Close Gitmo and Get Out of Cuba
by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis
LONDON — Two cheers to President Barack Obama for ordering the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. But why is it to be done over a year? Justice delayed is justice denied.
Obama also ordered CIA’s network of secret, or "black," prisons closed — we hope for good — and the use of torture to cease, ending one of the worst stains on America’s honor as well as a grave violation of international and US law.
Guantanamo is a double embarrassment. The US conquered Cuba in the 1898 Spanish American War. Washington then installed a US citizen as puppet president who granted Washington base rights to Guantanamo in perpetuity. Guantanamo was then considered a useful coaling station for US warships.
The US imposed a similar one-sided treaty on its new protectorate, Panama, which it carved out of Colombia. A century later, the US made similar base deals with occupied Afghanistan, and perhaps with Iraq.
Obama should shut the unneeded US base at Guantanamo, which has become a white elephant, and return the enclave to Cuba. This would be an excellent start to restoring US-Cuban relations.
President Obama’s next step in returning America to its senses: ending use of the propaganda terms, "terrorism," and "war on terror."
Britain’s youthful foreign secretary, David Miliband, is one of its most interesting and brainy politicians. He could very well replace Gordon Brown as prime minister if Britain’s rapidly worsening financial crisis goes critical.
Rebuking the Bush administration, the outspoken Miliband urged Washington to cease using "war on terror," which he calls "misleading and mistaken." This term implies a unified, international enemy, when there is none in reality. It encourages war psychosis, fear, and employing the military to deal with problems the West "could not kill its way out of," writes Miliband.
But promoting the canard of "terrorism" was the central ideology and raison d’tre of the Bush administration, a ship of fools steered by crypto-fascist neoconservatives and Christian evangelical fundamentalists. It failed at everything except one thing: propaganda.
Thanks to White House domination of US media, brilliant news manipulation, propaganda worthy of Dr. Goebbels, and a public largely ignorant of world affairs, the White House fib factory marketed fear of "terrorism" to win votes and justify colonial adventures abroad.
As author Kevin Phillips points out, some of Bush’s strongest supporters were "security moms" in the Midwest and South. These homemakers were terrified into believing Osama bin Laden and his turbaned devils were coming to their hometowns to attack their little Johnny’s. "Security moms" provided key support for Republicans in key battleground states.
Proclaiming "war on terrorism" — a logical and grammatical nonsense — boosted the Pentagon’s budget by 50%, unleashed armies of mercenaries run by big Republican donors, facilitated Dick Cheney’s crusade to grab the world’s oil, and justified invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans who opposed Bush’s phony global conflict were branded traitors, appeasers, and anti-American. All who dared oppose America or its allies were "terrorists."
The term "terrorism" is designed not only to arouse potent emotions of fear and loathing, but to dehumanize one’s foes and deny them any legitimate motivations. Israel successfully deployed this effective propaganda weapon against the Palestinians, who all too often eagerly cooperated by staging murderous attacks on civilians. The "terrorism" theme was then wholly adopted by the Bush administration.
"Terrorists" are sub-humans. Terrorists are a disease. One can never negotiate with them. Only eradicate them. Even their children are legitimate targets. The laws of humanity and war do not apply to "terrorists."
Slapping this label on all who oppose the US and its allies proved highly effective psy-war propaganda, but it totally distorted reality. I always avoided using "terrorism," which became the most cherished word in the Bush administration’s version of George Orwell’s totalitarian "Doublespeak."
The proper term we should use is "anti-western groups" or "antigovernment forces," not "terrorists. The US, which burned alive 100,000 Japanese civilians in one night during the fire bomb raids against Tokyo on 9 March, 1945, killed two million Vietnamese civilians, and is responsible for 500,000 to one million Iraqi civilian deaths, is in no position to brand others "terrorists."
After invading Afghanistan, the Soviets used to brand the Afghan mujahidin resisting them, "Islamic terrorists." The US hailed them as "freedom fighters." Ironically, the US and its Afghan Communist allies now label Taliban-led forces fighting western occupation, "Islamic terrorists."
Iraqis and Afghans who oppose US and/or NATO occupation should properly be called "the resistance," not "insurgents" or "terrorists." The US invaded both nations and overthrew their recognized governments. One might as well have called the French resistance in World War II, "insurgents."
I hope President Obama will heed Miliband’s good advice and end Bush/Cheney’s Orwellian lies. Americans need the truth about their foreign wars. They need to know that al-Qaida was never more than a handful of anti-western extremists. It has yet to be proved that bin Laden was the author of 9/11. That these attacks on the US were likely a one-off event. That crimes like Guantanamo, torture, kidnappings and stomping small countries create more enemies of the West than Osama bin Laden ever dreamed of.
Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.