Never Forget

“Terrorism: the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” –US Dept. of Defense

It is good and appropriate that the phrase “Never Forget” has been adopted as the slogan for urging Americans to eternally memorialize the victims of the events of September 11.  It is good because we should never forget.  Murdered innocents should be given the honor and respect of not being lost in history.  But the slogan is appropriate because for decades, we have been allowing horrendous atrocities that have taken place in this world—at our hands—to slip our minds.

On the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, as the hearts of all Americans are softened and people temporarily pull together as one to overlook regional and cultural differences, I would like to make a plea for that compassion to stretch beyond our borders.  Let us take this moment, with the horrors of terrorism even now still fresh in our minds, to recognize that terrorism is abhorrent, no matter who carries it out, who is targeted, or under what label it is recorded in the history books.  Let us recognize the sanctity of all human life, and let us feel the way we felt on Sept. 11 every time the life of an innocent child of God is snuffed out.  This is not strictly a Christian way of behaving, although Christians should be the loudest voices calling for peace.  This is basic human emotion that should be shared by every non-psychopathic human when witnessing atrocities.

Why then is there so little outcry against terrorism in all its forms?  The answer must be that we don’t know it when we see it.  Most of the time we don’t see anything—we have the privilege of tuning out news from around the world, around the country, around the city… We can tailor our bubbles to be as small and egocentric as we choose.  When we do seek out the news, what we get is an amalgam of propaganda presented by American media that long ago abandoned their position as the “fourth estate” of government and now functions mainly as a government mouthpiece.  So instead of holding the US government accountable when it commits terrorism, it hides it in plain sight under such noble-sounding and vague labels as “counter-insurgency”, “soft targets”, “low-intensity conflict”, “Operation Just Cause”, and “Operation Enduring Freedom”.

From what I gather, only America and Britain to a lesser extent have a public as completely in the dark as to what its government has done and continues to do without its consent.  The rest of the world is under no starry-eyed illusions as to what the arrival of the stars and stripes can and often does mean for their country: blood… their blood.  I’m not talking about the blood of evil drug lords and babykillers.  I’m talking about the innocent blood of women and children and old people and young men, whose crime that was punished by death was to live in a place that stood between US and something we wanted.

I don’t say this to be salacious or to excuse in any way the killings of 2,700 people on Sept. 11. It is simply fact that the United States is one of the worst purveyors and supporters of terrorism in the world.  It is a fact that the US consistently stands in the way of peace and democracy.  This only sounds outrageous because we are so ignorant of history, even recent history.  So to keep it relatively brief, here are some of the worst cases from just my lifetime:

