View Full Version : Underlying Causes

09-15-2001, 08:08 AM
Many people have said that rather than seek only military retribution, we should attempt to root out the underlying causes of terrorism, and make changes in our policies in the Middle East.

This point of view takes it for granted that the reasons for terrorists' actions are valid ones. This is not so, in general. Why should we believe that people who are insane enough to commict these atrocities have valid reasons for their actions. Note that I am not questioning whether or not they believe their reasons are valid, I'm am questioning whether or not there reasons are actually valid ones. There is a difference.

It is not possible to end suffering. It is not possible to please everyone. It is possible to strive to do what can be done in each of those areas.

There have also been some statements implying that America is being hypocritical to the extent that we are (too?) outraged at Tuesday's events simply because they happened in America. In addition there have been several posters who believe or imply that US is involved in commiting or supporting terrorist activities. This is simply not true. I saw a definition of terrorism, with which I agree, which was (paraphrased) "Any attacks made upon civilians or property, with no military purpose, to instill fear in the populace." This not something which the US has ever done. We gave money and weapons to bin Laden and others to help him and others fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We did not give him money, weapons or training to destroy civilians or property with no military purpose. Every group of "terrorists" we have supposedly supported had clear military goals. It seems to be the case that many people view the US as evil. That does not make them right. The point of view which leads them to that conclusion may have valid points to make, but it may also be heavily based on propaganda or misinformation. It may also be based on fundamental beliefs to which we are firmly opposed, and over which there can be no compromise. For instance, if some of the people responsible for this attack believe that America is evil because we have indecent television programs or movies which are broadcast around the world, and they therefore believe that we are corrupting the world in some way, this would not be a disagreement which we could resolve. If a person holds a belief which demands that they prevent others from doing a certain thing, then anyone whose beliefs demands that they do that thing will not be able to compromise. Who is right? Who knows? But the one thing that is almost universally condemned is violence against innocent people. So anyone who resorts to terrorist atrocities, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of real or percieved harm they have suffered, is wrong.

09-15-2001, 09:55 AM
Mr Terrorist,

A can of woop ass is on it's way...


09-15-2001, 11:27 AM
"In addition there have been several posters who believe or imply that US is involved in commiting or supporting terrorist activities. This is simply not true. I saw a definition of terrorism, with which I agree, which was (paraphrased) "Any attacks made upon civilians or property, with no military purpose, to instill fear in the populace." This not something which the US has ever done."

I have pulled down from a shelf my old copy of "Contra Terror in Nicaragua," by Reed Brody, former Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York, South End Press, 1985. You will recall that the contras were organized, financed and controlled exclusively by the U.S. Here is an illustration from the chronology in the appendix, pulled virtually at random (from hundreds), recounting the events of April 3, 1984:

"About 1,000 contras attacked the village of Wasala, central Zelaya, and surrounding areas, killing 37 and kidnapping at least 210. Among the incidents: A family with a newborn baby was taking cover in a ditch. The father was dragged off, tortured by having his fingertips and then his right hand cut off, and then killed with bayonets. Finally, the contras beheaded him and carved a cross in his back. The contras also shot the wife and threw a grenade into the ditch, lodging shrapnel in teh woman and her children. On teh same day, three children were kidnapped, and the bodies of five campesinos, too disfigured by torture to idenify, were found in the nearby hills. Three teenage boys, returning home after hiding in the hills all morning, were attacked with bayonets. Two of the boys, one 14, the other 16, died from their wounds. The third, who had been stabbed five times in his stomach and all over his body, survived. In nearby El Achote a band of contras dragged an agrarian reform worker from his hom, and in front of his wife, 11 month old son, and three year old son, cut him into pieces with their bayonets. The man's wife was then shot, but she lived to wath them behead her 11 month old baby. She was later found hidden in the hills, near dead."

