Question and Answer
September 11 And Its Aftermath
By Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom
We are writing this on September 17, less than a week after the horrific
terrorist attacks against the United States. We are still dealing with
our grief and trauma and we are still profoundly moved by the many acts
of heroism, generosity, and solidarity that have taken place. Some may
find it inappropriate to offer political analysis this early, but
however discordant some may find it, the time for political analysis
should be before actions are taken that may make the situation far
worse. Critics of war across the U.S. and around the world are working
hard to communicate with people who, for the moment, mainly seek
retribution. Below we address some of the many questions that are being
asked. We hope the answers we offer, developed in consultation with many
other activists, will assist people in their daily work.
Who did it?
The identity of the 19 individuals who hijacked the four planes is
known, but what is not yet known is who provided the coordination, the
planning, the funding, and the logistical support, both in the United
States and elsewhere. Many indications point to the involvement of Osama
bin Laden, but if his role is confirmed, this is the beginning, not the
end, of the inquiry: Were any other organizations involved and, if so,
which ones? Were any national governments involved and, if so, which
ones? The danger here is that the U.S. government may answer these
questions based on political criteria rather than evidence.
Who is Osama bin Laden?
Osama bin Laden is an exiled Saudi, who inherited a fortune estimated at
$300 million, though it's not clear how much remains of it. Fanatically
devoted to his intolerant version of Islam-a version rejected by the
vast majority of Muslims-bin Laden volunteered his services to the
Afghan Mujahideen, the religious warriors battling the invading Soviet
Union from 1979 to 1989. The Afghan rebels were bankrolled by Saudi
Arabia and the United States and trained by Pakistani intelligence, with
help from the CIA. The United States provided huge amounts of arms,
including Stingers- one-person anti-aircraft missiles-despite warnings
that these could end up in the hands of terrorists. Washington thus
allied itself with bin Laden and more than 25,000 other Islamic
militants from around the world who came to Afghanistan to join the holy
war against the Russians. As long as they were willing to fight the
Soviet Union, the U.S. welcomed them, even though many were virulently
anti-American, some even connected to the 1981 assassination of Anwar
Sadat of Egypt. When Moscow finally withdrew its troops from
Afghanistan, some of these Islamic militants turned their sights on
their other enemies, including Egypt (where they hoped to establish an
Islamic state), Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Bin Laden
established an organization of these holy war veterans-al Qaida. In
February 1998, bin Laden issued a statement, endorsed by several extreme
Islamic groups, declaring it the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S.
citizens-civilian or military-and their allies everywhere.
Where is Osama bin Laden?
After some attacks on U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities
revoked bin Laden's citizenship. Bin Laden went to the Sudan and then on
to Afghanistan. His precise location is unknown, since he frequently
moves or goes into hiding. Afghanistan is led by the Taliban, a group of
extreme Islamic fundamentalists, who emerged out of the Mujahideen. The
Taliban does not have full control over the country-there is a civil war
against dissidents who control some 10-20 percent of the country.
Afghanistan is an incredibly poor nation-life expectancy is 46 years of
age, 1 out of 7 children die in infancy, and per capita income is about
$800 per year. Huge numbers of people remain refugees. Taliban rule is
dictatorial and its social policy is unusually repressive and sexist:
for example, Buddhist statues have been destroyed, Hindus have been
required to wear special identification, and girls over eight are barred
from school. Human rights groups, the United Nations, and most
governments have condemned the policies of the Taliban. Only Pakistan,
and the two leading U.S. allies in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the United
Arab Emirates, recognize the Taliban government.
Why did the terrorists do it?
We don't entirely know who did it, at this writing, so we can't say for
sure at this point why they did it. There are, however some
possibilities worth thinking about.
