Jo Landers

The July War and Its Repercussions
A few observations on terror and terrorism

NGOs know why they are against terror. It may be years ago when the Rainbow Warrior (the boat sent by GREENPEACE to the Pacific to protest and attempt to obstruct French nuclear tests) was blown up by the secret service of the French government. It was a so-called Socialist president, Mitterrand, who was responsible for this act of terrorism which resulted in the death of an innocent civilian, a journalist still on board during the night the ship exploded.

Advocates of civil rights, pacifists, and those who criticize the powerful have no reason to be quiet about this. Do not our Italian friends remember all too well all those victims of bombs that were killed because the US government wanted to discredit the peace movement and the looming 'compromesso storico'? Patriot or Pershing II missiles were about to be stationed in Sicily. Public opinion was against it. It had to be swayed. When hundreds of commuters were killed in trains or waiting on the platforms of train stations (as in the Bologna incident), graffiti appeared on the walls of houses. "The bombs are red!" they said. More than a decade later, the truth was revealed. Neo-fascists and the Italian military secret service had workedhand in hand while the C.I.A. remained in the background. But the goal had been achieved. Public opinion was swayed. Though the terrorist attacks were not the work of leftists as the media had insinuated at the time, the coalition of Christian Democrats and PCI was aborted. The PCI, nonetheless, moved towards more social-democratic positions. This is a different story. The terror was insane, it ended so many lives so abruptly. But it achieved the ends of the dominant social forces. In that sense, it was "rational." Hellishly "rational." Shame on it. Shame on them. That the facts were revealed, later on, has not kept them from pursuing their ends by doubtful and, "if necessary," brutally cruel means. 

In the last two years, the Americans have fought two wars on Iraqi soil and in the skies above Iraq. Their supposed goal during the first war was to deny the Iraqi regime any right to occupy Kuwait; during the second, it was to topple a dictator. We have every reason to doubt whether these were genuine motivations of the respective US governments. Each time, the population paid a heavy price. Power plants water works, schools, hospitals were destroyed. Clean drinking water became precious. Electricity was lacking when operations had to be performed. The equipment of hospitals was destroyed. School children were left without classrooms. Many of those who were not harmed in the first US-Iraq war suffered gravely from the subsequent embargo imposed. Food became scarce. Pharmaceutical products became scarce. While Iraq had been a country of the so-called Second World (with a very good infrastructure and an acceptable standard of life for a large part of the population), it fell back to the level of a so-called Third World country as a consequence of this war and the damage it brought. UN sources reporting on the effects of the embargo spoke of hundreds of thousands of victims. People dying of avoidable illness, of malnourishment and what not. Perhaps it is not illogical to call the American embargo (which was supported by US allies and others, in the UN, and thus seemed legitimate) a case of terror?
The second US-Iraq war, provoked no doubt by the Bush administration and called an illegal war by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as well as several members of the European Parliament, was fought as a "hyper-modern" war testing the latest generation of US weapons. White phosphorus, cluster bombs and other weapons among them that have effects on civilian and military "targets" which prompted critics to speak of war crimes and of terror. The use of such weapons was, in part, continued during the subsequent campaings to put down "rebels," that is to say, armed resistance against occupation, as in the case of Falluja.

It is the mighty of the Western world who have always, in the last 150 years or so, denounced terror. The population wherever it became a target of terror cannot but agree that terror is horrible.
But do we not sense the hypocrisy of the mighty? Does not their denunciation of terror ring hollow when they have been and still are prepared to use terror themselves, for their own selfish goals? 

It is us, the people, who pay the price. In Iraq. In Lebanon. In the West Bank and in Israel. And, to be sure, in so many other parts of the world.
We should not be astounded in the West if terror reaches our shores; we should not be perplexed if people are killed in what appear to be peaceful cities of Europe or the US. We should ask ourselves why. TheSpanish population, by a clear majority, only a short while ago sacked a prime minister when bombs were exploded, killing a large number of people traveling on commuter trains in the Madrid metropolitan area. They had an inkling that the insane attacks had happened in response to the auxialiary role of Spanish troops sent to Iraq to strengthen the occupation forces. They had a clear feeling the Spanish presence in Iraq was wrong. An overwhelming majority of them had opposed the war in the first place. The anti-war protests had not kept their Conservative government from supporting the Bush administration. When that government lied about the bombs of Madrid, trying to attribute them to ETA, the said "Enough is enough." They voted for change, opting for a different government.

It's only a slight step in the right direction, we know. But will not more follow, sooner or later? We are still learning hard lessons. One of them is that insane terror is not stopped by self-righteous and hardened governments who scrap civil rights and pursue an aggressive course abroad, A policy that often has not refrained from terror.


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