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By Bill Shunas

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"The first casualty when war comes is truth." So said Senator Hiram Johnson back in 1917. So now we have the War on Terrorism, and you know that in this one, truth is a casualty.

The War on Terrorism is a war unlike any war we've experienced. Since World War II, the United States has been consistently involved in military actions all around the globe. There have been major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. We have sent smaller numbers of troops into places too numerous to mention. We've had bombing missions over Iraq, Serbia, Libya and elsewhere. What is clear about all these actions is that they were not done for any noble purpose. They were done to keep America and American business the dominant force on the planet.

This new war has its differences. The attack on the Trade Towers was an attack on the people of this country as well as on the government. As such, it requires retribution. That makes it different than the wars we're used to. The problem is that the retribution is left in the hands of George II and all those kinds of people who have been conducting fifty years of unjust wars.

George II's idea of how to answer 9-11 and conduct this war has been to declare Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda the masterminds of 9-11, and to decide that Bin Laden and his general staff were being sheltered by the Taliban, making the Taliban also the enemy. (The problem here is that those given the power to make war on terrorism get to choose who the terrorists are.) Since the Taliban is the enemy, it was necessary to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan and then send in foot soldiers to mop up. Meanwhile, the media is unquestioning and plays its role of cheerleader.

If the goal was really to get Bin Laden and key members of Al Qaeda, the best thing they could have done probably would have been to smoke the peace pipe with Iran. The Iranians didn't like the Taliban, and they had the best intelligence on who was where in Afghanistan. Now it's too late.

RUMOR CONTROL: Rumor Central reports that Osama bin Laden is not hiding out with an Identity Christian group in northern Idaho. The proposed coalition between Bin Laden's people and Identity fell apart over theological differences as to who were the chosen people.

In Afghanistan, the country's Taliban leaders were giving safe haven to Al Qaeda and probably Bin Laden. If you accept the assumption that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were behind 9-11, must you accept the Bush line that a war was necessary? Or was there another way out? The Taliban wanted to stay in power and would probably have agreed to a trial in a neutral country - but Bush needed to shed blood.

RUMOR CONTROL: God allegedly blessed America, but Rumor Central checked it out and found that to be negative. Forty-five million people still have no health insurance, and one third of our bridges are badly in need of repair.

Several Taliban leaders were invited to the United States in 1997. They were taken to Omaha to visit an Afghan cultural center and then on to Houston where they were wined and dined by the good folks at Unocal. Seems Unocal wanted to get permission to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. The Taliban said no to Unocal.

There are large oil and natural gas deposits in southwestern Asia. The most logical and lucrative market for this oil and gas is in east Asia. The most viable distribution would be a pipeline run through Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Karachi on the Arabian Sea where it would transfer to tankers headed for the Orient. Tajikistan and Pakistan were willing, but the Taliban said no.

If the Taliban had said yes to Unocal, would there have been war? George II has been accused of having no brains, but this was a no-brainer. The Taliban were not nice people. They treated women like cattle, they tore down famous statues, and for minor offenses they stoned people to death or cut off their limbs. They had Osama hidden in their mountains. They said no to Unocal. John Ashcroft said God was on our side. It was a win-win situation, so the chief said yes. There was war.

So what are the results of the war so far? Not many terrorists have been killed yet, but we've probably killed more innocent civilians than were lost at the Trade Towers. And that number could rise rapidly. Afghanistan is a country with a limited food supply coming off a couple of years of drought. Starvation was warded off by world relief agencies who now can't operate because of the war.

Things aren't much better on the governmental level. This is a country with tribal feuds. It reminds one of Yugoslavia after Tito died. This Northern Alliance government the United States put in power has little chance of succeeding unless they come up with their own Tito - something that's not likely.

RUMOR CONTROL: Rumor Central is investigating allegations that from 13 to 34 members of Al Qaeda, disguised as members of various Latin American death squads, received training at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia in the mid-Nineties.

On the homefront, the pigs are at the trough. In the name of 9-11, Congress is dishing out the dough for corporate America. There was the famous $15 billion for the airline industry while their laid-off employees got nothing. Boeing, biotech and drug companies, for-profit hospitals, and insurance companies are all getting their share. Vice President Cheney said that America has to prepare for a fifty-year war on terrorism. I guess he means that he expects us to tighten our belts for fifty years so these corporations can defend us.

RUMOR CONTROL: Persistent reports have come into Rumor Central that God did indeed bless America. Word came in from the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 and from bumper sticker sales, so Rumor Central sent out more investigators. Sure enough, it was found that God has blessed America. Some examples: the Pentagon budget was increased; new police powers were given out; executives at Enron did have a golden parachute.

The truth probably is that only a surgical strike in Afghanistan by an elite team with good intelligence would have done any good in this phase of the War on Terrorism. The truth is that the way the war was conducted in Afghanistan probably angered more people and helped create more terrorist foot soldiers. The truth is that good police work is needed to uncover terrorists and that some ongoing police work is good. The truth is that some of the police work that is now happening is fascistic and unnecessary (see the USA PATRIOT Act).

And perhaps the biggest truth is that 9-11 and most terrorist acts against the United States would not happen if U.S. foreign policy was just. Osama bin Laden was once a U.S. ally. He wasn't concerned with the United States after the end of the Afghan-USSR war. Supposedly, he turned against the United States after we stationed (infidel) troops in his holy land of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and kept them there.

People who hate us in the Arab-Islamic world do not do so because they envy our way of life, as American commentators and politicians are so fond of saying. Hatred arises because we support repressive governments in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They hate because we are responsible for the deaths of many Iraqi children, and because we supply Israel with the weapons to kill Palestinians. The truth is that as long as the United States maintains its aggressive, imperialist foreign policy, it will stir up much resentment, and within the many who resent will be a few who hate and will act on their hatred.


Bill Shunas is a Vietnam veteran and author. He's a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter.

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