Like most of the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the Charlie Hebdo situation unfold. It was a horrific, indefensible act and the overwhelming outpouring of support and massive rallies around the world were heart-warming. It’s nice to see that a large portion of the population are good people at heart and feel the pain of others. Every day I question whether this is still the reality, so it’s nice to see it on display as a reminder – if only it was under better circumstances. It’s unfortunate that people can’t come together like this and show empathy without a body count. But what I find most unfortunate and what paints the bleakest picture for the world’s future is the continued apathy of the vast majority of people when it comes to seeking out and understanding the causes of “terrorism”. I wrote a post awhile ago about how the average person is becoming too lazy to take the time/effort to understand the world around them, instead buying into simplistic (and just plain wrong) narratives that are spoon fed to them. The situation is no different when it comes to “terrorism”.
I keep putting “terrorism” in quotes for a reason – because I haven’t defined it yet. When Westerns hear the word “terrorism” today, the narrative of radical Islam put forth after 9/11 is by far and away the primary association in most minds. Why is that? If you asked an Irish citizen what terrorists are, they might tell you it’s the IRA. If you asked a German citizen in the 1940’s they’d tell you it’s the Jews. If you asked a British citizen in the 1700’s they’d tell you it’s George Washington and the US colonists – ultimate irony. If you asked most the current third-world, they’d tell you it’s NATO. Dictionary.com defines “terrorism” like so:
The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes
Let’s be honest when applying that definition. A LOT of that occurs around the world, perpetrated by a vast number of different parties. So why are guys in turbans from the Middle East the first thing that comes to mind? Aside from the media propaganda barrage that reinforces this belief, maybe it’s that people lack perspective. Maybe people need to zoom their lenses out and get a higher level view of things. The best place to start is the realization that the world’s premier terrorist organization over the past century is not ISIS, not al-Qaeda, and not the Taliban… it’s the Western world, lead by the United States. That’ll come as a shock to people who have never read a history book (which encompasses a large swath of the US population), so let’s walk through a quick history lesson. Keep in mind, the world is coming together to mourn the murder of twelve people at Charlie Hebdo.
Starting right off in 1901, 315 US Marines were sent into the town of Balangiga in the Philippines where they slaughtered an estimated 2,500 civilians in retaliation for a successful uprising at a US military run labor camp. Their orders were to kill everyone over the age of ten years old. If you’re one of those people who don’t own a history book, you’re probably wondering what the Marines were doing in the Philippines and why the US was running a labor camp. They were there suppressing a major uprising of Philippine citizens fighting for independence from the US. Seems oddly backwards, doesn’t it? That was a long time ago though, maybe it’s not relevant to our current situation. Maybe something more recent? In 1965 the US was trying to purge communism out of Indonesia. For those that don’t remember, communism was the West’s official bogeyman and global war/murder justification before it moved on to Islam. As is typical, the US backed a far right-wing commandant – a guy named General Suharto. He was supplied with weapons, training, and funding, then visited by president Ford and secretary of state Kissinger the day before he staged a coup against the Indonesian government. During and after that coup, General Suharto butchered 500,000 people in a genocidal purge of communists and alleged communists. The US government and media reacted with widespread praise. In 1973 the US, through the CIA, was again backing a far right-wing, pro-US military dictator named Pinochet in a coup against a democratically elected government in Chile. The coup was very quick with a low body count, but Pinochet made up for this after the coup as he rounded up alleged communists, pro-labor folks, and union leaders to the tune of 3,000+ murdered and over 29,000 brutally tortured. Starting in 1975 and continuing all the way until 2002, the Angolan Civil war was yet another war in which the US backed a far right-wing regime with weapons and funding. Use of torture was widespread. Causalities are estimated at 750,000, 500,000 of which were innocent civilians. 500,000. Let that number sink in. In 1989, the US directly engaged in an invasion of Panama under the pretext of “defending democracy” and stopping drug trafficking. Results? 2,500-3,500 dead, only 205 of which were military – the rest civilian. This action was widely condemned by the UN and a resolution to label it as a gross violation of international law and human rights was passed by a huge margin… then vetoed by the US, UK, and France. Then there are events that really hit home… Those al-Qaeda guys? They were US agents before they were suddenly put on the “terrorism” list. Those evil Mujahideen that are killing all our troops in Afghanistan? In the 1980’s they were having tea with Reagan in the White House. That Saddam bogeyman guy? The US trained his troops, supplied him with weapons, donated him money, shared intelligence, and even made him an honorary citizen of Detroit. Of course, the US was sure to remove Iraq from the state sponsors of terrorism list before giving it all this support – you know, just so everything was on the up-and-up and we weren’t supporting terrorists. I could keep going with this list – Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, neo-Nazis in Ukraine, the M.O. is always the same: US sponsored, brutal, human rights violating, murdering (but pro-US!) regime overthrows a stable and/or democratically elected (but anti-US) government. Let’s also not forget the recent coming-to-light of the US’s widespread torture program (the tiny portion the Senate report revealed to us, anyway) – a gross violation of international law, human rights, and simple ethics. Of course, very few Americans and even fewer Western governments care about the US’s atrocities spelled out in the torture report, much less condemn them as terrorism. Never mind that we executed German officers for lesser crimes after WWII.
