September 28, 2001

OPINION

Terrorists to Us, "Freedom Fighters" to Muslim World

by Dr. Art Salzberg

The vast undertaking of the bombings in present-day America and the hijacking of four passenger airplanes, all within a matter of hours, should not have been a surprise after the last incident of this type, and from a similar source: the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and its toll of 268 lives. This is a time for reflection for all Americans, from all walks of life. The attack on the Cole was the real opening shot in this terror campaign, and we should have known there would be more to follow.

According to the late anthropologist Margaret Mead, there is a great divide between that part of the population born before the dropping of the first atom bomb in August 1945 (such as myself) and those born afterwards. The message of the attack on Hiroshima was that henceforth there would no longer by any rules in the history of the world. The 20th Century, the most brutal in the history of the human race, left behind a mountain of over 200 million corpses.

Until now, the only wars that Americans had witnessed were the Revolution and the Civil War - the "insurrection," as President Lincoln called it. Sherman's march through Georgia left everything in its path destroyed, devastated the South for decades and deprived its population of the means to live on the same standard as the North.

Before Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers as a sort of atonement, he had been part of the Pentagon team that planned the massive bombing raids on the north of Viet-Nam. Those raids were possible because America simply didn't recognize the fellow humanity of the Viet-Namese people. For years, American planes dropped their bombs indiscriminately, even on hospitals clearly marked with large Red Cross flags.

This was part of a strategy to "bomb Viet-Nam into the Stone Age" and bring the North viet-Namese government to the negotiating table. It didn't work, but it did provide American TV viewers with a show on a par with the Super Bowl. Americans watched the death and destruction they were raining on Viet-Nam, not only with bombs but with Agent Orange and other herbicides, from the comfort of their living rooms. It was left to Swedish newspapers —and, eventually, the New York Times— to report what was really going on.

I once saw Ellsberg speak about the ease with which he and his team had planned these attacks. He mentioned that we had dropped more bombs on Viet-Nam than were dropped on Europe by all sides during World War II. Ellsberg and his colleagues planned these raids from the comfort of a cold, sanitary office in the Pentagon and didn't see the faces of those being attacked —nod did the pilots who actually dropped the bombs from altitudes of 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 feet. American's inhumanity was rationalized by the idea that North Viet-Nam had never signed the Geneva Convention and therefore its hospitals didn't have the right to protection under international law.

Now that our own airlines have been turned into weapons against us and have bombed, among other targets, the Pentagon itself, serious issues have to be answered. Fortress America is not secured. We need seriously to reconsider our military's overemphasis on developing high-tech warfare when our genuine enemies are most likely to stage low-tech attacks.

The planes that hit the other major target, the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York, left thousands of intelligent and hard-working middle-American workers among the dead and wounded. The WTC itself was a monument to former New York Governor Helson Rockefeller and his "edifice complex." It cost $1 billion in 1960's dollars — the largest undertaking of its kind at the time. Now it is a pyramid for our honored dead: police, firefighters and office workers buried in its wake. Our American psyche will never be the same again.

I served as a medic with the 583rd Field Artillery in World War II and therefore became to some extend an expert with rockets as a mode of warfare. Alongside the conventional eight-inch artillery, the 583rd was equipped with rockets fired from a launcher mounted on a truck. We were informed that if one of these rockets had an atomic warhead, it would destroy everything within a 20-mile radius.

Today that is a mere firecracker in military rockets. Now, as I look out over San Diego Bay, I see two ships being built with small pop guns and launches for nuclear-tipped rockets that could destroy half the world with one launch. Numerous submarines already sailing have the same destructive firepower. Each of these ships and submarines cost $2 billion to build, and the American people today are financing the cost by our own downward economic mobility.

"Star Wars" is still being pushed by the Bush II administration. The cost will be over $1 trillion, and our youth will have to pay the bill. Needless to say, if it existed now it would have been totally useless in stopping the attacks on September 11. During the Gulf War, despite the ballyhoo about the "Patriot" missile defense, 90 percent of the rockets launched by Iraq got through to Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Palestinians were able to watch them from their rooftops and cheer as they flew overhead.

As for Osama Bin Laden, he is a creature of American's making. He was once one of our favorite "freedom fighters" when he was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. America supplied him with weapons and CIA personnel to train him and his army in "dirty warfare." Now Afghanistan has an authoritarian, fundamentalist Muslim government that disavows freedom for their own people. A billion Muslims have become a political, economic and military force in this world —and right now it's the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan and similar fundamentalist movements in Iran, Algeria and Egypt that are the most successful political forces in the Islamic world.

Our links to the Middle East are tenuous. Our dependency on Arab oil is growing. Emperor Bush II's perverse energy policy (damn the renewables? Full speed ahead on using the world's fossil fuels!) is part of the problem, not the solution. Meanwhile the Middle East's wars have come home to the U.S. with a vengeance, with a high cost on this new "day of infamy." Bombing Kabul seems to be the only response anyone in our government can think of — and it's a poor one.

The latest issue of Commentary magazine has a feature called "The Making of a Terrorist." The salient premise is the ongoing hatred of Israel — the return of anti-Semitism. First miseducate the people in the wrong history, and what will follow will come naturally. America and Israel are linked together in the hearts and minds of the Muslim peoples.

Our beloved American is now the target of these "freedom fighters." Yes, to us they are wanton terrorists, but to the Muslims world that produced and sustains them, they are "freedom fighters." I would expect the next targets to be Jewish centers in America or a subway in New York City.

America's vulnerability and nakedness are self-evident throughout our country and the world. The FBI and CIA are given $30-40 billion per year with virtually no Congressional oversight, and all they have to say for their dismal performance in not anticipating this attack is "there was a failure of intelligence." According to the natural laws of the military, the larger the target the greater the vulnerability. Guerrilla tactics decree that the initiative is always with the urban guerillas. They have the upper hand. They feed off the vulnerability of the attacked.

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