Who Are the Real Terrorists?
by S. Brian Willson
Who Are the REAL Terrorists?
Why Some Veterans Oppose Counter-"Terrorist" Exercises
An Essay by S. Brian Willson
WHY do many veterans, including members of Veterans For Peace, a national organization with local chapters, oppose the U.S. Marine Corps Urban Warrior exercises and similar counter-"terrorist" trainings by Army Delta forces and Navy Seals conducted in various U.S. cities? Continued policies of militarism, ad nauseum, and the assumptions and pretexts that underlie and rationalize them, respectively, urgently require thoughtful questioning if lasting global peace is to be achieved. A sincere effort by the United States to promote genuine justice around the world would signal an honest longing for such peace.
Veterans Speak from Personal Military Experiences
A Chronicle of U.S. Military Interventions Abroad
Sources for History of U.S. Intervention
The Urban Warrior trainings are designed to prepare the Marine Corps for future battles thought by the Pentagon to most likely arise in foreign coastal cities where increasing social and economic problems will lead to severe conflicts. These conflicts, it is predicted, will in turn breed "terrorist" activities by an "asymmetrical enemy," shielded by urban populations, requiring specially trained Marine Corps interventions/invasions to establish "order." The U.S. Army and Navy are conducting similar trainings in urban areas under the guise of preparing for "terrorist" threats. However, many warn that such trainings equally serve to prepare U.S. Armed Forces for quelling foreseeable domestic unrest and dissent. The idea is not remote. A series of National Security Decision Directives and Executive Orders initiated by President Reagan, and continued by Presidents Bush and Clinton, authorize contingency plans for utilizing various federal agencies and the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct both domestic and foreign counter-"terrorist" operations and to summarily imprison immigrants and dissidents during declared emergencies. These current urban military trainings beg the question: Why are the armed forces using U.S. cities for mock combat operations when military bases designed for genuine combat simulations are readily available? Conveniently, such urban trainings serve to condition the populace to expect, and accept, such eventualities. And they certainly provide "sexy" recruitment opportunities designed to attract young people to the excitement of future high-tech military missions.
This essay attempts to reveal the political nature of the term "terrorist" and to place its use in a more carefully examined historical context.
Who are the REAL Terrorists?
The REAL Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda
THE REAL TERROR NETWORK is the title of a book authored by Edward S. Herman (South End Press, 1982), who at the time was professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In this book he analyzes historical U.S. imperial policies through study of economics, and his understanding of the political use of the term "terrorist" is very helpful.
In country after country in the expanding U.S. sphere of influence after World War II, "dominoes" fell, and military regimes and other dependent tyrannies came into power with the aid of U.S. covert and/or overt interventions. This occurred in virtually all of Central and South America, and in many parts of Africa and Asia. These regimes invariably exhibited common characteristics: (a) they represented a small, wealthy elite interest, including multinational corporations, promoting intense capitalist economics; (b) they all used terror, including torture, carried out by security forces often trained in these techniques by the U.S. military, to keep the aggrieved majority unorganized, powerless, and subservient to minority elite and corporate goals; © the leadership of these states was almost always knowingly corrupt; and (d) they assured, with the support of official U.S. policy, that already highly skewed income and wealth distribution disparities became ever more unequal and caused the majority of their populations to be kept in a state of extreme deprivation and misery.
In the post-Cold War, unipolar, Pax Americana world, many of these regimes are now being described as "democratic" by the U.S. government. This despite the fact that structural disparities between the Haves and Have-Nots have widened even further, and that the elected leaders continue to primarily represent the wealthy elite, and tend to be corrupt. Worse, they continue to use methods of terror, frequently U.S.- facilitated, in response to grassroots popular movements expressing an alternative to state-imposed, top-down "neoliberal capitalist economics." The numbers of voiceless poor are increasing in this so-called "democratic," post-Cold War era, in the U.S. as elsewhere.
Now, without existence of an alternative powerful pole, i.e. the Soviet Union, effecting a moderating influence, U.S. behavior has become ever more belligerent and lawless, as evidenced by its unilateral attacks with impunity on Panama, Sudan, and Afghanistan, and its relentless bilateral bombings, with Britain, of Iraq. U.S. aggressive foreign policy, along with its sponsored, funded, armed and/or trained "authoritarian" and "democratic" states comprise the REAL terror network, i.e., the network of WHOLESALE terrorists. The increasingly sophisticated, nearly unchecked propaganda machinery of the "democratic" West has successfully censored this demonic history of the real terror network. Substituted in its place is an often desperate, frequently concocted network of the voiceless that includes, by careful definition and selectivity, only those "terrorists" who challenge important Western "neoliberal" economic interests, or who can be linked in some way, no matter how remotely, to the "enemies" of these interests. This substituted group of individuals and smaller groups of relatively poor people, in fact, become the network of RETAIL terrorists who serve to distract attention from the more substantial and systemic destructive behavior of the WHOLESALE terrorists.
