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Our Legacy of Enduring Freedom

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Article from http://www.guerrillanews.com/newswire/161.html . I thought it was an interesting read.


Our Legacy of Enduring Freedom

Josh Schrei, October 16, 2001

"Then conquer we must, when our cause is just. And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'"


Francis Scott Key, The Star Spangled Banner


"The stubborn and often self-serving notion that the historical record is irrelevant because political violence is inexcusable ensures that Americans will be caught in crises in the Middle East and elsewhere for many years to come."


Sheldon L. Richman, Senior Editor at the Cato Institute, writing in 1991.


Three weeks ago, in a forceful speech in which Osama bin Laden was compared to Hitler and the American people were promised that the world would soon be rid of "evil-doers," President Bush set the tone for the retaliation that is currently being exacted on the peoples of Afghanistan.


"Whether we bring our enemies to justice or justice to our enemies," Bush said, "justice will be done."


The word justice is being thrown around a lot lately. Until it was determined to be offensive to Muslims, our new war against terror was slated to be named Operation Infinite Justice. It is now known as Operation Enduring Freedom.


Freedom is another word that's been getting a lot of airplay. The attacks on our nation, our President told us gravely, were an attack on our freedom, our way of life. The people who did these terrible deeds simply hate freedom.


So now, to defend that freedom, that way of life, our F18 planes are leveling Afghanistan in an effort to administer justice. The way only F18s can. With infrared and radar-guided missiles.


The U.S. has been administering justice in this way for quite a while. When I came into this world 31 years ago the battlefield du jour was Indochina. Back then, in the early 70s, we were protecting freedom too-and administering justice. Plenty of it. In the course of the Vietnam War, the U.S. unleashed more firepower on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia than was used in all of World War II combined. That's a whole lot of justice going around.


LBJ, in a series of speeches bizarrely reminiscent of Donald Rumsfeld's last week, said that at risk in Vietnam was our very freedom, our very way of life. So we bombed the Vietnamese in the name of freedom. The bombs that the U.S. utilized had names like Martin AGM-12 Bullpups, AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared homing missiles, 2000 pound Mk84s, 15,000 pound BLU-82B Daisy Cutters. The bombing campaigns were called Operation Linebacker and Linebacker II. Operation Rolling Thunder. The Christmas Bombings. The Breakfast bombings. First star on the left and straight on 'til morning...


America scattered bombs like fairy dust across the fertile floodplains of Cambodia. We cast great webs of burning jelly and sprinkled strange diaphanous orange powders. 338,237 tons of Napalm, to be exact. Four and a half million tons of explosives. Over 70 tons of bombs for every square mile of Vietnam, North and South... about 500 pounds for every man, woman and child from Tonkin to Annam. 2 million civilian casualties. 600,000 in Cambodia alone, with whom we were never officially at war.


Our South East Asian legacy: toxic rivers, STDs, birth defects, black market drugs, and a host of screaming children, clutching at fleeing embassy workers. Freedom and justice were, sadly, not part of the equation.


In the 1980s, the U.S. intervened in Grenada in Operation Sudden Fury. Our subsequent brutal jaunt into Panama was termed Operation Just Cause. It resulted in 4,000 civilian casualties. In the end, the U.S. secured control of the Panama Canal for a few more years. Freedom? Not really.


Over the years, the Middle East, home to the precious liquid that we covet, home to the juice of fossilized prehistoric peat bogs, the oil that drives the great engines of our freedom, has borne the brunt of our self-serving policies.


Sheldon Richman, in Ancient History, his exhaustive treatise on U.S. policy in the Middle East since World War II, states: "Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long term access to Middle Eastern oil. After 70 years of broken Western promises it should not be surprising that the West is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the populationsŠof the Middle East."


In 1949, the United States sponsored a coup to overthrow the elected government of Syria. A few years later, in the curiously named Project TP Ajax, another U.S.-sponsored coup, this time in Iran, deposed the democratically elected Mossadeq and installed the oil-company-friendly Shah instead. 300 Iranian civilians died at the hands of thugs on the CIA's payroll.


As author James A. Bill has written: "The American intervention of August 1953 was a momentous event in the history of Iranian-American relations. [it] left a running wound that bled for twenty-five years."


It was also instrumental in creating and fueling fundamentalist Islamic backlash, something that the U.S. has excelled at over the years.


In 1958, we stationed troops in Lebanon for the first time. In 1960 we tried to assassinate Iraqi leader Abdul Karim Qassim for leaning a little to the left. When that didn't work, we gave the Ba'ath party (soon to be headed by Saddam Hussein) the names of known communists to kill, which they did "with vigor." We provided troops and weapons for Israel's invasion of Lebanon and refused to support the UN's call for Israel to cede illegally annexed territory. Later, during the Iran-Iraq war, we funneled weapons to both sides, just to keep them fighting.


