Two years after the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, it has now been acknowledged even by US congressmen that president George Bush and his advisors had foreknowledge of the impending attacks but did nothing to prevent them. Even when it became known that passenger planes had been hijacked...
Two years after the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, it has now been acknowledged even by US congressmen that president George Bush and his advisors had foreknowledge of the impending attacks but did nothing to prevent them. Even when it became known that passenger planes had been hijacked, the US air force was ordered to stand down, and prevented from shooting them down. Why the Bush team chose to let the attacks take place is the subject of much debate, but one thing has become clear: the events of September 11, 2001, have been used to advance America’s agenda abroad, and to curtail civil liberties drastically at home.
Immediately after the attacks the most obvious questions ("why did it happen, and who did it?") were turned into "why do they hate us so much?" Bush made the ridiculous assertion that the attackers were "jealous of America’s freedom and democracy." He then proceeded to deliver American-style democracy to Afghanistan, the country that had harboured Usama bin Ladin, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, by means of cruise missiles and bombs. No proof of Usama’s guilt was provided; none was deemed necessary, American assertions being presented as self-evident truths. The Taliban were driven out and a gang of rapists and murderers, the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, were installed in Kabul.
True, the Taliban had a narrow, simplistic view of Islam; they curtailed people’s freedoms and insisted that men must have long beards while women must be covered from head to foot in burqa. The Afghans now face mayhem and bloodshed; women live in fear of rape by warlords, something unheard of even during the worst days of the Taliban. The Americans, too, have made life miserable for ordinary Afghans by barging into their homes and violating local norms in search of Taliban or al-Qa’ida members and sympathizers. Hundreds of people have been murdered in such raids.
Long before the US attacked Afghanistan senior members of the Bush team (defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for instance) were urging an attack on Iraq. Minutes of a meeting held in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, show that Rumsfeld wanted any excuse, however flimsy, to attack Iraq. It was secretary of state Colin Powell who counselled restraint, saying that the American people would not accept it because no link had been established between the attackers and the Iraqi regime. It became clear that many Americans, including relatives of victims in the WTC and Pentagon, were opposed to attacking Afghanistan. They made it clear that more blood should not be spilled in their name. These people understood what would happen if Afghanistan were attacked. They argued that since no Afghan was involved in the hijacks, it was not justice to bomb them.
But Bush and his team were bent on revenge; they had to attack someone to project their macho image and to divert attention from Bush’s dubious victory in the presidential elections. War, especially waged against someone who is weak, is a useful tool to arouse jingoism. The Pentagon had already drawn up plans for waging two wars simultaneously, before September 11. At that time, the two theatres under consideration were Iraq and North Korea; Afghanistan under the Taliban was not yet on the list of possible targets, because American oil companies were still negotiating a possible pipeline deal. It was only in July 2001 that Afghanistan came into the Americans’ cross-hairs. By then, the Houston-based UNOCOL had given up hope of constructing an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and beyond.
In the same month a meeting of the "six-plus-two" countries (Afghanistan’s six neighbours and the US and Russia) was held in Bonn about the future of Afghanistan. Both Russian and American representatives urged the overthrow of the Taliban. Two things in particular were striking about the Bonn meeting: first, Pakistan, hitherto considered a patron of the Taliban, concurred with the US-Russian proposal; second, Abdullah Abdullah, currently Afghanistan’s foreign minister, was invited to attend the meeting as an observer. There were no Taliban representatives. Not surprisingly, Taliban spokesmen in the Pakistani city of Peshawar revealed in July 2001 (long before the September 11 attacks) that the US planned to attack Afghanistan by October. Their fears were realized on October 7, when cruise missiles began to rain down on Afghan villages and towns.
Bush justified his war of aggression by claiming that, because Usama had masterminded the September 2001 attacks and the Taliban were refusing to hand him over, the US had no choice but to attack. Therein lies the reason why people around the world hate America so much: not because of America’s freedom or democracy, but because of its arrogance and aggression.
The list of America’s misdemeanours is long. From underwriting the crimes of Israel to perpetrating crimes directly, the list is long. Last month was the fiftieth anniversary of the overthrow of Dr Mohammed Mussadeq’s government in Iran by a CIA-engineered coup. In 1984 the US mined Nicaragua’s harbours and financed a campaign of attacks on targets such as schools, clinics and farms, killing tens of thousands of ordinary people. The country was also subjected to economic sabotage.
