LONDON -- Kudos to President Barack Obama for closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, and the CIA's network of secret, or "black,'" prisons abroad, both blots on America's honour and grave violations of international law.
The U.S. conquered Cuba in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Washington then installed a U.S. citizen as president who granted Washington base rights to Guantanamo in perpetuity. A century later, the U.S. made a similar sweetheart deal in Afghanistan.
Now is an excellent time for Obama also to close the U.S. base at Guantanamo and return it to Cuba. Gitmo is a military white elephant. Returning it to Cuba would be a good start to thawing relations between Havana and Washington.
Obama's next step in returning America to its senses should be ending use of the propaganda terms, "terrorism," and "war on terror."
Britain's youthful foreign secretary, David Miliband, is one of its most interesting and brainy politicians. He could very well replace Gordon Brown as prime minister if Britain's rapidly worsening financial crisis goes critical.
Rebuking the George W. Bush administration, the outspoken Miliband recently urged Washington to cease using the term "war on terror," which he calls "misleading and mistaken."
This term implies a unified, pan-national enemy when there is none. It also encourages war psychosis, fear and employing the military to deal with problems the West "could not kill its way out of."
The Bush administration was a ship of fools steered by crypto-fascist neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists. It failed at everything except propaganda.
Thanks to White House domination of U.S. media, brilliant news manipulation, propaganda worthy of Joseph Goebbels, and a public largely ignorant of world affairs, the White House fib factory marketed fear of "terrorism" to win votes and justify colonial adventures abroad.
As disenchanted former Republican party strategist Kevin Phillips points out, some of Bush's strongest supporters were "security moms" in the Midwest and South. They were terrified into believing Osama bin Laden and his turbaned devils were coming to Pocatello, Iowa, and Tupelo, Miss., to attack their little Johnnies.
Proclaiming "war on terrorism" -- a logical and grammatical nonsense -- boosted the Pentagon's budget by 50%, unleashed armies of mercenaries run by big Republican donors, facilitated Dick Cheney's crusade to grab the world's oil, and justified invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans who opposed Bush's phony global conflict were branded traitors, appeasers and anti-American.
The term "terrorism" is designed not only to arouse potent emotions of fear and loathing, but to dehumanize one's foes and deny them any legitimate motivations. "Terrorists" are sub-human, just like "anti-state elements" in the Soviet Union and China. Terrorists are a disease. One can never negotiate with them. Even their children are legitimate targets.
Slapping this label on all who oppose the U.S. and its allies totally distorted reality. I always avoided using "terrorism," which became the most cherished word in the Bush administration's version of George Orwell's totalitarian "Doublespeak."
The proper term we should use is "anti-western groups" or "violent extremists." The U.S., which burned alive 100,000 Japanese civilians on the night of March, 9 1945, killed two million Vietnamese civilians, and is responsible for 500,000 to one million Iraqi civilian deaths has no right to brand others "terrorists."
Iraqis and Afghans who oppose U.S. and/or NATO occupation should be called "the resistance," not "insurgents." We invaded them and overthrew their governments. One might as well call the French resistance, "insurgents."
Watch for other key propaganda terms being used by the media: "Nation building," "free world," "collateral damage," "counter-terror operations," "enhanced interrogation" and "exporting democracy."
I hope Obama will heed Miliband's good advice and end Bush/Cheney's Orwellian lies. Americans need the truth about their foreign wars.
They need to know al-Qaida was only a handful of extremists, and 9/11 likely a one-off event.
And that crimes such as Guantanamo, torture, kidnappings (rendition) and stomping small countries create more enemies of the West than Osama bin Laden ever dreamed of.