The US’ Language of Terror and a History of Preemptive Aggression

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The US’ Language of Terror and a History of Preemptive Aggression

US President Barack Obama speaks about counter-terrorism and the United States fight against Isis during an address to the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sunday, December 7, 2015. (Reuters)

Following the recent horrific and brutal San Bernardino slaying, President Obama took to the Oval Office and reminded Americans, “our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.” He also reminded us “we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.” Nevertheless, his thesis held, we have no choice but to increase war efforts, even though the United States “cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.” We cannot do anything to totally prevent the problem of terror, therefore, we “will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary,” whether a country agrees to it or not, according to recent and historic US foreign policy.

But what motivates the United States to take such seemingly irrational and “uncivilized” courses of violence? Profits it seems. Stoking the flames of war abroad will not only benefit terrorist efforts universally, that is, for all sides using terror, but it will also benefit the wealthy-corporate class. Executive Vice President of Boeing, for instance, Bruce Tanner, raves that “ ‘conflicts would lead to increased sales for their company.’ “ Indeed, “with the ISIS threat growing, there are more countries interested in buying Oshkosh-made M-ATV armored vehicles.” Accordingly, business is booming for Western-war profiteers. Which was further illustrated when the war “contractors also celebrated the fact that the defense sector was recently granted a $607 billion budget by the government.” Thus, there remains a distinct correlation between “terrorism” and Western profits; “Glenn Greenwald pointed out stock prices for weapons manufacturers sharply increased just after the terrorist attacks in Paris last month.”

The propaganda campaign that’s been wrought through political rhetoric and mass-corporatized media, which is the US’ political machine for the most wealthy amongst us, has done great work to keep the public in a constant state of fear and paranoia. Indeed, “more voters than ever think terrorists have the advantage over the United States and its allies.” Indeed, a striking “forty-six percent of 1,000 likely voters…thought terrorists were winning, while only 26% believed the United States and its allies” have “the upper hand.” Thus, whatever Washington’s doing, it’s clearly working, the public’ absolutely terrorized by the prospects of terror. Yet for some of the greatest hand wringers, those most “civilized people,” for them, Americas centuries old “terrorist” question remains a pesky and “sour subject.” How to deal with the “confident savages,” continues to perplex even the most hawkish of our leaders. Moreover, the threat of global anti-imperialism seems to be growing within as well as without the US. For example, “a disturbing number of young Americans” are “joining ISIS.” It seems, that Americans cannot escape even our own “savagery.” Whether it’s violence from a white-supremacist terrorist, like Dylan Roof or Timothy McVeigh, or one of the “confident savages” the world over, it’s clear, that the West, without question, is in the business of producing terror and terrorism, evidently.

Lets look at a portion of the record.

Still early in Obama’s first term, more than one commentator remarked that Obama hadn’t “changed much of substance from the late Bush practices.” And it gets worse for the Democrats who guard their reputation as liberals so well. Follow this condemnation: “Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country’s institutions — particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media — acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it. And they still do.” (My emphasis) Further, “ ‘much of the other half of the country, the one that once opposed those policies – Democrats, Obama supporters — are now reciting the same lines, adopting the same mentality, because doing so is necessary to justify what Obama is doing,” namely spreading terror.

But how do our US maintainers of civilization ensure that “the masses of people” do not become inquisitive, or perhaps, dangerously, informed? Well one way is to continue the policies of secrecy and “public security,” which Bush II’s “thugs” did so well, as has been well documented by many intellectuals and scholars, Glenn Greenwald not an exception. Thus, he relay’s, that Obama’s programs were “inherited from Mr. Bush” II, “ they were “literally just Bush [II] redux.” In fact, “Mr. Obama’s Justice Department...’told an appeals court that the Bush administration was right to invoke “state secrets’ to shut down a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees who say a Boeing subsidiary helped fly them to places where they were tortured.’ ” It seems that secrecy would serve Obama’s Washington no less than it did his predecessors.