Your tax dollars at work. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar stories have been meticulously documented by Americas Watch, the North American Congress on Latin America, the Catholic Church, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights, and other groups independent of the Nicaraguan goverenment. They were reported in the Congressional Record and congressional committee reports, the U.S. press at the time and given scant coverage by the major media organs here. This isn't "misinformation" or "propaganda" or something that's subject to serious debate, it happened. Thousands were tortured and murdered. Responsibility for this lies with the U.S. governement. You'll pardon me if I find it a little sickening to see the likes of Oliver North as a Fox News talking head urging on our efforts to bring "terrorists" to justice.

Nor were the contras even an isolated event of a few years. Throughout the postwar era, the United States generously financed, armed, trained and equipped military, paramilitary, and security forces throughout the world that engaged in extreme forms of terrorism and torture not to defend their countries from Soviet invasion but to prop up regimes amenable to U.S. business and geopolitical goals. In another example, I recently read a New York Times account of the very worst "terrorist" incidents in recent memory, which included a passenger train derailed by UNITA in Angola. Omitted from the story: UNITA was financed by the U.S. There we went again.

You wrote: "So anyone who resorts to terrorist atrocities, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of real or percieved harm they have suffered, is wrong."

I agree with this and condemn anyone involved with terrorism, including any individual, government, sect or cell that engaged in it. Would you be willing to do that, or would you think you've tended to exempt terrorists fighting on a side you support?

09-15-2001, 12:12 PM

Your post looks well thought out. I have a few criticisms however:

1. When you say that the terrorists reasons for action "are not valid ones", you do not provide any proof that they are in fact

incorrect. You assume that they are incorrect only because "why should we believe that the people who are sane enough to commit these atrocities have valid reasons for their actions." This is wrong. People can do violent things in the names of just causes.

Take for example, the Black Panthers. While you might disagree with their methods (militant), or their agenda (in some cases black separatism), the racism that led to the formation of the Black Panthers was in fact very real. Not only was it real, but there was justification to take action against it. And changes in US domestic policy were made. Not because of the black panthers, but because it was the right thing to do. The same thing with US foreign policy. We should make sure we have a moral and consistent foreign policy not because Osama Bin Laden says so, but because it is the right thing to do.

2. Giving weapons to despotic regimes who are known to terrorize their own populace is not much different from attacking those people yourself.

3. Where is the proof that bin Laden (if he is in fact behind this) had no motives, but in fact did it only because he hates the American way of life? If you can, find the transcripts of the interview he did with John Miller on the internet. Here is a quote, when asked if he had a message for the American people:

We say to the Americans as people and to American mothers, if they cherish their lives and if they cherish their sons, they must elect an American patriotic government that caters to their interests not the interests of the Jews. If the present injustice continues with the wave of national consciousness, it will inevitably move the battle to American soil, just as Ramzi Yousef and others have done. This is my message to the American people. I urge them to find a serious administration that acts in their interest and does not attack people and violate their honor and pilfer their wealth. ...

Hmm... doesn't say anything about him killing us because we are watching temptation island. If he is attacking countries with liberal lifestyles, why doesn't he go after Holland? They are far more liberal than us. If you can find valid basis that these attacks came because of bin Laden's despise for the American lifestyle and NOT because of its' involvement in the middle east, I would be more than happy to look at it.

09-15-2001, 12:28 PM
The symbol for FATAH, the group founded by Arafat, is a grenade and crossed bayonets superimposed over the State of Israel. That pretty much says it all.

09-15-2001, 01:12 PM
Were the contras primarily a terrorist group or primarily a resistance/insurgence military group? While the distinction may seem to pale at times (as in the horrifying example above), it is still an important distinction.

09-15-2001, 01:21 PM
For Chris Alger, Do you say "Nee Har Ah Wa" even when you don't pronounce other Spanish words similarly? I dated a radical leftist woman once upon a time and it seemed as if she and her cohorts studying international relations would do this as a political statement. I thought it was sort of cute when she got worked up.

