diplomats from friendly nations who attended the so-called briefing [the U.S. gave to NATO members]." (Boyle, 2001)
In fact, as Richard Saunders points out: “Every time the U.S. has gone to war, pretext incidents have been used as triggers to justify military action. …During the Cold War, dozens of covert and overt wars were promoted using specific pretext episodes” (Saunders, 2003, p.1). As early as 1962, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had developed Operation Northwoods to create a “legitimate provocation as the basis for U.S. military intervention in Cuba” (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1962). The plan proposed to create an incident which would demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft had attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner (Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba, 1962).
In the ensuing months and years, the White House vehemently resisted all attempts to investigate the 9-11 attacks. Under enormous pressure, Bush finally appointed a highly partisan 9/11 Commission in 2003, with an extremely limited mandate and blocked access to documents or to interviewing key witnesses. The resulting Report is an obvious cover-up. As David Ray Griffin quipped, “some people may wonder…is there anything in the 9/11 Commission Report that is untrue? But…the big question is, can I find a true sentence in the Report?” (Griffin, 2005, p. 45)
- ‘‘Enemies of freedom,’’ ‘‘freedom itself is under attack,’’ ‘‘they hate our freedoms’’: Some groups the U.S. labels as “terrorists” actually are freedom fighters, struggling for the liberation of their peoples or countries, for example, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, and the Irish Republican Army. Others are heavily infiltrated or even financed by the CIA, such as the Abu Naidal Organization and the Abu Sayaff Group (Ahmed, Chapter 3; Country Reports on Terrorism, 2004, 2005) . Even if bin Laden were the architect of 9-11, his stated grievances with the U.S. are not with its “freedoms”, but with its leading role in violating the freedoms (and lives) of others (Bodansky, 2001).
- ‘‘Al-Qaeda... is...imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.’’ It is the U.S. which has imposed its policies on people everywhere, and particularly in the Middle East as part of its relentless defense of “vital U.S. interests in the region” (Klare, 2001, p. 62). Many Islamist movements have grown up in reaction against more than 80 years of colonial exploitation and brutal political, military, and economic manipulation by first the British, and since World War II, the U.S. (Ahmed, 2003; Bodansky, 2001; Everest, 2004; Kamrava, 2005). “Rather than a clash of civilizations, there is a tawdry pursuit of oil-based profits at the expense of fundamental human rights” (Bacher, 2000, p. 60).
- ‘‘There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror.’’ It is true that Islamist movements, many of which reject violence, have spread throughout the world. However, Bush conveniently fails to acknowledge the U.S.’s role in creating, funding, transporting, training, and arming the Arab-Afghani mujahedin, or CIA’s continuing connections with al Qaeda (Ahmed, 2005).
- ‘‘They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries...’’ Again, it is far more evident that the U.S. not only seeks to, but has actually overthrown many existing governments. As William Blum notes:
"From 1945 to the end of the century, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 popular-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the U.S. caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many more to a life of agony and despair. (Blum, 2000, p. 2).
- ‘‘They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.’’ These allegations are designed to outrage both Christian and Jewish Americans. A wide range of Islamist and Arab liberation groups hope to take back control of their countries from imperial-imposed puppets, and to eventually to establish a democratic Arab Economic Union similar to the E.U. (Al-Alim, 2005; Third Cairo Conference, 2005).13 Most Islamist groups – and many Jewish and Christian groups, as well as the United Nations – support the cause of Palestinian people, and oppose the imperialist role Israel continues to play both in the Occupied Territories and worldwide as a U.S. “strategic asset” (Kosky, 2002, p. 25).
In short, Bush’s justifications for launching the ‘‘war on terror’’ are based on groundless lies and appeals to Islamophobic prejudice.
The Bush Doctrine resembles earlier witch hunts like the Spanish Inquisition, the Third Reich, and the McCarthy era. In all three, a category of people is labelled as an evil, dangerous enemy in order to mobilize popular support for the elite’s ambitions to power. Institutions are created to isolate, scapegoat, and eliminate the target group. Those institutions also transform the entire society to become more doctinare, rigid, and authoritarian. Those who challenge the status quo are punished or killed. Free thought is outlawed. Inequality rises. Arbitrary decree replaces systems of justice.
