Should Washington try to improve relations with Venezuela?
Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003
By: Mark Weisbrot
Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Mark Weisbrot writes: The United States has always had a bad reputation for the way it treats its neighbors south of the border, but Washington's treatment of Venezuela has been an embarrassment even by the low standards of diplomacy that it maintains for the region.
The Bush administration endorsed a military coup against the democratically-elected government of Hugo Chavez last year. That's about as bad as you can get, although it may have been worse: There were numerous meetings between Bush administration officials and coup leaders in the months preceding the coup.
Opposition groups also received increased funding -- some of it still unaccounted for -- from the US government prior to the coup.
The major media in the US have mostly joined our government in its hostility to Venezuela. In an editorial that was as scandalous as the exploits of reporter Jayson Blair, the New York Times also endorsed the military coup. The editorial board issued a half-hearted retraction a few days later. But there were few American journalists who bothered to ask how the most influential newspaper in the world's most influential democracy could have made the mistake of endorsing a military coup against a democratically-elected government.
Chavez's major crime seems to be that he was elected mainly by Venezuela's poor, who previously had little voice in the corrupt political system that had ruled the country for four decades. It appears that our (USA) government, as well as most of our foreign policy establishment, respects democracy only when "the right people" win elections.
We have gone down this road before. Our government spent billions of dollars and financed the killing of thousands of people -- mostly innocents -- trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s. That government was democratically elected in 1984, but it made no difference to Washington. The result of American efforts is a still devastated country -- 13 years after the war ended -- with most Nicaraguans actually worse off than they were 40 years ago. The impact on our own democracy was harmful as well, as it led to the Iran-Contra scandal.
Unfortunately some of the same people who were implicated in that scandal are determining US policy in Venezuela today, viewing their mission through the same distorted ideological lens. Chief among them is Otto Reich, who is currently serving as White House special envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives, and expresses unrelenting antagonism toward Venezuela.
- Last month Washington cut off credits from the US Export-Import Bank to Venezuela, for reasons that appear to be political rather than economic.
Venezuela is a constitutional democracy, with complete freedom of the press, speech, assembly and association. The major media are controlled by the opposition, and their TV news broadcasts are so partisan that most people here would not recognize them as journalism. The opposition also has about 48% of the seats in the national congress, and controls most of the country's wealth.
If the reader has the impression that Venezuela is not a democracy, it is mainly because our own media regularly repeat opposition charges -- that the government is "authoritarian" or "Castro-communist" -- often without rebuttal. But as any visitor to Venezuela can see, it is one of the least repressive societies in the region.
Venezuela is our third largest trading partner in Latin America, and has continued to be a reliable energy supplier -- except during the past winter when the opposition led an oil and business strike, in another attempt to topple the government.
There is no legitimate reason for Washington's unfriendliness, as both Americans and Venezuelans have much to benefit from better relations between the two countries.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 1621 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20009-1052 -- telephone +1 (202) 293-5380 x228; telefax +1 (202) 588-1356 -- Email: email@example.com
The protean enemy
Finantial Review, Jun 20
Where radicals would once have turned to ideologies such as Marxism or anarchism, today they look to Islamism.
Having suffered the destruction of its sanctuary in Afghanistan two years ago, al-Qaeda's already decentralised organisation has become even more so. The group's leaders have largely dispersed to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere around the world (only a few still remain in Afghanistan's lawless border regions). And with many of the planet's intelligence agencies now focusing on destroying its network, al-Qaeda's ability to carry out large-scale attacks has been degraded.
Yet despite these setbacks, al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain among the most significant threats to the security of the US and its allies. In fact, according to CIA director George Tenet, they will continue to be this dangerous for the next two to five years. An alleged al-Qaeda spokesperson has warned that the group is planning another strike similar to those of September 11. On May 12, simultaneous bombings of three housing complexes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed at least 29 people and injured more than 200, many of them Westerners. Intelligence officials in the US, Europe and Africa report that al-Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment drive in response to the war in Iraq. And the target audience for its recruitment has also changed. They are now younger, with an even more "menacing attitude", as France's top investigative judge on terrorism-related cases, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, describes them. More of them are converts to Islam.
And more of them are women
What accounts for al-Qaeda's continued effectiveness in the face of an unprecedented onslaught? The answer lies in the organisation's remarkably protean nature. Over its life span, al-Qaeda has constantly evolved and shown a surprising willingness to adapt its mission. This capacity for change has consistently made the group more appealing to recruits, attracted surprising new allies, and - most worrisome from a Western perspective - made it harder to detect and destroy. Unless Washington and its allies show a similar adaptability, the war on terrorism won't be won anytime soon, and the death toll is likely to mount.