The poor remain our enemy, whether described as "Communists," "terrorists," "drug traffickers," "demons," "backwards," etc., and whether they reside in the U.S. or abroad. The existence of the poor threatens the disproportionately privileged collective Western and American Way of Life (AWOL) because their misery is, in effect, inevitably and forcefully imposed as a trade-off enabling AWOL affluence. Genuine democracy (self-determination) and true justice for the majority of the world's people are not tolerated by political/economic systems such as ours so dependent upon resource and labor exploitation (theft) for their perpetuation and maximization of private profits at public expense.
Veterans Speak from Personal Military Experiences
Members of Veterans For Peace are committed to sharing stories of our personal military experiences to increase public awareness of the true costs of war, including its universal casualty--the truth; to restraining our government from lawlessly intervening, overtly or covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations; and to ending war as an accepted instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Many of us have looked into the eyes of the "enemy," and we live with the burden of having participated in killing our "enemy" without even having understood their humanity or the political and economic context within which they lived and struggled. Through these experiences we have hopefully learned wisdom and humility, coming to understand the fallacious assumptions and arrogance upon which much of U.S. intervention policy is based.
Many of us are continually disturbed and grief stricken because it seems that our U.S. government does not yet understand: (a) the historical social, cultural, and economic issues that underlay most of the political and ecological problems of the world; (b) the need to comply with, as legally agreed to, rather than continually defy, international law and international institutions established for addressing conflict; and © that military solutions, including production, sale, and use of the latest in technological weapons, are simply ill-equipped and wrong- headed for solving fundamental social and economic problems. It is helpful to examine statements that reflect the level of understandings of former and current military officers, including representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The most highly decorated Marine Corps General in U.S. history, Smedley D. Butler understood all too well the real nature of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. foreign policy in general when he concluded after his retirement in 1931 that during his 33 years as a Marine officer operating on three CONTINENTS, he served "as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers . . . a gangster for capitalism" [Smedley D. Butler, "America's Armed Forces," Part 2, COMMON SENSE, 4:11 (Nov. 1935)]. But it seems that that understanding is easily forgotten. General A.M. Gray, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, in 1990 identified threats to the United States as originating from the "underdeveloped world's growing dissatisfaction over the gap between rich and poor nations," creating "a fertile breeding ground for insurgencies which have the potential to jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic and military resources" [Michael T. Klare, "The New World War," THE PROGRESSIVE (Nov. 1990)]. Gray understands the structural social and economic problems, but it apparently does not occur to him that the solution might be to directly address the injustices rather than perpetuate them with the use of military force.
Col. James A. Lasswell, head of the experimental operations for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory that is conducting the Urban Warrior exercises like the ones we witnessed in Monterey and Alameda/Oakland, California, in March 1999, declared in a January 1999 article in ARMED FORCES INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL, that "There will be widespread economic problems and cultural, ethnic, and tribal tensions, many caused by wave after wave of immigration." An important question is rarely asked: What are the causes of waves of immigration and the nature of the social and economic conditions that force people to flee for survival? And as the truth becomes known, we sadly discover the direct relationship between U.S. foreign policies that protect our 4.5% of the world's population consuming up to half the world's resources, and the concomitant, inevitable perpetuation of people's misery around the world. And in another issue of the ARMED FORCES INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL, Major General Scales reports that "The future urban center will contain a mixed population, ranging from the rich elite to the poor and disenfranchised" with "enormous problems of infrastructure and the demand for social services" and that the "proximity of the disenfranchised to the ruling elite provides the spark of further unrest and sporadic violence" [Gar Smith, "One Nation Under Guard," SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN (March 10, 1999)]. When will we choose to address injustices directly rather than implementing military policies that serve to deepen and expand them?
