Noam Chomsky: 9‍/‍11, as every­one agrees, was a ter­ri­ble atroc­i­ty, maybe the worst sin­gle ter­ror­ist crime ever. Undoubtedly had major con­se­quences which we are liv­ing with. 

It may be use­ful to car­ry out a thought exper­i­ment and ask how bad it could’ve been. It could’ve been much worse. So for exam­ple, sup­pose that Al-Qaeda had bombed the White House; killed the President; insti­tut­ed a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship which killed thou­sands of peo­ple, tor­tured tens of thou­sands; estab­lished an inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ist cen­ter which began to car­ry out assas­si­na­tions through­out much of the world and to help estab­lish sim­i­lar neo-Nazi-style tor­ture states through­out the world; went on and brought in some econ­o­mists who had free reign to apply eco­nom­ic the­o­ry under the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship and pro­ceed­ed to destroy the econ­o­my, to dri­ve it to its worst the depres­sion for years. 

That would have been worse than 9‍/‍11. A lot worse. And I did­n’t make it up, it hap­pened. In fact it hap­pened on 9‍/‍11. It hap­pened on what Latin Americans call the first 9‍/‍11, September 11th, 1973. It hap­pened in Chile. I described almost exact­ly what hap­pened. Actually if I’d made the com­par­i­son more exact, mov­ing to per capi­ta equiv­a­lents, I would’ve in this thought exper­i­ment spec­u­lat­ed what it would be like if the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship that they’d estab­lished killed 50 to 100 thou­sand peo­ple and tor­tured 700 thou­sand. Other than that the rep­re­sen­ta­tion was essen­tial­ly exact. 

Well that’s not in the his­to­ry of ter­ror. Because it suf­fered from a kind of a flaw. The flaw of wrong agency. We were respon­si­ble. Therefore it’s dis­ap­peared from his­to­ry, to bor­row a Latin American word. Of course it hap­pened, but it’s not an act of ter­ror, and no one talks about how that changed the world, ini­ti­at­ed an age of ter­ror, and so on. It did­n’t quite ini­ti­ate an age of ter­ror, it was in the mid­dle of an age of terror. 

Now that age of ter­ror began in 1962, when John F. Kennedy, President Kennedy, shift­ed the mis­sion of the Latin American mil­i­tary from secu­ri­ty, defense, to inter­nal secu­ri­ty; hemi­spher­ic defense was the pre­vi­ous mis­sion, and changed it inter­nal secu­ri­ty. Hemispheric defense was a holdover from the Second World War. Internal secu­ri­ty is a euphemism. It means war against your own pop­u­la­tion, a ter­ror­ist war against your own pop­u­la­tion. Well-understood in Latin America. 

Shortly after that, the Kennedy admin­is­tra­tion ini­ti­at­ed a mil­i­tary coup in Brazil, over­threw a mild­ly reformist gov­ern­ment, installed…what was called a nation­al secu­ri­ty state, a torture/terror state run by gen­er­als. Brazil’s a big coun­try, that set off a domi­no effect, spread through the hemi­sphere. What hap­pened in Chile, the first 9‍/‍11, was one exam­ple of many oth­ers. In South America the worst atroc­i­ties, the worst of these states, was in Argentina; strong­ly sup­port­ed by the Reagan admin­is­tra­tion up until the Falklands/Malvinas War when they had to shift. 

The plague reached Central America in the 1980s. In 1980, an arch­bish­op was assas­si­nat­ed while read­ing mass. The arch­bish­op was Archbishop Romero, a con­ser­v­a­tive arch­bish­op who’d become con­cerned by the mur­der of his priests who were work­ing in the coun­try­side. He was called the voice for the voice­less.” He sent a let­ter to President Carter plead­ing with him not to send mil­i­tary aid to the mil­i­tary jun­ta which the arch­bish­op said is just going to be used to repress the peo­ple who are strug­gling to obtain their min­i­mal human rights.

The aid was sent. A cou­ple of days lat­er the arch­bish­op was assas­si­nat­ed. That set off…that in fact esca­lat­ed a ter­ror­ist war in El Salvador the next decade. Killed about 70,000 peo­ple, most­ly by essen­tial­ly the same hands. That war came to an end a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The last major event was atroc­i­ties car­ried out an elite Salvadoran unit which already had a ter­ri­ble trail of blood on its hands, Atlacatl Brigade. 

