[Photo Credit: Slate. Mahar Arar with his Children, Victim of U.S. "War on Terror"]
Imperialist War, Mass Murder, and Torture, But Did September 11th Change “Everything”?
By Steven Argue
In 2002 Mahar Arar, a leader of a mainstream Arab American advocacy group, was arrested in New York City and sent to Syria for ten months of torture. Syria was, unfortunately, participating in the so-called “U.S. war on terror” at that time. Since September 11th activists like Mahar Arar can be labeled “enemy combatants” without cause and can disappear into America’s torture chambers or be outsourced for torture and murder by being shipped back to their native lands. Some have never been heard from again, with international human rights organizations denied documentation; while others reemerge after prolonged mistreatment such as Maher Arar.
Arrested in New York at JFK International Airport, Maher Arar has dual citizenship with Canada and Syria. The Canadian government has admitted their wrong doing and agreed to a settlement of .8 million. The United States government, having a long list of innocent victims like Mahar Arar, has not admitted to any wrong doing and fought against Mahar Arar’s attempts at gaining justice in the legal system. Those efforts were redoubled under the Obama administration with Obama winning the case in June 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Mahar Arar. Mahar Arar responded saying that the “decision eliminates my last bit of hope in the judicial system of the United States."
A new UN report soon to be released reveals widespread torture in the prisons under the U.S. imposed dictatorship in Afghanistan with electrocutions, beatings, and sexual abuse widespread. Many of the prisoners captured by the foreign occupying troops in Afghanistan are turned over to these prisons. Also in Afghanistan, like Abu Ghraib in Iraq, direct U.S. participation in the torture and murder of prisoners is well documented as well.
Yet the U.S. has a long history of carrying out the torture and murder of prisoners and that history didn’t begin with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, or the out-sourcing of torture to foreign governments. One of many examples was in Vietnam.
From Guantanamo to Côn Sơn
Before Guantanamo there were the tiger cages of Côn Sơn Island where the U.S. and the U.S. imposed puppet government of south Vietnam tortured prisoners with the inhumane conditions murdering 20,000 people. The victims were largely leftists and suspected leftists who opposed the U.S. imposed dictatorship. Likewise, the CIA’s torture and assassination program, called the Phoenix Program, in south Vietnam tortured and murdered suspected Communists and suspected Communist Supporters. Few prisoners survived their interrogations. The U.S. State Department admits to directly killing 20,000 people under this program and another 20,000 were murdered by it when the program was turned over to the south Vietnamese dictatorship.
With the victory of the Vietnamese against U.S. imperialism in 1975 the Phoenix Program was terminated and the Côn Son prison was shut down. Most of Côn Son Island was then turned into a national park. The park, called Con Dao National Park, protects 83% of the island including endemic species unique to the island and the prison has been made into a museum that spotlights the suffering imposed by French and U.S. imperialism. Forty four of the island’s 1,000 plant species are unique to the island and so are some of the animal species, including a rare black squirrel that may be the biggest squirrel in the world. The waters off the island are protected as well with pristine coral reefs, rare Hawksbill Turtles that also nest on the islands, and endangered Dugongs. Fishing boats are prohibited in the marine sanctuary. Survivors of torture at Côn Sơn prison have moved on to many positions in the leadership of Vietnamese society, including one who never left the island after liberation and who instead began working as a ranger at the new park and loves his job protecting the rare and unique species of the islands.
While occupying Vietnam the U.S. dropped massive amounts of Agent Orange on the country as a defoliant to destroy the vegetation to more easily see the Vietnamese who were being slaughtered. This was despite the chemicals in Agent Orange being known to cause serious long term health problems. Birth defects, cancers, and many other health problems continue to plague the Vietnamese people as a result. Likewise, U.S. soldiers were knowingly exposed to the toxins of Agent Orange with the U.S. government falsely denying knowledge.
From Agent Orange to Depleted Uranium
In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia as well as elsewhere the U.S. government has now used another powerful weapon of mass destruction. These weapons are made from the deadly and highly radioactive material called Depleted Uranium (DU). DU ammunition has a pyrophoric ability to burn through steel. Thus the military finds it useful in destroying tanks. Italy pulled their troops out of Kosovo due to 8 cases of leukemia in their military which they attributed to the U.S. use of DU ammunition during the war.
Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq the London Guardian sent reporters to southern Iraq who found radiation levels 30 times normal background radiation in the battlefields of the first Gulf War. On tanks destroyed by tank busting A-10 DU ammunition the radiation level was 50 times higher than normal. Elevated levels of radiation have made its way into the food and water. Leukemia and birth defects have increased dramatically in Iraq since the US use of DU there and infant mortality was reported at 13.6% for 2008-2009.
Likewise, Kosovo reports a 200% increase in malignant diseases since Clinton’s U.S. led war dropped 10 tons of DU on the country. Clinton’s war was supposedly against ethnic cleansing. Besides irradiating and poisoning the country with DU, the political results of his war included an “independence” for Kosovo under NATO occupation where the KLA slaughtered ethnic Serbians under the watchful eye of NATO troops. Benefits for U.S. imperialism included the privatization of Kosovo’s rich mines for capitalist profit.
Like with Agent Orange, the U.S. government did not inform U.S. soldiers of the deadly materials that they were being exposed to, nor did they supply them with the protective suits they needed. In the first Persian Gulf War 250,000 soldiers came home reporting to veteran's hospitals with the classic symptoms of radiation poisoning. Those sets of conditions became known as the Persian Gulf War Syndrome while the military brass pretended they didn’t know what they had exposed soldiers to.
