Rouge States and State Sponsored Terrorism
Every year the US Government goes through the motions of determining which states are deemed to be state sponsors of terrorism and which are classified as ‘rouge states’. Rouge states are those states which have been declared to be non-members of the ‘International community’. The International Community can be broadly defined as states who have strong influence in International institutions. Rogue states are generally considered to be are North Korea, Iran, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Cuba. It is important to note that these designations come from the US State Department, as states which sponsor terrorism. These states are known to have sponsored various terrorist organizations in the past. Each has come directly against US foreign policy interests at one time or another. This has left an indelible mark between relations between these countries and the US. This is specially true of Libya, Iran and Iraq. These states have shown a propensity to operate outside of established norms of state to state conflict and to use innocents as victims in accomplishing is aims.
Yet the same types of criticisms have been levied against the US and Britain. The word ‘terrorist’ was not used when President Clinton launched rocket attacks into a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. This attack makes scarce, badly needed medicines in one of the worlds poorest nations even more difficult to obtain. This action took place at a key moment on the US political scene, which took headlines away from the US President’s scandal ridden administration. Here we have a US President, attacking a sovereign power, in the midst of a scandal, with no evidence (though at the time it was stated strong evidence existed of biological weapons being manufactured, this has now changed), with violent means. If Iran had attacked a US facility with no evidence and no provocation, it would rightly be called a terrorist act. In the US the word terrorist was never used the US mainstream media to describe this barbaric act by President Clinton and his Administration
Lets get a definition of terrorism.
"the systematic use of terror or unpredictable violence against governments, publics, individuals to attain a political objective. Terrorism has been used by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and ethnic groups, by revolutionaries, and by the armies and secret police of governments themselves."
- Encyclopedia Britannica.
Using this definition the attack on Sudan could be construed as a terrorist attack. What really exists in the American lexicon is that no act, no matter how barbarous or how much it may have all the earmarks of terrorism, will be called terrorism if that act is committed by the US. It will be called ‘covert action’ or ‘unilateral action’ or ‘operations other than war’ or some such phrase meant to mislead the general American population. In short it is terrorism. Because America is without a doubt the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth its definitions hold sway in the International Community. The threat of economic sanctions or military strikes against nations that may attempt to properly label the actions of the US Government as terrorist is a potent dissuader against such allegations. This is unfortunate, as our actions have earned us a great deal of enemies in the world. Nations who could have been brought into our sphere of influence with real diplomacy and by seeking some common ground to work on, have been alienated by our actions and shortsighted policies. Sensible diplomacy is reserved, not for African or Islamic states that have run afoul of the US, rather, it is reserved only for Western European states and surprisingly Communist states (China, Russia and to a much, much lesser degree, N. Korea). Iran, Iraq, and Sudan will remain perennial enemies of the US, and as long as the US is the dominant power in the international order. Thus, they will remain pariah states internationally. When the State Department labels a nation a sponsor of terrorism the world must listen, as it sits in the supreme seat in the international community.
No one likes to have the obvious pointed out to them, especially when it involves ones own hypocrisy. This is especially true of the US. While historically, terrorism has not been the way Americans deal with their political problems, and terrorist acts by the US government can still be considered an aberration, it must be called what it is, state sponsored terrorism, leveled against the poor and people of color. The lack of ability for the international community to sanction and punish America for its actions allows the US administration to escape an accounting of its activities. Fortunately, the US court system, while unable or unwilling to indict the Administration for a terrorist act, has been sued in civil proceedings and has agreed to pay damages to Sudan for its, exceptionally well timed ‘mistake’. While the US may never admit that this was a political event timed to distract attention from impeachment hearings, at the expense of much destruction, it is paying for ‘damages’. In a ‘real politick’ sense, the US is not a state sponsor of terrorism. Indeed any act, no matter how vicious, committed by the US Government can, by the ‘real politick’ definition, be called state sponsored terrorism. Only those who consistently oppose the US government, US corporations and or US policies will be given the title ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. The Inability of smaller states to militarily oppose the US’s dominance has led many of these states to resort to terrorism. This is wrong and cannot be justified under any circumstances. These cowardly acts, performed by cowards who haven’t the courage to fight with the weapons of war, stoop to the only method known to them, terrorism, planting bombs on school buses, under nurseries, and yes launching missiles into a medicine factory. These cowardly acts stem from the unwillingness of modern sates to declare war on its enemies. This does not happen anymore. From Desert Storm, to Bosnia to Serbia, the International community does not declare war. It issues ultimatums and then engages in military operations. This is even truer of the modern nation state, primarily the US. The US is unable to declare war on its enemies, rather, it allows a President to engage in military operations, sometimes secretly, without a war declaration. This is a form of political cowardice, though it is labeled as political expediency. When the US Government arms, trains and advises people who terrorize other nations citizens for its own policy considerations, how is that different from a ‘rouge state’ that does the same thing via groups we have deemed terrorist? The difference? One is working for US policy the other is working against it. Hence through raw power and force, America is able to make the world bend to its definition of terrorism and behave in ways which fit the textbook definition of terrorism and call it ‘foreign policy’.
