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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: CHINA RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES IN THE 21ST CENTURY – SOME DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS TIMES AHEAD AS THE WORLD NOW RAPIDLY EVOLVES IN WAYS AMERICA’S ESTABLISHMENT REJECTS   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

COMMENTS INSPIRED BY AN ALASTAIR CROOKE PIECE ABOUT AMERICA AND CHINA AND RUSSIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY

 

I just read an excellent piece by Alastair Crooke, a former British diplomat, who often writes excellent pieces which appear in the foreign and alternative presses.

I’m not dealing with his entire thesis here. Just a portion of his piece serves as my take-off point on subject areas in which I have long held an interest

He was writing about what, from many indicators, appears to be a serious new turn in the convictions of Washington’s policymakers.

The convictions are against China and against Russia. The disquieting aspect of his words about China includes the idea that American hostility towards China is becoming something far broader, all-encompassing, and perhaps all-consuming than just the trade war Trump has started.

Indeed, we have the idea that America’s elites are hardening attitudes towards China and coming to a consensus about a new kind of Cold War, one involving hostilities on every front – economic, military, and diplomatic. Some have suggested the war will dominate the 21st century.

I don’t doubt most of what the article says at all. I’ve written many times about the American establishment’s enduring antipathy towards Russia, the real basis for everything from Russia-gate and baseless accusations about election-tampering to the general Russophobia pervading America and blinding it.

Russia gets in the way and Russia has the capacity to destroy America, so Russia is hated regardless of how it has changed, how it is governed, how its laws operate, and how it behaves. Which last, for the most part, is very admirably, representing such a change from forty years ago that it should astound anyone, but that doesn’t influence the permanent grimaces and pronounced forehead veins of those gathered around huge oak tables in Washington.

Crooke emphasizes, with regard to Russia, the harsh words he heard from one American official about Russia’s need to learn that it has not won the war in Syria and that there’s a lot of trouble ahead if it doesn’t learn that. A claim, of course, for America’s right to use and dispose of other nations, such as Syria, as it pleases. So, just stand aside, don’t get in our way, and shut-up. Even if you are helping your legal ally, we do not recognize your efforts as legitimate because they conflict with our plans

I have no doubt that that is a deep conviction in America’s power establishment. It explains why there was so much covert effort against Trump even after he was legally elected, it being thought at the time that he was not going to support all the establishment’s convictions about Russia and the need for wars in the Middle East. America, a country almost continuously at war, some place or another, since WWII and brimming with homecoming football-game rah-rah pride and enthusiasm about its “boyz” abroad, just does not like looking as though it is losing to anyone.

Even though, in the case of Syria, America has never directly joined the war as it did in Iraq. But the illegal and very bloody American invasion of Iraq generated a lot of criticism and ill-will in the world even from friends. So, in Syria, America has kept to covert activities and supporting proxies – recruited mercenaries disguised as jihadis, fake NGO outfits (such as the “White Helmets”) working to extend the conflict rather than bring peace, and other groups posed as legitimate opposition to a “tyrannical” government (which somehow remains fairly popular, especially with minority religious groups like Christians, and continues to be supported by the armed forces after more than a half dozen years of bitter war) – never once admitting to the true nature of what it is doing, which is to destabilize a government it doesn’t like and perhaps to dismember the country.

America supports the proxies with weapons, intelligence, propaganda, covert special forces advisors, dark-ops, bombing of every description, and Saudi and Gulf states’ money. Plus, it shepherds a little chorus of allies, such as Britain and France, each with its own assigned dark tasks. Such is the real story of the Syrian “civil war.”

And even though America has lost several wars through its insistence on doing things which were better not attempted – its out-and-out defeat in Vietnam, its long pointless stalemate in Afghanistan, and the chaotic messes it made of Libya and Iraq – it not only often still attempts such tasks, it arrogantly and foolishly underestimates its opponents. “After all, we are Americans, entitled to do as we please, anywhere. Little peasants in straw hats or godless ragheads better not get in our way.”