One explanation points to a long list of grievances felt by people in
the Middle East-U.S. backing for Israeli repression and dispossession of
the Palestinians, U.S. imposition of sanctions on Iraq, leading to the
deaths of huge numbers of innocents, and U.S. support for autocratic,
undemocratic, and highly inegalitarian regimes. These are real
grievances and U.S. policy really does cause tremendous suffering. But
how do these terror attacks mitigate the suffering? Some may believe
that by inflicting pain on civilians, a government may be overthrown or
its policies will change in a favorable direction. This belief is by no
means unique to Middle Easterners-and has in fact been the standard
belief of U.S. and other government officials for years. It was the
belief behind the terror bombings of World War II by the Nazis, the U.S.
and Britain, and behind the pulverizing of North Vietnam and the strikes
on civilian infrastructure during the Kosovo war. It is the same
rationale as that offered for the ongoing economic sanctions against
Iraq: starve the people to pressure the leader. In addition to the deep
immorality of targeting civilians as a means of changing policy, its
efficacy is often dubious.
In this case, one would have a totally inaccurate view of the United
States if one thought that the events of September 11 would cause U.S.
officials to suddenly see the injustice of their policies toward the
Palestinians, etc. On the contrary, the likely result of the attacks
will be to allow U.S. leaders to mobilize the population behind a more
uncompromising pursuit of their previous policies. The actions will set
back the causes of the weak and the poor, while empowering the most
aggressive and reactionary elements around the globe.
There is a second possible explanation for the September 11 attacks. Why
commit a grotesquely provocative act against a power so large and so
armed as the United States? Perhaps provoking the United States was
precisely the intent. By provoking a massive military assault on one or
more Islamic nations, the perpetrators may hope to set off a cycle of
terror and counter-terror, precipitating a holy war between the Islamic
world and the West, a war that they may hope will result in the
overthrow of all insufficiently Islamic regimes and the unraveling of
the United States, just as the Afghan war contributed to the demise of
the Soviet Union. Needless to say, this scenario is insane on every
count one can assess.
But even if provocation rather than grievances is what motivated the
planners of the terror strikes against the U.S., this still wouldn't
mean grievances are irrelevant. Whatever the planners' motives, they
still needed to attract capable, organized, and skilled people, not only
to participate, but to give their lives to a suicidal agenda.
Deeply-felt grievances provide a social environment from which fanatics
can recruit and gain support.
How should guilt be determined and how should the punishment be carried
The answers to these questions are all important. In our world, the only
alternative to vigilantism is that guilt should be determined by an
amassing of evidence that is then assessed in accordance with
international law by the United Nations Security Council or other
appropriate international agencies.
Punishment should be determined by the UN as well, and likewise the
means of implementation. The UN may arrive at determinations that one or
another party likes or not, as with any court, and may also be subject
to political pressures that call into question its results or not, as
with any court. But that the UN is the place for determinations about
international conflict is obvious, at least according to solemn treaties
signed by the nations of the world. Most governments, however, don't
take seriously their obligations under international law. Certainly,
history has shown that to U.S. policy makers international law is for
everyone else to follow, and for Washington to manipulate when possible
or to otherwise ignore. Thus, when the World Court told the U.S. to
cease its contra war against Nicaragua and pay reparations, U.S.
officials simply declared they did not consider themselves bound by the
Why us? Why the U.S.?
The terrorists wreaked their havoc on New York and Washington, not on
Mexico City or Stockholm. Why?
George W. Bush has claimed that the United States was targeted because
of its commitment to freedom and democracy. Bush says people are jealous
of our wealth. The truth is that anti-Americanism rests on feelings that
the U.S. obstructs freedom and democracy as well as material well being
for others. In the Middle East, for example, the United States supports
Israeli oppression of Palestinians, providing the military, economic,
and diplomatic backing that makes that oppression possible. It condemns
conquest when it is done by Iraq, but not when done by Israel. It has
bolstered authoritarian regimes (such as Saudi Arabia) that have
provided U.S. companies with mammoth oil profits and has helped
overthrow regimes (such as Iran in the early 1950s) that challenged
those profits. When terrorist acts were committed by U.S. friends such
as the Israeli-supervised massacres in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee
camps in Lebanon, no U.S. sanctions were imposed. But about the U.S.
imposed sanctions on Iraq, leading to the deaths of hundreds of
thousands of innocent children, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
could only say that she thought it was worth it. When the U.S. went to
war against Iraq, it targeted civilian infrastructure. When Iran and
Iraq fought a bloody war, the United States surreptitiously aided both
On top of specific Middle Eastern concerns, anti-Americanism is also
spawned by more general grievances. The United States is the leading
status-quo power in the world. It promotes a global economic system of
vast inequality and incredible poverty. It displays its arrogance of
power when it rejects and blocks international consensus on issues
ranging from the environment, to the rights of children, to landmines,
to an international criminal court, to national missile defense.