Secular writers and Governments usually find religious zealotry and fanaticism in most terrorist threat assessments and place the blame for the use of terrorist methods on these forces. Understanding that terrorism is simply an outgrowth of powerlessness and that it is often the only means to get the attention of ‘great powers’ to redress their grievances, is essential in constructing an effective methodology in dealing with terrorism. While these acts are reprehensible, it must be taken into consideration that a desperate people will resort to desperate measures. A person who has nothing to lose is a very dangerous foe. Terrorism, often is an outgrowth of the inability to influence the political system in a way that is acceptable to the powers that be. Hence terrorism becomes a means of political expression when legitimate means fail. This is not true of all or even most terrorists. But in order to understand the fanaticism that would cause a young man to participate in a suicide terrorist attack, one must come to terms that this act is almost by definition, an act of desperation.
This kind of terrorist is a dangerous breed, as he or she cannot be bargained with. Only a very desperate situation can breed these kinds of people. While the religious aspect of this type of terrorism is certainly present, it is probably more likely that religious fervor is used as a tool to manipulate an already seething anger that is easily directed in a way experienced handlers can exploit. This is the real root of modern terrorism, political impotence matched with cynical manipulation of circumstances to produce ‘freedom fighters’ From Palestine to Iraq to Chechnya to Mexico. Each has groups of disaffected citizens, which can be used for various terrorist actions, either state sponsored, state supported or not.
The international community, while attempting to de-legitimize the use of terrorism as a means of political and or religious expression, has inadvertently watered the ground that breeds terrorist organizations. This has been done by ignoring or paying diplomatic lip service to the problems that spawn these movements. It is American policy that must be reviewed and revamped if real inroads into neutralizing terrorists are to be obtained, if indeed that is the real goal.
The specter of terrorism has in the past also been a convenient excuse for curtailing civil liberties. During the Y2K rollover it must be noted that every day, ‘terrorism’ was brought to the fore when discussing the rollover. It is true that there were many ‘nuts’ with a cause that would very much like to have made a statement. It is also true that no acts were reported in the mainstream. While it would be irresponsible to make blanket statements that elements within our government would cynically use the specter of terrorism to undermine constitutional rights, it would certainly not be the first time in history this had happened.
The seriousness of the present predicament in the US and the world at large in the aftermath of 911 shows how ineffective the anti-terrorist policies of the past have been. The US’s involvement with terrorist organizations and it support of these groups when short term foreign policy interests dictated, has now proven to be a failed policy. This can be said most specifically with the US's covert support for Pakistan's introduction of the Taliban into Afghanistan in the Mid 1990's. The US has been careful to keep a careful distance from the Islamic Fundamentalist movement for a number of obvious reasons. Yet high-level contacts between Washington and the Taliban did exist. Our support for the Taliban was done largely to fulfill the short-term goal of stabilizing Afghanistan and providing a bulwark against any potential Russian involvement in the oil rich region. This policy has shown itself to be a costly error in the US’s anti-terrorist strategy. Not only have the Taliban been blamed for harboring the worlds most notorious terrorist (Osama Bin Laden) but are considered by many in the US government to have been complicit in the formulation of the 911 attacks. One again the US foreign policy establishment, led most prominently by the Council on Foreign Relations, is involved in yet another potentially profitable foreign policy 'debacle', as 5 trillion dollars worth of Oil is slated to be transported through Afghanistan by a consortium of US Oil companies.
As America deals with this debacle, it is important to realize that in the scourge of Global terrorism, Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaida is just one of many terrorist organizations worldwide. Many of these groups exist for one purpose alone; the destruction of Western culture and society. This, it is often believed by these extremist groups, would be best brought about by bringing about the demise of America, as the preoccupation with America and its support for Israel, in radical Islamic terrorist groups demonstrates. Yet America’s response has been one of compromise and policy paralysis. This paralysis has let key terrorist suspects travel in the world without much hindrance, such as Osama Bin Laden and many others. America’s stance on Palestinian terrorism has been far less decisive than its stance on the World Trade Centers bombing. In contrast, the Jewish state is forced by the US government to negotiate with the terrorists. This is something that the Bush administration refused to do with the Taliban when they wanted Bin Laden handed over. Thus terrorism is once again not being dealt with in a consistent and effective manner. It has shown itself to be the single most effective tool against Israel and the US government and its policies. While many would take issue with this, it must be remembered that the bombings of the Khobar Towers, the bombings of the Beirut Marine barracks, the African Embassy bombings have all exposed a serious weakness and soft underbelly of the US global empire. This soft underbelly is being exploited by these terrorist groups and their state sponsors who posses a visceral hatred for the US and its polices.
America’s double mindedness must be replaced with firm convictions and a consistent foreign policy. This is something that the American foreign policy establishment, personified most notably with Council on Foreign Relations, seem determined to prevent. Until such a time as the American people decide to replace the political and economic mafia that has run America for the past 40 years, America’s support for terrorists and those policies which have stirred such hatred in the world will not only continue, but like a plague or a raging wild fire, it will only uncontrollably spread.
Al Qaida's End Game
Terrorism Research Center
Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism
American Embassy London (Great Links!)