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Document from 9/27 Teach-In on Roots of Terrorism, War

by An IMC-LA stringer Saturday, Sep. 29, 2001 at 2:26 PM

Yesterday around 800 students attended a highly illuminating teach-in at Pasadena City College on the "Roots of Terrorism and War: What the Media Doesn't Tell Us" in the aftermath of September 11th. Below is the text of the hand-out for the Teach-In which includes a selected bibliography and the list of presenters.





SEPTEMBER 27, 2001

Historical Context to Terrorist Attacks

The pathological effectiveness of recent terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon left upwards of 7000 people dead. While the targeted buildings represent the poignant symbolism of corporate power and military might, the victims are the pawns of an intensifying global conflict that we musk+ analyze. Historical precedents fail to clarify as we all struggle to come to grips with the single greatest attack ever on the continental United States. Sadly but predictably, major media and political leaders have moved quickly to shape a highly distorted, and indeed dangerous, national response. While many of us feel shocked, fearful, saddened, apprehensive, angry, and so much more, we are encouraged to seek military revenge abroad and to accept constitutional restrictions on rights and freedoms at home. However, before we give ourselves over to these ominous trends, we should carefully analyze the historical context of the attacks.

Major media have at best done all of us a grave disservice and at worst purposely misled us into a biased perception of the attacks. Amidst a plethora of other coverage, The Los Angeles Times hinted at significant historical reasons: "Some of today's antiAmericanism is a legacy of the Cold War, which obliged, or allowed, the United States to impose its will on people--often against the interests of those people. Through a string of military interventions, US. sponsored coups and strong-arming countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia got governments that were allies of the United States--but enemies of their own people. This convinced many that despite its preaching about justice and democracy, the United States followed a double standard" (9/13/01).

However, the Times can no more than hint at the atrocities that quite frankly are viewed by many, globally, as the epitome of terror. As painful as it may sound, the United States Government, in concert with major corporate interests, has, in the eyes of many, perpetrated the most egregious terror worldwide. Direct acts of terror include a long list of horrendous bombing assaults on civilian populations. Through organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the School of the Americas (SOA), and others, the U.S. government has sponsored coups that have overthrown democratically elected governments. It has armed, trained, and assisted terrorists, who have committed heinous crimes against their own peoples or acted on behalf of government and corporate interests--as in the case of the U.S. support of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The fact of the matter is that in the eyes of many around the world, the United States flag is hardly the emblem of freedom and democracy but rather is the blood-soaked cape of massive military destruction and corporate greed. The following timeline of U.S. governmental terror is but a partial sampling.

Timeline of Terror: United States Government

1945--Japan (Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki). Rationalized as an effort to save American soldiers' lives, three U.S. bombing assaults live in infamy. A single saturation bombing to destroy civilian morale killed 80,000 in Tokyo; the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 100,000; and the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, killed at least 50,000. Subsequent deaths due to radiation poisoning numbered in the tens of thousands. The atomic bomb proved to be the first shot fired in the Cold War and would set off the arms race (Zinn, Kissinger).

1953-1979--Iran. A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) coup overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who had been elected by a large majority in the Iranian Parliament. The New York Times conceded "Mossadegh is the most popular politician in the country." When he moved to nationalize petroleum reserves, the CIA ousted him (1953) and installed the Shah who along with his son ruled for twenty-five years. Amnesty International asserted in 1976 that under the U.S. backed Shah, "No country has a worse human rights record than Iran." The CIA admitted that along with Israeli intelligence forces, it trained Iran's notorious secret police force, SAVAK, in torture techniques. The Iranian revolution (1978-79) led to the first significant Islamic regime hostile to U.S. petroleum interests (Blum, Yergin).

1954-1990s--Guatemala. In the 1954 coup largely encouraged by the United Fruit Company, Guatemala's major landowner, the CIA overthrew Jacobo Arbenz who had been elected by a large margin. Approximately 70% of the land was owned by 2.2% of the landowners; many of whom practiced outright slavery. Arbenz attempted to provide 100,000 peasants with uncultivated land that would have freed them from debt peonage. Subsequent struggles from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s led to the deaths of 200,000 Guatemalan peasants by the Guatemalan military, largely funded, trained, and armed by the U.S government through the CIA and School of the Americas (Schlesinger and Kinzer, Prados, Blum).

1960s--Cuba. After the revolution (1959-60) led by Fidel Castro, a U.S/CIA coup attempt failed miserably at the Bay of Pigs, becoming a ghastly public relations disaster for newly elected President John Kennedy. The president's younger brother, Bobby Kennedy, subsequently oversaw "Operation Mongoose," in which U.S. government operatives contaminated cargoes of Cuban sugar with chemicals, sabotaged machinery and spare parts en route to Cuba, conducted numerous commando raids against Cuban railroads, oil and sugar refineries, and factories. Despite numerous failed assassination attempts on Castro's life, a now forty-year embargo, and tens of millions of US tax dollars spent to de stabilize him, Fidel Castro became an icon for anti-imperialism not just in Latin America but worldwide (Prados, Blum).