Weapons of Mass Deception
A commission of the UN has called the military use of DU a weapon of mass destruction and called for banning its use. Yet weapons of mass destruction were the excuse the U.S. used to go to war against Iraq in the second invasion. As I wrote before that invasion of Iraq in an article titled, “With 3,500 Civilians Killed in U.S./British Bombing [of Afghanistan], War Crazed Imperialists Scope Out Next Victims!”:
“Drunk with arrogance over the initial successes of the US war in Afghanistan, Bush made clear that the next victim of the U.S. war might be Iraq. His statements, made on Nov. 26th at a Rose Garden press conference, set up the provocation for another war against Iraq. He cynically demanded that Saddam Hussein allow inspectors back into Iraq in order to look for weapons of mass destruction. When asked what the U.S. would do if Iraq does not allow inspectors back Bush responded by saying they will find out.
“Iraq has not allowed inspectors in for the past four years because inspectors have been used as spies, giving the U.S. military information on bombing targets inside of Iraq for the United State's "Desert Fox" bombing operation in 1998.
“Adding to the government's drumbeat for a new all out imperialist war against Iraq, the House International Relations Committee is considering a resolution that will declare Iraq's refusal to allow weapons inspectors in as an act of "aggression" against the United States. The intent of this wording is towards initiating another full-scale war against Iraq, this time using the pretext of Sept. 11, despite there being no connection, and this time having a goal of ousting Saddam Hussein to replace him with a government that will be subservient to U.S. oil interests.”
Racism and September 11th
The Iraq war is a perfect example of how the U.S. government uses racism as part of a wider policy of war, death, and profit. On Iraq, Bush repeatedly stated that people from that part of the world “did” September 11. Yet, when a reporter asked, “What did Iraq have to do with September 11?” Bush responded, “nothing.” Bush kept repeating what seems like an obvious mistake to people that aren’t racists, but to the racists Bush’s argument makes perfect sense, people from that part of the world did it and, for retaliation, any dead towel-heads will do.
Similarly, in WWII, the Japanese people were referred to under the racist term “Jap”. Japanese civilians were seen as the enemy with Japanese Americans rounded-up and put in internment camps under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Likewise, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were murdered in the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an attack targeting civilian centers.
Suffering similar racism in a different war, the Vietnamese people, civilians and anti-imperialist fighters alike, became known as “Gooks” by a large portion of the U.S. soldiers who slaughtered them in a war that left three million Vietnamese dead.
As I wrote on September 12th, 2001:
“Americans watched in horror as the World Trade Center collapsed. Yet it was a horror no different from what the U.S. government has done with it's bombing of civilian populations in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Korea. The U.S. bombings of just these countries, not to mention many other U.S. acts of war, murdered millions of civilians. Terror against civilians is never justified. Now the U.S. government is preparing to terror bomb Afghanistan…
“Today the clerical fascists of the Taliban rule Afghanistan. The CIA put them in power with billions of dollars in U.S. military aid. This massive U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was in opposition to the revolutionary PDPA government that came to power in 1978 on issues of promoting women’s rights and land reform. Literacy campaigns began teaching the poor and women how to read and write.
“Foreign religious fanatics and wealthy defenders of the old feudal system came together in terrorist organizations called the mujahideen. With billions of dollars in assistance from the U.S. [starting under the Jimmy Carter presidency] these fanatical cutthroats waged a holy war that included killing women for teaching little girls how to read and write and throwing acid into the faces of women who had become liberated from the veil. The Taliban came to power as a result of this U.S. intervention.
“Will a U.S. war now against the Taliban and former CIA aid recipient Osama Bin Laden set things straight? No. It will be the people of Afghanistan who suffer death and destruction from war as the U.S. attempts to install a puppet government friendly to U.S. corporate interests.”
In response to September 11th ten years ago, the U.S. government rounded up people without trial, subjecting some to torture and murder. And they carried out wars against Iraq and Afghanistan leaving well over a million civilians dead and installing corrupt religious governments in power that murder their opponents. This includes the U.S. puppet regime in Iraq that on February 25, 2011 opened fire on a protest for jobs and services and an end to corruption. Gunfire from Iraqi forces killed 29 people. Three hundred people were arrested and many were beaten, including journalists who also suffered mock executions before being released. Yet, an American military spokesman responded to those crimes saying the response of Iraqi forces was “professional and restrained.”
And in Libya Obama has waged a war that has put factions in power that hate Blacks and have committed mass murder against them, forcing 750,000 Black Africans to flee the country in terror with those remaining in a desperate situation. And among the leadership of these “rebels” are Islamic fundamentalists with ties to Al Qaida and the philosophies of the religious fanatics that the U.S. put in power in Afghanistan before September 11th.
So the question remains, did the September 11th fundamentally change anything. Sure, it helped produce more idiots who think that there’s some threat of Sharia Law being imposed on the United States and who think that torture and U.S. wars against Muslims are justified. But did it fundamentally change the nature of U.S. imperialism? Not really. It is the same old beast that it has always been. And did the election of Obama change anything? Not really, because the Democrat Party is a corporate owned party that is just as imperialist as the Republicans.
What is needed goes far beyond an antiwar movement trying to curtail the excesses of U.S. imperialism. A socialist movement must be built with the ultimate goal of eliminating capitalist profit from war. This includes the profits made from the U.S. imposition of unpopular governments that are friendly to keeping labor and resources cheap for the exploitation of foreign corporations. Public ownership of the oil industry and other corporations that are privately owned will eliminate the capitalist profits that are a fundamental corrupting influence in U.S. politics causing wars and the destruction of the planet. To bring about an end to the corruption of capitalism and imperialism will take a socialist revolution in the United States. It is towards this goal that Liberation News is committed.
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