Again, these grievances may have nothing to do with the motives of those
who masterminded the terror strikes of September 11. But they certainly
help create an environment conducive to recruitment.
Isn't it callous to talk about U.S. crimes at a time when the U.S. is
mourning its dead?
It would be callous if the people talking about U.S. crimes weren't also
horrified at the terror in New York and if the U.S. wasn't talking about
mounting a war against whole countries, removing governments from power,
engaging in massive assaults, and evidencing no concern to discriminate
terrorists from civilian bystanders.
But since critics are feeling the pain and the U.S. is already
formulating its notions of justice in precisely those unconstructive
terms, for critics to carefully point out the hypocrisy, and the likely
consequences even as we also mourn the dead, feel outrage at the
carnage, and help relief efforts, is essential. It is how we help avoid
piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe.
Suppose bin Laden is the mastermind of the recent horror. Imagine he had
gone before the Afghan population a week or two earlier and told them of
the U.S. government's responsibility for so much tragedy and mayhem
around the world, particularly to Arab populations as in Iraq and
Palestine. Imagine that he further told them that Americans have
different values and that they cheered when bombs were rained on people
in Libya and Iraq. Suppose bin Laden had proposed the bombing of U.S.
civilians to force their government to change its ways. In that
hypothetical event, what would we want the Afghan people to have
We would want them to have told bin Laden that he was demented and
possessed. We would want them to have pointed out that the fact that the
U.S. government has levied massive violence against Iraq's civilians and
others does not warrant attacks on U.S. civilians, and the fact of
different values doesn't warrant attacks of any sort at all.
So isn't this what we ought to also want the U.S. public to say to
George Bush? The fact of bin Laden's violence, assuming it proves to be
the case, or that of the Taliban, or whatever other government may be
implicated, does not warrant reciprocal terror attacks on innocent
By talking about U.S. crimes abroad, aren't we excusing terrorist acts?
To express remorse and pain, and to also seek to avoid comparable and
worse pain being inflicted on further innocents (including Americans) is
not to evidence a lack of feeling for the impact of crimes against
humanity, but instead indicates feelings that extend further than what
the media or the government tells us are the limits of permissible
sympathy. We not only feel for those innocents who have already died,
and their families, but also for those who might be killed shortly, for
those we may be able to help save.
U.S. crimes in no way justify or excuse the attacks of September 11.
Terror is an absolutely unacceptable response to U.S. crimes. But at the
same time, we need to stress as well that terror-targeting civilians-is
an absolutely unacceptable response by the United States to the genuine
crimes of others.
The reason it is relevant to bring up U.S. crimes is not to justify
terrorism, but to understand the terrain that breeds terrorism and
terrorists. Terrorism is a morally despicable and strategically suicidal
reaction to injustice. But reducing injustice can certainly help
eliminate the seeds of pain and suffering that nurture terrorist
impulses and support for them.
Bush has said that the "war on terrorism" needs to confront all
countries that aid or abet terrorism. Which countries qualify?
The current thinking on this topic, promulgated by Bush and spreading
rapidly beyond, is that anyone who plans, carries out, or abets
terrorism, including knowingly harboring terrorists, is culpable for
terrorist actions and their results-where terrorism is understood as the
attacking of innocent civilians in order to coerce policy makers. Some
people might argue with some aspect of this formulation, but from where
we sit, the formulation is reasonable enough. It is the application that
The U.S. State Department has a list of states that support terrorism,
but it is-as one would expect-an extremely political document. The
latest listing consisted of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea,
and Sudan-significantly omitting Afghanistan. Cuba is included, one
suspects, less because of any actual connection to terrorism, than
because of longstanding U.S. hostility to the Cuban government and the
long record of U.S. terrorism against Cuba. If we are talking about
terrorism of the sort exemplified by car and other hand-delivered bombs,
kidnappings, plane hijackings, or suicide assaults, we can reasonably
guess that most of the countries on the State Department list, along
with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and some other poor nations would qualify
with varying degrees of culpability.