It is any wonder that the Arab people might be a little dubious when we start speaking of "freedom"?


Operation El Dorado Canyon killed 36 Libyan civilians and took the life of Moammar Qaddafi's 16-month old adopted daughter. Far from deterring terrorism, that attack resulted in the retributive bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie Scotland.


Operation Cyclone started in the late 1970s. The goal was to aid Afghan rebels in their fight against the Soviets. When all was said and done, the United States succeeded in training an army of Islamic militants and set the stage for the rise of Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan. This subsequently led to the conversion of the Afghan economy to heroin production and to the establishment of the Taliban-one of the most repressive regimes in history. Freedom and justice were nowhere to be found. In their place, a lot of well-armed Muslim militants who hate the United States.


America kicked off the 90s with Operation Desert Storm, a celebration, if you will, of the end of the cold war and George Bush's "new world order." In Iraq, in order to defend the freedom-loving Kuwaiti people and to prove to the world that "aggression will not stand" we unleashed 88,500 tons of bombs and 30,000 tons of artillery shells on military and civilian targets. 2,095 HARM missiles; 217 Walleye missiles; 5,276 guided anti-tank missiles; 44,922 cluster bombs and rockets; 136,755 conventional bombs; 4,077 guided bombs.


Of the 250,000 bombs used in Desert Storm, only 22,000 were 'smart' bombs. Glued to their television sets, Americans saw images of surgical strikes and precision bombing, glossy montages of F16s swooping off aircraft carriers into rosy sunsets. The reality, however, was far from rosy.


During the Gulf War, the U.S. military used massive amounts of incendiary explosives. Napalm and FAE, "...an ethylene oxide fuel which forms an aerosol cloud or mist on impact. The cloud is then detonated, forming very high overpressures and a blast or shock wave that destroys anything within an area of about 50,000 square feet."


They also used 'daisy cutters'-15,000 pound bombs containing GSX Gelled slurry explosives. The daisy cutter, left over from our days in Vietnam, is a concussion type bomb which military spokesmen and the U.S. press said was used to detonate pressure sensitive mines. The mines, of course, surrounded Iraqi troop deployments and the concussive force of the bomb ruptured the internal organs and eardrums of Iraqi soldiers pinned down in their bunkers. Many more were incinerated, or asphyxiated as the firestorm of the bomb sucked all of the oxygen out of the area.


"What all of this means to anyone who thinks about the numbers is simply that the bombing [in the Gulf War] was not a series of surgical strikes but rather an old fashioned mass destruction." Says Paul Walker, the director of the Institute for Peace and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


During Desert Storm, President Bush Senior continually warned about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But U.S. forces were actually the ones using weapons of mass destruction. In flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention, the United States carpet-bombed the city of Basra, where 800,000 civilians lived. The LA Times reported bomb craters the size of football fields and "uncountable" civilian casualties. We then went on to drop no less than 3,000 bombs on metropolitan Baghdad. U.S. officials were quick to point out that the strikes on Baghdad, although in civilian areas, were not carpet-bombing. When asked if we were engaged in any carpet bombing in Iraq, General McPeak told Defense Week, "Well, the targets we are going after are widespread. They are brigades, and divisions and battalions on the battlefield. It's a rather low-density target. So to spread the bombs-carpet-bombing is not my favorite expression-is proportionate to the target. Now is it a terrible thing? Yes. Does it kill people? Yes."


A terrible thing. But, of course, it was in the name of freedom. It was all about justice.


Even if you buy that the Gulf War was fought for some other reason than securing oil rights, establishing a U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and sending a message to uppity Arabs like Saddam that "You don't mess with our oil supply," it is still hard to see how the Gulf War forwarded the cause of freedom. Sure, the Kuwaitis got back their country. They returned to a devastated nation, free to pick up where they left off, practicing legalized slavery and handing out the death penalty to homosexuals. The Kuwaitis never had and still do not have freedom. How about justice? Was justice served? Saddam Hussein remained in power, and continued to rule over his people with an iron fist. The rest of the Arab world, relieved in one sense to see Saddam brought down, became increasingly disturbed by the sheer scale and cruelty of the U.S. intervention. The Gulf War and the continued maltreatment of Iraqi civilians through brutal U.S. sanctions are primary factors in bin Laden's rage against America.


"The Gulf War?" we might ask, confused. "How can they be mad about that? I saw it all on TV, and it seemed so... harmless."