Malleable missions Why do religious terrorists kill? In interviews over the past five years, many terrorists and their supporters have suggested to me that people first join such groups to make the world a better place - at least for the particular populations they aim to serve. Over time, however, terrorism can become a career as much as a passion. Leaders harness humiliation and anomie and turn them into weapons.
Jihad becomes addictive, militants report, and with some individuals or groups - the "professional" terrorists - grievances can evolve into greed: for money, political power, status or attention.
In such "professional" terrorist groups, simply perpetuating their cadres becomes a central goal, and what started out as a moral crusade becomes a sophisticated organisation. Ensuring the survival of the group demands flexibility in many areas, but especially in terms of mission. Objectives thus evolve in a variety of ways. Some groups find a new cause once their first one is achieved - much as the March of Dimes broadened its mission from finding a cure for polio to fighting birth defects after the Salk vaccine was developed. Other organisations broaden their goals in order to attract a wider variety of recruits. Still other groups transform themselves into profit-driven organised criminals, or form alliances with groups that have ideologies different from their own, forcing both to adapt. Some terrorist groups hold fast to their original missions. But only the spry survive.
Consider, for example, Egyptian Islamic Jihad. EIJ's original objective was to fight the oppressive, secular rulers of Egypt and turn the country into an Islamic state. But the group fell on hard times after its leader, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was imprisoned in the US and other EIJ leaders were killed or forced into exile. Thus in the early 1990s, Ayman al-Zawahiri decided to shift the group's sights from its "near enemy" - the secular rulers of Egypt - to the "far enemy", namely the US and other Western countries. Switching goals in this way allowed the group to align itself with another terrorist aiming to attack the West and able to provide a significant influx of cash: Osama bin Laden. In return for bin Laden's financial assistance, Zawahiri provided some 200 loyal, disciplined and well-trained followers, who became the core of al-Qaeda's leadership.
A second group that has changed its mission over time to secure a more reliable source of funding is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which, like EIJ, eventually joined forces with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The IMU's original mission was to topple Uzbekistan's corrupt and repressive post-Soviet dictator, Islam Karimov. Once the IMU formed an alliance with the Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar, however, it began promoting the Taliban's anti-American and anti-Western agenda, also condemning music, cigarettes, sex and alcohol. This new puritanism reduced its appeal among its original, less-ideological supporters in Uzbekistan - one downside to switching missions.
Even bin Laden himself has changed his objectives over time.
The Saudi terrorist inherited an organisation devoted to fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. But he turned it into a flexible group of ruthless warriors ready to fight on behalf of multiple causes. His first call to holy war, issued in 1992, urged believers to kill American soldiers in Saudi Arabia and the Horn of Africa but barely mentioned Palestine. The second, issued in 1996, was a 40-page document listing atrocities and injustices committed against Muslims, mainly by Western powers. With the release of his third manifesto in February 1998, however, bin Laden began urging his followers to start deliberately targeting American civilians, rather than soldiers. (Some al-Qaeda members were reportedly distressed by this shift to civilian targets and left the group.) Although this third declaration mentioned the Palestinian struggle, it was still only one among a litany of grievances. Only in bin Laden's fourth call to arms - issued to the al-Jazeera network on October 7, 2001, to coincide with the US aerial bombardment of Afghanistan - did he emphasise Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and the suffering of Iraqi children under UN sanctions, concerns broadly shared in the Islamic world. By extending his appeal, bin Laden sought to turn the war on terrorism into a war between all of Islam and the West. The events of September 11, he charged, split the world into two camps - believers and infidels - and the time had come for "every Muslim to defend his religion".
One of the masterminds of the September 11 attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, later described violence as "the tax" that Muslims must pay "for gaining authority on earth". This comment points to yet another way that al-Qaeda's ends have mutated over the years. In his putative autobiography, Zawahiri calls the "New World Order" a source of humiliation for Muslims. It is better, he says, for the youth of Islam to carry arms and defend their religion with pride and dignity than to submit to this humiliation. One of al-Qaeda's aims in fighting the West, in other words, has become to restore the dignity of humiliated young
Muslims. This idea is similar to the anticolonialist theoretician Frantz Fanon's notion that violence is a "cleansing force" that frees oppressed youth from "inferiority complexes", "despair" and "inaction", making them fearless and restoring their self-respect.
The real target audience of violent attacks is therefore not necessarily the victims and their sympathisers, but the perpetrators and their sympathisers. Violence becomes a way to bolster support for the organisation and the movement it represents. Hence, among the justifications for "special operations" listed in al-Qaeda's terrorist manual are "bringing new members to the organisation's ranks" and "boosting Islamic morale and lowering that of the enemy". The US may have become al-Qaeda's principal enemy, but raising the morale of Islamist fighters and their sympathisers is now one of its principal goals.