Now they had just come from the John F. Kennedy spe­cial war­fare train­ing school in North Carolina; upgrad­ed their skills; returned to El Salvador; received orders from the gov­ern­ment, the top gov­ern­ment offi­cials, which were in close con­tact with the American embassy. The orders were to break into the Jesuit uni­ver­si­ty and mur­der the rec­tor and five oth­er lead­ing Latin American intellectuals—Jesuit priests. The orders also were not to leave any wit­ness­es, so they killed the house­keep­er and her daugh­ter. That essen­tial­ly cul­mi­nat­ed the decade of hor­rors that began with the assas­si­na­tion of the arch­bish­op. The 70,000 peo­ple killed by the Reagan-run War of Terror was small. About twice that many were killed in the rest of Latin America dur­ing the same years. 

This goes back to 1962. 1962 was an impor­tant year, which played a major role in this. In 1962 the Vatican under Pope John XXIII had tried to ini­ti­ate a real­ly his­toric change in the nature of the Catholic Church. He tried to restore the gospels. The gospels had been pret­ty much sup­pressed since the 4th cen­tu­ry, when the Roman Emperor Constantine took over Christianity, made it the offi­cial reli­gion of the empire, and essen­tial­ly changed the church from the church of the per­se­cut­ed to the church of the per­se­cu­tors. And that’s pret­ty much the way it remained until Vatican II, Pope John XXIII urged the bish­ops to return to the gospels. 

In Latin America they took it seri­ous­ly. The Latin American bish­ops adopt­ed what they called the pref­er­en­tial option for the poor.” They took the priests, nuns, lay per­sons, took the mes­sage of the gospels—which is rad­i­cal paci­fist, that’s why Christians were per­se­cut­ed so harshly—took it to the peas­ants, the campesinos, and orga­nized peo­ple in base com­mu­ni­ties where they read the gospels, they con­sid­ered the lessons, they thought about ways to try to orga­nize them­selves to con­front some­how the mis­er­able char­ac­ter of life in US-run domains. 

That was a heresy which was quite unac­cept­able. The reac­tion came very very fast. I’ve men­tioned a few parts of it, there were more. Kennedy also sent a spe­cial war­fare coun­terin­sur­gency train­ing group to Colombia, which was a scene of ter­ri­ble atroc­i­ties already. This was head­ed by a gen­er­al, General Yarborough, and he advised the Colombian mil­i­tary on how they should deal with inter­nal secu­ri­ty, the issue at the time. He advised…his phrase was I think sab­o­tage, para­mil­i­tary, and/or ter­ror­ist mea­sures against known com­mu­nist pro­po­nents.” The phrase com­mu­nist pro­po­nents” I mean, is very broad. It means priests orga­niz­ing, peas­ants, human rights work­ers, labor activists, others. 

And that was car­ried out. Colombia in sub­se­quent years had…in the 1990s the worst human rights record any­where, where the US-backed gov­ern­ments in Central America— Before that it had been the US-backed dic­ta­tor­ships: Brazil, Argentina. But after 1990 Colombia had the worst human rights record in the hemi­sphere, by quite a lot in fact. And it was also the lead­ing recip­i­ent of US mil­i­tary aid. That’s a cor­re­la­tion that goes along pret­ty con­stant­ly. These are essen­tial­ly ter­ror­ist acts against civil­ians. It’s a hor­ri­ble sto­ry right up to the present. 

In the mid­dle of all of this, Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981. He declared a war on ter­ror. He said the War on Terror was going to be the major focus of the admin­is­tra­tion. It was a war against what they called the plague of inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism, a return to bar­barism in our time…you know, on and on like this. He was not refer­ring to the US-run plague of ter­ror­ism that had been dev­as­tat­ing Latin America and was now turn­ing to Central America. He cer­tain­ly was­n’t refer­ring to that. He was refer­ring to alleged Russian-sponsored state ter­ror­ism in Latin America. The Russians have their own crimes, but noth­ing like this inci­den­tal­ly dur­ing this peri­od. And cer­tain­ly not in Latin America.

The Reagan war, on ter­ror, imme­di­ate­ly turned into a major ter­ror­ist war. I men­tioned El Salvador, it was much worse in Guatemala. Congress imposed cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions on direct­ly fund­ing the ter­ror­ism in Guatemala, so Reagan had to turn to client states—Israel, Taiwan, I think Britain prob­a­bly con­tributed. They car­ried out the worst ter­ror­ism of the peri­od. Maybe 100 thou­sand peo­ple slaugh­tered in Guatemala. There was also a war against Nicaragua, a ter­ror­ist war that was run from Honduras. That was the main base for the ter­ror­ist war against Nicaragua. The ambas­sador to Honduras, John Negroponte, was kind of a pro­con­sul, and one of his main activ­i­ties was run­ning the ter­ror­ist camps and attack­ing Nicaragua. He also had to pro­vide reg­u­lar reports to Washington on the human rights sit­u­a­tion in Honduras, where plen­ty of state ter­ror was going on too, not at the lev­el of the oth­er coun­tries. He had to deny it and say every­thing’s fine, every­thing’s improv­ing, so that mil­i­tary aid could con­tin­ue. That was John Negroponte, one of the major ter­ror­ists of the 1980s, inter­na­tion­al terrorists. 

