JR'S Free Thought Pages
Terrorism Since Columbus
Sterilized History and Ruminations on a Western Idea
by JR, February 2016
"How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?" - Howard Zinn
"Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich." - Peter Ustinov
Thoughts on the Concept and History of Terrorism
Throughout history terrorism has taken on multiple causes, agendas, forms and practises. Its most insidious features are hatred, greed, bigotry, racism, fear and violence that include various forms of coercion and cruelty, including torture. Efforts at defining terrorism are generally narrow distortions confined to violations of state law. Typical unhelpful dictionary definitions are something like "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes".
Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would surely make both the Iraq war (1991 Desert Storm and 2003 Shock and Awe onward) and Netanyahu's Israeli serial wars on Palestinians in Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) clear cases of terrorism. These, and countless other examples, would extend terrorism to the main perpetrator, namely the state.
But terrorism is even far broader than this. It includes not just physical violence, but powerful psychological mechanisms by both political and religious institutions to propagandize, indoctrinate, bribe, threaten and coerce people into certain behaviors. And surely those people and institutions in positions of power are by far the most pervasive and violent perpetrators of terrorism.
Examples of top-down definitions of terrorism would be those devised by state run institutions of control and coercion such as the FBI or CIA. There's certainly an element of truth in the old adage that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. If I recall, it was Brendan Behan, the Irish writer and IRA member who distinguished between two types of terrorists: the anarchist with a tiny bomb in hand and the statesman with a big bomb and an entire state run military at his disposal.
Unfortunately we the people have been systematically indoctrinated by our conservative masters to accept very narrow conceptions of terrorism. We are told that terrorists consist of non-state ideologues such as fanatical anarchists, religious fundamentalists or other wing nut lunatics who run around carrying bombs, automatic weapons and suicidal explosive belts. Both conservative and liberal elites on the political right have perennially invoked anarchism, communism or some other "usual suspect" that challenges existing power structures of the state that exist to "serve and protect" entrenched wealth and power. Never do they explain what any of these demonized ideologies mean or why they exist. It's also important to note that forms of terrorism can be either proactive or reactive. The reactive forms are generally revolutionary, bottom-up efforts that challenge political and social injustices. The proactive forms are invariably those top-down terrorist acts performed by the state, such as the immoral and illegal invasion of Iraq and other forms of imperialism.
The late British historian Eric Hobsbawm once remarked that sceptical historians are much needed as much now as ever before because "history has been invented in vast quantities." Conservative elites have for a very long time controlled the grand historical narratives that most people in the West understand and accept. They have had control over history and its spurious air brushed patriotic and nationalistic mythologies that most westerners have unthinkingly embraced carte blanche. But those fabricated accounts are hopefully slowly changing, especially since the publication of Howard Zinn's ground breaking A People's History of the United States and James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me. More recent like-minded publications are Chris Harman's A People's History of the World, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People's History of the United States and Dave Zirin's A Peoples History of Sport. The historical truth from the bottom up is finally getting out, despite marginalization and dismissal by our corporate controlled mass media and their conscious acts of disinformation and omission.
In the past few years, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the politics of fear has consumed the Western World. Fear of terrorism and fear of alien refugees have significantly increased alongside ongoing global conflicts, igniting many of the egregious human rights violations and legal failings. These ideologically motivated fear tactics have been especially prevalent in the so-called "democracies" of the United States, Europe and even in Canada especially in the past decade under the theocratic neo-conservative Stephen Harper. The influx of refugees fleeing violence and imperialist war waged by the West, grotesque global economic inequalities and systemic poverty have prompted numerous Western governments to restrict borders and roll back social programs and fundamental democratic human rights within their own countries in injudicious efforts to protect "security". But security for whom?
Fear has been an effective mechanism for control of the rabble under any type of hierarchy or authority, state or otherwise. Those in positions of power and privilege want to maintain it, including politicians in our dubious democracies. They know only too well that most people will sacrifice their freedoms for security if they are sufficiently fearful and feel threatened enough. Scepticism of any system of power is an unconditional necessity for anyone who values freedom. After all, who or what has any right to exercise power over another?
The reality about terrorism is this: for the past millennium or more, almost all terrorism has been inflicted by the power of the theocrat, the monarch or the state. Revolutionary movements and other forms of dissent against the injustices of coercive authoritarian systems in the past, including state power, has paled in comparison.
Within today's unfettered form of neo-liberal corporate capitalism, we in the West - ruled by proto-fascist financial oligarchies - are led to believe that terrorists are non-Christian, often portrayed as unshaven, dishevelled foreigners. More specifically, they are commonly depicted as being Arabic and Eastern European. It's a narrative repeated over and over by our politicians and their compliant dupes in the corporate controlled media.