But they do get in the way, and sometimes with great success. It helps, of course, when an American target country has an ally or allies as does Syria. Still, the “we’re Americans” attitude is quite prevalent in the United States, even outside establishment circles. “Exceptionalism” as Putin accurately likes to call it. It’s a result at least in part of constant indoctrination via everything from newspapers and television and Internet news and public affairs to Hollywood movies and magazines.

The public’s embrace of exceptionalism helps the establishment undertake what it views as needed tasks virtually without opposition at home. Just consider, except for one limited, intense period during the decade-long Vietnam War, there has been, and is, effectively no opposition in America to all the nation’s pointless wars. Decade after decade after decade, it’s just an accepted part of what it is to be an American, hearing and reading about foreign wars and interventions in the news.

That American official’s words about Russia thinking it won in Syria would be heavily reinforced by the interests of Israel. As we all know, Israel can make life hell for any American politician who wavers from the true path. And Syria, like Iraq before it, is an Israeli-inspired project, Israel working with America, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and a couple of others. Part of what America’s Condoleezza Rice arrogantly and brutally referred to as “the birth of a new Middle East,” the screams of tens of thousands of victims representing the “birth pangs.” That’s Washington’s god-like way of looking at human misery, human misery for which it is directly responsible. Not much different than seeing ants being stepped on.

Now, American concern about China’s remarkable rise and its competitiveness have been around for a while. We saw it in many things from annual State Department lists of human rights abuses – wow, talk about sheer hypocrisy – to arguments about China manipulating its currency or engaging in unfair trade practices or stealing intellectual property. The innate cleverness and hard work and organizational skill of the Chinese couldn’t possibly have created what we see. It must be the result of underhandedness, underhandedness especially towards America, the place where all good things originate, of course.

On the economic and trade front, things came to a head recently with Trump’s clumsy revival of the centuries-old concept of Mercantilism – an old and discredited economic-political  philosophy of using protectionism to generate favorable trade balances to increase your own country’s wealth, clearly something not everyone can do at the same time, so it is a philosophy inherently antagonistic – as a way to make America richer, or, as he puts it, “make America great again.”

Trump’s approach to Mercantilism is bullying the other party into making concessions favorable to the United States. So, it is easy to see how this kind of policy is on a continuum with the outbreak of actual hostilities. He uses a major new American government industry in generating and enforcing tariffs and sanctions to create pressure, “maximum pressure,” to obtain a trade treaty, one that according to his thinking, and this where Mercantilism comes in, must be better than balanced between the parties. It must absolutely favor America over China owing to all of China’s past abuses, “taking advantage of” the gentle, uncomplaining giant he believes America has long been.

I won’t run through all the flaws contained in Trump’s thinking. They are many, but just the notion that you can “beggar your neighbor” to make yourself richer is ignorant and dangerous. It is as unthinking as the conviction of the Luddites that they could stop the Industrial Revolution, with all its unwelcome changes in their workplaces, by smashing the new machines. Trump’s views are really that crude.

I suggest China may well just choose to make do, of course having taken serious reprisal measures but forgetting about any agreement with the United States, rather than submit to public pressure and unfair demands.

What Trump does not “get” is that most of China’s modern success is about natural competitiveness, not unfair practices or imagined tricks. China started with a great cost of labor advantage combined with great organizational skills and new, more-enlightened laws governing business, but already it has exploded past those starting advantages to serious technological and scientific competitiveness, what took centuries in Europe’s development. The reason a company like Huawei, some of whose technology is the world’s best of its type, has been under intense American attack is only that and nothing more.

The Communist Party under Mao, while holding the country together through difficult times, was an inhibitor of the country’s advance, much as the Catholic Church once was in Europe. But today’s Chinese Communist Party is something altogether different. It provides intelligent leadership, builds advanced infrastructure on a large scale, supports advanced education, again, on a large scale, generates important new long-term strategic national projects, provides new approaches to national defense – all while cementing national unity and allowing for considerable flexibility in the activities of individual companies.