Not unin­ter­est­ing­ly, after what we call 9‍/‍11—the sec­ond one—after 9‍/‍11 he was appoint­ed counterter­ror­ism czar. Makes sense. He had a lot of expe­ri­ence with ter­ror. And in fact, ter­ror­ism and coun­tert­er­ror­ism are approx­i­mate­ly the same thing. If you look at the def­i­n­i­tions of ter­ror­ism in the offi­cial US Code and in British law (they’re pret­ty much the same) and the def­i­n­i­tion of counterterrorism…turns out they’re almost iden­ti­cal. The coun­tert­er­ror­ism is some­times called low-intensity war or some oth­er name. But the def­i­n­i­tions are about the same. The def­i­n­i­tion’s rough­ly cal­cu­lat­ed use of vio­lence or threat of vio­lence with the inten­tion of coerc­ing gov­ern­ments or intim­i­dat­ing pop­u­la­tions for polit­i­cal, reli­gious, or ide­o­log­i­cal ends. That’s ter­ror­ism, offi­cial­ly; counterterrorism’s…pretty much the same.

And start­ing in 1981, when Reagan announced the War on Terror… Actually a lit­tle before that, but around then, I start­ed writ­ing on ter­ror­ism. A cou­ple of books, a lot of arti­cles. What I wrote is con­sid­ered total anath­e­ma, out­ra­geous in fact. The rea­son is it uses the offi­cial def­i­n­i­tions. And you can’t use the offi­cial def­i­n­i­tions. Because if you use the offi­cial def­i­n­i­tions, it fol­lows…auto­mat­i­cal­ly, that the US is one of the lead­ing ter­ror­ist states, Britain’s a lead­ing ter­ror­ist state. Those are just the wrong con­clu­sions. So there­fore the def­i­n­i­tions can’t be used. And in fact through the 1980s there was a major indus­try devel­oped, an aca­d­e­m­ic indus­try, aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ences, UN con­fer­ences and so on, try­ing to define ter­ror. And the con­clu­sion is it’s a real­ly hard term to define, you know. It’s very dif­fi­cult, we have to put a lot of effort into it. 

And that’s true. It’s very hard to craft a def­i­n­i­tion of ter­ror in which it has exact­ly the right con­se­quences. Namely the ter­ror that they car­ry out against us is ter­ror, the plague of the mod­ern age. The ter­ror that we car­ry out against them either does­n’t exist, or is self-defense—justified self defense, or maybe is unavoid­able. You know, inad­ver­tent ter­ror at worst. And to craft a def­i­n­i­tion that’ll have those prop­er­ties is quite dif­fi­cult. Like try­ing to craft a def­i­n­i­tion of major atroc­i­ty which will take our 9‍/‍11, what we call 9‍/‍11, to be one of the major atroc­i­ties of the mod­ern age but to take the first 9‍/‍11, which was much worse and had much worse inter­na­tion­al effects, to have that be just some sort of strange event that hap­pened in some remote coun­try, we’re not much con­cerned with it.

The War on Terror in the 1980s, Reagan’s war on ter­ror, was not con­fined to Central America. It was focused on Central— I should men­tion inci­den­tal­ly with regard to the ter­ror­ist war against Nicaragua, that was actu­al­ly brought to the World Court. Nicaragua brought a case to the World Court accus­ing the US of car­ry­ing out crimes. The Nicaraguan case was pre­sent­ed by a well-known inter­na­tion­al lawyer, Abe Chayes, Harvard pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al law. Had expe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment ser­vice here. 

The court threw out most of his case on inter­est­ing grounds. When the United States agreed to juris­dic­tion of the World Court in 1946, when it was found­ed, it added a reser­va­tion. The reser­va­tion was that the United States can­not be sub­ject to any court adju­di­ca­tion on any­thing involv­ing an inter­na­tion­al treaty. In oth­er words the United States is free to vio­late all inter­na­tion­al treaties. That means the UN Charter, the Charter of the Organization of American States. Later that was extend­ed to the Genocide Convention; the US signed it with the same reser­va­tion. That came to the court, and the court agreed that the US could not be charged on geno­cide. It has the right to com­mit geno­cide by self-definition. 