09-15-2001, 01:27 PM

On a separate but related point, why does the Islamic world so seem to hate Israel? Aside from the Palestinian problem, I don't see why they don't just IGNORE that little country called Israel. Yet, even if the Palestinian problem were somehow resolved, I suspect we would still see much anti-Israel sentiment throughout the Islamic world, and probably anti-Israel actions too. Yes, I know there is much history involved and I must admit I don't know much of this history (this is in part why I am posing this question). It just seems to me that the amount of widespread animosity towards Israel is entirely disproportionate to the bone of contention over the Palestinian problem. These Islamic states have far greater areas and resources than Israel in many ways...it really seems ridiculous, with all that oil wealth and land, for them to trouble themselves so greatly over such a tiny country.

09-15-2001, 01:35 PM
Good post Lenny. I have also been thinking about the criticisms of the U.S. made because we gave arms to the Taliban types when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. I don't understand how this is used as a criticism. It was clear that the Soviet intent by trying to take Afghanistan was to get a foothold in the Persian Gulf. How can any group (except for the communist sympathyzers) in the Middle East criticize us for this? Why should we second guess our decision? If we arm people to fight off an oppressive, evil foe, why should they hate us a few years later? Particularly when it comes to people with strong religious beliefs. The last time I looked, the Soviets were not exactly friendly to religious leaders. The Taliban were able to set up their ridiculous Islamic rules because the Soviets lost. If we helped the Soviets lose, they should appreciate the help. How much worse would things be if the Soviets took over the region? I'm glad we armed the groups fighting the Soviets. And I will be glad to destroy any group that now has turned against us and helped in the attack on us. This is not inconsistency or hypocricy. And there is no need to apologize for our prior actions regarding Afghanistan.

09-15-2001, 02:24 PM
They are most accurately characterized as mercenaries. Their most common targets were civilians and civilian infrastructure in order to destabalize the economy and prove the inability of the Sandanista regime to protect it's people. They generally accomplished this.

Some insight into their "military" nature was provided by Sen. Harkin: The contras "have promised to bring to Managua a reign of terror that will make the Frech Revolution look like a Labor Day picnic." One FDN member told Newsweek in November 1982 that "Come the revolution, there will be bodies from the Honduran border to Managua." [Central America Fact Book, Grove Press 1986 at 277.]

But I suspect that many Americans seething with righteous indignation at the WTC attack still agree with Reagan's assessment: they are the "moral equivalent to our Founding Fathers."

09-15-2001, 03:55 PM
Well this certainly sounds pretty terrible.

What should have been, and what shouldn't have been, justifiable during the Cold War? The Soviets were a very real and dangerous foe who intended to eventually rule the world under their totalitarian form of communism, so many things may have been justifiable in preventing their accomplishment of this goal. However, it sounds like supporting the contras may well not have been...I don't know much about it. It is worth noting that when the U.S. searched for and found allies against the spreading Red Menace, it did not have the luxury of choosing them according to ideal standards. Still, probably some of those we supported should not have been supported, and the contras may have been such a group.

09-15-2001, 05:16 PM
You're raising a lot of issues that I can't respond to in this space, but the idea that U.S. foreign policy was motivated, until the collapse of the U.S.S.R., by the threat of communist conquest is, IMO, a canard.

The bedrock foreign policy interests of the U.S. certainly involve a broadly-defined anti-communism (so broad that it includes labor organizing and most forms of popular politics in the developing world), but it has little to do with the threat of communist imperialism and conquest. It's more concerned with the need to maintain acceptable political stability in order to maintain markets for the goods sold by the U.S. and its trading partners and ready access to raw materials they need to maintain their economies. If governments that pose threats to or interfere with this process can come to power and thrive in one country, the demonstration effect on other countries could be conceivably devastating to long-term U.S. interests, as defined by those with the greatest ability to do so. On the other hand, because few members of the public know or care much about such things, and are much less willing to pay them if asked, whether in dollars or blood, the prevailing technique of engineering popular consent for foreign policy involves invoking the spectre of foreign conquest, which everyone can understand.