Not only has the history of U.S. foreign policy favored the elite over the majority poor, further aggravating social and economic problems, but U.S. policy is often conducted militarily in violation of a number of international laws, applied with enraging double standards, and without considering the long-term negative implications for world stability, and peace for the United States and West in general. Unilaterally launching missiles, in violation of international laws, into Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, killing innocent civilians, enrages the voiceless and, therefore, further endangers America. Our lawless, policies of WHOLESALE terrorism, committed with absolute impunity, create more RETAIL terrorists by increasing desperation. Furthermore, the U.S. is the world's largest arms supplier, guaranteeing perpetual exorbitant profits for corporations comprising the military-industrial complex, further endangering world peace by militarizing the globe.
These are the concerns of veterans who challenge the merits of continued U.S. militarism, such as development of Marine Corps Urban Warrior and other armed forces counter- "terrorist" exercises, and the assumptions upon which they are planned and carried out. Our grief as veterans will be substantially healed when and if our government commits to being a law-abiding member of the international community, respecting all life, practicing "golden rule" principles of do unto others as you would have done unto you.
A Chronicle of U.S. Military Interventions Abroad
A careful examination of U.S. foreign policy history reveals over 400 overt military interventions and over 6,000 covert interventions into at least 100 countries, killing MILLIONS of innocents. The first recorded use of U.S. Armed Forces abroad occurred in 1798 when the Marines were dispatched to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The Marines have been practicing and refining their destabilizing intervention techniques into coastal cities for 200 years. Eighty-five interventions later, the U.S. Armed Forces invaded the Hawaiian Islands in 1889 to protect U.S. "interests" in the coastal city of Honolulu. Several hundred more interventions occurred between 1890 and the present. Virtually all of these interventions have violated international laws. Only 5 of our more than 400 military interventions have been declared wars as required by our Constitution! And the U.S. Armed Forces have intervened against its own citizens on numerous occasions to repress military veterans' protestations, Indigenous self- determination struggles, workers' labor strikes, racial strife, etc.
The following is a partial list of U.S. military interventions since 1890. This list does NOT include demonstration duty by military police, mobilizations of the National Guard, offshore shows of naval strength, reinforcements of embassy personnel, the use of non-Defense Department personnel such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA, military exercises, non-combat mobilizations such as replacing postal workers, the permanent stationing of armed forces, covert operations where the U.S. did not play a command and control role, the use of small hostage rescue units, most uses of proxy troops, U.S. piloting of foreign warplanes, foreign disaster assistance, military training and advisory programs not involving direct combat, civic action programs, and various other military activities. Virtually all these interventions have been and continue to be in "Third World" countries, the "enemy" being the poor, and for much of the Twentieth Century, labeled as "Communist," a convenient pretext, now out of date. "Terrorists" has become the new rationale, with "drug traffickers" being a popular back-up option. In the case of Colombia, the U.S. Government refers to the guerrillas as "narco-terrorists," combining these two pretexts.
LOCATION/Period/Type of Force/Comments on U.S. Role
SOUTH DAKOTA/1890/Troops/300 Lakota Indians massacred at Wounded Knee
ARGENTINA/1890/Troops/Buenos Aires interests protected.
CHILE/1891/Troops/Marines clash with nationalist rebels.
HAITI/1891/Troops/Black workers revolt on U.S.-claimed Navassa Island defeated.
IDAHO/1892/Troops/Army suppresses silver miners' strike.
HAWAII/1893 (-?)/Naval, troops/Independent kingdom overthrown, annexed.
CHICAGO/1894/Troops/Breaking of rail strike, 34 killed.
NICARAGUA/1894/Troops/Month-long occupation of Bluefields.
CHINA/1894-95/Naval, troops/Marines land in Sino-Japanese War.
KOREA/1894-96/Troops/Marines kept in Seoul during war.
PANAMA/1895/Naval, troops/Marines land in Colombian province.
NICARAGUA/1896/Troops/Marines land in port of Corinto.
CHINA/1898-1900/Troops/Boxer Rebellion fought by foreign armies.
PHILIPPINES/1898-1910(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, killed 600,000 Filipinos.
CUBA/1898-i902(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, U.S. still holds Navy base at Guantanamo.
PUERTO RICO/1898(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, occupation continues.
GUAM/1898(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, still use as base.
MINNESOTA/1898(-?)/Troops/Army battles Chippewa at Leech Lake.
NICARAGUA/1898/Troops/Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur.
SAMOA/1899/Troops/Battle over succession to throne.
NICARAGUA/1899/Troops/Marines land at port of Bluefields.
IDAHO/1899-1901/Troops/Army occupies Coeur d'Alene mining region.