Friends of convenience Apart from the flexibility of its mission, another explanation for al-Qaeda's remarkable staying power is its willingness to forge broad - and sometimes unlikely - alliances. In an effort to expand his network, bin Laden created the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders (IIF) in February 1998. In addition to bin Laden and EIJ's Zawahiri, members included the head of Egypt's Gama'a al Islamiya, the secretary-general of the Pakistani religious party known as the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam, and the head of Bangladesh's Jihad Movement. Later, the IIF was expanded to include the Pakistani jihadi organisations Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the last an anti-Shia sectarian party. Senior al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah was captured at a Lashkar-e-Taiba safe house in Faisalabad in March 2002, suggesting that some of Lashkar-e-Taiba's members are facilitating and assisting the movement of al-Qaeda members in Pakistan. And Indian sources claim that Lashkar-e-Taiba is now trying to play a role similar to that once played by al-Qaeda itself, co-ordinating and in some cases funding pro-bin Laden networks, especially in South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf.
In addition to its formal alliances through the IIF, bin Laden's organisation has also nurtured ties and now works closely with a variety of still other groups around the world, including Ansar al Islam, based mainly in Iraq and Europe; Jemaah Islamiyah in South-East Asia; Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines; and many Pakistani jihadi groups. In some cases, al-Qaeda has provided these allies with funding and direction. In others, the groups have shared camps, operatives and logistics.
Some "franchise groups", such as Jemaah Islamiyah, have raised money for joint operations with al-Qaeda.
Perhaps most surprising (and alarming) is the increasing evidence that al-Qaeda, a Sunni organisation, is now co-operating with the Shia group Hezbollah, considered to be the most sophisticated terrorist group in the world. Hezbollah, which enjoys backing from Syria and Iran, is based in southern Lebanon and in the lawless "triborder" region of South America, where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet. The group has also maintained a fundraising presence in the US since the 1980s. According to the CIA's Tenet, however, the group has lately stepped up its US activities and was recently spotted "casing and surveilling American facilities". Although low-level co-operation between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah has been evident for some time - their logistical co-operation was revealed in the trial of al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 embassy bombing attacks in east Africa ) the two groups have formed a much closer relationship since al-Qaeda was evicted from its base in Afghanistan. Representatives of the two groups have lately met in Lebanon, Paraguay and an unidentified African country. According to a report in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper, Imad Mughniyah, who directs Hezbollah in the triborder area, has also been appointed by Iran to co-ordinate the group's activities with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The triborder region of South America has become the world's new Libya, a place where terrorists with widely disparate ideologies - Marxist Colombian rebels, American white supremacists, Hamas, Hezbollah and others - meet to swap tradecraft. Authorities now worry that the more sophisticated groups will invite the American radicals to help them. Money raised for terrorist organisations in the US is often funnelled through Latin America, which has also become an important stopover point for operatives entering the US. Reports that Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is allowing Colombian rebels and militant Islamist groups to operate in his country are meanwhile becoming more credible, as are claims that Venezuela's Margarita Island has become a terrorist haven.
As these developments suggest and Tenet confirms, "mixing and matching of capabilities, swapping of training, and the use of common facilities" have become the hallmark of professional terrorists today. This fact has been borne out by the leader of a Pakistani jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaeda, who recently told me that informal contacts between his group and Hezbollah, Hamas and others have become common. Operatives with particular skills lend themselves out to different groups, with the expenses being covered by the charities that formed to fund the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Bush administration claims that al-Qaeda co-operated with the "infidel" (read: secular) Saddam Hussein while he was still in office are now also gaining support, and from a surprising source. Hamid Mir, bin Laden's "official biographer" and an analyst for al-Jazeera, spent two weeks filming in Iraq during the war. Unlike most reporters, Mir wandered the country freely and was not embedded with US troops. He reports that he has "personal knowledge" that one of Saddam's intelligence operatives, Farooq Hijazi, tried to contact bin Laden in Afghanistan as early as 1998. At that time, bin Laden was publicly still quite critical of the Iraqi leader, but he had become far more circumspect by November 2001, when Mir interviewed him for the third time. Mir also reports that he met a number of Hezbollah operatives while in Iraq and was taken to a recruitment centre.
New-style networks Al-Qaeda seems to have learned that in order to evade detection in the West, it must adopt some of the qualities of a "virtual network": a style of organisation used by American right-wing extremists for operating in environments (such as the US) that have effective law enforcement agencies. American anti-government groups refer to this style as "leaderless resistance".