In any history of terrorism in the modern world, one could reasonably start with Christopher Columbus, a cruel slave trader who was responsible for the total decimation of several million of the indigenous populations in what we now call the West Indies. This mass extermination took only about fifty years. I have pointed out elsewhere that Columbus was in fact, not only a racist, mass murderer and thief, but a terrorist (follow link). But for brevity, let's examine more recent history. The technology of the past hundred years has permitted terrorism, that includes endless wars, on a mass scale. This has included the ability to pinpoint perceived enemies of the state with the use of exploding robotic aircraft called drones, a current specialty of the United States.
Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has not only become the predominant global power, but is considered the biggest threat to world peace on the planet according to polls conducted throughout the world, with consensus averaging over 80%. Consequently, the US can get away with calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, as Ronald Reagan did during his term as president. With the most powerful military in the world and the American dollar the currency of international trade, the US can survive economically despite being by far the biggest debtor nation. Moreover, since they rule the world economically and militarily, they can invade, destroy, plunder, terrorize and murder with impunity citizens from Afghanistan to Zambia. But if any American blood is spilled, only then is it called terrorism.
The Anti-Communist Demon
During the immediate aftermath of World War II, the American anti-socialist, anti-communist Marshall Plan was designed to save certain vulnerable countries from socialism or communism. In the ensuing Cold War there were some very distinctly counter-revolutionary white Christian “terrorists” in the form of American and British soldiers that first appeared in primarily central European countries that were deemed vulnerable to socialist or communist influences.
The enemy was no longer the Nazis; in fact with the Cold War emerging, many convenient Nazis were recruited by the United States government for their surveillance, spy, aerospace and other military programs. It was called Operation Paperclip and it didn't seem to bother influential and powerful men such as Allen Dulles and General Paton that the men they solicited were unprosecuted war criminals. In fact, they laid out the red carpet for thousands of Nazis, many of whom had committed heinous war crimes. The Vatican was also instrumental in clearing the path for many of these psychopathic European Nazi and Fascist war criminals in order to escape the Nuremburg prosecutions. A recent shocking book on the American recruitment of Nazis following the Second World War is The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men by Eric Lichtblau. However, conservative elites, theologians and capitalists have never had ethical issues with embracing fascists, including the Nazi variety as long as they served a political purpose such as keeping the working classes as bewildered wage slaves or turning a profit. In fact Hitler would never have achieved absolute power in Germany without the support of such pragmatic self-serving conservatives.
The post World War II enemy was no longer fascism, but rather left-wing factions and "reds" belonging to revolutionary cells, in Greece, Italy and elsewhere in central and Eastern Europe. The top-down duplicitous history we were taught is seriously deficient on this point. Most people do not know that these left wingers and "reds" were the men and women who made up the majority of the underground partisans who fought the Nazis that had occupied their respective countries during the Second World War. But after the war these patriotic anti-fascists became targets for eradication by the likes of rabid anti-communists such as Winston Churchill, the Dulles Brothers, Harry Truman and other Western reactionaries. We'll examine that post war program shortly. Another point worth making, one that has been ignored by Americans in particular, was the crucial role played by the Soviet Red Army in winning the war against Hitler.
Let's now digress for one of the most egregious of countless long-standing sanitized histories and fairy tales.
The Winston Churchill Fable
When the outcome of the Second World became inevitable, the rabid anti-communist monarchist King Winston tried to convince men such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and others that the allied troops ought to be left in Europe to fight the next war - the one against the USSR. As with many other influential powerful conservatives, recruiting former Nazis in this endeavour was not a problem for the proto-fascist war loving Churchill.
Yes, that's the same Winston Churchill who has been revered and deified in the West, the result of decades of propaganda and myth making. British Prime Minister David Cameron, your typical Eton educated silver spoon elitist conservative, has referred to Churchill as "the greatest ever British Prime Minister", the man who we are led to believe, saved Britain from the Nazi barbarians. Most in Britain and the West still believe this "great man" fable. Yes, he rallied the Brits and the RAF during the Battle of Britain, but there is far more to the man than his well-worn patriotic war speeches.
The myth of Churchill has been one of Britain’s greatest propaganda tools. It has air brushed and rewritten Churchill’s real persona and biography in order to whitewash past colonial and imperialist crimes against humanity. The Churchill myth also perpetuates, along with the ongoing imperialism and wars of the United States, Britain’s present complicity in neo-colonial and neo-liberal policies, that to the present day, terrorize the very people throughout the world that Churchill, in his day, was alleged to have "civilized".