Islamophobia is usually considered an attitudinal prejudice, similar to racism or anti-Semitism, as in this definition of Islamophobia:
Islamophobia refers to the fear and/or hatred of Islam, Muslims or Islamic culture. Islamophobia can be characterized by the belief that all or most Muslims are religious fanatics, have violent tendencies toward non-Muslims, and reject …equality, tolerance, and democracy. It is viewed as a new form of racism whereby Muslims …are…constructed as a race. A set of negative assumptions are made of the entire group to the detriment of members of that group.14
However, Bush’s Islamophobia systematically institutionalizes and actively promotes discriminatory assaults on Muslims and Muslim countries (By contrast, racism and anti-Semitism are at least formally illegal and generally condemned in the media, courts, and schools). The ‘‘war on terror’’ incorporates structures – laws, prisons, intelligence agencies, surveillance infrastructure, military and corporate contracts, bombs, etc. – which target Muslims and Arabs in particular.
Islamophobia is as central to the Bush Doctrine as anti-Semitism was to the Spanish Inquisition or the Third Reich. Both oppressions function to whip up fear, contempt, and genocidal rage against a whole people. Without this bogey-man, Bush’s “war on terror” would be exposed for what it is—a brutal, greedy grab for world conquest. As Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, recently pointed out, “There’s a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry. Some of it is based on religious chauvinism from Christians and Jews. Some of it is racist….[But]…Ultimately… public hostility toward Islam in the United States [and its allies] today is mostly a matter of geopolitics and U.S. nationalism” (Deen, 2005).
U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were justified by Islamophobic assertions that their leaders are Muslim fanatics who threaten American security. Portrayed as primitive, anti-feminist, terrorists, people labelled “Taliban” are hunted down like vermin. Those who are not bombed or shot are detained in horrendous conditions. In November, 2001, for example, CIA and U.S. Special Forces watched approvingly as 4,500 Afghani men were stuffed into truck containers where they either suffocated or were shot (Herman, 2004). Afghani and Iraqi people who presume to resist U.S. occupation (or simply to drive too quickly toward U.S. check points) are presumed to be “terrorists” and are summarily killed. The Afghan and Iraqi wars have left both countries devastated. Their people subsist under semi-permanent, military occupation, without basic infrastructure or humanitarian aid, while oil rigs and natural gas pipelines are protected.
Dick Cheney defends torture as a legitimate interrogation tool (Priest & Wright, 2005), including specific attacks on Muslims, such as wiping prisoners with menstrual blood, forcing them to eat pork, threatening them with dogs (viewed as unclean by Muslims), and flushing Qur’ans down toilets (Human Rights Watch, 2005). To bypass Geneva Conventions against mistreating and torturing prisoners, the U.S. calls non-citizen Muslim detainees “enemy combatants” or more recently “unprivileged belligerants”. And under the neologism of “extraordinary rendition”, Muslem citizens are sent off to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan with which have been contracted to torture them (Johnston, 2005).
Almost 100,000 Muslim men worldwide are being detained without charges “in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison” under conditions which violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners, and U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Buncombe & Sengupta 2004; Siddiqui, 2004, p. A23).
Muslims and Arabs living in the West have also been targeted for official discriminatory treatment. After the U.S. Department of Justice passed a regulation allowing indefinite detention on September 20, 2001, nearly 1,200 Arabs and Muslims were secretly arrested and detained without charges (Coke, 2003, p.95; (Martin, 2003, p. 75). The U.S. National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) “call-in” program required male visitors from 24 Arab and Muslim countries and North Korea to register with INS offices. Even though no “terrorists” were found, over 13,000 of the 80,000 men who registered were threatened with deportation, and many were “detained in harsh conditions” (Zogby, 2005, p. 4). Overwhelmingly, the airline “no fly” lists are composed of Muslims.
3.1. What is a Terrorist?
What is a “terrorist”? Surprisingly this question rarely gets asked by mainstream pundits. The definition of “terrorism” is so subjective that even the “UN Member States still have no agreed-upon definition” (Thackrah, 2003, p. 75; UN Office of Drugs and Crime, 2005). Most agree, however, that terrorism involves: “violence threatened or employed; against civilian targets; for political objectives” (Barker, 2003, p. 23). This definition encompasses both grassroots and state terrorism.