The idea was popularised by Louis Beam, the self-described ambassador-at-large, staff propagandist and "computer terrorist to the Chosen" for Aryan Nations, an American neo-Nazi group. Beam writes that hierarchical organisation is extremely dangerous for insurgents, especially in "technologically advanced societies where electronic surveillance can often penetrate the structure, revealing its chain of command". In leaderless organisations, however, "individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organisation". Leaders do not issue orders or pay operatives; instead, they inspire small cells or individuals to take action on their own initiative.
Lone-wolf terrorists typically act out of a mixture of ideology and personal grievances. For example, Mir Aimal Kansi, the Pakistani national who shot several CIA employees in 1993, described his actions as "between jihad and tribal revenge" - jihad against America for its support of Israel and revenge against the CIA, which he apparently felt had mistreated his father during Afghanistan's war against the Soviets. Meanwhile, John Allen Muhammad, one of the alleged "Washington snipers", reportedly told a friend that he endorsed the September 11 attacks and disapproved of US policy towards Muslim states, but he appears to have been principally motivated by anger at his ex-wife for keeping him from seeing their children, and some of his victims seem to have been personal enemies. As increasingly powerful weapons become more and more available, lone wolves, who face few political constraints, will become more of a threat, whatever their primary motivation.
The internet has also greatly facilitated the spread of "virtual" subcultures and has substantially increased the capacity of loosely networked terrorist organisations.
For example, Beam's essay on the virtues of "leaderless resistance" has long been available on the web and, according to researcher Michael Reynolds, has been highlighted by radical Muslim sites. Islamist websites also offer online training courses in the production of explosives and urge visitors to take action on their own. The "encyclopedia of jihad", parts of which are available online, provides instructions for creating "clandestine activity cells", with units for intelligence, supply, planning and preparation and implementation.
The obstacles these websites pose for Western law enforcement are obvious. In one article on the "culture of jihad" available online, a Saudi Islamist urges bin Laden's sympathisers to take action without waiting for instructions. "I do not need to meet the Sheikh and ask his permission to carry out some operation," he writes, "the same as I do not need permission to pray, or to think about killing the Jews and the Crusaders that gather on our lands." Nor does it make any difference whether bin Laden is alive or dead: "There are a thousand bin Ladens in this nation. We should not abandon our way, which the Sheikh has paved for you, regardless of the existence of the Sheikh or his absence." And according to US government officials, al-Qaeda now uses chat rooms to recruit Latino Muslims with US passports, in the belief that they will arouse less suspicion as operatives than would Arab-Americans. Finally, as the late neo-Nazi William Pierce once told me, using the web to recruit "leaderless resisters" offers still another advantage: it attracts better-educated young people than do more traditional methods, such as radio programs.
Already the effects of these leaderless cells have been felt. In February 2002, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British national who was recently sentenced to death for his involvement in the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, warned his Pakistani interrogators that they would soon confront the threat of small cells, working independently of the known organisations that Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had vowed to shut down. Sure enough, soon after Omar Sheikh made this threat, unidentified terrorists killed five people in an Islamabad church known to be frequented by US embassy personnel, and another group killed 11 French military personnel in Karachi in May. And in July, still other unidentified terrorists detonated a truck bomb at the entrance of the US consulate in Karachi, killing 12 Pakistanis.
Joining the family Virtual links are only part of the problem; terrorists, including members of bin Laden's IIF, have also started to forge ties with traditional organised crime groups, especially in India. One particularly troubling example is the relationship established between Omar Sheikh and an ambitious Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Asif Reza Khan, the "chief executive" for Ansari's Indian operations, told interrogators that he received military training at a camp in Khost, Afghanistan, belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that "leaders of different militant outfits in Pakistan were trying to use his network for the purpose of jihad, whereas [Ansari] was trying to use the militants' networks for underworld operations".
Khan told his interrogators that the don provided money and hideouts to his new partners, in one case transferring $US100,000 to Omar Sheikh - money that Omar Sheikh, in turn, wired to Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11 attacks. According to Khan, Ansari viewed the $US100,000 gift as an "investment" in a valuable relationship.
Still another set of unlikely links has sprung up in American prisons, where Saudi charities now fund organisations that preach radical Islam. According to Warith Deen Umar, who hired most of the Muslim chaplains active in New York state prisons, prisoners who are recent Muslim converts are natural recruits for Islamist organisations. Umar, incidentally, told The Wall Street Journal that the September 11 hijackers should be honoured as martyrs, and he travelled to Saudi Arabia twice as part of an outreach program designed to spread Salafism (a radical Muslim movement) in US prisons.