Taking all the above, which is only a brief glimpse (there is much, much more), along with the dictionary’s definition of terrorism, there is not even the slightest shadow of doubt that the US is one of the world’s premier sponsors and perpetrators of terrorism. But the Charlie Hebdo attack was against France. “They’re not the US,” you say. No, they aren’t the US, but they are NATO/Western (which makes them a US agent state), plus, they aren’t exactly angels themselves. The Charlie Hebdo attackers were Algerian. It seems people have forgotten France’s relationship with Algeria.
In 1954 an Algerian group calling itself the National Liberation Front fought France for the freedom of then colonized Algeria. Like most colonial reigns, France’s was one of violence and brutality, with human rights violations, abductions, and regular use of torture against the Algerian populace dating back to the late 1800’s.
“Whatever the case”, continued Tocqueville, “we may say in a general manner that all political freedoms must be suspended in Algeria.” Historian Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison thus wrote that “From the years 1840 to the 1962 independence, the physical body of the “Arab” has therefore been used as a terror instrument on which the colonial power has never ceased in graving the marks of its almighty power. Torture in Algeria and in the French Empire: an exception limited to wars of national liberation conducted against the metropole? No, the rule.”
Other historians also show that torture was fully a part of the colonialist system: “Torture in Algeria was engraved in the colonial act, it is the “normal” illustration of an abnormal system”, wrote Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, and Sandrine Lemaire, who have published decisive work on the phenomena of “human zoos.” From the smokings (enfumades) of the Darha caves in 1844 by Pélissier to the 1945 riots in Sétif, Guelma and Kherrata“, the repression in Algeria has used the same methods. Following the 9 May 1945, Sétif massacres, other riots against the European presence occurred in Guelma, Batna, Biskra, and Kherrata, causing 103 deaths among the colonials. The repression of these riots officially caused 1,500 deaths, but N. Bancel, P. Blanchard, and S. Lemaire estimate it to be rather between 6,000 and 8,000 deaths
So although the average American has the “weak, scared French people” meme in their minds, it couldn’t be further from the truth. France was and is engaged in all the same imperialistic pursuits as the rest of the West. Does anyone remember the Vietnam war? No, not the one the US fought, the one that was going on before the US decided to fake a communist attack on a US destroyer near Vietnam to win public support for its involvement. Yes, the original Vietnam war. The one in which we again find a colonized third-world nation trying to win its independence from a French nation they’re being brutalized by. Again, torture and war crimes were rampant. It wasn’t until the French lost the war that the US decided to get itself involved to keep those damn Vietnamese under the thumb of the West… I mean… to spread freedom from communism to Vietnam. Of course, the US involved itself in plenty of war crimes of its own.
PFC Dennis Konti, a witness for the prosecution, told about one especially gruesome episode during the shooting, “A lot of women had thrown themselves on top of the children to protect them, and the children were alive at first. Then, the children who were old enough to walk got up and Calley began to shoot the children”. Other 1st Platoon members testified that many of the deaths of individual Vietnamese men, women and children occurred inside My Lai during the security sweep. Livestock was shot as well.
When PFC Michael Bernhardt entered the subhamlet of Xom Lang, the massacre was underway:
“I walked up and saw these guys doing strange things…Setting fire to the hootches and huts and waiting for people to come out and then shooting them…going into the hootches and shooting them up…gathering people in groups and shooting them… As I walked in you could see piles of people all through the village… all over. They were gathered up into large groups. I saw them shoot an M79 [grenade launcher] into a group of people who were still alive. But it was mostly done with a machine gun. They were shooting women and children just like anybody else. We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons. We had no casualties. It was just like any other Vietnamese village-old papa-sans, women and kids. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember seeing one military-age male in the entire place, dead or alive.“
One group of 20-50 villagers was walked to the south of Xom Lang and killed on a dirt road. According to another eyewitness account of the massacre, Ronald Haeberle’s, in one instance,
“There were some South Vietnamese people, maybe fifteen of them, women and children included, walking on a dirt road maybe 100 yards away. All of a sudden the GIs just opened up with M16s. Beside the M16 fire, they were shooting at the people with M79 grenade launchers… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.“
Three American Servicemen (Hugh Thompson, Jr., Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn), who made an effort to halt the massacre and protect the wounded, were sharply criticized by U.S. Congressmen, and received hate mail, death threats, and mutilated animals on their doorsteps.