And in the case of Nicaragua, any charge relat­ed to aggres­sion, the pri­ma­ry inter­na­tion­al crime under the UN Charter, the OAS Charter, every such charge had to be elim­i­nat­ed. The rules of the court are that a state is sub­ject to its juris­dic­tion only if the state accepts the juris­dic­tion. And the US had already ruled out any charge for vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al treaties. The court was restrict­ed to a bilat­er­al treaty between the US and Nicaragua. And it claimed the US had vio­lat­ed the treaty. And it con­demned the United States for what it called unlaw­ful use of force, the judi­cial term for inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism. Ordered the US to pay bil­lions of dol­lars of repa­ra­tions and to desist from the crimes. 

Congress react­ed; a bipar­ti­san Congress—actually Democrat-controlled at the time. Congress react­ed by increas­ing the aid to the ter­ror­ist forces attack­ing Nicaragua. The press react­ed by con­demn­ing the court as a hos­tile forum, hence irrel­e­vant (a New York Times edi­to­r­i­al). It was a hos­tile forum because it con­demned the United States, so obvi­ous­ly it’s a hos­tile forum there­fore irrelevant. 

Nicaragua brought a res­o­lu­tion to the Security Council call­ing on all states to observe inter­na­tion­al law. Didn’t specif­i­cal­ly men­tion the US but every­one under­stood. The US vetoed the res­o­lu­tion. Britain and France polite­ly abstained. A sec­ond res­o­lu­tion had the same result. Everything I’ve just said is also dis­ap­peared from his­to­ry. Try to find it— I mean it’s there. But you to have to…carry out a research project. You don’t learn it in school, you don’t study it in col­lege, it’s not part of the inter­na­tion­al rela­tions lit­er­a­ture. It’s dis­ap­peared. Wrong agency again. 

Although the pri­ma­ry ter­ror­ist war of the 80s was against Central America, South America had been the ear­li­er years, it was also else­where as well. So, the Reagan admin­is­tra­tion strong­ly sup­port­ed the white nation­al­ist regime in South Africa. That was pret­ty tricky at the time because in 1977 the United Nations had already declared an arms embar­go on South Africa. By the 1980s, cor­po­ra­tions were pulling out; they did­n’t want to be involved in Apartheid. Congress was pass­ing sanc­tions. Which the Reagan admin­is­tra­tion had to evade in order to increase trade with South Africa as it did, and to increase sup­port for them, while South Africa was carrying—quite apart from what was hap­pen­ing within—South Africa was car­ry­ing out depre­da­tions in the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, Angola and Mozambique, which accord­ing to a lat­er UN study killed a mil­lion and a half peo­ple and caused $60 bil­lion worth of dam­age. That was with the back­ing of the United States—also England indi­rect­ly back­ing the regime. Went right through the 80s. 

And this had to be done because under the War on Terror, the Pentagon in 1988 con­demned Mandela’s African National Congress as, in their words, one of the more noto­ri­ous ter­ror­ist groups in the world.” So there­fore in defense against ter­ror it was nec­es­sary to car­ry out these actions. Actually Mandela just was tak­en off the offi­cial ter­ror­ist list about two years ago. He can now come to the United States with­out spe­cial dispensation. 

That was Southern Africa. The same was hap­pen­ing in the Middle East. There was a lot of con­cern about ter­ror­ism in the Middle East in the 1980s. In fact in the year 1985, Middle East ter­ror­ism was select­ed by edi­tors of major jour­nals as the most impor­tant sto­ry of the year, major year for ter­ror­ism. And it was a major year for ter­ror­ism, 1985. The worst act of ter­ror, sin­gle act of ter­ror in 1985 was in Lebanon. It was a truck bomb, major truck bomb, placed out­side a mosque. It was aimed at a Lebanese sheikh, Sheikh Fadlallah. He kind of a qui­etist priest in the Sistani tra­di­tion, the lead­ing Shia cler­ic clerk. It missed him. But it did man­age to kill eighty peo­ple leav­ing the mosque, most­ly women and girls; injured a cou­ple hun­dred; major bomb. That’s out of his­to­ry too, because it was car­ried out by the CIA, with the coop­er­a­tion of British intel­li­gence and Saudi intel­li­gence. So that act of ter­ror does­n’t count. It did­n’t exist. 