OKLAHOMA/1901/Troops/Army battles Creek Indian revolt.
PANAMA/1901-03/Naval, troops/Broke off from Colombia, annexed Canal Zone.
HONDURAS/1903/Troops/Marines intervene in revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1903-04/Troops/U.S. interests protected in Revolution.
KOREA/1904-05/Troops/Marines land in Russo-Japanese War.
CUBA/1906-09/Troops/Marines land in democratic election.
NICARAGUA/1907/Troops/"Dollar Diplomacy" protectorate set up.
HONDURAS/1907/Troops/Marines land during war with Nicaragua.
PANAMA/1908/Troops/Marines intervene in election contest.
NICARAGUA/1910/Troops/Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto.
HONDURAS/1911/Troops/U.S. interests protected in civil war.
CHINA/1911-41/Naval, troops/Continuous occupation with flare- ups.
CUBA/1912/Troops/U.S. interests protected in Havana.
PANAMA/1912/Troops/Marines land during heated election.
HONDURAS/1912/Troops/Marines protect U.S. economic interests.
NICARAGUA/1912-33/Troops, bombing/20-year occupation, fought guerrillas.
MEXICO/1913/Naval/Americans evacuated during revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1914/Naval/Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo.
COLORADO/1914/Troops/Breaking of miners' strike by Army.
MEXICO/1914-18/Naval, troops/Series of interventions against nationalists.
HAITI/1914-34/Troops, bombing/19-year occupation after revolts.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1916-24/Troops/8-year Marine occupation.
CUBA/1917-33/Troops/Military occupation, economic protectorate.
WORLD WAR I/1917-18/Naval, troops/Ships sunk, fought Germany for 1-1/2 years.
RUSSIA/1918-22/Naval, troops/Five landings to fight Bolsheviks.
PANAMA/1918-20/Troops/"Police duty" during unrest after elections.
HONDURAS/1919/Troops/Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA/1920/Troops/2-week intervention against unionists.
WEST VIRGINIA/1920-21/Troops, bombing/Army intervenes against mineworkers.
TURKEY/l922/Troops/Fought nationalists in Smyma (Izmir).
CHINA/1922-27/Naval, troops/Deployment during nationalist revolt.
HONDURAS/1924-25/Troops/Landed twice during election strife.
PANAMA/1925/Troops/Marines suppress general strike.
CHINA/1928-34/Troops/Marines stationed throughout the country.
EL SALVADOR/1932/Naval/Warships sent during Faribundo Marti revolt.
WASHINGTON, D.C./1932/Troops/Army stops WWI vet bonus protest.
WORLD WAR II/1941-45/Naval,troops, bombing, nuclear/Hawaii bombed, fought Japan, Italy and Germany for 3 years; 1st nuclear war.
DETROIT/1943/Troops/Army puts down Black rebellion.
IRAN/1946/Nuclear threat/Soviet troops told to leave north (Iranian Azerbaijan).
YUGOSLAVIA/1946/Nuclear threat/Response to shooting-down of U.S. plane.
URUGUAY/1947/Nuclear threat/Bombers deployed as show of strength.
GREECE/1947-49/Command operation/U.S. directs extreme-right in civil war.
GERMANY/1948/Nuclear threat/Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.
PHILIPPINES/1948-54/Command operation/CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.
PUERTO RICO/1950/Command operation/Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.
KOREA/1951-53(-?)/Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats/U.S.& South Korea fight China & North Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953; four million Koreans killed; still have bases.
IRAN/1953/Command operation/CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.
VIETNAM/1954/Nuclear threat/Bombs offered to French to use against siege.
GUATEMALA/1954-?/Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat/CIA directs exile invasion and coup d'Etat after newly elected government nationalizes unused U.S.'s United Fruit Company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua; long-term result: 200,000 murdered.
EGYPT/1956/Nuclear threat/Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis.
LEBANON/1958/Troops, naval/Marine occupation against rebels.
IRAQ/1958/Nuclear threat/Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.
CHINA/1958/Nuclear threat/China told not to move on Taiwan isles.
PANAMA/1958/Troops/Flag protests erupt into conftontation.
VIETNAM/1960-75/Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats/ Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; five million killed in longest U.S. war; atomic bomb threats in 1968 and 1969.
LAOS/1961/Command operation/Military buildup during guerrilla war.
CUBA/1961/Command operation/CIA-directed exile invasion fails.
GERMANY/1961/Nuclear threat/Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.