Another organisation now active prisons is Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a terrorist group committed to purifying Islam through violence. (Daniel Pearl was abducted and murdered in Pakistan while attempting to interview the group's leader, Sheikh Gilani, to investigate the claim that Richard Reid - who attempted to blow up an international flight with explosives hidden in his shoes - was acting under Gilani's orders.) The group functions much like a cult in the US; members live in poverty in compounds, some of which are heavily armed. Its members have been convicted of fraud, murder and several bombings, but so far, most of their crimes have been relatively small scale. Clement Rodney Hampton-El, however, convicted of participating with Omar Abdel Rahman in a 1993 plot to blow up New York landmarks, was linked to the group, and US law enforcement authorities worry that the Fuqra has since come under the influence of al-Qaeda.
Still another surprising source of al-Qaeda recruits is Tablighi Jamaat, a revivalist organisation that aims at creating better Muslims through "spiritual jihad": good deeds, contemplation and proselytising. According to the historian Barbara Metcalf, TJ has traditionally functioned as a self-help group, much like Alcoholics Anonymous, and most specialists claim that it is no more prone to violence than are the Seventh-Day Adventists, with whom TJ is frequently compared. But several Americans known to have trained in al-Qaeda camps were brought to South-West Asia by TJ and appear to have been recruited into jihadi organisations while travelling under TJ auspices. For example, Jose Padilla (an American now being held as an "enemy combatant" for planning to set off a "dirty" radiological bomb in the US) was a member of TJ, as were Richard Reid and John Walker Lindh (the so-called American Taliban). According to prosecutors, the "Lackawanna Six" group (an alleged al-Qaeda sleeper cell from a Buffalo, New York, suburb) similarly first went to Pakistan to receive TJ religious training before going to the al-Farooq training camp in Afghanistan.
A Pakistani TJ member told me that jihadi groups openly recruit at the organisation's central headquarters in Raiwind, Pakistan, including at the mosque. And TJ members in Boston say that a lot of Muslims end up treating the group, which is now active in American inner cities and prisons, as a gateway to jihadi organisations.
As such evidence suggests, although it may have been founded to create better individuals, TJ has produced offshoots that have evolved into more militant outfits. In October 1995, Pakistani authorities uncovered a military plot to assassinate prime minister Benazir Bhutto and establish a theocracy. Most of the officers involved in the attempted coup were members of TJ. The group is said to have been strongly influenced by retired lieutenant general Javed Nasir, who served as Pakistan's intelligence chief from 1990 to 1993 but was sacked under pressure from the US for his support of militant Islamists around the world.
Totalitarian Islamist revivalism has become the ideology of the dystopian new world order. In an earlier era, radicals might have described their grievances through other ideological lenses, perhaps anarchism, Marxism or Nazism. Today they choose extreme Islamism.
Radical transnational Islam, divorced from its countries of origin, appeals to some jobless youths in depressed parts of Europe and the US. As the French scholar Olivier Roy points out, leaders of radical Islamic groups often come from the middle classes, many of them having trained in technical fields, but their followers tend be working-class dropouts.
Focusing on economic and social alienation may help explain why such a surprising array of groups has proved willing to join forces with al-Qaeda. Some white supremacists and extremist Christians applaud al-Qaeda's rejectionist goals and may eventually contribute to al-Qaeda missions. Already a Swiss neo-Nazi named Albert Huber has called for his followers to join forces with Islamists. Indeed, Huber sat on the board of directors of the Bank al Taqwa, which the US government accuses of being a major donor to al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Matt Hale, leader of the white-supremacist World Church of the Creator, has published a book indicting Jews and Israelis as the real culprits behind the attacks of September 11. These groups, along with Horst Mahler (a founder of the radical leftist German group the Red Army Faction), view the September 11 attacks as the first shot in a war against globalisation, a phenomenon that they fear will exterminate national cultures. Leaderless resisters drawn from the ranks of white supremacists or other groups are not yet capable of carrying out massive attacks on their own, but they may become so if they join forces with al-Qaeda.
Modern methodology Al-Qaeda has lately adopted innovative tactics as well as new alliances. Two methods are particularly alarming to intelligence officials: efforts to use surface-to-air missiles to shoot down aircraft and attempts to acquire chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.
In November 2002, terrorists launched two shoulder-fired missiles at an Israeli passenger jet taking off from Mombasa, Kenya, with 271 passengers on board. Investigators say that the missiles came from the same batch as those used in an earlier, also unsuccessful attack on a US military jet in Saudi Arabia. And intelligence officials believe that Hezbollah contacts were used to smuggle the missiles into Kenya from Somalia.