The oth­er major acts of ter­ror in that year were an attack on Tunis by the Israeli Air Force. They bombed Tunis with the aid of the United States. The US pulled the Sixth Fleet out so that it would­n’t warn Tunisia, tech­ni­cal­ly an ally, that the bombers were com­ing. Of course it’s US planes, US muni­tions, and so on. The bomb­ing in Tunis, which killed about seventy-five people—smart bombs tore them to shreds and so on—mostly Tunisians, that was in prin­ci­ple retal­i­a­tion against an act in Cypress in which three Israelis were killed. Tunisia had absolute­ly noth­ing to do with the act. That was under­stood. In fact it was attrib­uted to ter­ror­ist groups in Syria. But Syria’s hard to attack. You get into trou­ble that way. And a well-known prin­ci­ple of inter­na­tion­al affairs is you don’t do any­thing that’s going to be harm­ful to your­self, you go after soft, easy tar­gets. And Tunis was unde­fend­ed so you could attack Tunis. Libya was a favorite punch­ing bag any­way, so you could attack them and kill seventy-five people. 

The attack in Cypress— Going back a step. There was a ter­ror­ist attack in Cypress traced back to a branch of a Palestinian orga­ni­za­tion housed in Syria. That was retal­i­a­tion as well. It was retal­i­a­tion for Israeli reg­u­lar acts of hijack­ing ships in inter­na­tion­al waters going between Cypress and Lebanon, kid­nap­ping pas­sen­gers, some­times killing them, tak­ing them back to Israel. Many of them pret­ty much dis­ap­peared into the Israeli prison sys­tem with­out charges. Some were held pub­licly as hostages for a long peri­od, oth­ers were kid­napped from Lebanon for the same rea­sons. That’s not ter­ror­ism either. Again, the same rea­son: car­ried out by a US client, can’t be terrorism. 

About a year ago I guess, the Israeli navy hijacked a ship again in the high seas in the Mediterranean. The Mavi Marmara, Turkish-flagged ves­sel which was aim­ing to break siege around Gaza—also illegal—but an Israeli navy hijacked it and sent com­man­dos on board, killed nine peo­ple includ­ing an American cit­i­zen. And there was quite a lot of out­rage about that. Now, Israel was kin­da sur­prised at the out­rage, and pret­ty upset by it. They regard­ed it as a defen­sive action. And in a sense they were jus­ti­fied since this had been going on for decades. Why the out­rage all of a sudden? 

Well, that’s— This is just skim­ming the sur­face. These are the ter­ror­ist acts that were going on dur­ing the War on Terror, the worst of them. This con­tin­ued through the 1990s. During the 1990s some of the worst atroc­i­ties going on were in Colombia. The ones…results of the out­come of what I described before. But prob­a­bly the worst ones were in Turkey. In south­east­ern Turkey the army was car­ry­ing out a coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tion against Kurds which killed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, accord­ing to the Turkish gov­ern­ment destroyed about thirty-five hun­dred towns and vil­lages, and destroyed forests. Every pos­si­ble kind of bar­bar­ic tor­ture you can think of. 

They were able to do it because they were being strong­ly sup­port­ed by NATO, in par­tic­u­lar by the United States. About 80% of their arms were com­ing from the United States. The peak year of arms trans­fers from the United States was 1997. That was also the peak year of the Turkish state ter­ror. In fact in that year Clinton sent more arms to Turkey than in the entire Cold War peri­od com­bined, up till the onset of the coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign. Well, this had to be dis­ap­peared too. 1997 hap­pened to be the year in which lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als were writ­ing in the major news­pa­pers about how US for­eign pol­i­cy had entered into a noble phase with a saint­ly glow…so obvi­ous­ly this could­n’t have happened. 

That was all part of the build-up— This was part of an inter­est­ing peri­od of intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry that fol­lowed the end of the Cold War. Up until the Cold War end­ed there was always a pre­text for any atroc­i­ty car­ried out, what­ev­er it may be—the Russians are com­ing. It did­n’t mat­ter how exot­ic the claim was. You could also always make up some sto­ry. Okay, 1989 that end­ed. Which left a prob­lem: how do we con­tin­ue to car­ry out the same poli­cies when the pre­text is gone? 

