s/r home  | issues  | authors  | 27 contents

Synthesis/Regeneration 27   (Winter 2002)

War for Oil

Shocked and Horrified

by Larry Mosqueda, Ph.D., Evergreen State College

September 15, 2001

Like all Americans, I was shocked and horrified to watch the WTC Twin Towers attacked by hijacked planes and collapse, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

I had not been that shocked and horrified since January 16, 1991, when then President Bush attacked Baghdad, and the rest of Iraq and began killing 200,000 people during that “war” (slaughter). This includes the infamous “highway of death” in the last days of the slaughter when US pilots literally shot in the back retreating Iraqi civilians and soldiers. I continue to be horrified by the sanctions on Iraq, which have resulted in the death of over 1,000,000 Iraqis, including over 500,000 children, about whom former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has stated, their deaths “are worth the cost.”

Over the course of my life I have been shocked and horrified by a variety of US governmental actions, such as the US sponsored coup against democracy in Guatemala in 1954 which resulted in the deaths of over 120,000 Guatemalan peasants by US installed dictatorships over the course of four decades.

Events of September 11 reminded me of the horror I felt when the US overthrew the government of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and helped to murder 3,000 people. And it reminded me of the shock I felt in 1973, when the US sponsored a coup in Chile against the democratic government of Salvador Allende and helped to murder another 30,000 people, including US citizens.

Events of September 11 reminded me of the shock and horror I felt in 1965 when the US sponsored a coup in Indonesia that resulted in the murder of over 800,000 people, and the subsequent slaughter in 1975 of over 250,000 innocent people in East Timor by the Indonesian regime, with the direct complicity of President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

…the World Court declared the US government a war criminal in 1984…

I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt during the US sponsored terrorist contra war (the World Court declared the US government a war criminal in 1984 for the mining of the harbors) against Nicaragua in the 1980s which resulted in the deaths of over 30,000 innocent people (or as the US government used to call them before the term “collateral damage” was invented—“soft targets”).

I was reminded of being horrified by the US war against the people of El Salvador in the 1980s, which resulted in the brutal deaths of over 80,000 “soft targets.”

I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt during the US sponsored terror war against the peoples of southern Africa (especially Angola) that began in the 1970s and continues to this day, and has resulted in the deaths and mutilations of over 1,000,000. I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt as the US invaded Panama over the Christmas season of 1989 and killed over 8,000 in an attempt to capture George H. Bush’s CIA partner, now turned enemy, Manuel Noriega.

I was reminded of the horror I felt when I learned about how the Shah of Iran was installed in a US sponsored brutal coup that resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 Iranians from 1952–1979. And the continuing shock as I learned that the Ayatollah Khomeini, who overthrew the Shah in 1979 and who was the US public enemy for the decade of the 1980s was also on the CIA payroll while he was in exile in Paris in the 1970s.

But those scenes were not repeated over and over again on the national media to inflame the American public.

I was reminded of the shock and horror that I felt as I learned how the US has “manufactured consent” since 1948 for its support of Israel, to the exclusion of virtually any rights for the Palestinians in their native lands. I was shocked as I learned about the hundreds of towns and villages that were literally wiped off the face of the earth in the early days of Israeli colonization. I was horrified in 1982 as the villagers of Sabra and Shatila were massacred by Israeli allies with direct Israeli complicity and direction. The untold thousands who died on that day match the scene of horror that we saw on September 11. But those scenes were not repeated over and over again on the national media to inflame the American public.

Of course, the largest and most shocking war crime of the second half of the 20th century was the US assault on Indochina from 1954–1975, especially Vietnam, where over 4,000,000 people were bombed, napalmed, crushed, shot and individually “hands on” murdered in the “Phoenix Program” (this is where Oliver North got his start). Many US Vietnam veterans were also victimized by this war and had the best of intentions, but the policy makers themselves knew the criminality of their actions and policies as revealed in their own words in “The Pentagon Papers.”

I was continually shocked and horrified as the US attacked and bombed with impunity the nation of Libya in the 1980s, including killing the infant daughter of Khadafi. I was shocked as the US bombed and invaded Grenada in 1983. I was horrified by US military and CIA actions in Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Brazil, Argentina, and Yugoslavia. The deaths in these actions ran into the hundreds of thousands.

The above list is by no means complete or comprehensive. It has just been conveniently eliminated from the public discourse and public consciousness. And for the most part, the analysis that the US actions have resulted in the deaths of primarily civilians (over 90%) is not unknown to the elites and policy makers. A conservative number for those who have been killed by US terror and military action since World War II is 8,000,000 people. This does not include the wounded, the imprisoned, the displaced, the refugees, etc.

A conservative number for those who have been killed by US terror and military action since World War II is 8,000,000 people.

Nothing that I have written is meant to disparage or disrespect those who were victims and those who suffered death or the loss of a loved one during this week’s events. It is not meant to “justify” any action by those who bombed the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It is meant to put it in a context.