Meanwhile, according to Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, documents seized in Pakistan in March 2003 reveal that al-Qaeda has acquired the necessary materials for producing botulinum and salmonella toxins and the chemical agent cyanide - and is close to developing a workable plan for producing anthrax, a far more lethal agent. Even more worrisome is the possibility that al-Qaeda, perhaps working with Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, will recruit scientists with access to sophisticated nuclear or biological weapons programs, possibly, but not necessarily, ones that are state-run.
To fight such dangerous tactics, Western governments will also need to adapt. In addition to military, intelligence and law enforcement responses, Washington should start thinking about how US policies are perceived by potential recruits to terrorist organisations. The US too often ignores the unintended consequences of its actions, disregarding, for example, the negative message sent by America's neglect of Afghanistan and the chaos in postwar Iraq. If the US allows Iraq to become another failed state, groups both inside and outside the country that support al-Qaeda's goals will benefit.
Terrorists, after all, depend on the broader population for support, and the right US policies could do much to diminish the appeal of rejectionist groups. It does not make sense in such an atmosphere to keep US markets closed to Pakistani textiles or to insist on protecting intellectual property with regard to drugs that needy populations in developing countries cannot hope to afford.
In countries where extremist religious schools promote terrorism, the US should help develop alternative schools rather than attempt to persuade the local government to shut down radical madrasahs. In Pakistan, many children end up at extremist schools because their parents cannot afford the alternatives; better funding for secular education could therefore make a positive difference.
The appeal of radical Islam to alienated youth living in the West is perhaps an even more difficult problem to address. Uneasiness with liberal values, discomfort with uncertain identities and resentment of the privileged are perennial problems in modern societies. What is new today is that radical leaders are using the tools of globalisation to construct new, transnational identities based on death cults, turning grievances and alienation into powerful weapons.
To fight these tactics will require getting the input not just of moderate Muslims, but of radical Islamist revivalists who oppose violence.
To prevent terrorists from acquiring new weapons, meanwhile, Western governments must make it harder for radicals to get their hands on them. Especially important is the need to continue upgrading security at vulnerable nuclear sites, many of which, in Russia and other former Soviet states, are still vulnerable to theft. The global system of disease monitoring - a system sorely tested during the SARS epidemic - should also be upgraded, since biological attacks may be difficult to distinguish from natural outbreaks. Only by matching the radical innovation shown by professional terrorists such as al-Qaeda - and by showing a similar willingness to adapt and adopt new methods and new ways of thinking - can the US and its allies make themselves safe from the threat of terrorist attack.
Jessica Stern is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government and the author of The Ultimate Terrorists and the forthcoming Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill.
THOUSANDS EXPECTED IN PHILADELPHIA ON JULY 4TH TO DEMAND AN END TO U.S. WARS AT HOME AND ABROAD
BUSH DECLINES INVITATION TO ATTEND THE OPENING OF THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER IN PHILADELPHIA ON JULY 4TH
Thousands of people are expected to attend a demonstration in Philadelphia on July 4th to say No to U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad; No to Colonialism and Empire; End the Occupation of Iraq; No to Racism, Attacks on Civil Rights and Immigrants, the USA Patriot Act and the Shredding of the Constitution; and to Call for Funding of Social Programs - not the Pentagon's War Machine. The demonstration has been planned to coincide with the opening of the National Constitution Center, which has been built on the graves of enslaved Africans.
Demonstrators will begin gathering at N. 7th and Race Sts., in Franklin Square, Philadelphia at 8:00am with a rally scheduled for 10:am and a march at 12:00 pm followed by a closing rally. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition will be providing transportation from the Boston area.
George W. Bush was expected to attend but has apparently decided that the only way to avoid a massive protest is to stay within the protective confines of a U.S. military base. According to a statement issued by the July 4 Mobilization, the Philadelphia coalition who initiated this demonstration, “A military base is probably the only place Bush thinks he can go to avoid massive protest. But what he has to know is that veterans and military families are participating in the protests here, joining thousands of others in opposition to his plans for endless war, occupation, and other policies at home and abroad.”
Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and continues to lie when he claims the war is over, as more troops are being sent to crush Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation. The people of Iraq are without electricity, drinkable water, or medical care as unexploded cluster bombs, a cholera epidemic, and bullets fired by U.S. troops claim more lives every day. The U.S. continues to discuss plans for regime change, either through invasions, economic pressure or stepped up covert operations, against all those who attempt to retain nominal sovereignty over their own land and natural resources. Syria, southern Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti and other countries are slated for aggression. Yet the Pentagon's $400 billion budget is over 30 times the combined military spending of all the countries targeted in Bush's endless war plans.
