Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 32 September 15 - 21, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had
better pay much closer attention to what the US government does in the
world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been opened for
discussion that were not on the
agenda before. That's all to the good.
is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the likelihood of
future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend that our enemies
"hate our freedoms," as
President Bush stated, but it is hardly wise to
ignore the real world, which conveys different lessons.
president is not the first to ask: "Why do they hate us?" In a staff
discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described "the campaign of
hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by
the people". His National Security Council outlined the basic
reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is
"opposing political or
economic progress" because of its interest in controlling the
oil resources of the region.
11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same
reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies.
Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the
cite just one recent example: in the August 1 issue of Far Eastern
Economic Review, the internationally recognized regional specialist Ahmed
Rashid writes that in Pakistan "there is growing anger that US
support is allowing [Musharraf's] military regime to delay the promise of
we do ourselves few favours by choosing to believe that "they hate us"
and "hate our freedoms". On the contrary, these are attitudes of
people who like Americans and admire much about the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official policies that deny them
the freedoms to which they too
such reasons, the post-September 11 rantings of Osama bin Laden - for example, about US support for corrupt and brutal regimes,
or about the US
"invasion" of Saudi Arabia - have a certain resonance, even among
those who despise and fear him. From resentment, anger and frustration,
terrorist bands hope to draw support and recruits.
should also be aware that much of the world regards Washington as a
terrorist regime. In recent years, the US has taken or backed actions
in Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Sudan and Turkey, to name a few, that
meet official US definitions of "terrorism" - that is, when
Americans apply the term to
the most sober establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel
Huntington wrote in 1999: "While the US regularly denounces various
countries as 'rogue states,' in the
eyes of many countries it is becoming the rogue
superpower ... the single greatest external threat to their societies."
perceptions are not changed by the fact that, on September 11, for
the first time, a western country was subjected on home soil to a
horrendous terrorist attack of a kind all too familiar to victims of
western power. The attack goes far
beyond what's sometimes called the "retail
terror" of the IRA, FLN or Red Brigades.
September 11 terrorism elicited harsh condemnation throughout the
world and an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. But with
international Gallup poll in late September found little support for
"a military attack" by the US in Afghanistan. In Latin America,
the region with the most experience
of US intervention, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama.
current "campaign of hatred" in the Arab world is, of course, also fuelled by US policies toward Israel-Palestine and Iraq. The
US has provided the crucial support
for Israel's harsh military occupation, now in its 35th year.
way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to
stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that
calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in
peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently
occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).
Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened
Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis - perhaps more people "than have been slain by all so-called
weapons of mass destruction throughout history", military analysts
John and Karl Mueller wrote in
Foreign Affairs in 1999.
present justifications to attack Iraq have far less
credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as an ally
and a trading partner after he had
committed his worst brutalities - as in Halabja,
where Iraq attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer
Saddam was more dangerous than he is today.
for a US attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald Rumsfeld, can
realistically guess the possible costs and consequences. Radical Islamist
extremists surely hope that an attack on Iraq will kill many people
and destroy much of the country, providing recruits for terrorist
presumably also welcome the "Bush doctrine" that proclaims the right of attack against potential threats, which are
virtually limitless. The president
has announced: "There's no telling how many wars it will
take to secure freedom in the homeland." That's true.
are everywhere, even at home. The prescription for endless war poses a far
greater danger to Americans than perceived enemies do, for
reasons the terrorist organisations understand very well.
years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence,
Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still
holds true. "To offer an
honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of
the problem of terrorism," he
said. "When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes."
the time, Israel enjoyed the virtual immunity from retaliation
within the occupied territories that lasted until very recently. But
Harkabi's warning was apt, and the lesson applies more generally.
before September 11 it was understood that with modern technology,
the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly of the means of
violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on home soil.
we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more mosquitoes,
with awesome capacity for destruction.
we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots
of the "campaigns of hatred", we can not only reduce the
threats we face but also live up to
ideals that we profess and that are not beyond
reach if we choose to take them seriously.
Chomsky is professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology and author of the US bestseller 9-11 <chomsky@MIT.edu>)
9, 2002 Bulatlat.com