When the Gulf War was over, we welcomed our camo-clad troops home with a ticker tape parade down Broadway. On worldwide television, American civilians celebrated a victorious bombing campaign which had left tens of thousands of civilians dead. 10 years later, those same Americans were doubtlessly shocked and outraged by footage of Palestinian civilians celebrating a bombing that left thousands of U.S. civilians dead.


Since 1991, we have continued to bomb Iraq on a regular basis. Operation Desert Fox. Desert Strike. Desert Thunder. Operation Southern Watch and Phoenix Scorpion (I through IV). In 1993, two years after the Gulf War ended, in the fairly banal sounding Air Strike 13, U.S. planes accidentally killed one of Iraq's premier artists and community leaders, Laila Al-attar.


Little of that mattered to the average American in the mid-1990s. U.S. engagement in the Israel-Palestine peace process was keeping anti-U.S. sentiment somewhat at bay in the Middle East-though it continued to simmer. But by '98, as the dot-com boom was in full swing and the stock market had just hit 10,000, Arab anger towards the U.S. was rapidly growing. Though most of us didn't realize it at the time, war had been declared. Osama bin Laden had delivered an edict, had proclaimed a holy war against America, over three issues: U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, U.S. mistreatment of Iraq, and continued U.S. military and political support of Israel's occupation of Palestine.


A few months later, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.


We responded, as usual, by bombing back. The targets were Sudan and Afghanistan. In Sudan, we went on shaky, unsubstantiated evidence and wound up leveling the country's foremost manufacturer of pharmaceuticals. As the Boston Globe reported: "without the lifesaving medicine... Sudan's death toll from the bombing has continued, quietly, to rise.... Thus, tens of thousands of people-many of them children-have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases... [The factory] provided affordable medicine for humans and all the locally available veterinary medicine in Sudan. It produced 90 percent of Sudan's major pharmaceutical products.... Sanctions against Sudan make it impossible to import adequate amounts of medicines required to cover the serious gap left by the plant's destruction.... The action taken by Washington on Aug. 20, 1998 continues to deprive the people of Sudan of needed medicine. Millions must wonder how the International Court of Justice in The Hague will celebrate this anniversary."


I'm pretty sure all those children, when they grow up, if they grow up at all, will not see the U.S. as agents of freedom.


In Afghanistan our cruise missiles claimed an unknown number of civilian lives. They also gave a sidelined, underfunded Osama bin Laden just the publicity he needed to gain fame and acclaim in the Muslim world and won him thousands of new recruits. The cause of freedom was not served. Vengeance for the attacks, perhaps, but freedom, not at all.


In 1999, we turned our attention away from the smoldering Islamic world to Southern Europe and the Balkans. Kosovo was the staging ground for Operations Allied Force and Noble Anvil, Operation Cobalt Flash, Operations Shining Hope, Sustain Hope, and Provide Refuge. Also, Operation Open Arms. Operation Eagle Eye. And who could possibly forget Operation Determined Falcon? In a massive 'bombing for peace' campaign, NATO dropped more tonnage on Yugoslavia than the Nazis ever dreamed of, hurling 5,000 pound bunker-busters at military and strategic targets and offing over 500 civilians. We also mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, apparently because the CIA "was using an outdated map."


Did our Kosovo exercise forward the cause of freedom? Eventually, Milosevic was toppled, albeit by a nonviolent, U.S.-funded student movement. But since 1999, the NATO-exacerbated devastation has turned Kosovo into one of militant Islam's prime recruiting areas. NATO troops continue to hold a tenuous presence in the region while leaders fumble over an endgame strategy, and anger towards the United States among the local population simmers away.


Now we are faced with Operation Enduring Freedom, the latest in a long line of U.S. military actions that has seen us criss-cross the globe, administering justice in that uniquely American way. Along the way we've dabbled in Nicaragua, Haiti, Yemen, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the Philippines. In the innocuously titled Project X, U.S.-trained and funded paramilitary forces in Guatemala killed tens of thousands of civilians, most of them Mayans. In the Congo the CIA toppled pan-Africanist Lumumba and installed Mobutu, one of the most brutal African dictators of the last century. 17,500 civilians died in Israel's U.S.-backed invasion of Lebanon. 600,000 died in East Timor, where an Indonesian military force backed and funded by the U.S. committed one of the century's worst genocides.


We waltzed our way into Honduras for Operation Golden Pheasant. Sierra Leone for Operation Noble Obelisk. We are the instigators of Operation Steel Box and Golden Python, the perpetrators of Operation Hawkeye and Operation Classic Resolve. Operation Praying Mantis. Operation Nimrod Dancer. Operation Attain Document. Operation Blast Furnace.