On the other hand, if we are talking about terrorism of the sort
exemplified by military bombing and invasion, by food or medical
embargoes affecting civilians rather than solely or even primarily
official and military targets, by hitting "soft targets" such as health
clinics or agricultural cooperatives, or by funding and training death
squads, then we would have a rather different list of culpable nations,
including such professed opponents of terrorism as the United States,
Britain, France, Russia, and Israel.
At times the parties engaged in either list point to the actions
perpetrated by those on the other list as justification for their
behavior. But, of course, terror does not justify subsequent terror, nor
does reciprocal terror diminish terror from the other side.
Do Palestinians support the attacks, and, if so, what is the
There have been reports of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
cheering the attacks, and similar reports regarding Palestinians in the
United States. Fox News has played over and over the same clip of some
Palestinians in the occupied territories celebrating. But the media
fails to explain that they are showing only a small minority of
Palestinians and that official Palestinian sentiment has expressed its
condemnation of the attacks and sympathy for the victims. The media have
been especially remiss in not reporting such things as the statement
issued by the Palestinian village of Beit Sahour movingly denouncing the
terror, or the candlelight vigil in Arab East Jerusalem in memory of the
There is no reason to doubt, however, that some Palestinians-both in the
U.S. and in the Middle East-cheered the attacks. This is wrong, but it
is also understandable. The United States has been the most important
international backer of Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Politically
immature Palestinians, like the Americans who cheered the atomic bombing
of Hiroshima or many lesser bombings such as that of Libya in 1986,
ignore the human meaning of destroying an "enemy" target.
But that some Palestinians have reacted in this way, while
disappointing, should have no bearing on our understanding of their
oppression and the need to remedy it. In fact, given that Israel seems
to be using the September 11 attacks as an excuse and a cover for
increasing assaults on Palestinians, we need to press all the more
vigorously for a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
What is the likely impact of the attacks within the U.S. policy-making
The catastrophic character of these events provides a perfect excuse for
reactionary elements to pursue every agenda item that they can connect
to "the war against terrorism" and that they can fuel by fanning fears
in the population. This obviously includes expanding military
expenditures that have nothing whatever to do with legitimate security
concerns and everything to do with profit-seeking and militarism. For
example, even though the events of September 11 should have shown that
"national missile defense" is no defense at all against the most likely
threats we face, already the Democrats are beginning to drop their
opposition to that destabilizing boondoggle. Amazingly, certain elements
will even extrapolate to social issues. For example, our own home grown
fundamentalists-like Jerry Falwell-have actually declared (though
retracted after wide criticism) that abortion, homosexuality, feminism,
and the ACLU are at fault. Others hope to use the attacks as a rationale
for eliminating the capital gains tax, a long-time right-wing objective.
But the main focus will be military policy. In coming weeks, we will see
a celebration in America of military power, of a massive arms build-up,
and perhaps assassinations, all touted as if the terror victims will be
honored rather than defiled by our preparing to entomb still more
innocent people around the world.
So what is the likely U.S. response?
U.S. policymaking regarding international relations (and domestic
relations as well) is a juggling act. On one side, the goal is enhancing
the privilege, power, and wealth of U.S. elites. On the other side, the
constraint is keeping at bay less powerful and wealthy constituencies
who might have different agendas, both at home and abroad.
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has had a problem-how to get the
public to ratify policies that don't benefit the public, but that serve
corporate and elite political interests. The fear of a Soviet menace,
duly exaggerated, served that purpose admirably for decades. The ideal
response to the current situation, from the elite standpoint, will be to
replace the Cold War with the Anti-Terror War. With this accomplished,
they will again have a vehicle to instill fear, arguably more credible
than the former Soviet menace. Again they will have an enemy,
terrorists, whom they can blame for anything and everything, trying as
well to smear all dissidents as traveling a path leading inexorably
toward the horrors of terrorism.