  1. The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America, Aug. 1984.  After the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair, Nicaragua pleads its case to the International Court of Justice, charging the United States with supporting the Contra rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and setting mines in Nicaragua’s harbors.  During the proceedings it is revealed that the US had disseminated a manual entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare to the Contras, which included advice on how to rationalize killing civilians.  The Contras’ methods of warfare involved, according to Human Rights Watch, targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination, raping women, and indiscriminately kidnapping, torturing and executing civilians.  The ICJ finds in favor of Nicaragua, charging the US with, among other things, the unlawful use of force against another sovereign state (see definition of “terrorism”).  The US blocks the ruling and never allowed Nicaragua to receive compensation. Support for the Contras continues into the 90s.
  2. September, 1984.  The UN Security Council passes Resolution S/16732, reaffirming a resolution from 1978 demanding Israel withdraw from Lebanon, during which time thousands of Lebanese had been killed and thousands made refugees.  The Resolution also demands Israel observe international law and human rights granted under the Geneva Convention.  It passes 13-1, US against. (Much more could be said about Lebanon.)
  3. March, 1985. According to Bob Woodward’s book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981 to 1987, a car-bombing in Beirut that kills 80 people and injured 256, mostly women, is arranged by the CIA and specifically authorized by CIA Director William Casey. The target of the attack: suspected terrorist Sheikh Fadlallah.
  4. June, 1986.  Security Council drafts a resolution insisting all states observe international law.  The US vetoes it.
  5. November, 1986.  The UN General Assembly passes Resolution 41/31, reminding member nations of their responsibility to abide by international law and the rulings of the International Court of Justice.  It passes 94-3; US, Israel and El Salvador opposed.
  6. November, 1987. US-backed Contras attack two villages with RPGs, killing six adults and six children. (One of numerous examples.)
  7. December, 1987. The UN General Assembly votes on Resolution 42/159 condemning terrorism and reaffirming “the basic rights of the individual in accordance with the relevant international human rights instruments and generally accepted international standards…”  It includes the important proviso that “people under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation” do not forfeit “the right… to struggle [for freedom and independence].”  The resolution passes 153-2, the two dissenting votes being Israel and the United States.
  8. Invasion of Panama, 1989.  After 20+ years of employing Manuel Noriega as a CIA asset—during which time he operated as a known drug trafficker with full protection of the DEA—President George H. W. Bush decides Noriega must answer for his “crimes” of drug trafficking and initiates Operation Just Cause.  An estimated 2,500-5,000 Panamanian civilians are killed and 15,000 made homeless.  Panamanian military deaths: 205.  The UN General Assembly votes 75-20 to condemn the invasion as a violation of international law.
  9. October, 1989. A year and a half after Saddam’s poison gas massacre of the Kurds known as “Bloody Friday” that killed 5,000 and injured 10,000 mostly civilians, with thousands dying later from complications associated with the poisoning, Bush I issues a national security directive stating, “normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East.”  The US offers Saddam’s regime food supplies and biological agents capable of use as weapons of mass destruction.
  10. 1990 to present.  The UN imposes heavy sanctions against Iraq, effectively forcing the Iraqi people to rely on Saddam.  According to the UN, the embargo kills 7,000 Iraqis each month, 5,000 of them children under the age of five.
  11. October, 1995.  A top official in the Clinton administration refers to Indonesian President Suharto as “our kind of guy”, according to the New York Times.  Suharto’s 30-year rule enjoyed US support while he was committing atrocities like the invasion of East Timor, where he killed somewhere between 91,000 and 213,000 people, or as much as 30% of the population.  Another 73,000-200,000 died from hunger and disease.  The Indonesian army’s officer corps had been trained by the US and CIA. US government officials had made at least four separate offers of military equipment to Suharto. The US continues to train the Indonesian army until Suharto’s resignation in 1998.
  12. Luis Posada Carriles.  Venezuelan anti-communist, convicted terrorist and CIA agent. 1976: Convicted in absentia in Panama for bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 civilians. 1997: Admittedly part of bombings in Havana hotels.  2000: Accused of attempted assassination of Fidel Castro.  2005: Arrested in Texas for illegal immigration.  Cuba and Venezuela request extradition- the US refuses saying he could face torture there (to which a Venezuelan official cites US torture at Abu Ghraib as an example of what he will not receive at Venezuela’s hands). The US refusal violates Security Council Resolution 1373 of September, 2001, prohibiting countries from giving terrorists safe haven.  2010: Tried in Texas for lying to US officials, where his attorney argues in a motion that the “involvement, knowledge, acquiescence and complicity [of the US government] in sabotage or bombings in Cuba” are relevant to the case. Posada is cleared of all charges and freed on bond.
  13. October, 2001.  Pakistan requests evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11 and that upon receipt, they will turn him over.  President Bush ignores the request.
  14. February, 2011.  The Obama administration vetoes a Security Council resolution calling for Israeli settlements to be condemned as illegal and for a stop to their construction.
  15. Iraq War, 2003 to present.  Conservative estimates like that of the Iraq Body Count Project puts the civilian death toll as of October 2010 at 100,000.  “Controversial” estimates put the death toll as high as 600,000.
  16. Afghanistan War, 2001 to present.  Bush II referred to it at first as “the Crusade”, ostensibly before someone pointed out to him the implications of the reference.  Later it was codenamed “Operation Enduring Freedom” (to “endure” means to suffer under).  No official overall total exists, but 20,000 civilian deaths directly is conservative.

More cases could be given but I think the point is made.  A tree is known by its fruit- looking not at what we say but at what we do, the United States does not support democracy or human rights.  It supports murder, aggression, and yes, terrorism.

This article is aimed primarily at my Christian brothers and sisters. For those of you that believe peace will come through human channels, by all means, get to work.  Get out the vote. Protest. Join the army.

But if you believe, as I do, that Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace, and that to take up the sword is to die by the sword, then won’t you stop supporting these wars? There will always be some justification given for them, but your heavenly mandate is clear.  It is not our job to spread the kingdom by crusade.  I promise you there is no foe that God needs our help to defeat. The “Old Testament” God who seems so angry is the same God of the New Testament who came down and told you in plain English (Hebrew), Love your enemies and do them good, for He Himself is kind to evil men.

For my part, this Sunday I will remember the victims of September 11. I will also remember the victims in Nicaragua, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Colombia, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Germany.  I will pray for the evil men and that Jesus would come quickly and wipe away tears from all faces.


Note: I have purposefully not cited anything in this article in the hopes that you will verify its accuracy on your own. Much of the information in this article was taken from the research of Noam Chomsky. If you want to know more about world affairs and history, I highly recommend any and all of his writings and speeches.