excerpted from the book


How our covert wars have created enemies
across the Middle East and brought terror to America.

by Mark Zepezauer

Common Courage Press, 2003, paper


Over the past fifty years, the United States has:

* Sponsored assassination attempts against the leaders of Iran (Mossadegh and Khomeini), Iraq (Qassim and Hussein), and Libya (Qadaffy).

* Fomented coups and coup attempts in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.

* Deployed our armies and our bombs in Afghanistan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Sudan.

* Paid for proxy wars in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Sudan.

* Imposed punishing sanctions on Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria.

* Backed vicious terrorist forces in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey.

* Set up more or less permanent military outposts in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-as well as more than a hundred other countries around the world.

Our government has told us that there are terrorist cells, in more than sixty countries and that the present war effort may not end in our lifetimes. If we continue to dominate and kill millions of innocent people, that prediction of a never-ending war cannot help but become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we choose this path, here's what we can expect:

* More militarism. This country is the largest arms merchant on the planet. Our annual defense spending is already bigger than the next 20 largest military budgets combined. Our leaders promise to spend still more, inching up towards a half trillion dollars per year. Combined with the president's $1.35 trillion tax cut, our military spending will crowd out needed services, including education, health care, mass transit and environmental cleanups. If you own stock in defense firms, this is probably the path for you. The rest of us will pay twice: first with our tax returns, and then with a downward spiral of unmet social needs.

* More dead Americans. Subsidizing the occupation of Palestine, the oppression of the Uzbeks, the theocracy of the Saudis, and the infant mortality rate of the Iraqis will never end terrorism. On the contrary, it will simply provide an endless supply of new enemies. Bombing wedding parties in Afghanistan and air raid shelters in Baghdad is the single best way to assure more recruits for al-Qaida. If we want to make ourselves more hated, and guarantee that Americans both at home and abroad will be targets, we should focus on an exclusively military approach to the problem of terrorism.

* More angry allies. It seems incredible that the administration could have squandered the widespread sympathy and solidarity for our nation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But by repudiating treaties on international war crimes, land mines, money laundering, global warming, and arms control, our government has helped to dry up the pool of good will for our country. Allies who used to support us now do so half-heartedly, after being bribed or cajoled, or not at all. As with the first Gulf War, the U.S. twisted arms and cut backroom deals in the UN to produce a new resolution in November 2002, calling for renewed weapons inspections in Iraq. But U.S. officials repeatedly insisted that we retain the authority to launch another Gulf War with or without UN approval. So to the rest of the world the entire exercise looked like a transparent PR ploy, with the U.S. thumbing its nose at the UN. How much longer can we get away with this sort of thing? If some of our allies tire of propping up our trade deficit, or begin to withdraw their investments in our economy, we may find that international good will counts for a great deal.

* More curtailment of our liberties. If we're going to be fighting a shadowy enemy for generations to come, we'll be on a permanent war footing. During previous wars our government has suspended the writ of habeas corpus, jailed antiwar writers for sedition, rounded up foreign-born citizens into internment camps, and spied on citizens who dared to dissent. The current administration has shown itself amenable to similar measures. It has backed off on plans to create a nationwide system of domestic informants, a military office of disinformation, and a suspension of the Posse Comitatus Act, only under a barrage of criticism. If the war winds on for many years, expect to see these and other such proposals revived.

* Many, many more wars. As mentioned before, every war plants the seeds of the next one. The reparations clamped on Germany after World War I fueled the resurgence of German nationalism and militarism that gave us World War II. The devastation of Europe and the collapse of European colonialism after World War II helped fuel the Cold War rivalry between the victorious Soviets and Americans for control of the resulting power vacuum. The tactics we used in the Cold War, like arming Islamic militants in Afghanistan and backing repressive regimes in the Middle East, have come back to haunt us in the current war. And the enemies we create by stomping over the globe after al-Qaida will surely bring us more wars in the future. We may be sparking new civil wars in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uzbekistan and other countries, and our history suggests we are unlikely to avoid taking sides. The more we intervene abroad, the more we will have to respond to the messes our interventions create.

Luckily, another path is available to us.

* The path of diplomacy. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D/OH) has proposed the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Peace. This agency would be given the resources necessary to promote international cooperation through conflict resolution and mediation. The Secretary of Peace would also seek to prevent violent conflicts between nations before they start. A curriculum in peace education would be developed, and international cooperation would be fostered at all levels, from sister cities to international law. It stands to reason that preventing a war is less costly than fighting one. Are we willing to provide, in pursuit of peace, even a fraction of the resources lavished on the Pentagon?

* The path of reconciliation. The Marshall Plan was one of the most successful international programs this nation has ever undertaken. Rebuilding Europe engendered generations of good will and helped U.S. businesses as well, by creating export markets-truly a win/win situation. Now the Worldwatch Institute has proposed a Global Marshall Plan for the Third World, and their rationale is worth considering: "A report in 1998 by the United Nations Development Programme estimated the annual cost to achieve universal access to a number of basic social services in all developing countries: $9 billion would provide water and sanitation for all; $12 billion would cover reproductive health for all women; $13 billion would give every person on earth basic health and nutrition; and $6 billion would provide basic education for all....These social and health expenditures pale in comparison with what is being spent on the military by all nations-some $780 billion each year." Nothing is more likely to ensure success in combating terrorism than to reduce the conditions of human misery that provides endless recruits to the cause of hatred. And given our history of interventions abroad, we have a lot to make up for.

