The Ultimate Rogue Nation

By John M. Swomley

Where have all the "rogue states" gone? The politically correct term used by the U.S. government these days is states of concern. In a June 19, 2000, interview on National Public Radio, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained, "We are now calling these states 'states of concern' because we are concerned about their support of terrorist activity, their development of missiles, their desire to disrupt the international system."

Presumably this new terminology permits rehabilitation of some nation states that are now willing to play by U.S. rules. More likely it is in recognition that a state like North Korea may be weaned from too close a relationship with China, now that South and North Korea are discussing unification. And the term also identifies those states which aren't officially engaged in acts of war, but which harbor or enable factions engaged in terrorist activities carried out in the name of religious zealotry or in retaliation for real or perceived injustices by their targets (such as, perhaps, the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole in the Yemen harbor of Aden).

The term rogue states was originally used in reference to Cuba, Syria, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya by Les Aspin, chair of the House Armed Services Committee and Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Defense. Aspin was referring to those nations which oppose the foreign and military policies of the United States in their region, including U.S. actions and efforts to dominate those countries.

Most U.S. citizens accept their government's view of "rogue states" because the major news media parrot the Pentagon's point of view. However, in nearly every case of suspected terrorism, the United States was in fact the original aggressor, using its own form of aggression to which the "rogue states" were responding.

The word terrorist is a political term used by U.S. officials to describe opponents who engage in isolated violent attacks against the United States or its allies. Those who perform such acts, however, see themselves as "freedom fighters" against a vastly superior armed force or nation they believe is seeking to dominate or oppress them. Modern terrorist attacks against the United States haven't involved organized militias but are like hit-and-run raids that target a specific building, bridge, airport, plane, ship, or police or military barracks -- the Cole attack being the most recent.

The United States uses very similar terrorist attacks, but instead describes them as covert action. The CIA has been responsible for numerous such acts, and they are always instigated within a political context.

For example, the hostility experienced today between the United States and Iran is the result of five decades of U.S. interference. There was the CIA-supported overthrow of Iran's Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, the disintegration of U.S. -Iran relations during the Carter administration, and our foisting of Western values and policies on that country, which eventually led to the fundamentalist takeover and the resultant hostage crisis in 1979.

Another example of U.S. terrorist tactics occurred when Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982. The Reagan administration stationed U.S. Marines at the Beirut airport and engaged in the naval bombardment of Muslim-held areas in Beirut, killing Lebanese civilians. This was the context in April 1983 that prompted the truck bomb attack that killed 241 marines and the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. A Pentagon board of inquiry, headed by Admiral L. I. Long, strongly condemned Ronald Reagan's policy in Lebanon that had led to the terrorism against the marines and the embassy.

Reagan and his advisers were also responsible for the U.S. fleet attack on Libya in March 1986 that killed sixty Libyan sailors, and the April bombing of Libyan cities that killed and injured hundreds of civilians. In addition, according to the April 16, 1986, New York Times, the Pentagon's "precision bombing" of Tripoli damaged the embassies of France, Austria, and Romania, the residences of Swiss and Japanese ambassadors, as well as the Bin Ashun neighborhood of the Libyan middle class and intelligentsia.

The bombing of Libya was said to be in response to Libyan terrorism, but the United States was never able to produce clear evidence of such activity. The first reason for the bombing was stated in advance of the attack. According to the April 3, 1986, New York Times, Secretary of State George Shultz (later an adviser to George W. Bush as he campaigned in 2000 for the presidency) said on March 28 that Washington had long wanted to "blow the whistle" on Colonel Muammar Qaddafi because he "is doing things that are against our interest." Reagan's subsequent action was an act of aggression -- or undeclared war. He didn't consult Congress, as required by law, or the United Nations, as required by its charter. A majority of the UN Security Council condemned the bombing, and Reagan's policy of aggression resulted in the inability of many Americans to remain in much of the Middle East.

On January 4, 1989, two U.S. planes shot down two Libyan planes. Then the White House decided to blame Libya solely for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people. However, according to the March 30, 1992, Nation, British, German, and U.S. police and security authorities unanimously concluded in March 1989 that the Pan Am bombing was carried out instead by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine with the support of Iran "to avenge the appalling destruction of the Iranian civilian airbus by the USS Vincennes," which occurred in July 1988. A four-month investigation by Time magazine also concluded in its April 27, 1992, issue that the destruction of the Pan Am plane was to avenge the downing of the Iranian airbus by the USS Vincennes -- yet another example of how U.S. terrorist action encourages or incites terrorism by those who protest U.S. dominance in the Middle East.

There are numerous other illustrations of U.S. involvement in terrorist acts against foreign governments. In fact, many foreign terrorists actually learned their tactics from the CIA. As William Hartung, the senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute, reports in the August 26, 1998, New York Times:

The most striking characteristic of the network financed and organized by Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the August bombing of the U.S. embassies, is that it is made up almost entirely of Ronald Reagan's "freedom fighters," the Islamic fundamentalists armed and trained by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s in an effort to drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan. This network received $6 billion in U.S. and Saudi-financed arms shipments in the 1980s.

The United States is viewed by many in the Middle East as unconcerned with the millions of poor people and as primarily allied with Israel and the rulers of oil-rich states. Graham Fuller, former vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council of the CIA, was quoted in the August 27, 1998 Glenwood Independent (Glenwood Springs, Colorado) as saying:

The Middle East is now beset with masses of poor citizens -- bad social services, poor education, absence of democracy, constant abuse of human rights, widespread corruption, police states, often brutal rulers, no voice over their own fates... They perceive U.S. support for almost any ruler willing to protect U.S. interests -- routinely identified in Washington as "oil and Israel."