However, the U.S. definition of “terrorism” excludes anything done by the U.S. or its allies, but includes any resistance to U.S. assaults (Blum, 2000; Herman, 1982, p. 25). For example the CIA’s definition of “terrorism” explicitly excludes state actors: “The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” (CIA, 2005, emphasis added). As Chomsky points out: “The message is clear: no one has the right of self-defense against US terrorist attack. The US is a terrorist state by right. That is unchallengeable doctrine” (Chomsky, 1991, p. 5).
The U.S. labels as “terrorist” liberation struggles which legitimately fall under Article 51 of the UN Charter: “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations” (Charter of the United Nations, 1946). Thus Palestinian, Iraqi, and Afghani people resisting Israeli and U.S. invasion are hunted down and killed or detained as “terrorists” (Coates, 2004).
The Bush Doctrine also widens the net of ‘‘terrorists’’ to include any individual or state, which, knowingly or not, is suspected of funding, aiding, or harboring ‘‘terrorists.’’ In the absence of due process and public evidence, this could include virtually any Muslim. Many Muslim men have been detained indefinitely and often tortured without ever being charged, simply for fitting a demographic profile, for having known others labeled as ‘‘terrorists,’’ for refusing to spy for an intelligence agency, for being named by another suspect under torture, or at the whim of an occupying army.
Since 9-11, hate crimes and discriminaton against Muslims have dramatically increased, as have the negative impacts of “anti-terror” state actions on Muslims and people of Arab descent (e.g. Brown, 2003; Cassel, 2004; Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, 2004; Hagopian, 2004; The Runnymede Trust, 1997; Zogby, 2005). Like German Jews in the early 1930s, Muslims justifiably fear the rising tide of state-sponsored hatred and restrictions of rights. Palestinians, Afghanis, Bosneans, and Iraqis already are experiencing policies close to ethnic cleansing (Coates, 2004; Reinhart, 2002).
3.2. What is a Moderate Muslim?
The Bush administration claims to distinguish between “moderate” Muslims and “extremist” Muslims who are presumed to be “terrorists”. In Bush’s “war on terror” speech, for example, he promised “no one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith” (Bush, 2001, p. 5). The implication was that only “real” terrorists need fear reprisals, and that “moderate” Muslims, like other Americans, would simply experience minor “delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security” (Bush, 2001, p. 6). In actuality, the “inconveniences” have meant a witch hunt against Muslims and Arabs stripping them of rights, dignity, freedom, sovereignty, and often life itself.
This theme of distinguishing between “moderate” Muslims and “terrorists” dates back to Netanyahu’s original campaign against “international terrorism”:
Most of the European Muslims, like their co-religionists in the United States and Israel, are law-abiding citizens or residents who would never dream of participating in terrorist activity or in any other illegal act. But a few of them have come under the sway of a perverse and primitive interpretation of the faith, which moves them to fanaticism and violence. And as the Muslim communities in the West continue to grow, a widening fringe of their membership invariably becomes susceptible to infection by the message of militant Islam. (Netanyahu, 1995, pp. 89-90, emphasis added)
Since “terrorism” is treated as a disease which can invariably infect any Muslim, no Muslim is trusted.
The theme of distinguishing between “moderate” and “terrorist” Muslims also pervades the pronouncements of the Bush administration. For example Paul Wolfowitz said in 2002 at the Brookings Institutions Forum, that:
we must do what we can to encourage the moderate Muslim voices. This is a debate about Muslim values that must take place among Muslims. But, it makes a difference when we recognize and encourage those who are defending universal values. And, when we give them moral support against the opposition they encounter, we are indeed helping to strengthen the foundations of peace. (cited in Haddad, 2004a, p. 108)
It turns out that “encouraging the modern Muslim voice” means backing (and creating) pro-American/Israel front organizations like the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism (Pipes, 2004).