Well that was han­dled pret­ty eas­i­ly, in an inter­est­ing way. This was the first Bush admin­is­tra­tion, Bush num­ber one. As soon as the Berlin Wall fell, the Bush admin­is­tra­tion came out with a nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy and a new bud­get to declare what would hap­pen after the end of the Cold War. And it’s inter­est­ing read­ing. It’s such inter­est­ing read­ing that it’s essen­tial­ly nev­er dis­cussed. It’s the first thing one would look at if one want­ed to learn what the Cold War was about. You know, what are the poli­cies when it end­ed? Well, very specif­i­cal­ly, the strat­e­gy and the bud­get say that the essen­tial­ly noth­ing will change. That we’ll con­tin­ue doing the same things but we’ll have new pretexts. 

So the huge mil­i­tary sys­tem has to be main­tained. Not to defend our­selves from the Russian hordes that’re not there, but because of what they called the tech­no­log­i­cal sophis­ti­ca­tion of Third World coun­tries.” You’re sup­posed to read that and not laugh. If you’re…well edu­cat­ed, so nobody laughed. So we have to have this huge sys­tem to defend our­selves from the tech­no­log­i­cal sophis­ti­ca­tion of Third World coun­tries. We have to main­tain what they called the Defense Industrial Base. That’s a euphemism for high-technology indus­try. We claim to have a free mar­ket econ­o­my but in fact the high-tech indus­try is based very heav­i­ly on state spend­ing and ini­tia­tive and devel­op­ment, a lot of it through the Pentagon. So we’ve got­ta keep that going. 

And it added an inter­est­ing com­ment about the Middle East. It said we have to main­tain inter­ven­tion forces direct­ed against the Middle East. And then came this inter­est­ing phrase where the seri­ous threats to our inter­ests could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door.” So in oth­er words we’ve been lying to you for fifty years. But that game is over. So now we have to tell the truth. It’s aimed at what they call rad­i­cal nation­al­ism, mean­ing inde­pen­dent nationalism—that’s a crime every­where. So the clouds lift­ed, but it real­ly did­n’t make any dif­fer­ence because no one paid any atten­tion anyway. 

The same thing hap­pened with NATO. NATO was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly sup­posed to defend Western Europe from the Russians. Okay 1989…no Russians. What do you do with NATO? Well if you believed the pro­pa­gan­da you’d say okay, dis­solve NATO. But that won’t do. NATO’s need­ed pri­mar­i­ly to con­trol Europe. That’s one of its major pur­pos­es. So NATO was not dis­solved, it was expand­ed. Actually it was expand­ed in vio­la­tion to pledges to Gorbachev. Gorbachev agreed to the uni­fi­ca­tion of Germany, which is quite a step if you look at his­to­ry. But in return, NATO was sup­posed to be… The President and Secretary of State James Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not extend one inch to the east” (was the phrase that was used) so Gorbachev did­n’t have to worry. 

That was a ver­bal promise. They were very care­ful not to put it on paper. It was instant­ly vio­lat­ed. They instant­ly moved NATO to East Germany, then beyond. Gorbachev was pret­ty upset. But Bush and Baker point­ed out to him that there was noth­ing on paper…you know…if he’s naïve enough to believe ver­bal promis­es amongst agree­ments from the United States, that’s his prob­lem. So NATO expand­ed to the east. More under Clinton. By now it’s a glob­al inter­ven­tion force. It’s offi­cial mis­sion now is to con­trol the glob­al ener­gy infra­struc­ture sys­tem. That means con­trol the world, basi­cal­ly. It also con­trols Europe. Europe’s part of NATO under US com­mand. There’s always been a con­cern since 1945 that Europe might strike an inde­pen­dent course, so…has to be controlled. 

Well that’s the worst ter­ror­ism in the 1990s. It could­n’t be han­dled, plain­ly. Notice that this is ter­ror­ism with­in NATO. And the sto­ry at the time was we have to be appalled by atroc­i­ties in the Balkans, and how can European human­ists accept the atroc­i­ties so near Europe? You know, impos­si­ble. Gotta do some­thing about. Atrocities with­in NATO, that we’re imple­ment­ing, that’s fine. They don’t exist. 

Well going back to 1989 on the pre­text prob­lem, you could­n’t car­ry out atroc­i­ties, inter­ven­tion and so on, because of the Russians. So we need­ed some­thing new. And the intel­lec­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty rose to the occa­sion. It imme­di­ate­ly devel­oped the notion of human­i­tar­i­an inter­ven­tion.” From now on we’re ded­i­cat­ed to human­i­tar­i­an inter­ven­tion. Highly selec­tive, so not in Turkey where we’re car­ry­ing out major atroc­i­ties, but in Bosnia where we can blame it on some­body else. That’s because we’re so noble, so we car­ry out human­i­tar­i­an intervention. 