The same Churchill whose photo and bust is loyally polished and placed on British mantelpieces as a symbol of all that is "great" about Great Britain was an unapologetic racist and white supremacist. “I hate Indians, they are a beastly people with a beastly religion”, he once declared. As Churchill once put it, Palestinians were simply “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung.”
In 1937, he told the Palestine Royal Commission: “I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
It ought to surprise no one that when Barack Obama became US President, he returned to Britain a figurine of Churchill which he found on his desk in the Oval office. According to historian Johann Hari, Mr. Obama’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and subsequently tortured on Churchill’s watch, for daring to resist Churchill’s precious Empire.
In addition to being an unapologetic racist and bigot, Churchill was also a staunch proponent of the use of terrorism as an important weapon of war. One surely could legitimately claim that war itself is a form of terrorism, in addition to being the most prevalent.
During the Kurdish rebellion against British dictatorship in 1920, Churchill remarked that he simply did not understand the “squeamishness” regarding the use of poisonous gas by "civilized" Great Britain as a weapon of terror. “I am strongly in favour of using gas against uncivilised tribes, it would spread a lively terror,” he remarked.
In the same year, as Secretary of State for War, Churchill sent the infamous Black and Tans to Ireland to eradicate the IRA. The group became known for vicious terrorist attacks on civilians which Churchill condoned and encouraged.
While today Britons celebrate Churchill’s legacy, much of the world outside the West is contemptuous of the colonialist legacy of a man who insisted that it was the solemn duty of Great Britain to invade and loot foreign lands because in Churchill’s own words Britain’s “Aryan stock is bound to triumph”.
Churchill’s legacy in the Far East, Middle East, South Asia* and Africa is certainly not one of an affable British lion heart, intent on spreading civilization among the natives of the world. To people of these regions the imperialism, racism, and fascism of a man like Winston Churchill can be blamed for much of the world’s ongoing conflicts and instability. He despised Gandhi who, when once asked by a journalist, what he thought of Western Civilization, responded with "It would be a good idea".
As Churchill himself boasted, he “created Jordan with a stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon,” thereby placing many Jordanians under the brutal thumb of a Hashemite prince, Abdullah. Historian Michael R. Burch recalls how the huge zigzag in Jordan’s eastern border with Saudi Arabia has been called “Winston’s Hiccup” or “Churchill’s Sneeze” because Churchill carelessly drew the expansive boundary after a generous lunch. Were the Arabic people of these lands consulted? Of course not.
Churchill also invented Iraq. After giving Jordan to Prince Abdullah, Churchill, the great believer in democracy that he was, gave Prince Abdullah’s brother Faisal an arbitrary patch of desert that became Iraq. Faisal and Abdullah were war buddies of Churchill’s friend T. E. Lawrence, the famous personage mythologized in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Much like the idiotic actions of the Presidents Bush father and son duo in Iraq of today’s great American Empire, Churchill’s imperial foreign policy caused decades of instability in Iraq by arbitrarily locking together three warring ethnic groups that have been bleeding heavily ever since. In Iraq, Churchill bundled together the three Ottoman vilayets of Basra that was predominantly Shiite, Baghdad that was Sunni, and Mosul that was mainly Kurd.
Ask almost anyone outside of Iraq who is responsible for the unstable mess that Iraq is in today and they are likely to say one word: either “Bush” or “America”. That is undeniably true. However, if you asked anyone within Iraq who knows their own history who is mainly responsible for Iraq’s problems over the past century and they are likely to simply say “Churchill”.
Winston Churchill convened the 1912 Conference in Cairo to determine the boundaries of the British Middle Eastern mandate and T.E. Lawrence was the most influential delegate. Churchill did not invite a single Arab to the conference, which is shocking but hardly surprising since in his memoirs Churchill said that he never consulted the Arabs about his plans for them.
The arbitrary lines drawn in Middle Eastern sand by Churchill style imperialism were never going to withstand the test of time. To this day, Churchill’s actions have denied Jordanians, Iraqis, Kurds and Palestinians anything resembling true democracy and national stability. Anytime democracy was to break out in the Middle East, especially the reviled socialist variety, the CIA or MI6 stepped in, subverted the movement and replaced it with their own tyrant - as they did in Iran in 1953.
Historically, terrorism is a native Western invention and export. It was utilized freely by people and so-called liberals like Lloyd George, a British PM, who refused to sign the agreement banning aerial bombardment of civilians, using unshakeable British logic: “We reserve the right to bomb those niggers.” Or Winston Churchill who was in favour of gassing the ‘lower grade’ of races, like Kurds and Arabs.
The intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict can also be traced directly back to Churchill’s door at number 10 Downing Street and his decision to hand over the “Promised Land” to both Arabs and Jews. Churchill gave practical effect to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which expressed Britain’s support for the creation of a Jewish homeland, resulting in the biggest single error and boondoggle of British foreign policy in the Middle East.