Bush is an unelected president who stole the election by denying the Black vote in Florida. His administration is responsible for a wholesale assault on the Bill of Rights through the passage of the USA Patriot Act and institutionalized racial profiling. Imprisonment is at an all time high with over 2.2 million incarcerated and over 3,000 on death row. Single mothers of color are the fastest growing prison population. Thousands of immigrants, even U.S. citizens, have been detained without charges or trial. Due process continues to be denied for political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, the Cuban 5 and others. Racism is on the rise; Affirmative Action is under attack; restitution for slavery, the slaughter of indigenous people, and colonial occupation has not happened; and the corporate media gives right-wing politicians carte blanche to attack the rights of workers, people of color, women and lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people.
The Executive Branch under Bush has taken on near dictatorial powers — with its decisions rubber-stamped by Congress and the Supreme Court. The Bush wars for US corporate interests require a massive transfer of wealth directly from social programs. The administration hands out lucrative contracts to Bechtel, Halliburton, and Exxon, and it has engineered over $2 trillion in tax giveaways that primarily benefit the very rich. But the majority in the U.S face record high unemployment; cuts in spending for public transportation, housing, welfare, education, child care, veterans and HIV/AIDS benefits; and the closing of hospitals, libraries, drug rehab centers and more, as states are forced to balance their budgets because Washington won't. The income gap is widening. According to the Department of Labor, in the 1980's, income for the average CEO was 40 times that of the average worker. Today the difference is 531 times. Women earn 73% of what men earn—63% for Black women and 53% for Latina women—while women' caring work remains unvalued and unwaged.
Over the past several months millions of people from all walks of life have come together in this country and around the world in an unprecedented outpouring against war and for social justice. It is the responsibility of the people of this country to keep the pressure on and show that we will not stand idly by while this government pursues it’s goal of global empire at the expense of poor, working and oppressed peoples at home and abroad. On July 4th the eyes of the world will be focused on Philadelphia!
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) both locally and nationally are supporting the call from the July 4th Mobilization for a national protest in Philadelphia on Friday July 4th to Stop U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad.
The National Constitution Center, a museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Constitution in a building constructed on the graves of enslaved Africans, invited George W. Bush, along with all living past U.S. presidents, to speak at their opening ceremonies. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will also be on hand to receive Philadelphia's Liberty Medal. This event culminates a week of "Welcome America" festivities sponsored by oil giant Sunoco.
Since the July 4th Mobilization put out a call for a national protest, we have learned that Bush has bailed out - once again avoiding any event where he would be confronted by protests. But whether he chooses to show in person or not, Bush's policies need to be opposed, and the protest will go on as scheduled (see enclosed flyer). We need to take the NCC to task for inviting Bush to speak when his administration has violated international law and systematically engaged in a campaign of repression at home including wholesale assault on the Bill of Rights, the passage of the USA Patriot Act, and institutionalization of racial profiling.
It's becoming obvious that Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thousands of Iraqi people and hundreds of U.S. soldiers died as a result. He continues to lie when he says this war, which claims more lives every day, is over. Yet the U.S. Congress, which rubber stamped this illegal and criminal war of occupation, refuses to hold Bush accountable. Meanwhile, Bush discusses a new round of wars. Syria, southern Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti and other countries are slated for aggression.
The Pentagon's $400 billion budget is over 30 times the combined military spending of all the countries targeted in Bush's endless war plans. The massive transfer of wealth to pay for war and tax breaks for the wealthy means deeper and more extensive cuts in spending for social programs on a federal level as well as in every state and municipality across the country.
Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell has threatened to cut hundreds of programs that our communities need, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. Rendell, already notorious in Philly for his attacks on unions and for his involvement in the death sentence frame-up of political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, is also invited to speak.
We are determined to stop the never-ending series of wars in the various forms taking place against people here and abroad. We stand with people everywhere struggling for a world which values people over profits. We stand in solidarity with people living under oppression and occupation who have nothing to celebrate on this day.
We believe there is a power capable of stopping Bush and his mad drive to war -- the united, mass mobilization of people here at home, in solidarity with people around the world -- recognized by the N.Y. Times in February as a new world "superpower". We can't predict turnout for the July 4th demonstration, but whatever our numbers, it's important to be there to show our determination to continue the struggle.
We invite you to march with A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Anti-Imperialist contingent on July 4th.
You can help make this rally possible by making a financial contribution to cover costs of printing, postage, and the costs of sound & stage for the event. Please send checks to Philadelphia ANSWER (for July 4th Mobilization), 813 S 48 St, Philadelphia, Pa 19143.