A few individuals have stepped up and volunteered to “lead the Muslims into moderation”. Several have been supported and funded by various agencies of the USA government. Their mission is to provide new reflections and interpretations of Islam. They have opened offices and are in the process of leading others into ‘right thinking.’ To date, they appear to have few followers since they are perceived as agents of the effort to undermine Islam. (Haddad, 2004a, p. 107)
Many Western Muslim and Arab groups, eager to distance themselves from the “terrorist” label, have gone to great lengths to prove they fit the “moderate” category, assuring their governments that they are law-abiding, patriotic voters, even as they protest the rising tide of Islamophobic mistreatment (Zogby, 2005). A board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, for example, recently wrote:
The Muslim community must… exercise vigilance against hateful rhetoric that masquerades as religion. … the Muslim community should not be seen as part of the problem, but as partners in the fight against a common enemy – extremism. (Kahn, 2005)
However, under Bush’s regime, even their assertions of loyalty are suspect. Daniel Pipes, a pro-Israel Bush appointee to the U.S. Institute of Peace (a Congressionally funded group), asserts:
There are lots of fake-moderates parading about, and they can be difficult to identify, even for someone like me…. The Council on American-Islamic Relations still wins mainstream support and the Islamic Society of North America still sometimes hoodwinks the U.S. government. (Pipes, 2004)
To solve this “problem”, he has called for “for what could be considered a new Inquisition reminiscent of what obtained in Spain during the 15th century”, proposing that all Muslim individuals and groups should have their records scrutinized and that they be required to answer a long list of questions about their beliefs (Haddad, 2004; Pipes, 2003). Even those who answer correctly, he and other neo-conservatives suspect, may only be pretending not to be terrorists or may be at risk of “infection” by Islamists:
[American military chaplain Yousef] Yee, of course, told the media after 9/11 that the attacks were ‘‘un-Islamic and categorically denied by a great majority of Muslim scholars around the world.’’ But now he has been charged with attempting to give classified information to the Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo." (Spencer, 2003)
On broader level, the U.S. demands that Muslim countries “demonstrate their Islamic moderation by prosecuting, if not persecuting, suspected terrorists” (Haddad, 2004a, p. 108). The effect of this has been to allow U.S.-backed Asian dictatorships like Malaysia and Indonesia “to brand a spectrum of local opposition or separatist groups as terrorist or al-Qa’eda-linked” (Ong, 2003, p. 4.13) The Bush administration “has made it clear that it expects moderate governments to implement other measures to assure American interests. These include curbing free speech, called ‘inflammatory’ if it is directed against American or Israeli policies” (Haddad, 2004a, p. 108).
In other words, under the Bush Doctrine, the only good Muslim is one who is willing to renounce his religion, denounce his fellow Muslims, uncritically support the U.S. – and even then he can’t be trusted. The logical conclusion is that all Muslims are targetted by the Bush Doctrine. As conservative commentator Ann Coulter declared the day after 9-11:
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. …Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. (Coulter, Sept. 12, 2001)
In this chapter, I have demonstrated that:
- The overriding motive for Bush’s ‘‘war on terror’’ is to secure control over the Middle East and Central Asia for U.S. oil, military, and corporate interests.
- Bush’s handlers have been planning imperial conquest of the world since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989.
- From the evidence here and elsewhere, it is difficult to draw another conclusion than that Bush’s associates organized the 9-11 attacks to kick start popular support for this war. They have continued to justify the ‘‘war on terror’’ by claiming that Muslim terrorists pose an immanent danger to Americans.
- In fact, however, terrorism actually poses minimal risk to Americans.
- The ‘‘war on terror’’ is a concept modeled on Israel’s assaults on Palestinians to provide a cover for campaigns of territorial conquest.
- Far from being ‘‘under attack,’’ America has pre-emptively attacked and conquered two sovereign states, and is threatening military domination of the entire world.
In other words, Bush’s ‘‘war on terror’’ is a massive con job, perpetrated by a few oil and military elites, at the expense of Muslims particularly, but threatening the security and well-being of virtually everyone on the planet.
An immensely wealthy and powerful republic has been hijacked by a small cabal of individuals...The American people have...been deliberately lied to, their interests cynically misrepresented and misreported, the real aims and intentons of this private war of Bush the son and his junta concealed with complete arrogance." (Said, 2003)
Thomas Donnelly, author of the RAD blueprint for Bush’s ‘‘war on terror,’’ recently reaffirmed the neo-conservative commitment, not to protect Americans from ‘‘terrorism,’’ but to conquer the world.