Churchill’s legacy in Sub-Saharan Africa and Kenya in particular is also one of deep physical and physiological scars that endure to this day.
Of greater consequence to truth and history should be a man’s actions, not merely his words. While Churchill has become one of the most extensively quoted men in the English speaking world, particularly on issues of democracy and freedom, true history speaks of a man whose actions revolved around, in Churchill’s own words, “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples”.
One such war was when Kikuyu Kenyans rebelled for their freedom only to have Churchill call them “brutish savage children” and force 150,000 of them into “Britain’s Gulag”.
Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Professor Caroline Elkins, highlights Churchill’s many crimes in Kenya in her book Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. Professor Elkins explains how Churchill’s soldiers “whipped, shot, burned, and mutilated Mau Mau suspects”, all in the name of British “civilization”. It is said that President Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama never truly recovered from the torture he endured from Churchill’s thugs.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has written how in Bengal in 1943 Churchill engineered one of the worst famines in human history for profit.
Over three million civilians starved to death while Churchill refused to send food aid to India. Instead, Churchill promoted the idea that “the famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.” Churchill intentionally hoarded grain to sell for profit on the open market after the Second World War instead of diverting it to starving inhabitants of a nation controlled by his own country, "Great" Britain. Churchill’s actions in India were undeniably tantamount to crimes against humanity.
It was Churchill was also one of the greatest advocates of Britain’s disastrous divide-and-rule foreign policy. Churchill’s administration deliberately created and exacerbated sectarian divisions within India’s independence movement, between Indian Hindus and Muslims that have had devastating effects on the region ever since.
Prior to India’s independence from Britain, Churchill was eager to see sectarian religious bloodshed erupt in India, so as to prove that Britain was the benevolent “glue holding the nation together”. For Churchill, bloodshed also had the added strategic advantage that it would also lead to the partition of India by the creation of Pakistan. Churchill’s hope was this partition would result in Pakistan remaining within Britain’s sphere of influence. This, in turn, would enable the Great Game against the Soviet empire to continue, no matter the cost to innocent Indian and Pakistanis. Against the wishes of key people such as Gandhi, the partition of India with creation of a Muslim state of Pakistan caused the death of about 2.5 million people and displaced some 12.5 million others.
According to writer, Ishaan Tharoor, Churchill’s own Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery, compared his boss’s understanding of India’s problems to King George III’s apathy for the Americas. In his private diaries Amery vented that “on the subject of India, Churchill is not quite sane” and that he didn’t “see much difference between Churchill’s outlook and Hitler’s.”
Churchill shared far more ideologically in common with Hitler than most British historians care to admit. For instance, Churchill was a keen supporter of eugenics, something he shared in common with Germany’s Nazi leadership, who were estimated to have killed 200,000 disabled people and forcibly sterilized twice that number. Churchill drafted a highly controversial piece of legislation, which mandated that the mentally ill be forcibly sterilized. In a memo to the Prime Minister in 1910, Winston Churchill cautioned, “the multiplication of the feeble-minded is a very terrible danger to the race”. He also helped organise the International Eugenics Conference of 1912, which was the largest meeting of proponents of eugenics in history.
Churchill had a long standing belief in racial hierarchies and eugenics. In Churchill’s view, white protestant Christians were at the very top of the human cultural and intellectual hierarchy, above white Catholics. Jews and Indians he considered only slightly higher on the pyramid than Africans.
As historian Johann Hari rightfully points out, “the fact that we now live in a world where a free and independent India is a superpower eclipsing Britain, and a grandson of the Kikuyu ‘savages’ is the most powerful man in the world, is a repudiation of Churchill at his ugliest – and a sweet, ironic victory for Churchill at his best.”
Amid today’s flag waving Churchill parades and celebratory speeches, British media and schoolbooks may choose to only remember Churchill’s opposition to dictatorship in Europe, but the rest of the world cannot choose to forget Churchill’s imposition of dictatorship on darker skinned people outside of Europe. Far from being the moral compass of Britain, who stood on the ramparts of civilisation, the war mongering Winston Churchill, all too often, simply stood on the wrong side of history.
Churchill is indeed the greatest Briton to have ever lived, because for decades, the myth of Churchill has served as Britain’s supreme propaganda instrument to bolster Christian nationalist white pride, the monarchy, sclerotic class system and the glorification of British imperialism. But this parochial world view was not only an outgrowth of Christian arrogance, sense of cultural superiority and Victorian notions of the white man's burden, it was supported by distorted and patently false late nineteenth scientific notions of evolutionary theory called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was a mangled and disingenuous populist rendering of Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection designed to support draconian capitalist exploitation, colonialism, elitism, racism and notions of hierarchy and empire. It justified domination and relegation of certain people's of the world as inherently and biologically inferior. Aboriginal people throughout the world suffered greatly, not only from centuries of colonialism, but from such a arrogant, powerful and dominating Western European elitist narrative - and are still dealing with the residue of its cruel oppression.
