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The Real Terrorists 
Mark A. Goldman                                                     3/20/04

It has lately become the favorite propaganda of our government to proclaim that the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the world is terrorism, where terrorism is defined as the kind of activities in which Osama Bin Laden is engaged. This notion is entirely false.

The fact is, those who make this claim are a much greater threat. And this lie is now being promulgated by people who I might describe as belonging to one of two distinct groups:  those who know that what they are saying is false, and those who do not. Both groups are grossly irresponsible and both are extremely destructive to the expansion of freedom and democracy in the world.

The propaganda I speak of is able to take root only because our educational system is failing. We educate our children to not have a proper respect for intellectual integrity. We are asleep at the wheel, and we are also drunk with wealth, power, fear, and success.

I recently heard a lecture1 by Michael Parenti on National Public Radio. He’s a distinguished professor, author, lecturer and human rights activist, and he mentioned various countries where American intervention over the last 50 years systematically and intentionally overthrew reformist, democratic governments, replacing them with tyrants and dictators of our own government’s choosing. Of course American Presidents never tell us that this is what they are doing. (Most of the facts and words in this and the next paragraph are his, or my paraphrasing of them.) Off the top of his head he named these places:   Guatemala, Guyana, The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia, Greece, Argentina, Haiti, Bolivia, and other countries. A very incomplete list. In each case we replaced these governments with pro-capitalist military regimes that opened up their markets, resources, and cheap labor (i.e., labor that is underpaid, and under-organized… labor that was beaten into submission by various kinds of intimidation such as death squads and goon squads). The purpose of these incursions generally was to open up these countries to American corporate interests or investors on terms that were completely favorable to the investors. In addition, we’ve been active in covert actions and mercenary wars against popular revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, South Yemen, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara. Another incomplete list. We took action against reformist governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran (e.g., replacing Mossadegh with the Shah), Syria, Zaire, Jamaica, the Fiji Islands, Afghanistan. And just in the last few decades exercised our will in places without regard for the people living there... such as in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia.

And during this time if you heard anything at all about these places, maybe you heard about how many US troops were killed there (troops who had no business being there), but you never heard about the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, the millions who were not Americans who were killed, whose lives were torn apart, whose livelihood was destroyed, whose family and friends and freedom and culture were taken from them. These are just some of the repressive regimes installed, paid for, supplied, and trained by the CIA and/or other agencies of your government. And at what cost to the people who lived there...?   80,000 killed in El Salvador, 205,000 killed in Guatemala, 500,000 dead in Laos. 600 Mayan Villages -- every man, woman, and child killed by Ríos Montt, ('born again' Christian), protégé of the CIA and graduate of the US Army's School of the Americas. Over one million people killed in Mozambique, 3 million in Vietnam (300,000 Vietnamese still missing in action), over 300,000 dead in East Timor killed by the Indonesian army--trained, equipped and advised by the Pentagon and the CIA, 2 million killed in Angola, 10,000 killed in Samalia, hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq over the last 12 years, including an estimated 600,000 children who died as a direct or indirect result of the sanctions, bombings, and purposeful destruction of water and sanitation systems, the embargo of drugs and medicines, not including the cancers and deformities that resulted from our use of depleted uranium weapons2. And if you listen to our government talk about these places, they don’t even talk about them as if real people actually lived there. You hear about American casualties, but apparently Americans are the only people who count as real people.

Tell me something… if it was your country that was destroyed or betrayed by American Imperialism, how would you fight back? After all, say you did vote for someone who you believed in but he was overthrown and killed. You did vote to join a union but your co-workers and friends were intimidated… beaten up, or killed. And now you are poor, without rights… laboring for your daily crumbs while the elite of your country, (in cahoots with American corporate interests), prosper, swimming in oil, or whatever the resource happens to be… You pray to God… but where is God?

Well friends, this is our country in action, and all we can say is… I don’t believe this, or I didn’t know. The truth is, we don’t want to believe this, and many of us don’t want to know. Up until now we have benefited from our ignorance. But tell me… can you say that all the men, women and children who suffered in all these places were not innocent? Were they less innocent than the 3,000 who went to work that day in September 2001 thinking it was just another day? Are you innocent? According to Osama Bin Laden you are not. He said in a 1997 interview with CNN reporter, Peter Arnett3 that you elected these people who did this and you let them do it. After all, who is America? Is it not you? He said you were the ones who let them cheat and destroy the rights of others; you were the ones who allowed 600,000 Iraqi children die for lack of food and medicine. Then he said, that one day there will be a reaction to this American treachery (or rather, he promised that there would be a reaction). You did know about this interview, didn’t you? If not, how come? And now we hear every day on TV that he and all the other terrorists are people who have no conscience, that they are the ones who hate freedom and democracy? And no one stands up to disagree.

If you stop for a moment and listen quietly to that inner voice of humanity within you responding to such a statement … Can’t you just hear the laughter through the tears… Can’t you?

We call them terrorists, but the truth is we do have enemies now… people who do hate us. We call them terrorists only because they are not a country… they have no real army, no navy, no air force. All they have is the memory of what we did to them… to their families, to their culture, and to the families and the culture of others … and now they have the will to fight back, to take revenge or get us to stop.

Am I saying that setting off bombs in public places is a legitimate form of political expression?  I am not. What I am saying is that terrorism begets terrorism and we need to stop it. 

Do you want to know how to end this kind of terrorism? I have an answer. It’s very simple but it requires great courage and humility. All this war is not necessary. As a people all we have to do is this:  Become informed, gain some historical perspective, acquire some understanding and compassion, tell the truth, and then take responsibility for all the injustice that we discover was done in our name... and do it in public. It could and should be a very straightforward process for any truly honorable freedom loving people.

The real question is… is that who we are?


1Michael Parenti, “Arrogance of Empire” Tape can be purchased at

2Squeezed to death – about the embargo and the children of Iraq 

3Osama Bin Laden interview in 1977 with Peter Arnett

Other references: (send me more)
  protégé of the CIA
  Chile and CIA in Chile
  Michael Parenti quotes

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