Of course, nothing mentioned so far will ever be spoke of in the same sentence as “terrorism”, let alone be condemned as such – at least in conversations of the West. Yet, the gunning down of a handful of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo is strongly condemned as terrorism. Is it Stalin’s famous observation at work? “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” No, the distinction is more intentional than that. It’s something Western governments and media put vast amounts of effort into sustaining. We must acknowledge that in our society, terrorists are only terrorists when they’re killing “us”. When they’re overthrowing anti-Western governments for us and slaughtering our dissenters, they’re “freedom fighters”, not terrorists – even when they’re the same exact people we called terrorists the day before. When it’s us who is bombing, shooting, torturing, and subjugating entire countries of brown people, it’s not terrorism. It’s “defending freedom”, “spreading democracy”, and, most twisted of all, “self-defense” – referring, of course, to the last time the brown people fought back against our imperialism. Ward Churchill, a former professor at UC Boulder, wrote an essay shortly after the 9/11 attacks entitled “On the justice of roosting chickens.” This essay did what no one else dared to at the time. It examined the causes of 9/11. By “causes” I don’t mean airport security issues, government asleep at the wheel, lax immigration laws, or airplane cockpit security. Churchill did the unthinkable and spoke on the same imperialism that I am now. He walked the reader through how the West created a world in which oppressed brown people have become so economically and socially desperate that flying themselves into buildings seems like a viable solution. The essay got him fired from his job at UC Boulder. That’s how strongly the mainstream propaganda machine wants the public to not understand the true causes of terrorism. So when cartoonists are murdered or US embassies are attacked, the public never questions why. They just buy the narrative that Muslims are violent fanatics, jealous of our way of life and attacking indiscriminately.
Widespread acceptance of this narrative can only lead to one thing (and has!): more terrorism. When you see the violent attacks coming from desperate third-world people and label them as random, unprovoked first-strikes, it gives justification and free rein for the usual NATO cabal to start bombing some uninvolved, resource rich country. That’s exactly how we were dragged into Iraq and Afghanistan after being attacked by Saudi terrorists on 9/11. Guess what this does? It creates more terrorists. Brown people who are already oppressed and being exploited for their natural resources now have to deal with an occupying army killing their friends and relatives. That’s when they decide to strap bombs to themselves and fight back. When someone attacks the West, they can be assured that their town and every surrounding town will be leveled by cruise missiles before the day is out. But when a US drone strike kills fourteen people at a wedding, not even so much as an “oops, sorry” is offered in return. Where were the international support rallies for these people? Where was the outcry? Where were the people demanding justice? It didn’t matter because it wasn’t “us” that were killed. It was those unpeople, the brown folk. In the twisted minds of so many in the West, it’s believed that this behavior should be able to continue without us suffering any repercussions. We can just continue on arming and supporting brutal dictators that serve our economic interest, while labeling “terrorist” and killing anyone that doesn’t. We can keep waging violent and economic war in order to dominate the natural resources of the third-world, depriving citizens of these countries the right to their own land. All the while, we expect the impoverished, brutalized, people who are on the receiving end of our imperialism to never get fed up and lash out. This belief is beyond absurd.
Now, it must be understood that none of this serves to justify the killing of any innocent people. What happened at Charlie Hebdo is a terrible tragedy and cold-blooded murder. But if we choose to perpetuate the myth that we are some innocent victims, attacked randomly and unprovoked by “radical Muslims” that kill for sport, then we choose to perpetuate these acts. In one of his final tape broadcasts to the world, Osama bin Laden himself directly addressed the use of attacks targeted at what the West sees as “innocent” civilians. As Osama explained, these oppressed, brutalized, desperate brown people do not see our civilians as innocent. They see the populace’s widespread apathy to its government’s atrocities and they label it as an accessory to the crime. Silence is consent. Osama pointed out what we all know is true: only the populations of Western nations have the power to stand up and stop the atrocities their imperialistic governments are perpetrating – thus also putting a stop to the retaliatory terrorism that results from them. These tragedies will not cease until we acknowledge our own prolific terrorism and the pivotal role it plays in feeding the hate directed at us.