Now, that did­n’t sell so well either. The Third World, which has rather some sophis­ti­ca­tion on this mat­ter— The South it’s now called, not the Third World—the South bit­ter­ly con­demned the notion of human­i­tar­i­an inter­ven­tion. It con­demned offi­cial­ly what it called the so-called right of human­i­tar­i­an inter­ven­tion, which is just a thin cov­er for tra­di­tion­al impe­ri­al­ism. That was in response to the NATO bomb­ing of Serbia, incidentally.

So that did­n’t work, you need some new notion. And a new notion came along. It’s called respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect.” So that’s our mis­sion now. We’re so noble we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect. And that has had an inter­est­ing history—I’ll end with that. Now, there are two ver­sions of it. There’s one ver­sion passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005. And it’s…actually it does­n’t real­ly add any­thing new to ear­li­er res­o­lu­tions, it just kin­da empha­sizes them. It says that states have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect their own cit­i­zens, and if there’s a major atroc­i­ty some­where the Security Council can act under Chapter 7. (So autho­rizes force.) The Security Council can act on deci­sion of the Security Council to inter­vene to do some­thing about the atroc­i­ties. That essen­tial­ly reit­er­ates ear­li­er res­o­lu­tions, but some­what more strongly. 

Well that’s the offi­cial ver­sion of respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect. But it’s not the one used by the West. There’s anoth­er ver­sion which came out in a dec­la­ra­tion by a spe­cial com­mis­sion head­ed by Gareth Evans, also a for­mer Australian Prime Minister. And this is pret­ty much the same with one excep­tion. It says…something like this, it says in a case of where the Security Council can­not agree on force­ful inter­ven­tion, states can act with­in their own region­al sys­tem to using force to block atroc­i­ties. Well there’s only one region­al sys­tem where that can be done: NATO. In a world ruled by force, nobody else can do it. NATO can do it if the mas­ter, the United States, says it’s okay. So the Evans pro­pos­al says let’s go on as before. The US and its allies will inter­vene when they feel like it. If the Security Council does­n’t like it, they can get lost. As they have in the past. And we’ll do what we like. Now that’s the ver­sion that’s actu­al­ly appealed to. And then when any­one rais­es a ques­tion they’ll say Well the UN passed it, after all.” Yeah, they passed a dif­fer­ent res­o­lu­tion, the one which specif­i­cal­ly excludes this. And the South went on to con­demn this one, but that does­n’t matter. 

Well, there’s more to say about that, but I won’t go on. Anyway that’s the basic sto­ry about ter­ror­ism. There’s plen­ty of ter­ror­ism going on, it’s pret­ty awful. And the kind that we con­demn is also pret­ty awful. But a lot of it is kind of a foot­note. If we were will­ing to face real­i­ty hon­est­ly, we’d look in the mir­ror and we’d say we have a sig­nif­i­cant respon­si­bil­i­ty for a good bit of the ter­ror going on in the world. 

Actually maybe to make a remark about the back­ground to 9‍/‍11. George W. Bush, sec­ond Bush, was then pres­i­dent. He famous­ly made a speech in which he kin­da plain­tive­ly declared that they attacked us because they hate our free­dom. Shortly after that the Pentagon, which has a research unit called the Defense Study Board, they did a study of this and they con­clud­ed that no it’s not because they hate our free­dom, it’s because they hate our poli­cies. That’s why they car­ried it out. 

Well, there’s noth­ing new about that. That goes way back. And it’s rel­e­vant to things hap­pen­ing in the Middle East today. Back in the 1950s, President Eisenhower was con­cerned about what he called a cam­paign of hatred against us” in the Arab world. Not among the gov­ern­ments, who were more or less okay, but among the peo­ple. And this was secret then, it’s been declas­si­fied since. The National Security Council, a major plan­ning agency, issued a mem­o­ran­dum on this issue. It stat­ed that there’s a per­cep­tion in the Arab world that the United States sup­ports harsh and bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ships and that the US blocks democ­ra­cy and devel­op­ment, and we do it because we want to con­trol their resources. And it went on to say that the per­cep­tion is more or less accu­rate. And fur­ther­more that’s what we ought to be doing. As long as the pop­u­la­tion’s qui­et, it does­n’t mat­ter. The dic­ta­tors sup­port us, so every­thing’s fine. 