This war, properly understood, is a struggle to build a [new] ... order throughout the ‘‘greater Middle East,’’ that giant swath of the planet that extends from West Africa to Southeast Asia. ...Operation Iraqi Freedom represented the first step in a generational commitment to Iraq, but also the commitment of many generations to transforming the greater Middle East....The vision of the Bush Doctrine is hugely ambitious; in embracing this great vision, the United States must obligate the resources and create the institutions necessary to realize it." (Donnelly, 2004, pp. ix, 111)
4.1. ‘‘Either you are with us, or you are with the Terrorists’’
Fear and hatred of a scapegoated ‘‘enemy’’ are powerful tools by which despots confuse people into believing that their oppressors are their salvation. Just as anti-Semitism served to divide and silence progressive German movements in the early Nazi era, Islamophobia is dividing and silencing us now. No one wants to associate with “terrorists”, much less be labelled and persecuted as one. Many progressive Western people fear and despise “fundmentalist” Muslims, and thereby fall into the trap of allying themselves with, or at least not opposing, Islamophobic laws and practices in the name of opposing “terrorism”. They thereby collude in undercutting the fabric of rights, due process, and equality on which they too depend.
The Bush Doctrine rhetoric has succeeded in convincing most white Americans that “terrorists” pose a serious threat to their personal safety, and that the “war on terror” is necessary to protect them. Islamophobic language and values have seeped into the fiber of our daily lives. Bookstores now have “terrorism” sections, displaying some of the 5,036 mostly new books on the topic.15 Several U.S. colleges and universities now offer degrees in “homeland security.” Media images of “Arab extremists” have become routine.
Most Americans now believe that “terrorism” is such a big problem, that they should pay with their taxes, their freedoms, their decimated public services, and their children’s lives. In the summer of 2005, polls found that 79 percent of Americans believed that “the threat of terrorism against the U.S.” has increased or stayed about the same (Polling Report.com, 2005). Seventy-six percent thought “Osama bin Laden himself is currently planning a significant terrorist attack against the United States,” and 64 percent supported the Patriot Act. Sixty-four percent would be “willing to give up some of [their] personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism” (PollingReport.com, 2005). Almost half of all Americans “believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans” (Dean, 2005). In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and shocking revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib prison, however, popular support for the “war on terror” plummetted. In November, 2005, 55 percent of Americans disapproved of the way Bush is “dealing with the war on terrorism” (PollingReport.com, 2005).
4.2. Which Side are you on?
Before 9-11, the anti-globalization movement had been rapidly gaining influence and unity worldwide. Opposition to U.S.-dominated institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G-8, NATO and APEC, had succeeded in disrupting and exposing several of their gatherings. And in their place, the World Social Forum and other progressive people’s movements were demonstrating that indeed there are excellent alternatives to globalization and corporate rule.
The 9-11 “attacks” and the “war on terror” derailed these hopeful movements and imposed crippling constraints on dissent, democracy, and national sovereignty. Under cover of Islamophobic targetting of Muslims, the U.S. is waging war on all movements for social justice both domestically and internationally, using its new post 9-11 legislative powers and bloated military and policing budgets. Domestically, the Bush administration is attacking democracy, abortion rights, the judiciary, environmental protections, social security, public education, women’s rights, union rights, and civil rights (Dorhrn, 2003). Internationally, it pressures other nations to enact similar “anti-terror” laws and policies, as well as demanding that they open their economies to full U.S. corporate rule.
As Bernadette Dorhn points out: “The result is a chilling effect. That is to say, people around the targets back away, get silent, don’t stand up when they see the cost of simply expressing your opinion or even making a joke, let alone publicly objecting to what’s going on” (2003).
Many progressive groups oppose Islamophobia and support Muslim victims of U.S. and Israeli assaults. These include civil liberties associations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, anti-Zionist Jewish and Christian groups, unions, peace groups, and student organizations like the Canadian Federation of Students. Secular, Jewish, and Christian groups have formed alliances with Palestinians and Iraqis in oppostion to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In the U.S. the Center for Constitutional Rights works to end arbitrary detention of Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. In Canada, the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada has mobilized broad support for Muslim detainees and their rights.
However, even these groups have not dared to challenge the Islamophobic base of the “anti-terror” legislation, for fear of being called pro-terrorist. They are thereby left arguing that the particular individuals for whom they advocate aren’t terrorists, while implicitly condoning the myth that “real” terrorists are lurking in the shadows. But under the Bush Doctrine, all Muslims are presumed to be either current or potential terrorists, and their civil liberties have been sacrificed in the name of “national security”.