Nicaragua took its case to the international court of justice at the Hague. Two years later the court found the US guilty of international terrorism and ordered it to desist and pay reparations. Washington simply dismissed the court’s jurisdiction. Nicaragua did not launch a bombing campaign against Washington or New York; instead it took the matter to the UN Security Council, where the US vetoed the resolution. Nicaragua then took the matter to the General Assembly, where there is no veto; for two years in a row the Assembly condemned the US by an overwhelming majority. The only dissenting votes were those of the US and Israel, joined once by El Salvador.
In 1966 the CIA backed major general Suharto against Ahmed Sukarno’s government, claiming that a communist insurgency was about to overrun the country. At least half a million peasants (possibly as many as a million) were massacred by the US-backed Indonesian army, and general Suharto was installed as dictator. He served as America’s agent, plundering the country’s resources for more than 32 years, bringing it to the verge of bankruptcy before he was forced to resign by a mass uprising.
The CIA tried to assassinate Shaikh Seyyed Muhammad Hussain Fadhlallah. On Friday May 12, 1985, a powerful bomb exploded outside a crowded mosque in Beirut, killing 92 and injuring more than 200. The bomb was meant for Shaikh Fadhlallah, who escaped injury because he had left the mosque a few minutes early to attend to some urgent business. The CIA never denied its involvement in this crime, perpetrated in conjunction with the Saudis.
The list of American crimes is very long, but one more episode will expose its hollow excuses for attacking others. On August 20, 1998, several score cruise missiles were fired at the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Al-Shifa produced almost all of Sudan’s anti-malaria and anti-TB tablets. Only one person was killed directly in the strike itself; the more serious effect of the destruction was that, within a year, tens of thousands of people had perished for lack of medicine. Washington also exerted pressure on other countries to block imports of ingredients for Sudan to manufacture the desperately needed medicines. The US then proceeded to freeze the American bank-accounts of Dr Idrees Eltayeb, the Sudanese owner of the factory, who was accused of being a front for Usama bin Laden. Dr Eltayeb filed a case in a US court; on the day of the hearing in May 2000 the US government quietly unfroze his accounts. The US not only blocked a UN inquiry into the destruction of the factory but has also refused to pay any compensation for damages.
So when Americans wonder why other people hate them, perhaps they should try walking around in others’ shoes for a while, and see how it feels. If the US government feels justified in attacking another country because the alleged (not proved) mastermind of the September 2001 attacks lived there, others have ample justification to bomb Washington and New York because the apparently sane rulers of America have killed hundreds of thousands (or millions) around the world.
Military adventures, however, have not been the only strategy of Bush’s so-called war on terrorism. While abroad he has waged a war of terror, at home Bush and his team have proceeded to usurp people’s basic rights. Within a month of September 11, 2001, US congress passed the now infamous Patriot Act. By this act police, immigration officials and the FBI have been given vast new powers to arrest and detain people without giving reasons for doing so. Similarly, a year ago a new bill came into effect: the National Security Entry and Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Under this law citizens of 23 countries are required not only to register with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), but their fingerprints and iris-scans are also stored in a database. In other words, law-abiding non-citizens are treated as criminals. Under the same law millions of non-citizens are forced to register, and if they overstay their visa they may end up in jail.
The Bush administration has also reneged on another programme that was put in place during the last days of Bill Clinton’s presidency. In January 2001 Clinton’s government announced the 245-I programme: any person in the US illegally could regularize his status by paying a fee of US$1,000 and making an application to the government. Millions of people moved to legalize their stay; they not only paid the $1,000 fee but also between US$8,000 and $10,000 in legal fees. After September 2001 all these people were rounded up and either incarcerated or deported.
Pretending to fight terrorism, the Bush administration is actually waging a crusade against Islam and Muslims that has nothing to do with the safety or security of Americans; indeed most feel less secure today, as a result of their own government’s policies. Some have even realized that a great hoax has been perpetrated against them under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and that in reality Bush’s policies are everywhere stoking the flames of hatred against America.