The Long, Shameful History of American Terrorism
November 18, 2014
Noam Chomsky / Reader Supported News & Mark Mazzetti / The New York Times
The US is the world's leading terrorist state, and proud of it. A lead story in the October 15, 2014 New York Times reports on a CIA review of US covert operations around the world to determine their effectiveness. The conclusion: attempts to overthrow foreign governments -- including elected democracies -- generally failed. Major terrorist operations -- conducted by the US against Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba -- were all judged to have been failures.
The Long, Shameful History of American Terrorism
Noam Chomsky / Reader Supported News
(November 15, 2014) -- "It's official: The US is the world's leading terrorist state, and proud of it."
That should have been the headline for the lead story in the New York Times on October 15, which was more politely titled "CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels." [See NYT story below – EAW]
The article reports on a CIA review of recent US covert operations to determine their effectiveness. The White House concluded that unfortunately successes were so rare that some rethinking of the policy was in order.
The article quoted President Barack Obama as saying that he had asked the CIA to conduct the review to find cases of "financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn't come up with much." So Obama has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.
The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of "covert aid": Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the US
Angola was invaded by South Africa, which, according to Washington, was defending itself from one of the world's "more notorious terrorist groups" -- Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. That was 1988.
By then the Reagan administration was virtually alone in its support for the apartheid regime, even violating congressional sanctions to increase trade with its South African ally.
Meanwhile, Washington joined South Africa in providing crucial support for Jonas Savimbi's terrorist Unita army in Angola. Washington continued to do so even after Savimbi had been roundly defeated in a carefully monitored free election, and South Africa had withdrawn its support. Savimbi was a "monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people," in the words of Marrack Goulding, British ambassador to Angola.
The consequences were horrendous. A 1989 UN inquiry estimated that South African depredations led to 1.5 million deaths in neighboring countries, let alone what was happening within South Africa itself. Cuban forces finally beat back the South African aggressors and compelled them to withdraw from illegally occupied Namibia. The US alone continued to support the monster Savimbi.
In Cuba, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, President John F. Kennedy launched a murderous and destructive campaign to bring "the terrors of the earth" to Cuba -- the words of Kennedy's close associate, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his semiofficial biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for the terrorist war.
The atrocities against Cuba were severe. The plans were for the terrorism to culminate in an uprising in October 1962, which would lead to a US invasion. By now, scholarship recognizes that this was one reason why Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev placed missiles in Cuba, initiating a crisis that came perilously close to nuclear war. US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later conceded that if he had been a Cuban leader, he "might have expected a US invasion."
American terrorist attacks against Cuba continued for more than 30 years. The cost to Cubans was of course harsh. The accounts of the victims, hardly ever heard in the US, were reported in detail for the first time in a study by Canadian scholar Keith Bolender, Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, in 2010.
The toll of the long terrorist war was amplified by a crushing embargo, which continues even today in defiance of the world. On Oct. 28, the UN, for the 23rd time, endorsed "the necessity of ending the economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba." The vote was 188 to 2 (US, Israel), with three US Pacific Island dependencies abstaining.
There is by now some opposition to the embargo in high places in the US, reports ABC News, because "it is no longer useful" (citing Hillary Clinton's new book Hard Choices). French scholar Salim Lamrani reviews the bitter costs to Cubans in his 2013 book, The Economic War Against Cuba.
Nicaragua need hardly be mentioned. President Ronald Reagan's terrorist war was condemned by the World Court, which ordered the US to terminate its "unlawful use of force" and to pay substantial reparations.
Washington responded by escalating the war and vetoing a 1986 UN Security Council resolution calling on all states -- meaning the US -- to observe international law.
Another example of terrorism will be commemorated on November 16, the 25th anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador by a terrorist unit of the Salvadoran army, armed and trained by the US On the orders of the military high command, the soldiers broke into the Jesuit university to murder the priests and any witnesses -- including their housekeeper and her daughter.
This event culminated the US terrorist wars in Central America in the 1980s, though the effects are still on the front pages today in the reports of "illegal immigrants," fleeing in no small measure from the consequences of that carnage, and being deported from the US to survive, if they can, in the ruins of their home countries.
Washington has also emerged as the world champion in generating terror. Former CIA analyst Paul Pillar warns of the "resentment-generating impact of the US strikes" in Syria, which may further induce the jihadi organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State toward "repairing their breach from last year and campaigning in tandem against the US intervention by portraying it as a war against Islam."