As just one example of the Chinese government’s efforts, adult literacy rates, since the early stages of the new economic order in the 1980s, have grown at a phenomenal average rate of more than ten-percent per year, bringing them close to those of traditional advanced countries. Remember, this is a vast country with a population about seventeen times the size of Germany’s, one where rural peasants represented a large portion of the population. This is not a government which squanders resources.

And there will no pausing, as immense, government-set, brilliantly-conceived projects proceed in everything from the New Silk Road – something that literally will change the earth’s economic geography – and about 20,000 miles of operating national high-speed rail lines, two-thirds of the entire world’s total and still growing, and a galaxy of hundreds of modern airports built as China prepares to overtake the United States as the world’s largest air-travel market in the next couple of years, to imaginative moon exploration and truly advanced quantum physics work show us. As someone has observed, China now has about eight times the number of students studying science, engineering, and technology in universities as does the United States, just an immense investment in “human capital” for the future.

China has coped well with Trump’s tariffs. They have a national model that combines a powerful, well-informed, stable central authority with freedom for individual firms to adjust as they see appropriate. You must be exceptionally bright, as is Xi, to become the leader of China in recent times. The celebrity and populism and advertising and marketing we see in American politics have little place. It is a powerful state model for the kind of ambitious growth China has experienced and one well suited to any serious challenge such as Trump’s trade war.

Trump started something I believe he cannot win. But going beyond the threadbare limits of Trump, the American establishment, if Alastair Crooke is right, is committing itself to a greater, longer-term battle that it also cannot win. One, importantly, that will chew up immense American resources far better invested elsewhere. And one carrying implicitly the risk of war.

Today, America wastes huge sums on its military and on destructive wars motivated by 19th century imperial thinking. A major part of the reason that it can manage doing that, despite its immense debts, is the dollar’s special position in the world. But that position is rapidly deteriorating, and making enemies of China and Russia, plus all the pressure America applies now to everyone from the EU, and Germany in particular, to South Korea, plus the abuse of its financial and payments systems for arbitrary domination, as in the cases of Iran or Venezuela or Russia,  are unquestionably speeding the end of the dollar’s privileged reserve-currency role. The process of dethroning the dollar is already well underway. It is not clear just when it will be completed, but it will be completed.

A “weaponized” dollar simply does not provide the convenient medium of exchange people of the world need and want. Quite the opposite, it attempts to thrust politics and arbitrary limits into the world’s transactions. It also generates uncertainty, an enemy of all things financial. A weaponized dollar simply is not sustainable in the long run. As the dollar loses its reserve currency role in the world, America will be left not only without its immense currency-printing privilege but with slovenly habits and attitudes towards spending and debt and investment that it has accumulated over decades.

When it comes to defense, China and Russia each spend a fraction of what America spends, but they spend it wisely without the sense of unlimited resources to which Americans are conditioned, and they are producing impressive results. Russia spends less than a tenth of what America does. China now spends a bit more than a fifth of what America spends.

Both China and Russia have well-stated views on defense spending. Enough is required for the absolutely reliable defense of the homeland and no more. The amounts between them vary because so many of their individual circumstances vary, from physical geography to the current size and shape and state of their armed forces and to the level of mastering various key new technologies to be employed. But both states are committed to the idea of an arms race being wasteful and unnecessary.

The American establishment is, I believe, under the mistaken impression that it can repeat what happened with the Soviet Union during the Ronald Reagan era when immense new spending on exotic arms programs helped weaken the Soviet state as it strove to compete, its socialist system being inherently not as robust or flexible as a market-oriented one.  But that is entirely a wrong view, although of course it provides the Pentagon and defense contractors all kinds of opportunities to expand their empires.

Russia is no longer a socialist economy and neither is China. Despite the name of the Communist Party still being prominent in China, it has morphed into something quite different than what it was decades ago.

Putin especially has been clear about his philosophy of defense spending. Just enough to secure Russia’s very important efforts now underway to expand economic growth and national prosperity. You need peace for growth, and highly focused research efforts over years have given Russia the weapons capable of doing just that.