We hope you will also consider volunteering some time, either before the event or at the rally, to help with the tasks needed to make it a success.
Also please take time to complete and return the enclosed form with your ideas on what protections and rights you would like to see included in our Constitution if we had the chance to rewrite it today.
The July 4th Rally in Philadelphia marks the start of the new stage in the movement to stop Bush's wars.
In Philadelphia: To find out more about how you can get involved to support these and other A.N.S.W.E.R. activities, come to our weekly meetings on Tuesday nights, 7pm at the Calvary Church, 48th & Baltimore. The struggle continues!
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U.S. Military Budget Heading Towards Cold War Levels
Published on Wednesday, June 18, 2003 by Inter Press Service-Common Dreams News Center, by Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM - The war on terrorism has triggered a dramatic increase in U.S. military spending, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released Tuesday.
Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN under secretary-general for disarmament affairs, says the rising global military expenditure is not just diverting precious financial, material and human resources from productive to non-productive pursuits, but also jeopardizing the environment and the prospects for social and economic development.
The world spent $784 billion on arms last year, a sharp acceleration from $741 billion the previous year, the SIPRI report says. The U.S. accounted for almost three-quarters of that increase.
SIPRI attributes this increase primarily to the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 2001.
But U.S. military spending had been rising earlier too. The figures show that U.S. military spending climbed from about $296 billion in 1997 to $335.7 billion last year.
”Our figures show clearly that the bulk of the rapid increase in spending in 2002 is accounted for by the United States alone,” SIPRI Director Alyson J.K. Bailes told IPS.
The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated U.S. military spending for 2004 at about $390 billion, rising to $400 billion in 2005. The recent war on Iraq is expected to cost the United States more than $150 billion, compared to the 1991 Gulf War, which cost about $61 billion.
Japan, the world's second largest military spender, is far behind the United States with an annual defence budget of $49 billion, followed by Britain with $36 billion. The top five spenders--the United States, Japan, Britain, France and China--account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditures.
According to the SIPRI Yearbook, the United States now accounts for 43 percent of world military expenditure.
China, Russia and Brazil have all increased defense budgets significantly. The countries with the sharpest reductions in military spending in 2002 were Argentina, Guatemala and Venezuela in Latin America and Belarus and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Europe.
The European Union shows no sign of following the U.S. in raising defense budgets, Bailes said. And while the Russian budget has risen, its possibilities are limited, she added.
”A review of global expenditure trends shows that the rest of the world is not prepared, or cannot afford, to follow the U.S. example,” SIPRI says in the yearbook. Among the poorer nations the signs are mixed, said Bailes. ”Some nations are able to cut spending voluntarily because of the ending of local conflicts, or they are being forced to do so by economic problems,” she said. ”As the security sector reform becomes a serious focus both of international aid policy and of local security cooperation, we may also see improvements in what could be called the quality (rationality, transparency, and proper targeting) of defense spending, which can often be combined with quantitative cuts.”
Some former defense funds are not being cut so much as diverted to internal and non-traditional security aims, such as counter-terrorism, she added.
But there is pressure also to increase defense budgets because of factors such as keeping up with the latest technological advances, and the interest of developing states in peacekeeping and other interventions, Bailes said. The impact of increased military aid that the United States, in particular, is offering is also a factor, she said. The SIPRI Yearbook notes marked regional disparities in military expenditure. In 2001 the Middle East spent 6.3 percent of GDP on the military compared to a global average of 2.3 percent. Latin America spent only 1.3 percent.
Africa (2.1 percent), Asia (1.6 percent) and Western Europe (1.9 percent) spent less than the world average, while North America with 3.0 percent, and Central and Eastern Europe with 2.7 percent spent somewhat more.
The Middle East is the largest single market for U.S. weapons systems. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait prompted sharp increases in arms purchases by the six Gulf nations--Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Asked if arms purchases would decline following the ouster of the Saddam regime by U.S. military forces, Bailes said ”whatever uncertainties may still remain over aspects of Iraq's future and its future regime, it seems clear that for a long while at least we shall not see another belligerent Iraq with the power and the wish to threaten its neighbors.”
An international stabilizing force on Iraq's soil for some time could allow other states to reduce their level of military preparedness, Bailes said. But the results could be different if outside powers build new military ”clients” to compete with others, she added.
Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN under secretary-general for disarmament affairs, says the rising global military expenditure is not just diverting precious financial, material and human resources from productive to non-productive pursuits, but also jeopardizing the environment and the prospects for social and economic development.
Sixteen years ago the world community gathered at the United Nations for the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development. Yet today military expenditure is rising, he told IPS.
Copyright 2003 IPS