Canada's first Prime Minister John A MacDonald, speaking in the House of Commons in 1883, explained his rationale for the Native Residential School System: "When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write." This is a deep-rooted European style racism that persists today.
Churchill was also instrumental in the implementation of the American Marshall Plan. It was only much later that we learned about the real purpose of the Marshall Plan and other post WW II programs, both economic and military. We have come to understand the magnitude of the terrorist acts attributed to them that were actually committed by several American and Western European far right-wing governments, their massive military and vile intelligence services.
Post World War II Western Terrorism
The Marshall Plan did indeed provide food and financing to a starving post World War II Western Europe, but its main purpose was to discredit and, if necessary, purge or obliterate the political left which was extremely popular with the masses in countries such as Italy and Greece. This was the case with several other non-European colonial countries such as Indonesia and Indo China where the communists and other leftist elements were also prominent and very admired. The purges and pogroms had to be carried out to protect people in those countries from themselves, their irrational irresponsible proclivities that would impel them to vote for those same communists or socialists.
There were also several African and Latin American "terror" groups - the revolutionary leftist movements fighting for freedom and against centuries of Western slavery, colonialism, imperialism, land theft, pillage and oppression. They had to be contained, liquidated, and if they did happen to gain political power, to assassinate their leaders and be overthrown by the standard fascist military coup. Patrice Lumumba in the Congo was one of countless examples of populist local leaders that had to be eradicated in the name of capitalist imperialism..
But terrorists and terrorism became really popular in the West only after the Soviet Union and their Communist client states were destroyed through relentless misinformation and a myriad of political, economic, military and other nefarious dirty tricks. After the fall of their post WW II nemesis bogeyman, the USSR, the West suddenly felt exposed and insecure - without anyone to hate and fight, leaving the neo-conservative movement with a bogeyman deficiency. How will they now control the masses? How will they justify the bloated military budgets and the infamous industrial-military complex that plays such a huge role in American capitalism? How was it to justify its monstrous oppressive imperialist acts in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia?
It needed a new plausible enemy to rationalize its astronomical military and intelligence budgets. It was not sufficient to face a few hundred commie freaks somewhere inside the Colombian jungle, Northern Ireland or Corsica. There had to be some nefarious evil ogre, something matching that of the former bogeyman, the evil Soviet Empire.
To address the indispensible missing scapegoat, Western oligarchic war mongers decided to link terrorism to Islam, one of the dominant non-Christian cultures on earth, with 1.6 billion followers. Islam is surely potent and ominous enough to alarm and frighten the bewildered herd of Western working class and middle class Christian families in cities and suburbs? But the recent phenomenon of Islamic terrorism since 9-11 is not driven primarily by religious fanaticism. Thomas Piketty, author of the mega best-seller Capital in the Twenty-First Century, published in the French newspaper Le Monde a recent article about inequality, expanding on the obscene levels of global inequality referred to in his book. As summarized by Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post, Piketty argues that economic inequality in the Middle East, both between and within countries, is a “major driver of Middle Eastern terrorism.” Furthermore, Piketty says that economic disparities in the Middle East are the worst in the world, that they are largely the fault of Western colonialism and imperialism over the past century, and that, as Tankersley puts it “Terrorism that is rooted in inequality … is best combated economically.”
During the post World War II era, all the great secular and socialist leaders of Muslim countries, such as Iran, Indonesia and Egypt, were eventually overthrown by the West, their political parties banned, or if necessary, eradicated like vermin. The deposed leaders were usually replaced, as in Iran, by compliant tyrants or monarchical dupes.
But that was not enough for Western capitalism.
In order to make Islam a worthy enemy, the American Empire had to first radicalize and pervert countless Muslim movements and organizations, then create the new ones, consequently training, arming and financing them. Afghanistan in the 1980s was a game changer, although at the time, the rationale was not to introduce a new bogeyman, but rather to fight the current one - the USSR.
There is of course one more important reason why terrorism, particularly the current Muslim variety, is so fundamental to the survival of Western capitalist doctrines and global dictatorship: it rationalizes the West’s long-standing notions of self-proclaimed cultural, economic, military and moral supremacy.
How does it actually work?
