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Evan Whitton
8 May, 2007  
Terrorism 101

The entire US national security establishment should be frog-marched off to Professor Louise Richardson’s lectures in Terrorism 101. Little Jackie Howard and solicitor general Bubba Bennett had better attend as well


Oils ain’t oils

Statesmen like to keep on saying some grubby policy is the opposite of what it really is until we fall into a catatonic trance and believe them.

imageLittle Jackie’s Like It or Lump It stuff is called WorkChoices, and his and George Bush’s invasion of Iraq was called – what?

Caroline Overington (pic) has the answer in Kickback (Allen & Unwin), her excellent narrative of the biggest corruption scandal in our history: the Wheaties’ theft of $290 million from the United Nations to pay bribes extorted by the late Mr Saddam Hussein, the cover-up, and the rather nugatory inquiry into both conducted by Mr O.K. Cole QC.

Ms Overington says that diplomats in New York insist that Bush planned to call the invasion Operation Iraqi Liberation, but it was shortly realised the acronym was OIL and the catchphrase was hurriedly changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

Either way, the catchphrase was designed to distract our attention from the fact that the invasion was unlawful.

Terror drivel

imageLikewise, the “global war on terror” and its variants are designed to cover something else, including the fact that it is largely a nonsense.

Max Rodenbeck (pic), The Economist’s man in the Middle East, tells us all we need to know about terrorism in How Terrible Is It? (The New York Review of Books, November 30, 2006.)

He quotes from Louise Richardson’s What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat (Random House, 2006). Richardson, a Harvard professor of political science, knows whereof she speaks; she served in the Irish Republican Army. Some of her points:

  • Terrorists seek the three Rs: revenge, renown, and reaction.
  • There is no special link between Islam and terrorism. As a function of the weak against the strong, terrorism goes back at least to the Roman Empire.
  • Terrorism is a threat, but not a very big one. Since the 1960s, the number of deaths from terrorism has been about the same as deaths from drowning in American bathtubs.
  • Military action may not be the best way to go: The Israeli army occupied Southern Lebanon in for 18 years but in 2000 left behind a stronger opponent, Hezbollah. After Peru suffered 70,000 killed in a 20-year war against Shining Path guerrillas; 70 police took six months to capture the leader and disband them.
  • Converting terrorists into peaceful political movements, e.g. the IRA, can be achieved by engaging them and removing their rationale for violence.

    imageMuslim disturbances in England forced the Brits to effectively accept Professor Richardson’s (pic) propositions. Tony Blair has not mentioned “war on terror” since last June, and The Observer reported on December 10, 2006 that the Foreign Office had formally advised ministers not to use the term.

    The Observer said the phrase was invented in the White House in the week following the 9/11 attacks; that in April 2006 Bush compared the war on terror to the Cold War; and that the State Department told its reporter that the US is not going to stop using it: “It’s the President’s phrase, and that’s good enough for us.”

    Max Rodenbeck’s solution:

    “One would like to see the entire US national security establishment frog-marched into Richardson’s Terrorism 101.”

    Update: Wolfie and the neoconk

    Rodenbeck implies that the people driving the US war machine are merely stupid. A different possibility emerges from Andrew Cockburn’s April 26 piece in The Guardian. It adds further and better particulars to an April 24 Justinian piece on the wretched P. Dundes Wolfowitz and his neoconcubine. Cockburn wrote:

    “We should note that his [Wolfowitz’s] entire career … has been in the service and at the direction of others. His early work in Washington [in 1969] promoting the dubious merits of an anti-ballistic missile programme, for example, was sponsored by Paul Nitze [1907-2004], a powerful insider who devoted a lifetime of intrigue to boosting east-west tensions and US defence spending. Nitze served as godfather to the neoconservative movement in the 70s, correctly calculating that a fusion of the pro-Israel lobby with the military-industrial lobby would create an alliance of unstoppable power.”

    imageSenator Ernest (Fritz) Hollings (b. 1922, Dem. South Carolina 1966-2005, pic) thought the Israel lobby was pretty hot stuff. He said on retiring:

    “You can’t have an Israeli policy other than what [the lobby] gives you around here.”

    The domino effect

    The activities of the two lobbies have had a domino effect. Mr Osama bin Muhammad bin ‘Awad bin Laden, now 50, says he took exception to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. In 1996 and 1998, he issued fatwas stating that Muslims should kill US and allied countries’ soldiers and civilians until the those countries get their troops out of Islamic countries and stop supporting Israel.

    To lure the US to its destruction, Mr Laden arranged for aeroplanes to ram the War Ministry in Washington and a tall building in New York on Wednesday, September 11, 2001.

    For an outlay of $500,000, he achieved revenge, renown, and suckered George into a grotesque over-reaction which wasted $US600 billion and made the US a pariah.

    Hotly pursued by Jackie, Bush rushed into an impossible-to-win war in Afghanistan, and resorted to unlawful detention, torture, and phone-tapping, and to laws that sharply constrain the liberty of the subject.

    However, the Bush regime seems careful not to find Mr Laden, presumably on an unspoken deal that he will do the decent thing and deliver another nasty surprise in the US before next year’s elections.

    Jackie and the war on terror

    imageWhich reminds us that we can shortly expect Little Jackie to start bellowing that he alone can save us from terror. His Solicitor General, D.M.J. Bennett, 65, BA LLB (Hons) Sydney, LLM, SJD (Harv), QC 1979 (pic), seems to be in the war on terror cart. He told a Sydney legal convention on Saturday March 24:

    ”[There are] a lot of silly people around who engage in what I call September 10 thinking. They say things like: ‘Oh, we’ve always had terrorism and there is no real difference.’ That is just nonsense.”

    Perhaps Jackie and Mr Bennett should be frog-marched into Professor Richardson’s Terrorism 101.