September 11: Part II
September 11, 2002
Barbarity versus Unilateralism
"Subvertising" strikes a billboard in Berkeley. Credit: Gar Smith/The-Edge
Mr. Bush continues to issue threats and ultimatums: The world has to choose sides; you are either with us or you are against us; the Taliban must hand over everyone we want by a deadline we set or else. The Taliban asks the US to provide proof that bin Laden is guilty of the September 11 atrocity: The US refuses. The Taliban offers to negotiate: The US refuses. This is just more of the kind unbridled haughtiness that has gained the US so much disrespect around the world.
Bush calls this is a war between barbarians and civilization. That is a good distinction. The civilized response is not to bomb a foreign city that is what barbarians do. We need to identify and arrest the masterminds of this attack and try them in a court of law. That's what we did with the Lockerbie, Scotland airline bombing and with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Unfortunately, after the White House promised that it would release proof of Osama bin Ladens guilt, the White House now refuses to provide this proof.
Stop Terrorism: Including US Terrorism
During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced the US as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Our countrys penchant for exporting military and covert terror is well documented. In addition to financing and training foreign armies like the Contras and bin Ladens Afghan rebels, the CIA has been involved in the overthrow of numerous foreign governments and the assassination or attempted assassinations of numerous foreign leaders including: Iraqi General Abdul Karim Kassem, Congolese President Patrice Lumumba, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende and Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi.
In 1989, Operation Just Cause dispatched 27,000 US soldiers to Panama to seize Manuel Noriega (a former CIA asset). The bombing of the neighborhoods of Colon, San Miguelito and El Chorillo killed between 2,000 and 4,000 civilians and left 20,000 survivors homeless.
In Nicaragua, the US secretly funded an illegal war against the Sandinista government by funding the Contras, a group of terrorists that targeted civilians for intimidation and death and financed its operations, in part, through drug trafficking.
Listen to the testimony of Nicaraguan Contra leader Edgar Chamorro: During my four years as a contra director, it was premeditated policy to terrorize civilian noncombatants to prevent them from cooperating with the [Sandinista] Government. Hundreds of civilian murders, tortures and rapes were committed in pursuit of this policy, of which the contra leaders and their CIA superiors were well aware.
On April 28, 1987, a 27-year-old American environmental activist named Ben Linder was murdered in a contra ambush while working on a small power dam near San José de Bocay. Two Nicaraguan friends, Sergio Hernandez and Pablo Rosales were also gunned down. Ben was first wounded by a grenade and then shot at pointblank range in the head.
Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young spoke at Bens funeral. This was not an accidental death, Young declared. There were eight other foreign volunteer workers killed before Ben Linder. Approximately 100 medical workers killed. And a Baptist Center burned to the ground. There were more than 300 school teachers that have been killed. Young concluded with this observation: The United States of America cannot consider itself a bastion of freedom and human dignity if it continues to support the likes of these contras
The US mined Nicaraguas harbors in violation of international law and CIA-backed contras staged a destructive attack on the Nicaraguan port city of Corinto. Nicaragua brought these crimes to the attention of the World Court. The court ruled that the US was guilty of illegal terrorist acts and ordered the US to pay $17 billion in damages for lost lives and property. The US responded by declaring that it would not acknowledge the World Court ruling.
In 1985, Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira was killed when terrorists bombed and sank the Rainbow Warrior. The "terrorists" worked for the French government. Credit: © Greenpeace
The US is not the only Western nation that has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism. On July 10, 1985, two French secret agents bombed and sank the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand harbor. The bomb was detonated 30 minutes before midnight with the crew (including several Americans) asleep onboard. Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira died in the attack. When Frances role in the attack was revealed, the government was forced to pay Greenpeace millions in reparations.
France not only harbored these terrorists; it financed, trained and directed them. Would it have helped matters if the US had bombed Paris?
A Foreign Policy Based on Oil
If one were to draw a flow chart tracing terrorist attacks against the US back through every foreign alliance, military mutual aid pact, joint military exercise, bloody political coup, intrigue and tacit alliance, the lines would generally flow back to one common factor: Oil.
Our foreign policy is captive to oil. The Pentagon runs on oil. Our position as a superpower is dependent on oil. Without oil, we have no army. If armies and economies run on oil, whoever controls the oil controls the planet. The US has 200,000 troops permanently stationed in 40 other countries. Many of these deployments are intended to secure access to oil.
Our oil-based foreign policy has required the US to forge alliances with unsavory and repressive petrotyrannies around the world. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a royal family that promotes authoritarian religious practices that share much in common with the religious extremism of the Taliban.
As author Barbara Kingsolver observed: In the Persian Gulf War, we rushed to the aid of Kuwait, a monarchy in which women enjoyed approximately the same rights as a 19th century American slave. The values we fought for and won there are best understood, I think, by oil companies.
Even the support of the US allies in the Middle East, is threatened by US foreign policy. The Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), which pledged to support the US in any anti-terrorist action that enjoys the support of the international community, also has called for an end to terror acts against Palestinians. The council has urged the US not to ignore what is happening to the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government.
In peacetime, the US military consumes more than 37 million tons of oil each year. (The Pentagons nuclear weapons and military space programs consume another 150 million tons.) As the Worldwatch Institute notes, the US military is the largest consumer of oil on Earth and uses enough energy in 12 months to run the entire US urban mass transit system for almost 14 years.