CUBA/1962/Nuclear threat, naval/Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.
PANAMA/1964/Troops/Panamanians shot for urging canal's return.
INDONESIA/1965/Command operation/Million killed in CIA- assisted army coup.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1965-66/Troops, bombing/ Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA/1966-67/Command operation/Green Berets intervene against rebels.
DETROIT/1967/Troops/Army battles Blacks, 43 killed.
UNITED STATES/1968/Troops/After Martin Luther King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.
CAMBODIA/l969-75/Bombing, troops, naval/Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.
OMAN/1970/Command operation/U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.
LAOS/1971-73/Command operation, bombing/U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; "carpet-bombs" countryside.
DAKOTA/1973/Command operation/Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.
MIDEAST/1973/Nuclear threat/World-wide alert during Mideast War.
CHILE/1973/Command operation/CIA-backed coup ousts democratically elected Marxist president.
CAMBODIA/1975/Troops, bombing/Gas captured ship, 28 die in copter crash.
ANGOLA/1976-92/Command operation/CIA assists South African- backed rebels.
IRAN/1980/Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing/Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.
LIBYA/1981/Naval jets/Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.
EL SALVADOR/1981-92/Command operation, troops/ Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash; long-term result: 75,000 murdered and destruction of popular movement.
NICARAGUA/1981-90/Command operation, naval/CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution; result: 50,000 murdered.
HONDURAS/1982-90/Troops/Maneuvers help build bases near borders.
LEBANON/1982-84/Naval, bombing, troops/Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions.
GRENADA/1983-84/Troops, bombing/Invasion four years after revolution.
LIBYA/1986/Bombing, naval/Air strikes to topple nationalist gov't.
BOLIVIA/1987/Troops/Army assists raids on cocaine region.
IRAN/1987-88/Naval, bombing/US intervenes on side of Iraq in war.
LIBYA/1989/Naval jets/Two Libyan jets shot down.
VIRGIN ISLANDS/1989/Troops/St. Croix Black unrest after storm.
PHILIPPINES/1989/Jets/Air cover provided for government against coup.
PANAMA/1989-?/Troops, bombing/Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed. LIBERIA/1990/Troops/Foreigners evacuated during civil war.
SAUDI ARABIA/1990-91/Troops, jets/Iraq countered after invading fiefdom of Kuwait. 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.
KUWAIT/1991/Naval, bombing, troops/Kuwait royal family returned to throne.
IRAQ/1990-1991/Bombing, troops, naval/ Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; no-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south, large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.
LOS ANGELES/1992/Troops/Army, Marines deployed against anti- police uprising.
SOMALIA/1992-94/Troops, naval, bombing/U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.
YUGOSLAVIA/1992-94/Naval/NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.
BOSNIA/1993-?/Jets, bombing/No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.
HAITI/1994-?/Troops, naval/Blockcade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.
Sources for History of U.S. Intervention
Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventionism Since World War II. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
Ege & Makhijani. "180 Landings by the U.S. Marine Corps" (History Division), Counterspy (July-Aug. 1982).
Foreign Affairs Division, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Instances of Use of Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975, revision of 1969 version.
Grossman, Zoltan. Over A Century of U.S. Military Interventions. Self-published, revised Jan. 1, 1995.
Sklar, Holly. "Who's Who: Invading 'Our' Hemisphere 1831-," Z Magazine (Feb. 1990).
U.S. Congress, Committee on Foreign Affairs' Report. Background Information on the Use of United States Armed Forces in Foreign Countries. Washington, D.C.: 91st Congress, 2nd Session, 1970.
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York: Perennial Library, Harper & Row, 1980.
S. BRIAN WILLSON, former Captain in the U.S. Air Force, served as a combat security officer in Vietnam in 1969. He has traveled to two dozen countries studying the nature and effects of U.S. foreign policies. During the 1980s he was investigated, along with others, as a suspected domestic "terrorist," due to steadfast nonviolent resistance to U.S. military aggression, including the widespread use of terror, conducted in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala in violation of fundamental human rights and numerous international laws. A 21-year veteran FBI agent, responding to his own conscience, refused orders to investigate Brian and five others as suspected "terrorists," disclosing the conveniently rationalized political application of this term by the U.S. government. Brian Willson is a trained lawyer and currently serves as co-chair of the John Steinbeck IV Veterans For Peace Chapter #46, Monterey, California (33 Portola Ave., Monterey, CA 93940, ph. 831-644-0111).