Of course, certain "anticommunist" policies took on a life of their own even when they're connection to real U.S. interests was remote or even counterproductive, as in the final years of the Vietnam war, but this is a collateral effect.

Notice, for example, that after the Soviet Union collapsed, U.S. foreign policy remained virtually unchanged, the military industrial complex remained largely intact, and most mainstream discussion centered around the need to keep it that way. This doesn't involve any conspiracy by elites. It's simply the acceptable mode for public discourse, which includes constant references to freedom, peace and equality even though such ideals are far too abstract to implement into policy and, more to the point, far to removed from the immediate concerns of those that make it.

09-16-2001, 12:15 PM
I think my post made it pretty clear that I am unaware of any such activity by the US government. I was trying to distinguish between arming a group, training it to fight, and training it to do terrorism. If the stories you report are real, then those who were involved are criminals, and evil. That, however, doesn't excuse violence towards the US. The contras were bad, I've heard that from a number of people. I'm not so sure about the rest of your statement, though, that the US has funded terrorists to prop up governments we like. How do you know UNITA was funded by the US, why were they funded by the US, and what is their purpose?

09-16-2001, 01:44 PM
It's interesting that for all of Mr Alger's proported objectivity he didn't mention what the Sandinista's did to the native indian popultion.

09-16-2001, 02:32 PM
Interesting that you mention that. It is certainly true that the Sandinistas committed atrocities against the Miskito Indians when the latter demanded autonomy of a sort that would be inconceivable by the native peoples of the U.S. Indeed, the Sandistas later admitted as much and sought to make reparations. According to Americas Watch, these abuses consisted of killing 21 to 24 Indians, "disappearances" of some 69 others, and forcibly removing 10% of the Miskito population from a war zone.

At the time (1982), UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick claimed that such abuses were "more massive than any other human rights violations that I'm aware of in Central America." Reagan called it a "campaign of virtual genocide agaist the Miskito Indians." This during a time when U.S.-backed forces in Guatamala had murdered thousands of indians within its borders, and U.S.-backed forces in El Salvador had murdered 13,000 civilians, with many tens of thousands more to come in both countries, thanks in large part to U.S. support. (Another intesting fact that helps explain the U.S.-Israel realtionship: when the murder and torture by the Guatemalan military regime reached such horrendous levels that Congress cut military aid, the Guatamalan government turned to, guess who?, allowing the U.S. to effectively funnel hardware and training through the middle east.)

Of course, the civilian victims of the contras (particularly out of the Costa Rican Southern Front) had nothing to do with the Miskitos. But the propaganda about Sandinista human rights abuses helped mute what should have been greater outrage over our actions, under the curious logic of exculpating our abuses on the grounds that others do the same. This is analogous to an accused murderer would defend himself by pointing out the others that have done the same remain unpunished, or claiming that the WTC bombers and their cohorts should remain as free as Elliot Abrams or Oliver North on the grounds that the U.S. has done bad things to others elsewhere.

09-19-2001, 04:58 PM
I don't think and haven't suggested that US support for terrorism justifies more terrorism, although it might occasionally explain it.

It's not so much that the US trains "terrorists" in the conventional sense to prop up governments, it's that the US supports state terror that governments use to maintain themselves in power. So I don't distinguish between indiscriminate killing by governments for the purpose of creating terror and the same actions by guerrillas or criminals wihout state power, except to note that governments can inflict more and wider terror given their weaponry and other resources. I don't think the legal "legitimacy" of whoever is inflicting terrorism matters much to the victims.

The US supported UNITA from it's earliest days in the mid-1970's, shortly after Angola became independent of Portugal, up through the Reagan administration. This was widely reported at the time, and WSJ reporter Jonathan Kwitney's "Endless Enemies" includes, if I recall, a good survey source on US covert ops in Western Africa. UNITA was instrumental in cluttering the country with landmines and turning Angola into what was known in the 1980's as the child amputee capital of the world. On rereading the article in the times, the train derailment I mentioned occurred after the US stopped supporting UNITA and joined the rest of the world in demanding sanctions against it.