From Wikileaks to TSA

One of the most common threads running through the Wikileaks papers is Washington’s manic obsession with Iran. In country after country the United States exerts unceasing pressure on the government to tighten the noose around Iran’s neck, to make the American sanctions as extensive and as painful as can be, to inflate the alleged Iranian nuclear threat, to discourage normal contact as if Iran were a leper.

“Fear of ‘different world’ if Iran gets nuclear weapons. Embassy cables reveal how US relentlessly cajoles and bullies governments not to give succour to Tehran,” read a Guardian of London headline on November 28. And we’re told that Arab governments support the United States in this endeavor, that fear of Iran is widespread. John Kerry, the Democratic head of the Senate foreign relations committee, jumped on this bandwagon. “Things that I have heard from the mouths of King Abdullah [of Saudi Arabia] and Hosni Mubarak [Egyptian president] and others are now quite public,” he said. He went on to say there was a “consensus on Iran”. (Guardian, December 2) If all this is to have real meaning, the implication must be that the Arab people feel this way, and not just their dictator leaders. So let us look at some numbers.

The annual “Arab Public Opinion Poll”, was conducted this past summer by Zogby International and the University of Maryland, in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. A sample of the results:

“If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, which of the following is the likely outcome for the Middle East region?” More positive 57%, Would not matter 20, More negative 21.

Amongst those who believe that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, 70% believe that Iran has the right to its nuclear program.

“In a world where there is only one superpower, which of the following countries would you prefer to be that superpower?”

France 55%, China 16, Germany 13, Britain 9, Russia 8, United States 7, Pakistan 6.

“Name TWO countries that you think pose the biggest threat to you.” Israel 88%, US 77, Algeria 10, Iran 10, UK 8, China 3, Syria 1.

“Which world leader (outside your own country) do you admire most?” (partial list) Recep Erdogan [Turkey] 20%, Hugo Chavez 13, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 12, Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah/Lebanon] 9, Osama bin Laden 6, Saddam Hussein 2. (Barack Obama not mentioned) 1

Also in Wikileaks: ” … during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (an) enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari allegedly got into a heated argument with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.”

How will the White House and Israeli propaganda machines and the US media deal with this? Their favorite whipping boy, President Ahmadinejad — oppressive dictator, stager of fraudulent elections, “Holocaust denier”, nuclear threat to all that is decent and holy — a champion of press freedom?

And how powerful can he be? It’s not mentioned whether the man who slapped him suffered any punishment.

What will we learn next from Wikileaks? That Hugo Chávez doesn’t really eat babies?

“Will that be naked pictures, or being fondled, with your flight ticket, miss?”

We’ve all heard about it of course, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) x-raying under people’s clothes or groping them like on a clumsy second date. Maybe the new security procedures will finally disturb enough people enough times so that they’ll start to raise the issue that dare not speak its name: What can we do to stop creating all the anti-American terrorists we’re now engaged full time in protecting ourselves from?

As despicable as their philosophy and actions are, anti-American terrorists are not just mindless, evil madmen from another planet. They are not motivated by hatred or envy of American freedom or democracy (as George W. liked to tell us), or of American wealth, secular government, or culture. They are instead motivated by decades of terrible things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. There should be no doubt of this, for there are numerous examples of terrorists explicitly citing American policies as the prime motivation behind their acts.2 It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long string of hateful Washington policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. 9/11 was a globalized version of the Columbine High School disaster. When you bully people long enough they are going to strike back.

The US bombing, invasion, occupation and/or torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in recent years, as well as the eternal Israeli-US genocide against the Palestinian people, have created countless new anti-American terrorists. We’ll be hearing from them for an awfully long time.

Following an act of terrorism, we rarely receive from our officials and media even a slightly serious discussion of the terrorists’ motivation. Was there any kind of deep-seated grievance or resentment with anything or anyone American being expressed? Any perceived wrong they wished to make right? Anything they sought to obtain revenge for? And why is the United States the most common target of terrorists?