For centuries, perhaps as far back as the marauding mass murdering Christopher Columbus, the West has been behaving like a mad hydra headed voracious beast. Despite the self-glorifying propaganda being spread by Western media outlets all over the world, in recent years, for anyone inclined to historical accuracy, has become common knowledge that the European and American Empires have been plundering, enslaving and murdering in all areas of the planet where land and wealth could continue to be plundered. Ultimately, if enough people wake from their intellectual slumbers, the world will eventually come to realize that the Christian Capitalist West is a sinister and toxic disease. It's a virus that devours anything and everything in its path, provided there's a profit for the "Masters of War", as Bob Dylan in one of his great songs had so aptly described our corporate plutocrats.
In order to deflect from themselves, the neo-conservative ideologues and propagandists of the Western Empires, primarily led by the United States, came up with a not so new and brilliant ruse. Let's create something that is just as evil, but appears to behave even worse than we do. In the case of Saddam Hussein for example, it matters not that we created and had enthusiastically supported him - until he was no longer useful. Then, and only then, could we take the moral high ground and provide a solution to this new phantom enemy. Fear is an old control rich man's trick that's been invoked by theocracies, monarchies and states throughout history - and sadly, it works.
Like sheep we'll follow our masters and fight their new enemy, as we have in countless previous wars. We perennially fall for the worn out adages that we are fighting for our "freedoms" "country" and "democracy". It's worked before has it not? Do we ever ask whose "democracy", "country" or "freedoms" we are ostensibly fighting for? The perplexed rabble rarely, if ever, ask about the rich man's war de jour: cui bono?
Western terrorism is rarely discussed, other than by marginalized sceptics and intellectual critics such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti.
But these new enemy legionnaires and gladiators of the Empire, like the Mujahedeen, Al-Qaida, or ISIS, can never come close to the magnitude and duration of the savagery that has been demonstrated time and again by their American, British, French, Belgian or German masters.
It takes “Western democracy and culture” to enslave and butcher some ten million people in just a single geographic area of Africa- in just a matter of two decades.
So what is real terrorism, and how could ISIS and others follow its lead? They say that ISIS is decapitating their enemies. Bad enough, you say. But who is their teacher? Who are their masters? Is it Islamic dogma, as we are led to believe?
For centuries following the Crusades and countless wars of religion, the empires of Europe were murdering, torturing, raping and mutilating people on all continents of the world. Those who were not committing these heinous crimes directly, were said to be “investing” in colonialist ventures and expeditions, or merely sending its people to Christianize and civilize the indigenous natives.
The Case of Belgium
King Leopold II of Belgium, and his cohorts, late players in the colonialist horror show, managed to exterminate approximately10 million people of Western and Central Africa, in what then known as the Congo. He was hunting indigenous Africans down like vermin, forcing them to work as slaves on his rubber plantations. If he thought that they were meeting their daily allotments, not filling up his coffers fast enough, he did not hesitate to chop off their hands, or burn alive entire village populations inside their huts. Read Adam Hochschild's excellent book King Leopold's Ghost for all the sordid details.
Ten million victims ushered up to heaven (or hell). Yes, that's 10 million - the Nazi holocaust slaughtered 6 million. And the Belgian holocaust did not take place in some distant past, in the “dark ages”, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, under the rule of a so-called enlightened Christian constitutional monarchy and self-proclaimed democracy. How does it compare with the terrorism that is ruling over the territories occupied by ISIS? Let’s compare numbers and brutality levels. Examine the ledgers of accumulated corpses and mutilated bodies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has, since 1995, lost another 10 million people in a horrid orgy of terror, unleashed by the West’s proxies, Rwanda and Uganda.
Other Colonialist Holocausts
The slaughters that took place during the past five centuries in the Americas ought to be common knowledge by now. Certainly I was not taught any of it in my high school history courses five or six decades ago. Then consider Australia's crimes against its indigenous populations. Some readers are likely now aware of the greed ridden mass slaughters of native Africans by the Boers and English in South Africa, ultimately leading to the Boer War. Following that war the enslavement and plunder of South Africa's resources continued under the auspices of racist psychopathic colonialists such as Cecil Rhodes*** (Read Martin Meredith's Diamonds, Gold and War for all the gory details of one particular era and geographical location of the uniquely brutal brand of Western terrorism).
The Germans, who also wanted to get in on the colonialist piracy at the time, performed holocausts in South-Western Africa, in what is now called Namibia. Treated as vermin, the Herero tribe was almost completely exterminated. People were first removed from their land and homes, then driven into the desolate desert. If they survived, the German pre-Nazi expeditions followed, using automatic weapons and other forms of mass killing. Medical experiments on these tribes were also performed, ostensibly to establish the superiority of the Germanic nation and the Aryan races.
These were just innocent indigenous people whose only crime was that they were not white or Christian. Like indigenous populations throughout Africa, Australia and the Americas, they were inconveniently occupying land and resources coveted by colonialist Europeans who were clearly void of conscience and ethical limits. Were these colonialist exploiters and mass murderers not terrorists?
The Taliban never came close to the magnitude of this sort of plunder and slaughter, certainly not ISIS, two fanatical Islamic motivated groups who are fighting not only out of revenge, but to take back their homes, cities and land invaded and plundered by Western imperialists and their puppet regimes.
To this day, the Namibian government is demanding the return of countless heads severed from its people: heads that were chopped off and shipped off to the University of Freiburg and several hospitals in Berlin for the purposes of medical experimentation. Imagine if you can, ISIS lopping off thousands of Christian European heads, in order to perform medical experiments aiming to demonstrate the superiority of the Arabic race.
Consider the bloody history of the barbarous British and their deliberately inflicted famines, which they were using as population control and intimidation tactics in India? In Bengal at least 5 million died in 1943 alone, 5.5 million in 1876-78, 5 million in 1896-97, to name just a few terrorist acts committed by the British Empire against a defenceless population forced to live under its horrid and oppressive terrorist regime. One must wonder what it is that makes Great Britain "Great"?
Back to the Present and Future
But all this is far removed from Western consciousness. European and North American people prefer not to know anything about their disgusting violent past - or the present - and certainly not the origins of their economic advantages that are squarely on the backs of people in counties now called the "Third World". They prefer the warm and fuzzy Hollywood and high school sanitized versions of their history. It's the belief of Americans and Europeans that they control the world because they are more intelligent, better entrepreneurs, wiser and work harder than the inferior people and cultures from whom they have stolen and destroyed. "Might is right" is the adage that defines, not only capitalism, but throughout history it's been the defining principle of the conservative mind.
Terrorist tactics, end-means Machiavellian realpolitik and the amoral "might is right" principle have been passed on from Western ideology and practise to their new fundamentalist Muslim adversaries. These are the same theocratic thugs who were initially armed by the United States and used against the Russians in Afghanistan during the Reagan era of the 1980s. In that same Reagan decade, Saddam Hussein was also zealously supported militarily and financially by the US as the Iran/Iraq War raged on for several years.
The terror tactics of the Mujahedeen, Al-Qaida and now ISIS are not in the least bit original; they have been created and built on barbaric imperialist and colonialist practices employed by the West for centuries.
Revelations about this, or the terror that has been inflicted on the world by the West, is meticulously censored. You would never be exposed to them on the programs broadcast by Fox News, CNN or even the once reliable public media systems such as CBC, PBS and BBC. Nor will you see or read about such revelations in mainstream western corporatist newspapers and magazines. For the unvarnished versions and to avoid the countless acts of omission by corporate mass media you need to meticulously scan the internet or watch alternative TV news sources such as Al Jazeera or Russia Today (RT- TV). Total objectivity is of course impossible, but who can believe anything our politicians or their lap dog lame stream media spoon feed us? They are becoming totally useless as a source of reliable news and inundated with mindless advertising, sports hysteria and celebrity gossip.
Consider the duplicitous narrative we continually hear about the Ukraine, once a part of the USSR, which now has a puppet fascist government installed by a coup orchestrated by the United States and its Western allies. Neither in the Ukraine or anywhere in the West are past or present narratives credible. Faking history is akin to book burning, a practise that Christian religious orders and the Nazis were experts at. Where books are officially burned, people generally follow. In fact it's already happened in the Ukraine where on May 2, 2014, the Hall of Trade Unions in Odessa was set on fire by Kiev-junta-related neo-Nazi thugs. Over one hundred people died, including women and children. This was real history and real terrorism happening. The corporate media simply ignored it, like the 1.5 million Ukrainians who died fighting the Nazis in the Red Army who are surely entitled to mention and respect. Those who regard victory over Nazi Germany as a pivotal historical event should neither feel intimidated nor excluded from the nation regardless of their political affiliation. Many of these same anti-Semitic Nazi war criminals and mass murderers were recruited by the CIA and the US military in their Operation Paperclip. This program allowed thousands of Nazi psychopaths to escape prosecution at the Nuremburg Trials; instead they became "useful" US space program scientists and anti-communist Cold War spies while Jewish holocaust victims languished and continued to die in the death camps even after the war was over. I highly recommend the recent books The Nazis Next Door: How America became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men and more recent book called Operation Paperclip The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America.
In the US, for example, in the name of “terrorism,” Americans are conceding to their government a blank cheque authority to strip their liberties and wreak havoc on the world with impunity. The disgraceful fear mongering about terrorist threats stretch credulity to the limits of exaggeration and is typical American spectacle and hysteria. The probability of anyone being a victim of terrorism, Islamic or otherwise is about 0.00001 percent in the United States and less in Canada.** Most terrorism is home grown, the upshot of social/psychological dysfunction and disintegration. It's far more probable that someone in the United States will be killed by their own police force - an event which has become a daily occurrence for people of colour.