Now that’s 1958. 2001, the Defense Science Board essen­tial­ly came up with the same con­clu­sion. The same con­clu­sion holds today. It was strik­ing­ly illus­trat­ed in the WikiLeaks rev­e­la­tions. The ones that got the most publicity—big head­lines, euphor­ic commentary—were the rev­e­la­tions and cables that the Arabs sup­port US pol­i­cy towards Iran. That’s real­ly impor­tant. One slight flaw in those reports: they were refer­ring to the Arab dic­ta­tors. They alleged­ly sup­port our poli­cies towards Iran. What about the Arab pop­u­la­tion? Well, we know their feel­ings. There are major polls tak­en by the lead­ing US polling agen­cies, released by pres­ti­gious insti­tu­tions, Brooking insti­tu­tions. Not report­ed in the United States, inci­den­tal­ly. As far as I know one report in England, Jonathan Steele, had an arti­cle in The Guardian about it. I think that’s the only one. They’re inter­est­ing. They say that there are indeed Arabs who sup­port US poli­cies on Iran. About 10% think that Iran is a threat. Overwhelmingly they regard the United States and Israel as the major threats. In Egypt, 90% regard the United States as the major threat. In fact oppo­si­tion to US poli­cies is so strong that a major­i­ty say the region would be bet­ter off if Iran had nuclear weapons. Almost 80% in Egypt and a high per­cent­age in the rest of the region. 

Well that won’t do. Again for the usu­al rea­sons. So there­fore this is almost total­ly sup­pressed, as far as I know. Steele’s is the only report in the English-speaking world, out­side of crit­i­cal… You know, I write about it, oth­er peo­ple on the mar­gins write about it, but the reac­tions reveal once again the sim­ply extreme con­tempt for democ­ra­cy. As long as the dic­ta­tors back us, it does­n’t mat­ter what the pop­u­la­tion thinks. If there’s a cam­paign of hatred against us among the pop­u­la­tion and the dic­ta­tors are in con­trol, every­thing’s fine. Euphoric headlines. 

That was 1958, 2001, today. It’s stan­dard. In the case of Britain it goes back much ear­li­er, it goes back you know, a cen­tu­ry and a half, two cen­turies. The US, it’s stan­dard since the US replaced Britain as glob­al hege­mon. And France is the same if not worse. In fact every great pow­er acts pret­ty much the same way. Well you know, these are things in the back­ground of ter­ror­ism. You have to pay atten­tion to them. 

We also know pret­ty well how to deal with ter­ror­ism. In fact Britain led the way in this case. In Northern Ireland, ter­ror­ism was pret­ty seri­ous. The IRA ter­ror. The British ter­ror was even worse of course, but that’s the usu­al bal­ance of forces. But IRA ter­ror was not a joke. As long as Britain react­ed to it with greater ter­ror, the cycle of ter­ror­ism increased. And final­ly, in the 90s, Britain final­ly respond­ed, with US pres­sure in this case, in a sen­si­ble way. They tried to pay atten­tion to the griev­ances that lay behind the ter­ror. There were griev­ances, real ones. So Britain start­ed to pay atten­tion to the griev­ances, ter­ror reduced, peo­ple who’d been involved—an IRA hitman—were brought into the nego­ti­a­tions. Some of them now end­ed up in the gov­ern­ment. It’s not utopia but it’s a big dif­fer­ence from what it was before. 

I was actu­al­ly in Belfast in 1993 and it was like a war zone. I was back last year and it’s peace­ful. You know. There’s ten­sions, but the kin­da ten­sions that exist in every city. I could­n’t see them but peo­ple told me you know, This is a Protestant neigh­bor­hood and if you’re Catholic you don’t go into it,” and that sort of thing. But it cer­tain­ly was­n’t what it was in 1993. Okay, that’s the way to deal with ter­ror. Take a look at its caus­es and its sources. If you want to reduce it. But states do not con­sid­er ter­ror a major prob­lem. It’s true of Britain and the United States, for exam­ple. This came out in the Chilcot hear­ings, clear­ly. The head of British intel­li­gence tes­ti­fied that when the US and Britain invad­ed Iraq, they both antic­i­pat­ed that it would increase ter­ror. Actually it did. A lot more than any­one expect­ed. It increased it by about a fac­tor of sev­en. But they both antic­i­pat­ed it was going to increase ter­ror, but there are…other pur­pos­es, there are high­er pri­or­i­ties than pro­tect­ing the domes­tic pop­u­la­tions. So they went to war. And that’s not unusu­al. If there were time I’d go over many more examples. 

Anyhow, I think these are some of the things that should be kept in mind in think­ing about the return to bar­barism in our time, you know, the plague of ter­ror­ism in our age and so on.


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