US-Sponsored State Terror

The whole world is watching as the Israeli military continues to smash its way through occupied Palestine. Attempting to prevent journalists from reporting first-hand on the slaughter and destruction, Israeli military authorities harass, threaten, and fire on any journalists foolish or courageous enough to violate the Israeli imposed restrictions on what can be broadcast.

However, it is impossible to hide the devastation being wrought on Palestinian civilians when hundreds of thousands of them are in a total lockdown, unable to venture out of their surrounded homes to seek food or medical relief. Reports stream in from Palestinian hospitals and doctors about their inability to treat the dead and wounded because of assaults and barriers imposed by the Israeli military operation. Moreover, doctors and ambulance drivers who are trying to assist the wounded find themselves in harm’s way, leading the International Committee of the Red Cross to protest the cruel and anti-humanitarian actions by the invading Israeli forces.

In the midst of what are clearly war crimes, the Bush Administration is maneuvering to placate the inflamed Arab world while giving the Sharon government cover to continue its murderous onslaught. Instead of pressuring Israel with the loss of billions of dollars annually in military aid, this Administration, as previous ones, continues to extend its largesse for the strategic role Israel offers to US hegemony in the region. Every tank rolling into Palestinian cities and every helicopter and plane launching missiles into Palestinian refugee camps is US-made and eagerly delivered to a military ally which is now ratcheting up the level of state terror. Such state terror far outweighs the wholesale terror of suicide bombers even though the victims of both forms of terror can find little solace in the important and necessary distinctions between them.

US-sponsored state terror is often not as blatantly evident as it is now in Palestine. Of course, given the US media bias and lack of self-reflection, one will hardly see a full examination of the connections between Israeli state terrorism and US sponsorship. How is it that US tax money continues to flow into the coffers of the Israeli war machine without even a minimal effort of accountability being attached? How do organizations and individuals in the US continue with impunity to donate to the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank without the kind of scrutiny given to organizations donating money to Arab-American causes in light of 9/11?

On the other hand, it is amazing that so much attention is paid by the US media to what goes on in Israel/Palestine. It is not because of any alleged and illusory role of Jewish control of the media although the Israeli lobbyists in Washington and their mouthpieces like William Safire in the press do share much responsibility for putting Israel in the spotlight. Perhaps the continuing Western religious obsessions with the “Holy Land” play a role. Certainly, the politics of oil in the region is a significant factor in keeping the focus on the middle east; but, why focus so exclusively on Israel’s policies?

At this point, as Edward Said has passionately argued, the eyes of the world should be on the plight of the Palestinians. Thirty-five years of occupation is now entering apparently its most lethal phase and people everywhere should do everything possible to stop further depredations against the Palestinian people. Nonetheless, to ignore the US role in perpetuating Israeli occupation and underwriting Israeli state terror is to turn a blind eye to that power which has aided and abetted the violation of international agreements and accord that would bring justice finally to the Palestinians and, perhaps, peace to the region.

But peace is not as important to US interests as control. So visible efforts to bring about peace actually hide the invisible instrumentalities of war-making that persist. What remains invisible to the US media and the American people is often the machinations of Washington in arming its client states. What Chalmers Johnson has recently labeled “stealth imperialism” in his indispensable book, Blowback, is a perpetuation of the cold war mentality in its new incarnation – the war against terrorism. Yet, the war against terrorism is nothing less than a war to extend US military force to prop up pliable states and create new clients for weapons and other US goods and services.

By reviewing this US double standard over the last 30 years through Democratic and Republican Administrations one can better understand why the Pentagon would rather keep its business with state terror under wraps. That the US media would ignore the role of Washington policy-makers in this heinous business is not surprising. Consider even sensitive articles such as Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent New Yorker piece on Saddam Hussein’s chemical attack on the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s. While there is a small section on US support of Saddam Hussein during this period, nowhere in the article is there any analysis of all of the military hardware and chemical weapons sent to Saddam Hussein through the Pentagon. And is it any coincidence that such a long article would appear now when there was next to nothing in the mainstream media during the actual attack on the Kurds in the late 1980’s?

If one was really interested in the well-being of Kurds throughout the middle east, where were the media stories about Turkey’s destruction of thousands, yes thousands, of Kurdish villages in southeastern Turkey during the 1990’s? Is it any coincidence that Turkey receives almost as much military aid from the US as Israel? Of course, one might find the occasional notice of Turkish violation of Kurdish human rights, even from the US State Department. On the other hand, an advisor to the Turkish prime minister certainly put his finger on the issue of US hypocrisy on this matter: “If you want to stop human rights abuses do two things – stop IMF credits and cut off aid from the Pentagon. But don’t sell the weapons and give aid and then complain about the Kurdish issue. Don’t tell us about human rights while you’re selling these weapons.”

In fact, as suggested in a recent story in the Washington Post, the Pentagon is now seeking to transfer monies directly to client states in the so-called war against terrorism. What this means, in effect, is that brutal authoritarian governments like Uzbekistan can get the direct aid they need to put down any indigenous rebellions that might threaten the developing US control over oil and gas rich Central Asian countries. Of course, all of this will be conveniently hidden and invisible to most of the citizens of the United States until some wayward Uzbek “terrorist” attacks a US target somewhere.

What has remained invisible in the past 30 years of US sponsored state terror is now part of a tragic and bitter record of human rights abuses world-wide. From US support of Indonesia in its massive invasion and killing in East Timor in the 1970’s to the genocidal campaign against Mayan Indians in Guatemala by US backed military dictatorships and the US induced contra attacks against Nicaragua in the 1980’s, US foreign policy has undermined the rule of international law and violated fundamental human rights.

Just as the Israeli military continues to abrogate all humanitarian standards in Palestine, the Bush Administration continues on its unilateral course to negate any international efforts to reign in the role of US lethal force whether in the establishment and extension of an International Criminal Court or the recent efforts by Mary Robinson of the United Nations Human Rights Agency to intervene in Palestine. Until there is a halt to the Pentagon mega war-machine, there will be continuing humanitarian tragedies, both visible and invisible.

Fran Shor teaches at Wayne State University and is a member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. He can be reached at:

Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, author, and political activist.