I don’t know where to begin. The US is floundering around in Central Asia, Africa, the Philippines, and the Middle East trying to justify its war on terror, with plenty of help from world-power-wannabes and paranoid nation-states like India and Israel. Rumors abound that the Bush administration actually curtailed FBI investigations into the Afghanistan terror cells last summer in the hope that it could reach a deal with the Taliban government on an oil and natural gas pipeline for its buddies at Unocal. Meanwhile, the Enron collapse threatens to reach into the innermost depths of the Bush White House, while Pappy Bush gets rich from the incredible profits that The Carlyle investment group is making on the increase in weapons industry profits since September 11, 2001.
The recent suspension of peace talks in Colombia by the Colombian government had the terrible potential to bring US forces openly into a war in that country that can only truly be resolved when the rich no longer rob the poor. This turn of events seemed closely linked not only to a renewed confidence in the ranks of the Colombian military thanks to the funding provided it by Plan Colombia, but also to the new warmongering in Washington. As even a casual reader of the news probably knows, both the Colombian military and certain elements in the US national security apparatus have wanted to destroy the revolutionary elements in Colombia for years. These same elements had hoped that this was their time.
Up to this point in the civil war, much of the government’s dirty work against the popular movements has been undertaken by the various paramilitary organizations. These organizations are comparable to the death squads that ran rampant in El Salvador during the 1980s and the various “counterterror” teams that killed thousands in southern Vietnam during America’s war there. Although they receive surreptitious funding from various US and Colombian government agencies, these groups are not officially part of any government-sponsored military. This arrangement works out nicely for the official militaries in that they can keep their hands relatively clean by leaving the massacres of farmers and laborers (as well as their leaders) to the paramilitaries. In turn, once the massacres are complete in a particular area, the regular military can come in and take the territory, all the while denying any knowledge of the bloodshed that preceded them.
This deniability is possible primarily because the United States overseers conspire with the military in the pretense that there is no coordination between the military and the paramilitary groups-a coordination that is not merely due to circumstance, but is part of the government’s battle plans. This coordination is further served by the fact that many members of the paramilitaries are members of the regular military as well, much like many Klansmen in the United States are also members of police forces. It is very likely that the lines between the paramilitaries and the regular military will become blurred even further as the battle between the Colombian government and its opposition intensifies.
As for the rest of the world, it doesn’t look much better. As I write, India and Pakistan continue to dance their dance of death-a dance that India has learned from the world’s greatest two-steppers, Israel and the United States. Like a friend of mine said over the holidays as we watched the news: the United States attack on Afghanistan has made it okay for any country that the US supports to forgo long bouts of diplomacy and go straight to war as long as that attacking government says they are fighting terrorism. It’s even handier if they can throw in a phrase or two that speaks of defending democracy. Indeed, the Washington Post editorialized on January 14th, 2002, that the US should no longer distinguish between its counternarcotics and counterinsurgency efforts in Colombia, since its war against the revolutionary forces in Colombia is being waged to protect Colombia’s democracy-a democracy that is just as difficult for the poor Colombian to see as the democracy in Israel is for a Palestinian to see from the Occupied Territories. Of course, the wars this strategy will cause will bring even greater terror to those populations under attack, as well as the world at large. In addition, with the nuclear sword hanging over South Asia (and by default, the rest of the planet), the possibility of war on any Muslim nation and the tenuous situation in Colombia and Palestine, we are reminded daily of the terror that the perpetual threat of the violence of war brings. While this terror is not as damaging physically, the psychological wounds are just as deep.
Try imagining yourself in one of the villages along one of Pakistan’s borders. If you live on the border with Afghanistan, you wonder every night as you watch your children fall asleep if US bombers are going to come that night and drop their death on your home and children. If you live on that country’s border with India, you wonder if this night is the night when the sporadic shelling you have heard in the distance almost every day will make your family its next target. If that happens, you wonder even further, will that be the beginning of the final battle between your country and its neighbor? No matter which border you live near, you wonder should you leave everything you’ve built-your fields, your home, your herds, your well-and head to one of the refugee camps further inland? Or will those camps just be easy targets should the American or Indian militaries run out of other things to attack? Now try the same scenario (with different geographic locations and with a surrogate military other than that of India, of course) in Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Colombia, Palestine, or one of the other potential targets being bandied about by the warmongers in the U. S.. Even if that bomber or missile never does come, the fear of it coming is enough to make daily life tense and uncertain, to say the least. If it does come, the tragedy of your life is intensified a hundredfold. Indeed, part of the purpose of aerial bombardment is the spreading of terror and fear amongst the civilian population.
I don’t care what anyone says, whether it’s the president of the United States after a bout with a pretzel, a general with four shiny stars on his shoulders, a senator from Connecticut, or the parent of a dead GI, this is not the way to achieve a peaceful world. Unless, of course, the peace the warmakers are attempting to achieve is the peace of the dead.
Mr. Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Verso, 1997).