To defeat the Bush plot for world control, we will need to challenge Islamophobic fear of “terrorists”, to assert clearly that there is little substantive terrorist threat. What terrorism there is could better be addressed through criminal justice systems and international law. More importantly we need to insist that the U.S. desist from both overt preemptive wars and covert state-financed terrorism. The actual security of both Americans and all other people will be best served by ending the occupations of the West Bank, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and recognizing the right of all nations to self-determination (including oil policies). We need to stand in solidarity with all Muslims, regardless of their religious beliefs. At this juncture, Islamophobia is the key barrier to effective mobilization against the Bush regime.
1 See for example, Ahmed, 2002; Griffin, 2004; Hufschmid 2002; Mars, 2004; Ruppert, 2004; Thompson, ongoing).
2 Anti-war bumper sticker slogan 2003.
3 Kuwaiti Intelligence Memorandum from Brigadier General Fahd Ahmad al-Fahd, Director-General of the State Security Department, to Sheikh Salem al-Sabah, Minister of the Interior, November 1989 (Cited in Ahmed, 2003, p. 313).
4 Wolfowitz was then Undersecretary for Policy at the Department of Defense and later became a key foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign. He is now Deputy Secretary of Defense. Lewis Libby was Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in the Defense Department, and Eric Edelman was a senior foreign policy advisor to Cheney (Steinberg, October 3, 2002, p. 3).
5 The Defense Planning Guidance reports were referred to as ‘‘the Plan’’ by members of the Project for the New American Century.
6 Dr. Khalilzad, born in Afghanistan held senior-level positions in the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department. He oversaw the mobilization of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, and later served as a consultant to Unocal, the company, which hoped to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Khalilzad served as Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 to June 2005, while continuing as the Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan. Since June 21, 2005, he has served as Ambassador to Iraq.
7 Zbigniew Brzezinski served as National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. With David Rockefeller, he founded and then served as Director of the Trilateral Commission, an influential American, European and Japanese forum for strategic planning from 1973 to 1976. He was a member of the Policy Planning Council for the Department of State (1966–1968), of the National Security Council’s Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy (1987–1989), and of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (a Presidential Commission to oversee U.S. intelligence activities) (1987–1989) under Ronald Reagan. He has also served as an international advisor of several major US and multinational corporations and taught at Columbia University and Howard University.
8 For examples of many other U.S. pretext incidents, see Norman Solomon’s War Made Easy (2005) and Press for Conversion! #50, January 2003.
9 iraqometer_com iraq war cost.htm
10 ‘‘Enemy combatant’’ and ‘‘unprivileged belligerent’’ are terms the U.S. invented to label Afghani and Iraqi Muslim men swept up and detained without charges. The terms are used to deny them rights as prisoners of war guaranteed under the Geneva Conventions.
11 It is certainly an error to conflate opposing Israeli policy (which is not anti-Semitic) with attacking Jews as individuals or as a group (which is). Similarly, it is a fallacy to equate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism, just as it is incorrect to equate criticism of U.S. policies with anti-Americanism. Some Jews protest that we should not support Muslims because they are anti-Semitic. It is true that many Muslims (like many Christians) carry negative beliefs about Jews. (Just as many Jews carry Islamophobic beliefs.) It is understandable that some Muslims carry anti-Jewish attitudes and vice versa, given painful experience, misinformation, and the mutual isolation between Jews and Muslims.
13 At the third Cairo Conference, With the Resistance in Palestine and Iraq; Against Globalization, Imperialism and Zionism (March 24–27, 2005). Over 1,500 participants, almost all Arab Muslims representing a full spectrum of groups from Islamist to communist, agreed to a program of ending U.S. dominance in the Middle East, creating an Arab Union, and supporting popular struggles for democracy against both the U.S. and the ‘‘despotism of Arab regimes’’ (Third Cairo Conference, 2005).
14 ‘‘Islamophobia’’ from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamophobia.
15 Typing ‘‘terrorism’’ into Amazon.com’s search engine, yielded 5,036 book titles on February 22, 2006.
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* See also Anrdrew Marshall in the Independent, November 1, 1998. -rep.