Weapons to assure the mutual destruction of the United States should it attack, remembering that it is the United States that, more than once in the past, produced detailed and aggressively-promoted plans for a massive nuclear first strike against the former Soviet Union, including all of its cities.

America’s increasingly aggressive pressures are driving Russia and China together, as we have not seen them before, to cooperate on a wide range of matters. Russia, apart from its products and excellent technologies in a number of areas, has the capacity to be a great natural resource provider for China’s ferocious industry, just as it has for Europe, especially for Germany.

Bonds that grow out of natural mutual interests are strong ones, just as antipathies over being told what to do, what and where to buy, and punitive threats are strong, antipathies which Trump and America’s establishment have been working hard in recent years to build.

America keeps putting new pressures on Germany, and the whole EU, with threats of sanctions for Russian natural gas projects, threats of tariffs on German cars, demands about new taxes being laid as by France on Internet commerce, and demands for purchasing overpriced American products from Liquified Natural Gas to F-35 fighter jets. Recent polls show a sizable majority of Germans are for ending sanctions altogether against Russia, sanctions which European governments have accepted in the name of a long-standing alliance. But serious cracks are starting to appear, both because the original purpose of that alliance has faded and because of America’s aggressive new and inappropriate demands. The American-imposed sanctions have cost Europe many billions of dollars of lost sales in everything from agricultural products to industrial machines.

China’s geography-changing New Silk Road is being welcomed in many parts of Europe, and countries are signing on to be a part of it. To some extent, China’s massive efforts on this project can potentially offset some of the effects of the economic collapse towards which America appears to be hurling itself. An important contributing cause of the Great Depression was America’s so-called Smoot-Hawley Tariff. It imposed protectionist policy on much of the world’s trade. Trump’s total effort to control the activities of other nations with tariffs, sanctions, and threats is doing much the same thing.

We do see something large taking form in the world that absolutely is against America’s comfortable, traditional position since WWII, and it is the American establishment’s belligerence itself helping to shape it. The new close ties between Russia and China, a quickly emerging new Eurasian center of finance and other important matters, Europe’s new skepticism about American behavior and intentions, the ties forming from China to Europe with the New Silk Road and other projects such as Chinese construction of nuclear power plants, Russia’s massive new Arctic projects and China’s serious parallel interest including launching its first huge icebreaker, Russia’s emerging Northern Sea shipping route as almost a branch of the Silk Road, China’s diligent efforts at economic relationships with Africa securing supplies of raw materials, American trade with Africa in sharp decline while Chinese trade enjoys healthy growth, the new African Continental Free Trade Area offering new opportunities for China building infrastructure, and new Russian and Chinese economic relationships in Latin America.

It is a greatly changing world, not necessarily hostile, unless you choose to regard it so. And, sadly, America’s power establishment does choose to regard it so. They do not want to give up the privileged position they have enjoyed since the end of WWII, something they fell into by the good fortune of being the last one standing more than inherent skill or superior abilities, but ultimately there is no choice. The stage is set, however, for conflict as America’s establishment fights to retain privilege, using its still mighty military and financial strength in a very uncreative effort to pry advantages from others or simply deprive others of advantages. The more intense this effort becomes, the more motivation there is for a still faster pace of change. And, of course, the greater becomes the risk of war.

 

Posted August 6, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: A VAST WASTELAND OF EFFORT SPENT: AMERICA’S RAMPAGE THROUGH THE MIDDLE EAST   Leave a comment

 

A VAST WASTELAND OF EFFORT SPENT: AMERICA’S RAMPAGE THROUGH THE MIDDLE EAST

John Chuckman

I read that six thousand people have been killed by sectarian violence so far this year in Iraq, surely a good rough measure of what America’s invasion achieved there. In Afghanistan, America’s chosen man publically disagrees with America’s ideas of what withdrawal means, how many occupying American forces should remain, and the role the Taleban should play. Killing remains a daily occurrence, including regular instances of American special forces murdering civilians, drugs flow freely through the country and out to the world, and most women still wear the burka. Libya is reduced to rag tag bands engaged in fighting like rival gangs of bandits. Syria writhes in agony as the victim of an artificially-induced civil war with even the use of nerve gas on civilians by America’s proxy fighters winked at and lied about.