Particularly ingrained in the political context is U.S. bias for Israel and against Arab or Muslim states. For example, the United States routinely uses its UN Security Council veto to allow Israel to violate UN resolutions but takes a hard line against Iraq's violations. The United States helped Israel develop nuclear and other modern weapons but didn't help Muslim countries, except Pakistan, in the early stages of its nuclear research. The United States not only made war against Iraq and attacked Libya but more recently attacked Afghanistan and Sudan and used sanctions against Pakistan and Iran. Especially galling to Islamic countries is the double standard the United States applies to Palestinians and Israelis.

When the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by terrorists in 1998, the United States retaliated against two Muslim targets -- Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan -- without any clear evidence of either country's involvement. When the United States proclaimed its retaliation as a declaration of war against terrorists, Mohamed Omar, the Taliban leader of the Afghanistan government, was reported by the August 24, 1998, New York Times to have said: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will take appropriate measures to give an answer to the attack on its soil at the appropriate time." When the Sudanese government asked the UN Security Council to investigate the bombings, the United States argued against it and the council shelved the discussion.

The August 26, 1998, New York Times editorially questioned the bombing of the Sudan factory and asked the Clinton administration to produce evidence of secret chemical weapons if it had any. And former U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement supporting the Sudanese request for a UN investigation, saying that if Sudan was not guilty of the embassy attack, "we should admit our error and make amends to those who have suffered loss or injury."

Furthermore, Attorney General Janet Reno had urged Clinton to delay the raids in order to give the FBI more time to assemble the evidence. But Richard A. Clarke, the president's "terrorist czar" and a holdover Bush appointee (his vote on defense strategies often carries equal weight to that of the CIA director and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), helped drive the decision to fire cruise missiles at Afghanistan and Sudan.

It is obvious that the superiority of its military power and the arrogance that accompanies it make it possible for the United States to initiate such attacks on other countries. However, it would be the first to condemn similar actions taken by other nations against either U.S. allies or the United States itself. Such hypocrisy fuels the flames of resentment against the U.S. There are at least three obvious criticisms of U.S. actions:

* The bombing of two Islamic countries further weakens the United States' position in the Middle East.

* Bombing other countries doesn't advance the rule of law in the world. This action came only a few months after delegates from more than 100 countries met in Rome to establish by treaty an international criminal court. The United States joined Libya, Iraq, and a few others in refusing to sign the treaty.

* Actions against terrorism that include surprise attacks on other countries place all U.S. citizens, not just government leaders and military personnel, at risk. Osama bin Laden has specifically indicated that all U.S. citizens are now subject to surprise attacks and none who live in or travel to other countries is immune.

Experience indicates several things. One is that U.S. intelligence is not able to tell or even guess when or where the next terrorist attack will occur. Another is that Americans killed in bombings and hijackings in the Middle East and Africa now number well over 300. And for all those who have been killed, only a few perpetrators have been apprehended and convicted.

The terrorist attack on the USS Cole is probably evidence of popular anger at the United States for its past and current aggressions and policies against Muslim states. And such attacks will likely continue until there are dramatic changes in the way the United States treats these "states of concern."

To date, the prescription suggested by government officials offers little hope of a humanistic resolution. The January 28, 1999, New York Times reported: "The Pentagon has decided to ask President Clinton for the power to appoint a military leader for the continental United States because of what it sees as the growing threat of major terrorist strikes on American soil." However, such special military power could threaten the liberty and lives of U.S. citizens. For example, it could lead to an event reminiscent of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. Opponents of U.S. foreign policy and those who resist military orders -- such as conscientious objectors -- could be summarily dealt with. News media could be censored or shut down. Clinton refused the proposal, but another president might not.

What alternatives, then, does the United States have? It could change the entire context that breeds terrorism in the first place. Instead of focusing on nationalistic issues and promoting its "superpower" dogma, it could:

* Lead the world in an international campaign against poverty.

* End its hypocritical favoritism of Israel over Muslim nations.

* Stop arming, training, and supporting aggressive countries, including Israel.

* End covert aggressive activities (like CIA operations) that only serve to incite hostility.

* Eliminate all sanctions against "states of concern" except those sanctions which forbid sales or gifts of weapons to other countries.

These would be vital first steps. Unfortunately, our government has done none of these. The Guardian, a British journal, calls America under George Bush's presidency "the ultimate rogue state." Citing his decision "to trash the Kyoto global warming treaty," it claims that Bush thereby threatens our "...shared global resources. America's greenhouse emissions are not confined to American airspace," but have a "negative impact" on "international climate change."

The Guardian then cites other "self-centered actions in the fields of defense and diplomacy," including the formation of a "new national defense system while scrapping another treaty, the key ABM accord with Russia." The Bush camp "has done much to convince China that it must ready itself for war." It has "gone a long way towards scuppering detente on the Korean peninsula."

These are all valid concerns that we must include in our own agenda.

Furthermore, unless the United States is willing to seek nuclear and general disarmament, as it agreed to in the Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed and ratified, we can expect other nations to resent our efforts to dominate them militarily, economically, and politically within spheres of influence we control.

If the United States can spend billions of dollars to arm and train terrorists to support covert wars against other countries, it should be willing to spend equal, if not more, billions for peace. Everyone, including Americans, would benefit from a prosperous, peaceful world.

Is this likely to ever happen? Not until the citizens and government officials of the United States put aside our collective ego at being a "superpower" and seek for others the goals and values we seek for ourselves. When that time comes, the State Department will stop listing small nations we have attacked as "terrorist" and treat them with the same respect we give the more powerful nations of the world -- in other words, as states of real concern.


John M. Swomley is a former executive director of FOR and author of numerous books. He is editor of Facts for Action and head of the America Committee on Korea.

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