12 March 2004
Predictably, ‘terror experts’ are suggesting that ‘Al-Qu-eda’ could be involved in the Madrid bombings, although the Spanish government are still insisting that ETA, the Basque separatist group are more than likely responsible for the carnage. But does it really matter who is responsible? In the age of the security state and engineered hysteria, anything is possible when secrecy rules the actions of government.
International ‘conspiracies’ have a long history extending back to the 1919 US ‘Palmer Raids‘ that resulted in the arrest and deportation of hundreds of Italian ‘anarchists’ who were purportedly planning the overthrow of the US government. And of course ‘red plots’ of one kind or another have been used by Western governments as a pretext for repressive measures throughout the 20th century.
One bizarre effect of the allegations of ‘subversion’ by ‘Reds’ has been the infiltration of left organisations by the state to such a degree that at one time, almost the entire leadership of the US Socialist Workers Party as well as the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s were actually FBI agents! It raises the paradoxical issue of whether or not the policies of the SWP and the CPUSA were not actually a product of the US government. Interviews with FBI agents revealed that they had to acquaint themselves with Marxist theory and practice to a high degree in order to pass themselves off as true ‘Reds’ including the formulation of party policies and programmes.
A similar scenario was played out by the COINTELPRO programme of infiltration of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, with agents placed in key positions in the party’s leadership. One objective was to try and get the Panther’s to engage in dangerous, even suicidal confrontations with the state that could then be used (and were) as a pretext for suppressing and murdering members of the organisation.
What this history raises is the question of the degree to which nebulous organisations like Al Qu-eda are in fact, not only a direct product of US policy but also their actions. Osama bin Laden was, after all a CIA ‘asset’ prior to his current incarnation as public enemy No.1. Why for example, has it proved impossible to locate Osama, in spite of all of the US’s (alleged) efforts? And what of the many questions concerning what the US government knew about 9/11 prior to the events?
And conveniently too, ‘organisations’ like Al Qu-eda are by definition impossible to pin down and identify except when individuals are caught and even then, given the secrecy that surrounds how such individuals are dealt with, there is no public oversight (let alone legal rights for the accused).
The US, by its own definition, is a terrorist state
US involvement in the assassination of exiled Chilean political leader Orlando Letelier is well documented:
“In the early summer of 1976, Col. Manuel Contreras, head of DINA, Chile’s secret police, launched an operation to assassinate exiled Chilean leader Orlando Letelier. It has now been learned that within a few days of setting that plot in motion, Contreras made a secret visit to Washington DC, where he met with officials of the Central Intelligence Agency and also negotiated the purchase of illegal weapons and electronic spying equipment with a firm run by former CIA officers Edwin Wilson and Frank Terpil.”
So too with convicted terrorist Cuban Orlando Bosch:
“Most controversially, at the request of Jeb [Bush], Mr Bush Sr intervened to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him US residency.
“According to the justice department in George Bush Sr’s administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed.”
So too with the Lockerbie bombing, where accusations of CIA involvement have surfaced over and over again and all attempts to pursue such lines of inquiry have been stonewalled by both the US and UK authorities. It has been alleged that CIA funding of a terrorist group based in Beirut was behind it. But who are the terrorists really working for (do they even know)? So it would seem that one person’s terrorist is another’s ‘freedom’ fighter.
But every time we come to deal with this and other related issues, we arrive back at the role of the media in the way it presents these issues, for is not the sheer weight of media coverage directly related to the source of the story? Hence the murder of innocents in Afghanistan, Libya, the Sudan, Palestine, Panama or Haiti is never, ever regarded as a terrorist act if committed by the West. Instead, it’s sanitised as ‘collateral damage’ or an ‘unfortunate response’ to someone else’s terror, or merely a side effect of ‘fighting the good fight’, casualties of war and all that garbage.
Semantics of terror
Were the acts of the death squads in Haiti ever described as those of terrorists? No – they were ‘rebels’ and indeed a leading journalist from a ‘leading’ British newspaper defended the use of the word rebel in its reportage to me as:
“[R]e: [P]hilippe [convicted Haitian torturer and assassin] and “rebel”. [O]n further thought, surely you’d concede he is a rebel in the very obvious sense that he and others are rebelling against the established order?”
So anyone who rebels against the ‘established order’ (that would include members of Al Qu-eda by this definition) should by rights be a rebel (insurgent, dissenter, radical, revolutionary). The problem with this approach is that the use of the word terrorist (radical, revolutionary, fanatic, activist, rebel) has altogether different connotations than the word rebel simply because it is only ever used to describe the actions of people who are opposed to the Western way of life (and its so-called values). And it’s interesting that my thesaurus sees the two words as sharing common definitions.
Mention rebel to me and I think of Bob Marley. Mention terrorist and I think of George Bush. Mention state terror and the Taliban comes to mind but never the US government. It’s inconceivable to think of the corporate media as ever describing the actions of George Bush as those of a terrorist, yet what was dropping the biggest ‘conventional’ bomb ever made on a restaurant in Baghdad, full of innocent men, women and children but an act of terror performed by the state?
It’s obvious that the word terrorist is loaded with significance, a significance that it has acquired through repeated use in much the same way as the word Communist used to be. Once loaded, it’s virtually impossible to unload.
Significantly, the issue of the word has less to do with its meaning and everything to do with the creation of a state of mind that masks the real issues. Hence Palestinian ‘terrorists’ masks the nature of their existence as a captive nation and their responses to it. Even empathising with their condition is liable to get you pilloried in the press, but empathising with Israelis whose ‘very existence is in peril’ is okay because they are not terrorists nor even rebels but are merely ‘defending’ their country. It’s not even about numbers of dead but about the value of an Israeli life as opposed to that of a Palestinian. The equation doesn’t balance. That Israel has F-16s, helicopter gunships, missiles and tanks up against a poorly armed and largely civilian population is never made part of the equation of reportage. In fact, it is deliberately excluded, for once admitted to the discourse, the actions of the Palestinians would take on an entirely different significance.
Ultimately, it comes down to the use of language to dehumanise and hence devalue life. This is the core of the ideology of racism that uses language to render a human being as something less than human and hence enables the dominant culture to justify their destruction.