Libero Della Piana is the national coordinator of the Young Communist League, USA. This is a speech Della Piana delivered at the International Seminar on Terrorism and Imperialism, sponsored by the World Federation of Democratic Youth Dec. 19, 2001 in Athens, Greece.
Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, George Bush gave his now famous ultimatum: “You are either with us, or against us,” meaning you either support U.S. imperialism and the murderous aggressive war Bush would soon initiate or you support the criminal and inhuman attacks of Sept. 11.
All over the world, youth and students are rejecting this false choice. They are declaring their opposition to both war and terrorism. And increasingly, even in the United States, they are recognizing the role of the U.S. government itself as the greatest perpetrator of international terrorism.
In order to reveal the hypocrisy of Bush’s “war on terrorism,” it is instructive to look at the criteria used by the State Department to identify their list of 28 foreign terrorist organizations.
First, the organization must be foreign. This leaves out domestic terrorist organizations like the racist World Church of the Creator or the Ku Klux Klan who routinely terrorize the American people, especially people of color.
It also leaves out, for example,the right-wing terrorist organizations in Miami that carry out terror on the people of Cuba without fear of U.S. reprisal. The second criterion is that the organization must engage in “terrorist” activity, which includes attacking civilian targets, hijacking and assassination.
The third criterion, which is the key, is that the organization must threaten the security of U.S. citizens or “the national security” (national defense, foreign relations or economic interests) of the United States.
With this definition it is no wonder that very few right-wing organizations are listed as foreign terrorist organizations. The criteria allows the U.S. government to conveniently ignore those terrorist organizations it tacitly or directly supports and also to label as terrorist organizations legitimate liberation movements who engage in armed struggle when no other option is left to them – simply because they resist imperialism.
In this way, Al Qaeda, the network the U.S. accuses of planning the Sept. 11 attacks, was only listed as a terrorist organization in 1999 after the U.S. believed them to be responsible for the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Al Qaeda was never listed in the 1980s when they were terrorizing the Afghani people and attacking Soviet forces in the region.
Even after Al Qaeda was first thought to have attacked U.S. targets, they were not labeled terrorist because Washington considered them useful for their imperialist aims.
On the other hand, the State Department lists the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) as a terrorist organization, an idea that we categorically reject. They make no distinction between organizations that target civilians and those armed organizations that are part of mass social movements struggling for social change.
We stand against any attempt to use the fight against terrorism to attack the people’s movements in Colombia or anywhere else.
We must remember that when Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen in Afghanistan were still considered “freedom fighters” in their war against the Soviets, the U.S. labeled Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress as terrorists!
Furthermore, the U.S. never counted as terrorist the right-wing death squads of Central America and Colombia, nor the secret police of Apartheid South Africa, nor the armed Israeli “settlers” in Palestine nor any of the aggressive state terrorists whom the U.S. calls allies.
The U.S. always uses its definition of terrorism to advance its own imperialist goals and not to increase the safety and security of the U.S. people or the people of the world.
But the “War on Terrorism” is even more hypocritical given the history of U.S. support for terrorism and current U.S. foreign policy.
It is now almost universally recognized that the U.S. government through the CIA and their partners in Pakistani intelligence, funded and built the Al Qaeda network, which they now consider to be public enemy number one. Osama bin Laden was recruited and trained by the CIA, as were thousands of other Mujahideen.
The U.S. operation in Afghanistan alone (the longest and most expensive CIA operation in history) has brought terror to the whole world, because the veterans of the Mujahideen, trained by the CIA went on to commit terrorist acts in Bosnia, Chechnya, Sudan, Algeria, India, Indonesia, etc.
But this is only one example. The U.S. has supported terrorism around the world.
Through its infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, the U.S. trains right-wing militias and death squads that have been terrorizing Central and South America for decades.
In fact, the attacking civilians, hijacking, assassination and torture condemned as terrorism by the state department has been the explicit policy of the CIA from its inception.
What of the millions killed at the hands of U.S. imperialism in Korea, Vietnam and Nicaragua, Cuba, Yugoslavia, Grenada, Iraq – just to name a few cases – aren’t these collectively the greatest acts of terrorism since Hitler fascism?
The people of the world are not wrong for having fear in the aftermath of Sept. 11. The world today is more unstable and insecure today than it was a decade ago, thanks to imperialism.
In fact, terrorism is a real threat to the lives of the people all over the world, even in the United States. Of course, Sept. 11 itself was a terrifying and shocking murder of thousands of innocents that I saw with my own eyes.
But this war in Afghanistan, which is still killing thousands of innocent civilians, the attack on civil rights and liberties around the world, the racist attack on Muslims, Arabs and immigrants in the U.S. and Europe, and the renewal of the arms race, which is punctuated by the U.S. abandonment of the ABM treaty, will do nothing to end terrorism, will not make the people safer.
It is our belief that the support for the war in the U.S. is based on fear for security and safety, real or imagined. But the war itself is an act of terror and has made the world less secure, not more. We believe this sentiment, the desire for a safe and secure world, can also be used to end forever the U.S. policies of destabilization and terror around the world; to call for a truly independent and international approach to solve terrorism within international law.
The thousands of protestors outside of the School of the Americas terrorist training camp in November 2001 are evidence of this.
Contrary to what some have said, terrorism is never progressive. The attacks of Sept. 11 were not a blow against imperialism, but a blow for imperialism. The attacks made imperialism bolder, giving Bush, the illegitimate President, the support of the people for the first time, giving U.S. imperialism pretext for war. But the so-called war on terrorism is in fact a war to reaffirm U.S. military and economic dominance in the world, and a war on domestic dissent.
We believe in this, they have gone too far. This new imperialist war, and increased threats to peace and the people’s movements will more and more reveal to the youth and people the hypocrisy and terror of imperialism, even in the imperialist centers, even in the USA.
Libero Della Piana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org