Moreover, the danger of homegrown terrorism applies largely to soft targets; these are locations where large numbers of people congregate, such as shopping malls, Little League games and Times Square, N.Y. By their very number they are impossihle to defend. And when one is defended, the supply of alternate targets is nearly limitless. Terrorism operates by turning the power of a stronger enemy against itself. And that tactic is working in the United States and elsewhere in the West. Our self-inflicted wounds include the denigration and militarization of our law enforcement and legal systems, violation of our privacy, and diversion of energies and resources that could be better applied to improving people's lives. It is this culture of fear that threatens us, not terrorism.
The most disturbing thing about today's imperialistic wars is they are never intended to be won. Endless war is the new normal. After all, if a war is won, there would have to be peace, and peace is something conservative elites and the obscenely wealthy cannot bear. To them it means boring tranquility and self-reflection. It means cutting out-of-control defence budgets and having to deal with the real ethically urgent problems of our planet: global warming, environmental degradation, overpopulation, the increasing economic inequities and injustice of casino capitalism and grinding poverty.
Without the continual distractions and madness of wars, peacetime would perhaps mean the West might have to actually reflect and examine its own malicious past. It would mean thinking about justice and real democracy, not just at home, but on a global scale by questioning and hopefully rearranging the edifices of authoritarianism and power at all levels of corporatist governance. In the new world order of neo-liberal capitalism in which 62 people have more wealth than half of the global population, we have reached a world-wide dystopian abyss that leaves revolution as the only viable option. That's assuming people will wake up?
*To cite one Asian example, the Indonesian army, intelligence services and police consist of a special breed of humans. For several decades, since 1965, they have been brutally terrorizing their own population, when the pro-Western coup toppled the progressive President Sukarno and brought to power a fascist military clique, backed by the predominantly Christian business gang of thugs and hit men. This terror took between 2-3 million lives in Indonesia itself, as well as in East Timor and (until now) in occupied and thoroughly plundered Papua.
That's 3 genocides in only 5 decades!
The Indonesian coup was one of the greatest terrorist acts in the history of mankind. The rivers were clogged with corpses and changed their color to red.
Why? So that capitalism would survive and Western mining companies could have their booty, at the expense of a completely demolished Indonesian nation. So the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) would not be able to win elections, democratically.
But in the West, those 1965 intensive massacres planned by the Empire were never described as “terrorism”. Blowing up a hotel or a pub however is always considered terrorism, especially if they are frequented by Western clientele.
Now Indonesia has its own groups of “terrorists”. They returned from Afghanistan where they fought on behalf of the West against the Soviet Union. They are returning from the Middle East now. The recent attacks in Jakarta could be just a foreplay, a well-planned beginning of something much bigger, maybe an opening of the new “front” of toy soldiers of the Empire in Southeast Asia.
For the West and its planners – the more chaos the better.
**Including 9/11, the number of Americans killed by terrorists since the late 1960s is about the same as the number killed by lightning, by accident-causing deer, or by severe allergic reactions to peanuts. The global refugee crisis has been the source of much government fear mongering about terrorist threats. But the number of refugees arrested in the United States on terrorism-related charges since 2001 has been 10 whereas the number of natural-born U.S. citizens arrested on the same charges has been 320. The number of people who are killed worldwide by international terrorists each year is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States.
*** Cecil Rhodes is a man, not unlike Winston Churchill, whose biography is tainted by sanitized gold plated fairy tales. He's known by most today as the energetic man who developed South Africa's huge natural resources and set up the Rhodes scholarship program at Oxford that still exists today. In realty, Rhodes was a rampant racist, robber baron and colonialist capitalist of the most vile and ruthless kind. He was a white supremacist who treated large swathes of Africa as his personal fiefdom, ruthlessly exploiting and enslaving its people and plundering its natural resources for personal gain and enrichment? The rapacious psychopathic Englishmen Rhodes and other men like him from across the Western European continent in the 19th century – colonialists, adventurers, soldiers of fortune, administrators and merchants of profit and pillage arrived In Africa and elsewhere and set about the necessary task of introducing civilization and order to indigenous "savages" who’d only known spiritual and cultural wretchedness. After all, these people were not Christians; consequently an inferior and debased species of humankind. This was the belief of men such as Rhodes and the justification employed to plunder and pillage an entire continent, reducing its people to ethnic cleansing, abject misery, poverty and despair while indulging in genocidal brutality and barbarity.