But such questions are virtually forbidden in the mainstream world. At a White House press briefing in January concerning an attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas day 2009, conducted by Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, veteran reporter Helen Thomas raised a question:

Thomas: “What is really lacking always for us is you don’t give the motivation of why they want to do us harm. … What is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … [They] attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that [they’re] able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that uses the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think … this is a long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.” 3

Osama bin Laden, in an audiotape, also commented about the Christmas Day would-be bomber: “The message we wanted you to receive through him is that America shall not dream about security until we witness it in Palestine.” 4

We have as well the case of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor-turned-suicide bomber, who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan last December 30. His widow later declared: “I am proud of him. … My husband did this against the U.S. invasion.” Balawi himself had written on the Internet: “I have never wished to be in Gaza, but now I wish to be a … car bomb that takes the lives of the biggest number of Jews to hell.” 5

It should be noted that the CIA base attacked by Balawi was heavily involved in the selection of targets for the Agency’s remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a program that killed more than 300 people in the previous year. 6

So, feel-ups of our private parts and involuntary disrobing are the price we pay for waging war against the world. We get our cavities probed because our victims get predator drones up their asses. 7

“Thank you for not putting a bomb in your luggage.”

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”

– General Douglas MacArthur, 1957 8

Do you remember the “shoe bomber”? Richard Reid was his name and he was aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001; he tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes, didn’t succeed, and was overpowered by attendants and passengers. It’s because of him that we have to take our shoes off at the airport.

There was also “the underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, referred to above. On Christmas Day, 2009, he tried to set off plastic explosives sewn in his underwear while aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane approached the Detroit airport. But he failed to detonate them properly, producing only some popping noises and a flame; another passenger jumped him and restrained him as others put out the fire. It’s because of him that we now have to, virtually, take our underwear off at airports.

Then there was Faisal Shahzad, the “Times Square bomber”, who on May 1 of this year parked his car in the heart of New York City, tried to detonate various explosive devices in the car, but succeeded in producing only smoke. He then walked away from the car, leaving it to lead to his arrest. It’s because of him that cars are no longer permitted in Times Square. (No, that’s a joke, but maybe not for long.)

The incompetence of these three men in being unable to detonate their explosives is remarkable. You’d think they could have easily gotten that critical and relatively simple part of the operation down pat beforehand. What I find even more remarkable is that neither of the two men aboard airplanes thought of going into the bathroom, closing the door, and then trying to detonate the explosives. An eight-year-old child would have thought of that. Are we supposed to take these guys and these incidents seriously? Are we supposed to take the “threat” posed by such men seriously? A month before the Christmas incident Abdulmutallab’s father had gone to the US embassy in Nigeria to express concern that his son was in Yemen and had fallen under the influence of religious extremists.9 Moreover, the New York Times later reported: “In early November, American intelligence authorities say they learned from a communications intercept of Qaeda followers in Yemen that a man named ‘Umar Farouk’ … had volunteered for a coming operation.” 10

And yet Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had no problem getting on an American airplane in Amsterdam and flying to the United States.

The latest example of the terrible terrorist threat was in late October when we were told that two packages addressed to Chicago had been found aboard American cargo planes, one in Dubai, the other in England, containing what might, or might not, be an explosive device; which might, or might not, have exploded. Authorities said it was not known if the intent was to detonate the packages in flight or in Chicago.

Now get this. Terrorists, we are told, are shipping bombs in packages to the United States. They of course would want to make the packages as innocuous looking as can be, right? Nothing that would provoke any suspicion in the mind of an already very suspicious American security establishment, right? So what do we have? The packages were mailed from YEMEN … and addressed to JEWISH SYNAGOGUES in Chicago. … Well folks, nothing to see here, just keep moving.

Is it also perhaps of interest that L’Affaire Package Bombs took place less than a week before election day, perchance focusing the American public’s mind away from things economic?

Some questions to ask our quaint little Teaparty friends
The Teaparty folks never tire of calling for “smaller government”. How sweet. Most other Republicans repeat the same mantra ad nauseam as well, as do many liberals (not to be confused with progressives). So for all these individuals I have some questions:

When there’s a plane crash the government sends investigators to the crash site to try to determine the cause of the accident; this is information that can be used to make air travel safer. But it’s really BIG GOVERNMENT, forcing the airlines to fully cooperate, provide all relevant information, secrecy is not permitted, and make changes or face severe penalties. Do you think the government should stop doing this?