So their response to these recent events is to intone that we must have
a long war, a difficult struggle, against an implacable, immense, and
even ubiquitous enemy. They will declare that we must channel our
energies to this cause, we must sacrifice butter for guns, we must
renounce liberty for security, we must succumb, in short, to the rule of
the right, and forget about pursuing the defense and enlargement of
rights. Their preferred response will be to use the military,
particularly against countries that are defenseless, perhaps even to
occupy one and to broadly act in ways that will not so much reduce the
threat of terror and diminish its causes, as to induce conflict that is
serviceable to power regardless of the enlargement of terror that
Already Congress has been asked to give the president a blank check for
military action, which means further removing U.S. military action from
democratic control. Only Rep. Barbara Lee had the courage to vote "no"
on Congress's joint resolution, authorizing the president "to use all
necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or
persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the
terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such
organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of
international terrorism against the United States by such nations,
organizations or persons."
What response should the U.S. take instead?
The best way to deal with terrorism is to address its root causes.
Perhaps some terrorism would exist even if the grievances of the people
of the Third World were dealt with-grievances that lead to anger,
despair, frustration, feelings of powerlessness, and hatred-but
certainly the ability of those who would commit terror, without
grievances to recruit others, would be tremendously reduced. As a second
step, we might help establish a real international consensus against
terrorism by putting on trial U.S. officials responsible for some of the
atrocities noted earlier.
Of course, these are long-term solutions and we face the horror of
terrorism today. So we must consider what we want the United States
government to do internationally right now.
The U.S. government's guiding principle ought to be to assure the
security, safety, and well-being of U.S. citizens without detracting
from the security, safety, and well-being of others. A number of points
follow from this principle.
We must insist that any response refrain from targeting civilians. It
must refrain as well from attacking so-called dual-use targets, those
that have some military purpose but substantially impact civilians. The
United States did not adhere to this principle in World War II (where
the direct intention was often to kill civilians) and it still does not
adhere to it, as when it hit the civilian infrastructure in Iraq or
Serbia, knowing that the result would be civilian deaths (from lack of
electricity in hospitals, lack of drinking water, sewage treatment
plants, and so on), while the military benefits would be slight. We
would obviously reject as grotesque the claim that the World Trade
Center was a legitimate target because its destruction makes it harder
for the U.S. government to function (and hence to carry out its military
policies). We need to be as sensitive to the human costs of striking
dual-use facilities in other countries as we are of those in our own
We must insist as well that any response to the terror be carried out
according to the UN Charter. The Charter provides a clear remedy for
events like those of September 11: present the case to the Security
Council and let the Council determine the appropriate response. The
Charter permits the Council to choose responses up to and including the
use of military force. No military action should be carried out without
Security Council authorization. To bypass the Security Council is to
weaken international law that provides security to all nations,
especially the weaker ones.
Security Council approval is not always determinative. During the Gulf
War, the U.S. obtained such approval by exercising its wealth and power
to gain votes. So we should insist on a freely offered Security Council
authorization. Moreover, we should insist that the UN retain control of
any response; that is, we should oppose the usual practice whereby the
United States demands that the Council give it a blank check to conduct
a war any way it wants. In the case of the Gulf War, although the
Council authorized the war, the war was run out of Washington, not the
UN. To give the United States a free hand to run a military operation as
it chooses removes a crucial check.
We should insist that no action and no Security Council vote be taken
without a full presentation of the evidence assigning culpability. We
don't want Washington announcing that we should just take its word for
it-as occurred in 1998, when the U.S. bombed a pharmaceutical plant in
Sudan, asserting that it was a chemical warfare facility, only to
acknowledge some time later that it had been mistaken.
If-and it's a big if-all these conditions are met, then we should no
more object to seizing the perpetrators than we object to having the
domestic police seize a rapist or a murderer to bring the culprit to
justice. And what if a state is also found to be culpable or if a state
determines to use military means to protect the terrorists? The dangers
of harm to civilians are much greater in the case of a war against a
state. Military action would be justified only insofar as it did not
cause substantial harm to civilians.