Oil supplies around 34 percent of the worlds energy needs but 79 percent of the Pentagons energy. The Pentagons primary role in the world is not to preserve the peace. As Tom Cutler, the former head of NATOs Petroleum Planning Committee, observed in the Armed Forces Journal International, the militarys primary objective is to ensure adequate oil supplies for the national defense.
In peacetime, the militarys demand on the nations oil might amount to two to three percent of total US consumption. But when war breaks out, the Pentagon can demand nearly one-third of the countrys oil.
It doesnt help matters that the war machine is not energy-efficient. A US aircraft carrier burns 5,628 gallons per hour. At full throttle, an M-1 Abrams tank burns through 252 gallons of fuel per hour. A B-52 bomber swallows 3,612 gallons per hour. An F-15 on afterburners can torch 240 gallons per minute.
Because military ships and planes run on oil, the petroleum industry grows fat on the revenue of conflict. Many members of the Bush administration were drawn from the ranks of the petroleum industry and the military-industrial elite. Dick Cheneys former company, Halliburton, not only builds oil pipelines around the world, it also provides security for 150 far-flung embassies, supplies housekeeping services for Americas armed forces abroad and has recently begun offering teams of privatized soldiers to pump up the ranks of foreign armies.
An Environmental Response to the Roots of Conflict
What if we were to redirect our economy to operate on clean renewable energy -- energy that is available everywhere on Earth and not just beneath the subsoil of despotic Third World governments? We would not only be on the path to mitigating climate change, we would also be on the path to eliminating one of the major causes of terrorism. If towns, factories and homes could be powered by solar and geothermal energy, no one country could dominate the world's energy-based economies.
Americans are being encouraged to buy new automobiles to keep America rolling. But this only encourages further oil-dependence. The best way to fight Osama bin Laden is to boycott oil and drugs. As Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, pointed out in his book, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, Osama bin Laden funds his operations primarily through two sources: the opium trade ($1 billion) and contributions from wealthy patrons in the Arab oil producing states ($400 million).
Cutting off bin Ladens financial supplies will require challenging the Russian Mafia (which controls much of the Afghan opium trade) and bin Ladens wealthy supporters in the Arab oil states that we count among our allies.
A growing number of Americans are beginning to recognize the importance of ending our dependence on Middle East oil. The solutions (energy conservation, more fuel-efficient engines, renewable energy) are available but it is unlikely that the US government (as presently constituted) will ever act on it because oil interests dominate the Bush administration.
Even if Al Gore had been permitted to proceed to the White House, the US still might not have moved to relinquish its oil-based foreign policy. To do so would require the US to give up its position as the world's reigning Superpower. It is our control of oil supplies and the power of our oil-powered military might that largely defines the US as a Superpower.
It is time to move to a world beyond oil, beyond repression and beyond superpowers. And it is time to move beyond a foreign policy based on military force, economic intimidation and political unilateralism.
A New World Is Possible
In the aftermath of the bombings, a father attempted to explain the tragedy to his young daughter. There are monsters in the world that want to devour us, he said. We dont know what to do. His daughter replied, Maybe if we fed the monsters they wouldnt want to eat us.
Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo has joined the call for a New Foreign Policy that addresses the root causes of terrorism. Cuomo has challenged America to fight terrorism by responding to unmet human needs, to counter the quiet tragedies of injustice, poverty, hunger and inadequate healthcare and education that plague our world.
Some economists have predicted the impact of the attacks may signal the beginning of a global recession and the end of globalization. While the part of the global economy represented by travel, finance and consumer goods may be facing collapse, there are other sectors of the world economy that remain intact. The international trade in drugs and arms will survive.
Some sectors of the old global economy stand to benefit from the pursuit of terrorists. The arms industry, the surveillance industry and the personal protection industry all dominated by US companies stand to prosper not only from war but also from the repression and fear that it can unleash.
The vast portion of the global economy controlled by the US may soon be restructured to feed a war-making industry. With the worlds consumer markets in disarray, securing military contracts could be the surest way to guarantee continued financial success.
Two Different Americas: The Choice Is Ours
The unprecedented televised simulcast Tribute to Heroes showed the world that there is another America behind the flag-waving and the bombast -- an America made up of many voices, with faces from many lands. Instead of fostering more anger and hatred, this broadcast showed the world an America understands that loss is universal, not politically exclusive. There was a dignity and honesty to this broadcast that made me proud to live in this country. Bushs speeches fill me with despair. The words of tribute and the songs of loss and reconciliation that I heard that night filled me with hope.
While struggling to protect our freedoms at home, we must also become actively involved in the debate over a New Foreign Policy. We need to campaign to stop the suffering of the innocent civilian population in Iraq. We need to call for the withdrawal of troops from countries where they are no longer welcome. We need to become more involved in finding solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In his Farewell Address, President George Washington warned Americans to avoid overgrown military establishments, which under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty.
We now have a choice. What are we prepared to sacrifice first our foreign policy or our freedoms?
It is our right as Americans, to challenge the White House response and its promise of endless war. A new world is possible, but we will now have to work harder than ever to bring it about.
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