Ed Herman in his book The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda does not justify any terrorism but points out that states often engage in “wholesale” terror, while those whom governments define as “terrorist” engage in “retail” terrorism. And the seeds of much of the “retail” terror are in fact found in the “wholesale” terror of states. Again this is not to justify, in any way, the actions of September 11, but to put them in a context and suggest an explanation.

Perhaps most shocking and horrific, if indeed bin Laden is the mastermind of the actions of September 11, he has clearly had significant training by competent and expert military personnel. During the 1980s, he was recruited, trained and funded by the CIA in Afghanistan to fight against the Russians. As long as he visited his terror on Russians and his enemies in Afghanistan, he was “our man” in that country.

The same is true of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was a CIA asset in Iraq during the 1980s. Hussein could gas his own people, repress the population, and invade his neighbor Iran as long as he did it with US approval.

The same was true of Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was a contemporary and CIA partner of George H. Bush in the 1980s. Noriega's main crime for Bush, the father, was not that he dealt drugs (he did, but the US and Bush knew this before 1989), but that Noriega was no longer going to cooperate in the ongoing US terrorist contra war against Nicaragua. This information is not unknown or really controversial among elite policy makers. To repeat, this is not to justify any of the actions of September 11, but to put it in its horrifying context.

…states often engage in “wholesale” terror, while those whom governments define as “terrorist” engage in “retail” terrorism.

As shocking as the events of September 11 were, they are likely to generate even more horrific actions by the US government that will add significantly to the 8,000,000 figure stated above. This response may well be qualitatively and quantitatively worse than the events of Tuesday. The New York Times headline of 9/14/01 states that, “Bush And Top Aides Proclaim Policy of Ending States That Back Terror” as if that was a rational, measured, or even sane option. States that have been identified for possible elimination are “a number of Asian and African countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and even Pakistan.” This is beyond shocking and horrific—it is just as potentially suicidal, homicidal, and more insane than the hijackers themselves.

The retail terror is that of desperate and sometimes fanatical small groups and individuals who often have legitimate grievances, but engage in individual criminal and illegitimate activities; the wholesale terror is that of “rational” educated men where the pain, suffering, and deaths of millions of people are contemplated, planned, and too often executed, for the purpose of furthering a nebulous concept called the “national interest.” Space does not allow a full explanation of the elites’ Orwellian concept of the “national interest,” but it can be summarized as the protection and expansion of hegemony and an empire.

The American public is being prepared for war while being fed a continuous stream of shocking and horrific repeated images of the events of September 11, and heartfelt stories from the survivors and the loved ones of those who lost family members. These stories are real and should not be diminished. In fact, those who lost family members can be considered a representative sample of the 8,000,000 who have been lost previously. If we multiply by 800–1000 times the amount of pain, angst, and anger being currently felt by the American public, we might begin to understand how much of the rest of the world feels as they are continually victimized.

Some particularly poignant images are the heart-wrenching public stories that we are seeing and hearing of family members with pictures and flyers searching for their loved ones. These images are virtually the same as those of the “Mothers of the Disappeared” who searched for their (primarily) adult children in places such as Argentina, where over 11,000 were “disappeared” in 1976–1982, again with US approval. Just as the mothers of Argentina deserved our respect and compassion, so do those who are searching for their relatives now. However we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media and US government into turning real grief and anger into a national policy of wholesale terror and genocide against innocent civilians in Asia and Africa. What we are seeing in military terms is called “softening the target.” The target here is the American public and we are being ideologically and emotionally prepared for the slaughter.

However we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media and US government into turning real grief and anger into a national policy of wholesale terror…

None of the previously identified Asian and African countries are democracies, which means that the people of these countries have virtually no impact on developing the policies of their governments, even if we assume that these governments are complicit in the actions of September 11. When one examines the recent history of these countries, one will find that the American government had direct and indirect influences on creating the conditions for the existence of some of these governments. This is especially true of the Taliban government of Afghanistan itself.

If there is a great war, the crimes of that war will be revisited upon the US over the next generation. That is not some kind of religious prophecy or threat, it is merely a straightforward political analysis. If indeed it is bin Laden, the world must not deal only with him as an individual criminal, but eliminate the conditions that create the injustices and war crimes that will inevitably lead to more of these types of attacks in the future. The phrase

“No Justice, No Peace” is more than a slogan used in a march, it is an observable historical fact. It is time to end the horror.

In this issue of S/R: US Foreign Interventions and Invasions since Vietnam

For the most current information see http://www.commondreams.org/
For information on how the media distorts the news see http://www.fair.org/
For excellent links on the Middle East see http://al-awda.org/newyork/links.html

For background reading by Noam Chomsky see:

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Ed Herman)
Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians
Deterring Democracy
See also: Sam Smith of The Progressive Review has been tracking the trans-Afghanistan pipeline connections closely, and has compiled a lot of information here: http://prorev.com/bushwaroil.htm

Synthesis/Regeneration home page | Synthesis/Regeneration 27 Contents