In addition, if the goal of a proposed military action is to enhance
U.S. security rather than to wreak vengeance, such envisioned benefits
would have to be weighed against the prospects of driving thousands of
others in the Islamic world into the hands of terrorism. In other words,
military action needs to be the smallest part of the international
response. More important are diplomatic pressures, cutting off funding
for terrorist organizations, reducing the grievances that feed
frustration, and so on.
It is critically important to also note, however, that even non-military
actions can cause immense civilian suffering and that such options too
must be rejected. Calling for Pakistan to cut off food aid to
Afghanistan, for example, as the United States has already done, would
likely lead to starvation on a huge scale. Its implications could be far
worse than those of bombing or other seemingly more aggressive choices.
What should we do to protect ourselves from these sorts of attacks?
Beyond pursuing the implementation of international law through
appropriate international channels and beyond trying to rectify unjust
conditions that breed hopelessness and despair that can become the
nurturing ground of terror, it is also necessary to reduce vulnerability
Some things are far easier than the media would have us believe. If we
don't want to ever see a commercial airliner turned into a missile and
used to destroy people and property, we can disconnect the pilots' cabin
and the body of the plane, making entry to the former from the latter
impossible. Likewise, it is significant that the U.S. airline industry
has, up until now, handled airport security through private enterprise,
which means low-paid, unskilled security personnel with high turn-over.
In Europe, on the other hand, airport security is a government function
and the workers are relatively well-paid, and hence much more highly
motivated and competent.
Other tasks will be harder. What we should not do, however, is curtail
basic freedoms and militarize daily life. That response doesn't ward off
terror, but makes terror the victor.
How do we respond to what seems like militaristic flag-waving?
To harshly judge the way some show their feelings for the U.S. in times
of crisis can be callous and unconstructive. The image of firefighters
running up stairs to help those above is heroic and deserves profound
respect. The vision of hundreds and thousands of people helping at the
scene, working to save lives, donating, supporting, is similarly worthy
and positive. Even the flag waving, which can at times be jingoistic,
should not be assumed to be such.The important thing is to increase
awareness of the relevant facts and values at stake, the policies that
may follow and their implications, and what people of good will can do
to influence all these.
What should progressives do?
Change depends on organized resistance that raises awareness and
commitment. It depends on pressuring decision makers to respect the will
of a public with dissident and critical views. Our immediate task is to
communicate accurate information, to counter misconceptions and illogic,
to empathize and be on the wavelength of the public, to talk and listen,
to offer information, analysis, and humane aims.
The United States and Middle East: Why Do They Hate Us?
The list below presents specific incidents of U.S. policy. It minimizes
the grievances against the U.S. because it excludes long-standing
policies, such as U.S. backing for authoritarian regimes (arming Saudi
Arabia, training the secret police in Iran under the Shah, providing
arms and aid to Turkey as it attacked Kurdish villages, etc.). The list
also excludes actions of Israel in which the U.S. is indirectly
implicated because Israel has been the leading or second-ranking
recipient of U.S. aid for many years and has received U.S. weapons and
benefitted from U.S. vetos in the Security Council.
1949: CIA backs military coup deposing elected government of Syria.
1953: CIA helps overthrow the democratically-elected Mossadeq
government in Iran (which had nationalized the British oil company)
leading to a quarter-century of dictatorial rule by the Shah, Mohammed
1956: U.S. cuts off promised funding for Aswan Dam in Egypt after Egypt
receives Eastern bloc arms.
1956: Israel, Britain, and France invade Egypt. U.S. does not support
invasion, but the involvement of NATO allies severely diminishes
Washington's reputation in the region.
1958: U.S. troops land in Lebanon to preserve "stability."
1960s (early): U.S. unsuccessfully attempts assassination of Iraqi
leader, Abdul Karim Qassim.
1963: U.S. reported to give Iraqi Ba'ath party (soon to be headed by
Saddam Hussein) names of communists to murder, which they do with vigor.
1967-: U.S. blocks any effort in the Security Council to enforce SC
Resolution 244, calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied
in the 1967 war.