1963-1975--Vietnam (Cambodia, Laos). U.S. government atrocities committed against the Vietnamese people which saw over two million casualties are well documented.

Carpet bombings.: More than twice the total bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War 11; the equivalent of one 500-pound bomb for every human being in Vietnam. Additionally, the U.S spread the war into neighboring Cambodia and Laos.

Phoenix Program: Under the auspices of the CIA and Navy Sea Air Land (SEAL), approximately 2 1,000 "suspected" enemy civilians were assassinated. The famous My Lai massacre and others like it (note the recent exposure of former Senator Kerrey) claimed the entire Vietnamese population as legitimate targets.

Napalm: Created by Dow Chemical, napalm is jellied gasoline that was designed to ignite and stick to the skin of victims, but usually not kill them immediately; slow agonizing death in isolated villages without medical supplies was to undermine the morale of civilian populations.

Agent Orange: The carcinogenic defoliant was meant to destroy crops and undermine the food supply as well as kill undergrowth where Vietnamese guerrillas could lay in ambush; the toxin caused birth defects and cancer in subsequent generations of Vietnamese and American soldiers ignorant of its side effects (Gibson, Valentine, Zinn).

1960s--Indonesia. Backing General Suharto, the U.S. assisted in a coup that overthrew President Sukarno. The bloodbath that ensued involved at least 500,000 dead. U.S. government officials openly admitted their complicity. Howard Federspiel, of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, noted the line of thinking, "No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered" (Blum).

1964--Brazil. U.S./CIA operatives working with officers in the Brazilian military and a CIA front group, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (ostensibly an arm of the A.F.LC.I.O.) ousted President Joao Goulart. As with so many Cold War interventions, the Brazilian coup was rationalized as rescuing the country from communism. U.S, General Andrew O'Meara stated, "The coming to power of the [new] government in Brazil ... saved the country from an immediate dictatorship which could only have been followed by Communist domination" (Blum).

1973--Chile. As principle advisor to President Nixon, Henry Kissinger articulated his now infamous remarks: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people." Thus, the U.S. government committed itself to overthrowing elected President Salvador Allende. The coup established General Augusto Pinochet who subsequently installed one of the most oppressive regimes in Latin America. Estimates of Chileans killed during and immediately after the coup run as high as 25,000 (Hitchins, Blum, Prados).

1980s/1990s--Iraq. One of the top five oil producing countries in the world, Iraq's internal affairs had long been manipulated by U.S. petroleum interests like Iran in which the U.S created the monster dictator, the Shah, so too did the U.S. effectively support Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. Backing Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war (198087), the U.S. government sought to leverage its power against Iran. When that war ended, Hussein's government was financially devastated, and Iraq invaded Kuwait (1990), apparently receiving U.S. diplomatic consent. Shortly, however, Operation Desert Storm launched the single most concentrated aerial onslaught in history--177 million pounds of bombs were dropped on Iraq. Since the end of Desert Storm, the U.S. has enforced a trade embargo on Iraq directly leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Osama bin Laden, accused of masterminding the recent terrorist attacks, has declared his hatred of Hussein but his greater hatred for what the U.S. has done to the Iraqi people. Estimated Iraqi dead from U.S. bombing and trade restrictions number as high as one and one quarter million (Blum, Chomsky Clark & Said, Johnson, Yergin).

1970s-2001 --Israel/ Palestine. The Israeli government benefits from being the recipient of more U.S. foreign aid than any other government in the world. In 1982, an Israeli force under current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon invaded Lebanon and killed over 900 Palestinian refugees seeking safe haven in Beruit. The Israeli regime's apartheid-like practices against Palestinians have provoked two "intifadas" in the last decade; the second one has brought Israel to its current crisis. The U.S. government has staunchly defended Israeli's repressive practices; most recently it withdrew from the international conference on racism in Durbin, South Africa, explicitly refusing to accept the majority's condemnation of Israel. Islamic fundamentalists have capitalized on U.S. complicity with Israeli governmental repression (Chomsky and Said, Lockman and Beinin).

1980s/1990s--Afghanistan. One of the poorest countries in the world with an illiteracy rate of 90%, a life expectancy of 40 years, and now ruled by the Taliban, perhaps the single most sexist regime of modem times, Afghanistan had long been a pawn in the Cold War. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (1979), an outright act of imperialist aggression, the U.S. quickly moved to stage yet another

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