U.S. Sponsorship of International Terrorism: President Reagan

U.S. Sponsorship of International Terrorism: An Overview Edward S. Herman

For the average citizen of the West, the idea of the United States as a sponsor of international terrorism let alone the dominant sponsor would appear utterly incomprehensible.

After all, one reads daily that the United States is leading the charge against something it calls “terrorism,” and it even regularly assails its allies for dragging their feet in responding to terrorism.

On the other hand, the U.S. government has organized a mercenary army to attack Nicaragua, and even provided it with a printed manual of recommended acts of sabotage and murder, which has been implemented by the proxy army at the cost of well over a thousand Nicaraguan civilian lives (Leonard, 1983).

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The U.S. government has also given unstinting support to the apartheid government of South Africa, which has directly invaded and organized its own mercenary armies to subvert a string of frontline states, again at the cost of many thousands of civilian lives.

The western media, however, never refer to the United States or South Africa as “terrorist states,” even though both of them have killed vastly greater numbers than Libya’s Quaddafi or Italy’s Red Brigades.

“Our mission,” the president added, “is to nourish and defend freedom and democracy, and to communicate these ideals everywhere we can. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense,” he concluded. The Reagan Doctrine underpinned covert U.S. military operations in such places as Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua.

“If I Don’t Like It, Call It Terrorism”

The Reagan administration in Washington has found it possible to arbitrarily designate any group or country which it opposes as “terrorist,” and this will be transmitted to the public by the mass media without serious criticism or laughter.

In his speech before the American Bar Association on July 8, 1985, President Reagan named five states as engaging in serious state terrorism: North Korea, Libya, Iran, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

The Soviet Union was presumably omitted because of the upcoming Summit meeting. The press (Weinraub, 1985: 1) reported that Syria had been spared as “a gesture of gratitude” to President Assad for his role in negotiating the release of 39 U.S. hostages in Lebanon!

The press failed to discuss the fact that South Africa and Guatemala (among others) were omitted, that Nicaragua does not murder its own citizens as South Africa and Guatemala have done on a large scale, and that Nicaragua has not invaded other countries or organized subversive forces to destabilize other countries, as South Africa has done in many places and as the United States does quite openly to Nicaragua itself.

The ludicrousness and hypocrisy of the United States calling Nicaragua a terrorist state was entirely unnoticed and without effect on the objective reporting by the U.S. press.

With a compliant mass media, especially in the United States but also among its clients, terror is what the powerful U.S. government declares to be terror.

As it is now using the concept with audacious and arbitrary abandon, it is employing the “If I don’t like it, call it terrorism” definition of terrorism.

By excluding governments, South Africa, Guatemala, and Israel are removed from the category of terrorist, while the African National Congress (ANC), rebel groups in Guatemala, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) are automatically eligible.

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This is grotesque in terms of both numbers of victims and forms of violence employed by state and non-state intimidators, but it is extremely convenient in terms of western priorities and interests.

The governments protected by this word usage are allies, clients, and self; the groups automatically made “terrorists” oppose these clients and western defense of the status quo.

The Reagan administration’s manipulation of the Libyan threat, from the mythical “hit squads” of 1981 to the deliberately provoked encounters off the Libyan coast and recent direct attacks, have been designed to shift attention from the assault on Central America, the Palestinians and assorted other Arabs groups, and the frontline states of South Africa, and to mobilize western populations for aggressive adventures abroad. The “theater of terror” is managed from Washington to serve its perceived interests.

 In Guatemala, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, pre-Sandinista Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, and Zaire (among others), the elites put in power and supported by the West have been not merely brutal terrorists, but rapacious as well.

At the time of the overthrow of the elected government of Brazil in 1964, for example, the United States was doing the following:

It had bribed hundreds of local politicians in a scandal so great that a Parliamentary Commission was forced to investigate the matter.

It had numerous journalists on its payroll, subsidized newspapers and magazines, and for 90 days before the election even rented the editorial page of Rio de Janiero’s evening newspaper.

It funded Brazilian think tanks that poured forth a flood of books and pamphlets dispensing conservative ideology and disinformation.

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A U.S. corporation, Time, Inc., illegally controlled the largest Brazilian TV station, and dispensed strong pro-coup propaganda.

The U.S. government-funded American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) worked to depoliticize and weaken the union movement, and actively supported the 1964 coup;

 U.S. officials encouraged the military establishment to oust the legal government, and the United States even had ships offshore as moral support for the leaders of the coup.

The U.S. training and buildup of client police and armed forces has been historically unique in scope and scale.

Between 1950 and 1979, U.S. military aid programs transferred a huge $107.3 billion in arms and ammunition to various U.S. clients, in addition to some $121 billion in arms sales.

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Between 1973 and 1980, the United States sold $66.8 billion in arms to Third World countries, including vast quantities of firearms, chemical munitions, helicopters, and other police gear useful in CI and repression.

Since 1950 the United States has trained over 500,000 military personnel from 85 countries in the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Panama and in several hundred other military schools and bases within the United States and abroad.

Under police training programs that began in 1954 and terminated in 1975, over 7,500 police officers received regularly training in U.S. schools, and over a million regular policeman have been given training abroad.

Large quantities of arms and equipment were also transferred to foreign police departments. A large investment was made in improving police and military communications systems in client states, oriented to CI efficiency and control of protests and other disorders. Training was provided in the design and manufacturing homemade bombs and assassination devices.*

Other scoundrels:

In 1982, Richard Nixon described Ronald Reagan as the “most pro-Israel president since Truman.” A Boston Globe editorial in 1998 described Bill Clinton as “the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman.” In 2009, Charles Krauthammer described George W. Bush as “the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman.” And Vice President Joseph Biden declared in 2012 that “no president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

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