* The path of cooperation. Perhaps you noticed that the repudiated treaties mentioned above would all be immensely useful in the fight against terrorism. An international criminal court would help to pursue justice when crimes against all humanity are perpetrated. A land mine treaty would help to reduce civilian casualties; such deaths help to provide more terrorist recruits among the survivors. A money laundering treaty would help to dry up the sources of funding for international terrorist organizations. A global warming treaty would help to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and tighten the budgets of the oil-rich governments that support terrorist groups. And it goes without saying-or it should- that international cooperation on curtailing both small arms and weapons of mass destruction would help to keep those weapons out of the hands of terrorists. But the key is that in order to foster this international cooperation, we and our client states will have to subject ourselves to the same international laws we expect other nations to follow. How difficult is that?

* The path of democracy. To cut down on the burning resentment that provides terrorist recruits throughout the Arab and Muslim world, we have to break ourselves of the habit of backing any repressive regime that proves useful to us. An airtight arms embargo against nations that use them on their own people may cut into the profits of our weapons contractors, but it would also help to prevent any number of future wars. At the same time, a modest improvement in the fuel economy of our domestic automobile fleet would enable us to cut out imports of Middle Eastern oil altogether. This would certainly free us from the perceived necessity of supporting autocratic and murderous governments just because they can keep our SUVs humming along. But if we want to promote democracy abroad, it would help to set a good example at home. Let's show that we can enhance our national security by keeping our Constitution strong. A healthy debate about a more humane foreign policy will not weaken us. Foreign-born citizens are a great asset to this country, and we don't make ourselves more secure by targeting people solely on the basis of their national origin. Nor do we enhance our security by holding people without charging or trying them. If there is a basis for detaining someone, we ought to be able to show why in a court of law. Sticking to our principles at home will give us greater credibility should we choose to encourage some of our client states to derive their authority from the just consent of the governed.

* The path of peace. Nobody is suggesting that we sit back and let ourselves be attacked. But it's noteworthy that most of the successes in our struggle against terrorism have come from international police work and cooperation. At the same time, some of the most noteworthy failures-like the scattering of al-Qaida forces across the Pakistani border-have come from our sledgehammer military approach to the problem. Ultimately, there is no military solution to the problem of terrorism. We can defend ourselves best by working to eliminate the root causes of terrorism: hunger, disease, lack of education, repression. It's true that bin Laden himself is neither poor nor uneducated, but millions support him because they perceive him as standing up to the forces that subsidize their oppression. We can combat that perception by showing our willingness to right past wrongs and to work for a more just world order. The al-Qaida network has never once said that they attack us because they envy our freedom. They have said time and again that they oppose our support for the occupation of Palestine, our deadly sanctions against the people of Iraq, and our military alliance with the corrupt monarchy that holds sovereignty over Muslim holy lands. Reversing these policies just happens to be the right thing; we should not stay on this counterproductive path just because our enemies demand otherwise. We can deny them support by proving them wrong about us. And we can defeat them without creating new enemies by taking a multilateral approach to terrorism, ,, cooperating with international law and ceasing to insist that, as the president's father once crowed, "What we say goes."

Now, if you prefer the path of more war, death, anger and repression, there are some things you can do to help. You can contribute financial support to the most warmongering politicians in the country. They're not hard to find; you can see them on television news programs nearly every day. You can also treat all Arabs and Muslims as enemies, and blame them for the sorry state of their home countries, while making excuses about the role your tax dollars might have played in contributing to the situation. It would also be helpful if you waste as much gasoline and electricity as possible. This country wastes more energy than any other, and if you believe that it's easier to attack foreign countries than to make our country more energy efficient, you have a variety of consumer choices available to you to help further that cause. Finally, it's very important that you attack the patriotism of anyone who questions this path. This has worked well in the past to help create conditions that lead to future wars.

On the other hand, if you would prefer the path of peace, democracy, reconciliation and cooperation, well, you have your work cut out for you. You can find out more about the above proposals of Rep. Kucinich and the Worldwatch Institute, and offer some financial support to their causes. There are a number of other organizations working to promote peace and justice; they are generally not found on your TV screen, but a little diligent internet searching will reveal a wealth of resources. You can also lobby your elected representatives for a more humane foreign policy; some of them will be more reluctant than others, so be persistent. If you would like a more sensible energy policy, you can start by voting with your wallet and buying more efficient vehicles and appliances. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself and your neighbors about the reality and the history of our interventions in the Arab and Muslim world.

Of course, you also have the choice to do nothing at all. That's one easy way to guarantee that we stay on the path of war. The old saying is truer than ever: If you want peace, work for justice.


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