Sprinkled across the map, the remnants of our intervention, the ghosts of our legacy of freedom. In Laos and Cambodia, millions of square acres of bomb craters just now starting to be reclaimed by the jungle. In Kosovo, burnt out bridges, blackened rivers, flattened villages. We reshape landscapes, decimate countrysides in nations that most of us have never even heard of, and then call out on a loudspeaker: "We come in the name of freedom." Do we really expect the people who've lived in these places all their lives, who have never been to the United States, to see us as a beacon of freedom?


Well I have news, America. As much as we may love our country, (and believe me, I do love our country, almost as much as I feel betrayed by it.) as much as we may want to believe that there is something objectively grand and pure and true and real about the freedom that we enjoy and purport to be spreading like a rash to all four corners of the globe, the fact is that other countries, other nations in the world, particularly those who have been on the receiving end of one of the aforementioned military operations, simply do not see it that way.


We say freedom; they see bomb craters. We say justice; they see burnt corpses. The freedom we enjoy here at home bears little resemblance to the horrors we enact overseas. As much lip service as we pay to freedom and justice and democracy, if you are unfortunate enough to be an Iraqi peasant or a Albanian refugee or a Chilean shopkeeper, when you get a gut full of shrapnel or your face burned off by 'friendly fire' or you get taken into a dark room and tortured with lit cigarettes by a paramilitary goon in a "Go USA" T-shirt, my guess is that its not going to feel a hell of a lot like freedom.


Our bombs do not come with the word: Freedom! stamped on them in bright flashing letters. The people on the receiving end do not hold their hands high and sing our praises. What does a bomb have to do with freedom? What is the equation? How do explosives administer justice? Is this how justice comes in our world? Accompanied by a terrifying roar, a brilliant flash, a deafening explosion. That doesn't sound much like justice. It sounds a lot more like terror.


I think of the terror I felt on September 11th when the World Trade Center went down in a horrific cloud of ash and smoke and rubble. And then I imagined how it must feel to be anyone, any civilian whose city is being bombed in any part of the world. Any civilian who is being targeted, simply because they happen to live in a nation that has drawn the rage and ire of another people. We must understand that victims of our rage can no more see the United States as a beacon of freedom than I can see the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks as saviors. Thursday night, I went down to Ground Zero and saw the destruction firsthand. I saw four or five long blocks of rubble. Twisted steel girders. A melted parking garage, blackened husks of cars still visible. A line of flatbed trucks--they looked so small--rolling out one by one bearing single pieces of the former World Trade Center.


My girlfriend turned to me and said. "Whoever did this must have been in so much pain..."


And where did that pain come from? Certainly the hatred of America in the Islamic world is stirred by extremist rhetoric and propaganda. But a lot of that pain and anger also comes from being too close, one too many times, to a piece of American-style justice. Too close to operation this or operation that. Too close to a brother or sister who's died of napalm burns, an aunt or an uncle vaporized by a 15,000-pound bomb.


In our marriage to the rhetoric of freedom, we have forgotten a simple truth-no nation, just or not, can be involved in this much blatant military aggression without it one day coming back to haunt them. If you strip away the higher political objectives, the rationale that this is all being done in the name of some grandiose principle, and you look simply at our actions themselves, then what are you left with? An awful lot of U.S. military hardware inflicting an awful lot of pain on an awful lot of countries.


We say we want to prevent this from happening again. We say we want to "end terror." Well, from all that has happened, from all that we have experienced as a nation, doesn't it makes sense that if we want to prevent this from happening again, then the way we administer justice, the way we propagate freedom through military might must be questioned? Doesn't it make sense that the greater the toll of civilian casualties inflicted in the name of our freedom, the greater the number of enemies we create? The more bombs fall, the more people will raise their fists at the sky at the F18s screaming over head, and swear that they will one day get revenge. Is that the legacy of Enduring Freedom we want?


Josh Schrei is a writer and activist living in Brooklyn, NY. His first foray into activism began during the Gulf War in 1991, when he mobilized local youth groups to take action for peace. From 1996-2001 he worked at the Milarepa Fund, where he focused on economic development issues in Chinese-occupied Tibet. His writings have appeared in Shambhala Sun, Tricycle, Grand Royal, and in books by Wisdom Publications and Weatherhill Press.

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Guest krie

being honest, its to much to read. i dont think ive read an article on 12oz that goes for too long. i just cant be bothered reading them...

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i would read it if it maybe 100 times shorter,

well if its pro war i like it, if it its anti war i dont

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Guest willy.wonka

if youre in the army navy or airforce..coast guard air guard or national guard......you have no civil rights.

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