That is by now a familiar consequence of US operations that have helped to spread jihadism from a corner of Afghanistan to a large part of the world.
Jihadism's most fearsome current manifestation is the Islamic State, or ISIS, which has established its murderous caliphate in large areas of Iraq and Syria.
"I think the United States is one of the key creators of this organization," reports former CIA analyst Graham Fuller, a prominent commentator on the region. "The United States did not plan the formation of ISIS," he adds, "but its destructive interventions in the Middle East and the War in Iraq were the basic causes of the birth of ISIS."
To this we may add the world's greatest terrorist campaign: Obama's global project of assassination of "terrorists." The "resentment-generating impact" of those drone and special-forces strikes should be too well known to require further comment.
This is a record to be contemplated with some awe.
CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled
Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels
Mark Mazzetti / The New York Times
(October 14, 2014) -- The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history -- from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing CIA effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups.
An internal CIA study has found that it rarely works.
The still-classified review, one of several CIA studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration's protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.
The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.
But in April 2013, President Obama authorized the CIA to begin a program to arm the rebels at a base in Jordan, and more recently the administration decided to expand the training mission with a larger parallel Pentagon program in Saudi Arabia to train "vetted" rebels to battle fighters of the Islamic State, with the aim of training approximately 5,000 rebel troops per year.
So far the efforts have been limited, and American officials said that the fact that the CIA took a dim view of its own past efforts to arm rebel forces fed Mr. Obama's reluctance to begin the covert operation.
"One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?" said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The CIA report, he said, "was pretty dour in its conclusions."
The debate over whether Mr. Obama acted too slowly to support the Syrian rebellion has been renewed after both former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta wrote in recent books that they had supported a plan presented in the summer of 2012 by David H. Petraeus, then the CIA director, to arm and train small groups of rebels in Jordan.
Mr. Obama rejected that plan, but in the months that followed, Obama administration officials continued to debate the question of whether the CIA should arm the rebels. Mr. Petraeus's original plan was reworked until Mr. Obama signed a secret order authorizing the covert training mission after intelligence agencies concluded that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had used chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians.
Although Mr. Obama originally intended the CIA to arm and train the rebels to fight the Syrian military, the focus of the American programs has shifted to training the rebel forces to fight the Islamic State, an enemy of Mr. Assad.
The CIA review, according to several former American officials familiar with its conclusions, found that the agency's aid to insurgencies had generally failed in instances when no Americans worked on the ground with the foreign forces in the conflict zones, as is the administration's plan for training Syrian rebels.
One exception, the report found, was when the CIA helped arm and train mujahedeen rebels fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan during the 1980s, an operation that slowly bled the Soviet war effort and led to a full military withdrawal in 1989. That covert war was successful without CIA officers in Afghanistan, the report found, largely because there were Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan.
But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale. Some of the battle-hardened mujahedeen fighters later formed the core of Al Qaeda and used Afghanistan as a base to plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This only fed concerns that no matter how much care was taken to give arms only to so-called moderate rebels in Syria, the weapons could ultimately end up with groups linked to Al Qaeda, like the Nusra Front.
"What came afterwards was impossible to eliminate from anyone's imagination," said the former senior official, recalling the administration debate about whether to arm the Syrian rebels.
Mr. Obama made a veiled reference to the CIA study in an interview with The New Yorker published this year. Speaking about the dispute over whether he should have armed the rebels earlier, Mr. Obama told the magazine: "Very early in this process, I actually asked the CIA to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn't come up with much."
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that "without characterizing any specific intelligence products, the president was referring to the fact that providing money or arms alone to an opposition movement is far from a guarantee of success."
"We have been very clear about that from the outset as we have articulated our strategy in Syria," Ms Meehan said. "That is why our support to the moderate Syrian opposition has been deliberate, targeted and, most importantly, one element of a multifaceted strategy to create the conditions for a political solution to the conflict."
Arming foreign forces has been central to the CIA's mission from its founding, and was a staple of American efforts to wage proxy battles against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The first such operation was in 1947, the year of the agency's creation, when President Harry S. Truman ordered millions of dollars' worth of guns and ammunition sent to Greece to help put down a Communist insurgency there. In a speech before Congress in March of that year, Mr. Truman said the fall of Greece could destabilize neighboring Turkey, and "disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East."
