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KEYNOTES

FOREIGN POLICY • NOAM CHOMSKY

T H E T E R R O R I S T I N T H E M I R R O R

The US and the UK perpetuate self-serving, hypocritical foreign policies which will continue to be rejected by the Muslim world.

TERROR IS A term that r igh tly arouses strong e m o tions and d eep con cern s . The p r im a ry c o n c e rn sh ou ld , naturally, b e to take measures to alleviate the threat. To p r o c e e d in a serious way, w e have to establish s om e guidelines. H ere are a fe w sim p le on es: 1. Facts matter, even i f w e d o n o t like them . 2. Elementary m o ra l p r in c ip le s matter, even i f they have c on s e q u en c e s that w e w o u ld prefer n o t to face. 3. Relative clarity matters. W e sh ou ld seek e n o u g h clarity at least to d is tin guish ‘ terror’ f r om tw o n o t io n s that lie uneasily at its b o rd e rs : aggression and leg itim ate resistance.

I f w e accept these gu id e lin es, there are qu ite constructive ways to deal w ith the p r o b lem s o f terrorism . Let’s turn to the “ War o n Terror” . Since facts matter, it matters that the w a r was n o t declared b y G eorge W Bush o n 9 / 1 1 , but by the Reagan adm in istration tw enty years earlier. The administration cam e in to o ffic e declaring that their foreign policy w ou ld con fron t what Reagan called “ the evil scourge o f terrorism ” , a p la gu e spread b y “ depraved op p on en ts o f c iv ilisation i t s e l f ” .T h e cam paign was d ir ected to a particularly v iru lent f o rm o f the p lague: state-directed in ternational terrorism . The m a in fo cu s was Central Am erica and the M id d le East, but it reached to sou th ern A fr ica and South-East Asia and b ey on d .

A s e c on d fact is that the w ar was declared and im p lem en t ed b y pretty m u c h the same p e o p le w h o are con d u c t in g the re -d e c la red w ar o n terrorism . During the first phase o f the War o n Terror, D ona ld Rum s fe ld was Reagan’s special representative to the M id d le East. There, his m a in task was to establish c lo s e relations w ith Saddam Hussein so that the US c o u ld p r o v id e h im w ith la rge-scale aid, in c lu d in g means to d evelop w eapon s o f mass destruction (W M D ) , con t in u in g lo n g after the h u g e atrocities against the Kurds and the end o f the w a r w ith Iran. The o f f ic ia l p u rp o s e , n o t c oncealed , w as the v ie w o f W a sh in g ton and its allies Britain and Saudi Arabia that “ whatever the sins o f the Iraqi leader, h e o f f e r e d the West and the r e g i o n a better h o p e f o r his c o u n t r y ’s stability than d id th ose w h o have su ffe red his rep re s s io n ” — as d iscu ssed b y NewYork Times M id d le East c o r r e sp on d en t Alan C ow e ll, d e s cr ib in g W a sh in g ton ’s ju d g em en t as G eorge Bush senior, authorised Saddam Hussein to crush the Shi’ite reb e l l io n in 19 9 1 , w h i c h p r obably w o u ld have ov erth row n the tyrant.

LET’S TURN TO the s e con d o f the guidelines: elem entary m oral p r in cip les matter. O n e example, o f critical im portan ce today, is the N u rem b e rg Tribunal. In sen ten c in g Nazi w ar crim in a ls , Justice R ob e rt Jackson, C h ie f o f C ounsel fo r the U n ite d States, sp oke eloquently, and m em orably, o n the p r in c ip le o f universality. “ I f certain acts o f v io la t ion o f treaties are c r im e s ,” he said, “ they are c r im e s w hether the U n ited States d o e s th em o r w h e th e r G erm any does them , and w e are n o t prepared to lay d o w n a ru le o f crim inal c o n du ct against others w h i c h w e w o u l d n o t b e w i l l in g to have in voked against us ... W e must never fo rg e t that the r e co rd o n w h i c h w e ju d g e these defendants is the r e c o r d o n w h i c h h is to ry w i l l ju d g e us tom o r r ow . To pass these defendants a p o i s o n e d chalice is to put it to o u r o w n lip s as w e ll.”

That is a clear and h on ou ra b le statement o f the p r in c ip le o f universality. But the ju d gm en t at N u rem b e rg itse lf c ru cially v io la ted this prin c ip le . The Tribunal had to defin e ‘w ar c r im e ’ and ‘ c r im e s against h um an ity ’ . It crafted these defin itions very carefully so that crim es w ere crim inal on ly i f they w ere n o t c om m i tte d b y the Allies. Urban b om b in g o f civilian concentrations was exclu ded, because the Allies carried it ou t m o r e barbarically than the Nazis. The se l f -e x em p t io n o f the p ow e r fu l f r om in ternational law and e lem entary m oral p r in c ip le g o e s far b e y o n d this illustration, and reaches to just about every aspect o f the tw o phases o f the War o n Terror.

W e m ig h t want to bear this in m in d w h e n w e read G eorge W Bush’s im p a s s io n ed p r o n o u n c em e n t that “ the United States makes n o d is t in c t io n b e tw een th ose w h o c om m i t acts o f terror and th ose w h o su pport th em , because th ey ’re equally as guilty o f m u rder,” and that “ the c iv ilis ed w o r ld must h o ld th ose r eg im es to a c c oun t .” Bush’s remarks p o s e a d i lem m a . Either the US is part o f the c iv i lis ed w o r ld , and must therefore send the US air fo r c e to b o m b W ash in g ton ; o r it declares it se l f to b e ou ts id e the c iv i lis ed w o r ld . The l o g i c is im peccab le , but fortunately, l o g i c has been d is pa tch ed as d eep ly in t o the m em o r y h o le as m oral truisms.

But let us n o w ad op t prevailing Western h yp o c r isy and cyn ic ism , and keep to the operative d e f in it io n o f ‘ terror’ . It is the same as the o f f ic ia l d e f in it io n s , but w i th the N u rem b e rg e x cep t io n : adm issib le terror is y o u r terror; ours is exem p t.

THE INVASION OF Iraq is perhaps the m o s t g laring exam p le o f the l o w p r io r ity assigned b y U S /U K leaders to the threat o f terror. W ash in g ton planners had b e en advised, even b y their o w n in te llig ence agencies, that the invasion was likely to increase the risk o f terror. A nd it d id . The National In te llig ence C ou n c i l r ep o r ted a year ago that “ Iraq and other p o s s ib le con f lic ts in the future c o u ld p r o v id e recruitm ent,

1 4 Resurgence No. 237 July/August 2006

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