Another War on Terror

Twenty years before Bush II declared a “War on Terror,” says Chomsky, “the Reagan administration came into office announcing that a primary concern of US foreign policy would be a ‘war on terror.’ ” Apparently, back then, the threat to Washington policy was little different. Reagan administration moderate, George Shultz, said that the “terrorists” are “ ‘depraved opponents of civilization itself,’ “ who wish for “ ‘a return to barbarism in the modern age.’ ” But, as currently, the domestic problem had to be addressed as well, we had to exercise “the ‘cancer,’ “ which was “ ‘right here in our land mass.’ ” Obama thus echoes Reagan era ideology in his most recent address to the world when he said, we’re “confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Others reacting to US war with terror, however, is not a new phenomenon. In fact, Woodrow Wilson was echoed by Reaganites when they proclaimed a war against the “barbarians” of the day in the Philippines saying that, in ‘our interest,” the USA “must march forward’ ” and n provocations are to be tolerated. Decades later, “the Reagan–Shultz doctrine held that the UN Charter entitles the US to resort to force in ‘self-defense against future attack.’ ” Bush I followed similar doctrine. His Washington argued its right to pre-emptive violence and terror as it “justified the invasion of Panama,” for instance, because the US must, through its own powers, must have the right to “defend our interests and our people.” (my emphasis) However, this approach to terror is nothing new for the USA, “the doctrine of preemptive strike has much earlier origins.” Looking back to another example, president Bill Clinton’s administration followed its duty to the imperialist hegemon. His “Strategic Command also advocated ‘preemptive response,’ with nuclear weapons if deemed appropriate.” Moreover, looking back forty years prior, “President Eisenhower and his staff discussed what he called the ‘campaign of hatred against us’ in the Arab world, ‘not by the governments but by the people.’ ” Chomsky reminds us, however soberly, that “they do not ‘hate us,’ but rather policies of the US government, something quite different,” indeed. By the time we reach BUSH II era policy on barbarism, Colin Powell’s State Department had declared Cuba a “terrorist state.”

Looking back again to the “terror” policies into the 60’s, President John F. Kennedy, “ordered his staff to subject Cubans to the ‘terrors of the earth.’ ” Obviously, he was addressing the “barbarians” of the day, the “terrorists” off the coast of Florida, who were, by virtue of existing in “successful defiance of the US,” being “a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half,” who must therefor be subjected to the “terrors of the earth.” Thus, it was John F. Kennedy who, quite astutely, however unwittingly, named the real terrorists, us. We were ordered to deliver the terrors, not “them.”

Like much of the world today, evidently, the “uncivilized,” had refused to adhere to the “principle of subordination to US will.” Under JFK’s Washington, Cuba refused to affirm a subordinate place, and when “a US-backed South African invasion was coming close to conquering newly independent Angola, Cuba sent troops on its own initiative, scarcely even notifying Russia, and beat back the invaders” who’re being funded by US tax payers. Thus, what would follow for years was, as Chomsky notes, “some of the worst terrorist attacks against Cuba, with no slight US role.”

Reagan’s Terror

Another staggering example of US’ monopoly on terrorizing the world over was illustrated in a 1987 UN resolution, which condemned “terrorism in the strongest terms,” and which called “on all nations to combat the plague,” which “passed 153–2,” the US and Israel, accordingly, the loan wolves, or hawks rather, voted against it. For how could the US, which funded and “recruited radical Islamists from many countries and organized them into a military and terrorist force that Reagan anointed ‘the moral equivalent of the founding fathers,’ ” vote against our own policy? We don’t and we didn’t. In fact, we’ve “ ‘supported every possible anti-democratic government in the Arab–Islamic world.’ ” However, long after Reagan’s rule, the war came home, and thus, Americans “were subjected, on home soil, to atrocities of the kind that are all too familiar elsewhere.”

What was it, then, that the US-Israel partnership took issue with? They simply couldn’t allow their subject states, or any “other” state, for that matter, “the right to self-determination, freedom, and independence, as derived from the Charter of the United Nations…particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation,” which for US-Israel, cannot be true, not for those who’s interests “must march forward,” for “the self-anointed ‘enlightened states’ will serve as global enforcers.”

Thus, for any thing, it’s clear, whether a state or non-state faction, if it contests US power and hegemony, which includes capitalist wont’s of “free trade,” neo-liberal policies and unimpeded access, surveillance, and control -- whether, it be an individual, a group, or state -- it shall, invariably, present an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” and therefor, constitutes terrorism, and thus, it follows, however illogically, that we must, “eradicate the plague” of anti-imperialist terror stemming from the “uncivilized” corners of the planet. Accordingly, we must “eradicate” “ ‘the evil scourge of terrorism.’ ”

But what has the propaganda and the non-transparency wrought for contemporary Washington? Well, for one, it’s brought the politically left and right of our country together forcing many to face our country’s internal contradictions. In other words, if relatively little’s changed in terms of war policy over the centuries, then many democrats, and republicans alike, have been forced to admit that while they stand fundamentally opposed on certain issues, the end result of global hegemony and effective internal population control remains intact, however deadly and oppressive the means may be. Indeed, “now that it’s not just an unpopular Republican President but also a highly charismatic and popular Democratic President advocating and defending these core Bush/Cheney policies, they do become the political consensus of the United States.”

Nevertheless, Obama reassured us this week that the US is “cooperating with Muslim-majority countries -- and with our Muslim communities here at home.” Thus, to ensure the safety and “security” of Muslims everywhere, he’s “ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa (waiver) program,” which is certain to follow with more stringent controls on Muslims and many others who don’t fit the label “ordinary American.” Furthermore, Obama “will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology,” what that means I shutter to think. He goes on, “we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa.” And Congress “should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force” against the “thugs and killers,” who’re “part of a cult of death.” Nevertheless, he maintains, that “we are on the right side of history,” and may we “never forget what makes us exceptional.”

Thus, accordingly, if it’s US’ policy to fund and depend upon known terror-sponsoring states, such as, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, then it follows that the US policy would also be, to counter any movement or policy designed to limit Washington’s “enemies.” The inferences, should one be willing to follow them are, that the US, empirically, and through its own admissions, is perhaps, the greatest “threat to world peace,” as the world believes; however, and perhaps even more sobering, the United States of America is also the largest supporter of terrorism in the world. There’s little argument against that fact if one applies universal determinations to what constitutes “Terrorism.”

Thus, said Chomsky, rather soberly in 2003, “we basically have two choices. Either history is bunk, including current history, and we can march forward with confidence that the global enforcer will drive evil from the world much as the President’s speech writers declare, plagiarizing ancient epics and children’s tales. Or we can subject the doctrines of the proclaimed grand new era to scrutiny, drawing rational conclusions, perhaps gaining some sense of the emerging reality.”

What is it, then, that we must ask ourselves if we’re to honestly address the moral consequences of our actions? Why is it invariably the case that what others do is “terror,” but what we do is not? I’ll leave you with these final thoughts from Chomsky. “If an action is right for us, it is right for others; and if wrong for others, it is wrong for us. Those who reject that standard can be ignored in any discussion of appropriateness of action, of right or wrong.” Thus, just as he’d advised in 2003, “we can approach these questions with the rational standards we apply to others, or we can dismiss the historical and contemporary record on some grounds or other.”

It seems Washington’s choosing to continue the recreation of ancient myths and children’s tails. In response to the San Bernardino tragedy, Obama said that, “we will succeed in this mission…we are on the right side of history. We were founded upon a belief in human dignity…equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law…let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional…freedom is more powerful than fear…God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.” Lastly, as the United States draws on every aspect of American power,” and as “we march forward,” especially in repayment for our investors and profiteers, and to wittingly beholden the “barbarians” of the world, a sour subject indeed, although terrifying to say the least, we continue to sew the ancient tails, and they continue thusly, evidently.

Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Russell Webster is a student of philosophy, a freelance journalist, social critique, and activist who supports #BlackLivesMatter movement. Twitter: @russellwebster

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