That mission helped shore up the fragile Greek government. More frequently, however, the CIA backed insurgent groups fighting leftist governments, often with calamitous results. The 1961 Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, in which CIA-trained Cuban guerrillas launched an invasion to fight Fidel Castro's troops, ended in disaster.
During the 1980s, the Reagan administration authorized the CIA to try to bring down Nicaragua's Sandinista government with a secret war supporting the contra rebels, who were ultimately defeated.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, CIA paramilitary officers and Army Special Forces teams fought alongside Afghan militias to drive Taliban forces out of the cities and set up a new government in Kabul.
In 2006, the CIA set up a gunrunning operation to arm a group of Somali warlords who united under the Washington-friendly name the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism. That effort backfired, strengthening the Islamist fighters that the CIA had intervened to defeat.
"It's a very mixed history," said Loch K. Johnson, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia and an intelligence expert. "You need some really good, loyal people on the ground ready to fight."
The progress of the Syrian conflict has only deepened skepticism about the loyalties -- and the capabilities -- of the Syrian opposition. Years of a bloody civil war have splintered the forces fighting the Assad government's troops, with an increasing number of fighters pledging loyalty to radical groups like the Islamic State and the Nusra Front.
Last month, Mr. Obama said he would redouble American efforts by having the Pentagon participate in arming and training rebel forces. That program has yet to begin.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said last week that it would be months of "spade work" before the military had determined how to structure the program and how to recruit and vet the rebels.
"This is going to be a long-term effort," he said.
+42 # RMDC 2014-11-15 20:25
Chomsky has been providing evidence for the charge that the US is the greatest terrorist nation in all human history for longer than I can remember. In the 80s, Chomsky and Ed Herman used the terms "wholesale" terrorism to describe the US and "retail" terrorism to describe all other nations.
The US began as a terror state. The native population was driven off of its land by terror techniques. Africans were kept in slavery by terrorism. And the US continues now to terrorize the entire world's population. I would guess that better than half of Americans believe that 9-11 was a false flag terrorist operation, actually committed by the US regime (CIA, Defense, and others) on orders from a cabal of neo-cons centered on Cheney and Rumsfeld. That says a lot.
But there is nothing anyone can do about state terrorism of the US and its client Israel. These regimes control most of the media and criminal justice systems in the world. We can protest and write comments on RSN but the terrorist master-minds in the CIA and its civilian advisory board really don't give a shit.
If anyone were to add up the number of people killed, lives destroyed, and property demolished by US ruling class terrorism since the 1600 the numbers would be well above a billion people. There really has never been a criminal regime like the United States. And the ruling elites who run it are very proud and excited about their record of terrorism.
tonywicher 2014-11-16 11:39
Mr. Chomsky himself has acted as the perhaps unwitting agent of the Cheney/Bush 9/11 hoax by his repeated unwillingness to entertain alternative hypotheses and by his chastisement of those who keep pushing this issue. I cannot forgive Chomsky for being an instrumental part of the cover-up of the Bush administration involvement in 9/11 - just as he also helped cover up the truth about the Kennedy assassination.
He has been utterly hypocritical about 9/11. When I personally showed him the most clear and elementary scientific proof that the Twin Towers and Building 7 must have been demolished with explosives, a proof that should be completely convincing to anyone of Chomsky's education, he refused to even look at it and told me "If you think you've got something, submit it to the MIT science department. As if the MIT would take such a politically red-hot a project from somebody they don't know.
My response was "You're NOAM CHOMSKY, for God's sake. Why don't you read it and take it to them yourself?? I have not spoken or written to him since.
Now after all this time at least he is appearing together with Paul Craig Roberts, a man who speaks honestly and directly about 9/11. Maybe this is a way he has of admitting how wrong he has been on these issues, but for me his intellectual credibility is permanently damaged, at least until he comes out fully in support of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.
RMDC 2014-11-16 10:13
brux says "To come up with better alternatives, ways to effect change, to make things better. Do you ever hear Chomsky ever talk about that? Never."
Actually about half of everything Chomsky writes is about positive events going on in the world and positive ways to bring about change. Chomsky is an "anarcho syndicalist" in his own terms, so he never prescribes solutions for others. He celebrates what they choose to do.
Chomsky was instrumental in the World Social Forums, the rebellion in Chiapas, and many other events. Most people don't read his positive work because we live in a culture of crisis and criticism. We love scandals. That is part of how the propaganda system in the US works.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.