(I resurrect today a column I wrote for the Sparks Tribune Nov. 8, 2001. I do so because it is relevant to a nation that recently went through an orgy of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 observances and lamentations.)
For they have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind. — Hosea 8:7 (King James Version)
With the country on a war-footing, it is difficult to write anything critical of the United States. But the truth must be told: America is reaping the whirlwind.
Edward Said, a major public intellectual, warns against “bowdlerization of history,” of substituting “official memory” and of having historical amnesia.
America’s ugly past must never be conjured away.
America has bombed and invaded. It has engineered coups, imposed sanctions. It has caused directly or indirectly worldwide deaths, destruction and, yes, terror. In Vietnam, America carried out terrorizing attacks with napalm and cluster bombs.
America has intervened in 103 nations from 1798 to 1885. U.S. troops killed 200,000 Filipino civilians after annexing the Philippines. In the last half of the 20th century America tried to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments and to crush more than 30 populist regimes.
William Blum, former State Department official, notes in his book “Rogue State” that America caused the death of “several million people and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.”
After ousting President Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954, America initiated 40 years of “military governments, death squads, ‘disappeared people,’ mass executions and unimaginable cruelty,” Blum writes. “The death toll was 200,000, one of the most inhumane chapters of the 20th century.”
America has funded mass murder in Indonesia. It has supported brutal and murderous dictators like Pinochet, Marcos, Somoza, Noriega, Stroessner and Batista. It has backed predatory regimes on five continents.
This nation loosed missiles on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan with no credible reason. It has bombed Libya and invaded Panama in violation of international law. Its invasion of Grenada contravened the U.N. Charter.
It engineered coups that overthrew the socialists Mossadegh in Iran and Allende in Chile. It installed the Shah of Iran, ushering in 25 years of tyranny and repression in Iran.
Peasants and Indians were slaughtered in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the 1980s by American-backed right-wing death squads.
The CIA trained and supported terrorists in Nicaragua, who killed 30,000 civilians. Islamist bin Laden, trained and armed by America, was bankrolled by the CIA. (Bin Laden was once hailed by the United States as a freedom fighter.)
America has vetoed Security Council resolutions, voted against U.N. Assembly resolutions. In 1989 the Security Council condemned the invasion of Panama. The U.S. vetoed it.
All of this citation of history is hardly to condone the horrible attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. About 3,000 were killed and 6,000 wounded by four attacks coordinated by al-Qaeda leader bin Laden. But it is to say America has been death-dealing, destructive and invasive.
When Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked how she felt about 500,000 Iraqi children dying because of the U.S. economic boycott, she replied with unbelievable callousness: “We think it was worth it.”
The boycott is still in place. Iraq’s children continue to die because of it. American planes still fly over Iraqi territory. America still inhumanely boycotts harmless Cuba. America kidnaped Noriega. It defied the World Court on the mining of harbors in Nicaragua.
The School of Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, is a coup school for Latin America. Its curriculum includes interrogation techniques, psychological warfare and commando tactics.
No, President Bush, America is not being attacked by terrorists because it is “the brightest beacon for freedom.” It is being attacked for many reasons, among them:
• America’s all-pervasive presence in Arab lands in the Middle East. Arabs are justifiably bitter about American troops occupying their land. They resent having America deeply involved militarily and politically in the Muslim world.
• America has backed Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 34 years. Israel has 140 settlements on Palestinian land. America’s pro-Israel policy has been at the expense of long-suffering Palestinians. Israel defies a Security Council order to withdraw to borders before the 1967 war.
• America today supports autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because of their oil.
9/11 was an Islamic payback for America’s cruel and unjust foreign policy. Americans must face unpleasant facts.
As Rob Morse, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, wrote of 9/11: “Some Americans are sick of the tearjerker music and video of flames and dust. The media and politicians have gone too far. We’re just one step away from making this date a national holiday.”
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)