Following this year’s BP oil spill do you think the government was right to bully and threaten the company for an explanation and solution for the catastrophe, or should it have been “hands off” for the sake of small government?

Following a major earthquake there’s usually a cry from many quarters: Stores should not be raising prices for basic necessities like water, generators, batteries, tree-removal services, diapers, etc. More grievances soon arise because landlords raise rents on vacant apartments after many dwellings in the city have been rendered uninhabitable. How dare they do that? people wail. Following the 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles the California Assembly proceeded to make it a crime for merchants to increase prices for vital goods and services by more than ten percent after a natural disaster.11

Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, the governor and attorney general of Virginia called on the legislature to pass the state’s first anti-price-gouging law after receiving about 100 complaints from residents. North Carolina had enacted an anti-gouging law just shortly before.12

Does such blatant big-government interference in our God-given Supply-and-Demand system bother you? Do you think that our legislators should simply allow “the magic of the marketplace” to do its magic?

Do you think that the government should continue waging war against what they call “terrorists” abroad, since there’s no bigger or more expensive big-government action than this?

Do you think the government should continue with its electronic strip searches and body feel-ups at airports or should we allow the risk of bombs being brought on board airplanes? (Or — as an alternative to either — do you think the government should cease its bombing, invading, occupying, overthrowing, killing and torturing around the world so as to put an end to its creating anti-American terrorists?)

If your bank fails — and hundreds have done so in recent years — are you willing to accept the loss of your life’s savings? Or are you thankful that big, big government steps in, takes over the bank, and protects every penny of your savings?

Do you think that big government — federal, state or local — should stop haranguing the citizenry about the environment: recycling, air pollution, water pollution, soil runoff, etc., etc., or that people should simply be allowed to do what is most convenient for them, their families, and their businesses?

Do you think that manufacturers should have the right to run their factories à la a sweatshop in a Bangkok alley 50 years ago or that big government should throw its weight around to assure modern working conditions, with worker health and safety standards?

When a prescription drug starts to kill or harm more and more people, who should decide when to pull it off the market: Big Government or the drug’s manufacturer?

Are you glad that food packages list the details of ingredients and nutrition? Who do you think is responsible for that?

A huge number of Americans would be facing serious hunger if not for their food stamps; more than 40 million receive them. Where do you think food stamps come from? No, not from Sarah Palin.

And where, pray tell, do you think unemployment insurance, housing subsidies, and Medicare come from? (There were of course, lord help us, the Teaparty signs: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,”13 while simultaneously ridiculing Obama’s push for “socialized medicine”.) Some of you would probably rather see widespread hunger, poverty, homelessness, and illness in America than have people dependent upon the BigGovernmentMonster.

Do you think that big government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important projects done? Big government in the United States has created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, the National Institutes of Health, and the Smithsonian Institution; it’s also landed men on the moon, wiped out polio, and built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), and much more.

Do you know that twice in recent years the federal government undertook major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors? On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. 14

We have to remind the American people of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

I think the Teapartyers are motivated primarily by two factors: 1) they don’t have the intellectual competence or ideological independence to place the blame for the sick economy where it belongs: the recklessness and greed of Wall Street, the banks, and other financial corporations; and so they blame the president and his “socialist” policies; 2) the president is black.

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Poland: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.” 15

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at:


1. 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll
2. WILLIAM BLUM, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 1, “Why do terrorists keep picking on the United States?”; this chapter ends in 2005; there are many more later examples, including the ones below in this report.
3. White House press briefing, January 7, 2010
4. ABC News, January 25, 2010
5. Associated Press, January 7, 2010
6. Washington Post, January 1, 2010
7. Thanks to writer Gary Corseri for this last line.
8. Vorin Whan, ed. “A Soldier Speaks: Public Papers and Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur” (1965)
9. Associated Press, December 28, 2009
10. New York Times, January 18, 2010
11. Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1995
12. Washington Post, September 24, 2003
13. New York Times, November 3, 2010
14. Washington Post, June 8, 2005 and March 23, 2006
15. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994



William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: