The Bush campaign acknowledged that our country is not yet safe but asserted that we are safer due to the measures taken since 9/11. But we are not even safer. The go-it-alone policies of this administration have encouraged a growing disbelief in and disrespect for international law.
— Bush decided to oppose the Kyoto agreement on global warming and not only abandoned but sought to sabotage the International Criminal Court, the world community’s instrument for dealing in a lawful and effective way with terrorists and other human-rights violators. Our government even pressured other nations to cripple the ICC by agreeing not to allow American citizens to be extradited from their territory for trial at the international tribunal. The U.S. claims immunity and impunity from being held accountable in the family of nations.
— There is no need to dwell on the false premises put forth by the administration for its invasion of Iraq. In public discourse the only disagreement is whether to say that Bush “deceived” or “misled” Congress and the people. And yet, astoundingly, the Bush campaign steadfastly continued to proclaim the invasion as an attack on terrorism, as if the Saddam Hussein regime had been allied with Al Qaeda and had harbored the elusive weapons of mass destruction. The collapse of Bush’s reasons for going to war, as well as the lack of UN support for our “pre-emptive” strike, makes our government an international outlaw in the eyes of many.
— The abuses committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers have further tarnished the image not only of those who carried out the atrocities but also of high-ranking officers and indeed the commander-in-chief. The road to torture began at the top of the command structure and was paved by: labeling the detainees as “enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war whose rights would have to be respected; obtaining opinions from government legal advisors to the effect that the usual prohibitions against torture would not apply; sending prison officials with scandalous human-rights records in the states (i.e., Utah, Arizona, and Connecticut) to help get our prisons in Iraq up and running; “rendering” our prisoners to the security forces of other nations which use torture unashamedly.
— These abuses of prisoners, plus our bombing and rocketing of “targets” in Iraq which consistently include large numbers of innocent civilians, have enraged millions of people throughout the world against us and have led some to seek to justify beheadings of hostages and other violations, actual or contemplated, of the human rights of their enemy (us). Bush policies have served as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
In a New York Times article, "Terror Command in Falluja Is Half Destroyed, U.S. Says" (Oct. 12), a Pentagon official admitted, in effect, that the American military is using terrorism against the civilian population of Iraq. Regarding the intense bombardment in early October, the official stated coldly: "If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision," he said. "Do they want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences..., or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefits of not having them there?"
The theory of state terror -- dry up the lake in which the insurgents swim -- has rarely been stated more bluntly. The air strikes against Falluja fit the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary definition of terrorviolence inflicted on civilians, "committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands."
Abuse of Iraqi prisoners and killing of civilians in ground operations are other expressions of the same terrorism.
— As the administration’s rhetoric about bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan sounds increasingly empty, the world is gaining a clearer understanding of the real U.S. motives for the occupation of Iraq: to control oil, natural gas, and other resources and to “develop” not only Iraq but the entire Middle East as a source of vast profits for Western (mainly U.S.) corporations. In almost missionary tones our leaders extol “free-market democracy” and forecast a Middle East Free Trade Area. With these goals in sight, some high-level administration officials had proposed for years before taking power the overthrow of the Iraqi regime in order to realize their business prospects; they needed a “Pearl Harbor” and found it in 9/11.
As we contemplate four more years of Bush’s recklessness, we must acknowledge that the world is not a safer place; nor is the U.S. It is up to us as concerned citizens to demand an end to state terrorism, whatever its source.
Joseph E. Mulligan, a Jesuit priest from Detroit, works in Nicaragua.