1970: Civil war between Jordan and PLO. Israel and U.S. prepare to
intervene on side of Jordan if Syria backs PLO.
1972: U.S. blocks Sadat's efforts to reach a peace agreement with Egypt.
1973: U.S. military aid enables Israel to turn the tide in war with
Syria and Egypt.
1973-75: U.S. supports Kurdish rebels in Iraq. When Iran reaches an
agreement with Iraq in 1975 and seals the border, Iraq slaughters Kurds
and U.S. denies them refuge. Kissinger secretly explains that "covert
action should not be confused with missionary work."
1978-79: Iranians begin demonstrations against the Shah. U.S. tells Shah
it supports him "without reservation" and urges him to act forcefully.
Until the last minute, U.S. tries to organize military coup to save the
Shah, but to no avail.
1979-88: U.S. begins covert aid to Mujahideen in Afghanistan six months
before Soviet invasion. Over the next decade U.S. provides more than $3
billion in arms and aid.
1980-88: Iran-Iraq war. When Iraq invades Iran, the U.S. opposes any
Security Council action to condemn the invasion. U.S. removes Iraq from
its list of nations supporting terrorism and allows U.S. arms to be
transferred to Iraq. U.S. lets Israel provide arms to Iran and in 1985
U.S. provides arms directly (though secretly) to Iran. U.S. provides
intelligence information to Iraq. Iraq uses chemical weapons in 1984;
U.S. restores diplomatic relations with Iraq. 1987 U.S. sends its navy
into the Persian Gulf, taking Iraq's side; an aggressive U.S. ship
shoots down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290.
1981, 1986: U.S. holds military maneuvers off the coast of Libya with
the clear purpose of provoking Qaddafi. In 1981, a Libyan plane fires a
missile and two Libyan planes were subsequently shot down. In 1986,
Libya fires missiles that land far from any target and U.S. attacks
Libyan patrol boats, killing 72, and shore installations. When a bomb
goes off in a Berlin nightclub, killing two, the U.S. charges that
Qaddafi was behind it (possibly true) and conducts major bombing raids
in Libya, killing dozens of civilians, including Qaddafi's adopted
1982: U.S. gives "green light" to Israeli invasion of Lebanon, where
more than 10,000 civilians were killed. U.S. chooses not to invoke its
laws prohibiting Israeli use of U.S. weapons except in self-defense.
1983: U.S. troops sent to Lebanon as part of a multinational
peacekeeping force; intervene on one side of a civil war. Withdraw after
suicide bombing of marine barracks.
1984: U.S.-backed rebels in Afghanistan fire on civilian airliner.
1988: Saddam Hussein kills many thousands of his own Kurdish population
and uses chemical weapons against them. The U.S. increases its economic
ties to Iraq.
1990-91: U.S. rejects diplomatic settlement of the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait (for example, rebuffing any attempt to link the two regional
occupations, of Kuwait and Palestine). U.S. leads international
coalition in war against Iraq. Civilian infrastructure targeted. To
promote "stability" U.S. refuses to aid uprisings by Shi'ites in the
south and Kurds in the north, denying the rebels access to captured
Iraqi weapons and refusing to prohibit Iraqi helicopter flights.
1991-: Devastating economic sanctions are imposed on Iraq. U.S. and
Britain block all attempts to lift them. Hundreds of thousands die.
Though Security Council stated sanctions were to be lifted once
Hussein's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction were ended,
Washington makes it known that the sanctions would remain as long as
Saddam remains in power. Sanctions strengthen Saddam's position.
1993-: U.S. launches missile attack on Iraq, claiming self-defense
against an alleged assassination attempt on former president Bush two
1998: U.S. and U.K. bomb Iraq over weapons inspections, even though
Security Council is just then meeting to discuss the matter.
1998: U.S. destroys factory producing half of Sudan's pharmaceutical
supply, claiming retaliation for attacks on U.S. embassies in Tanzania
and Kenya and that factory was involved in chemical warfare. U.S. later
acknowledges there is no evidence for the chemical warfare charge.