Such are just the continuing aftershocks of America’s violent, senseless campaign on the Middle East and the Muslim world.

The screams of the hundreds of thousands of initial victims of cluster bombs, Hellfire rockets, depleted uranium explosions, and white phosphorus were what Condi Rice once described as “the birth cries of a new Middle East,” likely just before she set off on another shopping spree to New York for more cute new shoes. You might say Condi and her psychopathic associates assumed the God-like perspective in their work, as the people being devastated were regarded with the importance of ants being squashed by gleeful children in a playground.

Ideas of “nation building” around all the slaughter and destruction are now almost forgotten in the press where they were once earnestly discussed like big government social programs of the 1960s. It is hard to know whether those ideas were ever taken seriously in Washington by the platoons of Pentagon consultants over expense account lunches or whether they were never intended as more than glib slogans and talking points for politicians’ convenience, banners with nice words to cover piles of bleeding bodies. No clear-thinking person ever took the idea seriously, but as we know there is not a great deal of clear thinking in times of war, nor is there much of it at any time among American politicians.

The notion that you can change the basic culture and social structure of a nation of tens of millions over a foreseeable time span is laughable. Culture, including the unpleasant parts contained by any of them, is a complex of habits, beliefs, relationships, and prejudices formed over an immensely long period in the workings of a people’s economy. Just as language and religious traditions cannot be greatly altered or undone quickly, so too all the other aspects of a culture. It is simply nonsense to believe otherwise. The efforts, over much of a century, by Russia’s Communists to change an ancient culture, including its church and national customs, should serve to intimidate glib references to nation-building.

The single most important part of any serious effort to change a place and its ways of doing things is the steady advance of its economy. It is the fluidity of a nation undergoing long-term economic growth that gradually washes away old and inefficient and fearful customs, changing everything from the nature of marriage and the way families work to the kind of clothes people wear and food they eat. After all, America’s backwaters still enjoyed family picnics at public lynchings as late as Franklin Roosevelt’s day, and it was largely the cumulative effects of economies restructured over decades with increasing opportunities and movement of people and ideas that brought those ghastly practices to a close.

Even changing minor aspects of an entire society, as we’ve seen many times in our own, is a long effort. Smoking is the clearest example of this, it having taken over half a century, despite medical understanding of its hazards, to move us from smoking being a stylish part of every Hollywood film to cigarettes being hidden behind the counters at corner stores.

And this is all the more true when you employ force, as the United States does habitually. People do not react well to aggression, and it is not the way to change anything which it may be desirable to change. On even so basic a level as raising children, our laws and courts and schools have evolved to rule out physical force. And despite decades of the war on drugs with its seemingly endless march of folly – armed raids, mass arrests, seizures, and imprisonment plus tens of billions spent – we have made no perceptible progress on what all of us recognize as a gigantic medical and social problem.

But when the force you employ includes B-52s, F-16s, and private armies of hired cutthroats, it is a certainty you will change little beyond the death rate.

The United States government now has been swept by a new enthusiasm in the application of violence. It is a new interpretation of the concept of airpower. In places like Libya, America embraced the almost benign-sounding concept of a “no-fly zone” to bomb and shoot the crap out of a national army fighting rebels. It developed the concept over the decade after the first Gulf War where it enforced a no-fly zone that was actually an active program of attacking any Iraqi installation or suppressing any movement it wanted while an embargo continued to inflict terrible suffering on the children of Iraq. Another version of the concept was used in the invasion of Afghanistan. The United States bombed the country with everything it had, including B-52s doing carpet-bombing, while most of the fighting done on the ground was done by other Afghans, the tribes of the Northern Alliance serving as American stand-ins.

The new approach has several advantages. It sends fewer coffins back home so that political opposition to the killing abroad never grows as it did in the Vietnam holocaust. It’s likely cheaper, too, than sending in and supplying large numbers of troops. After all, I read somewhere that just the air-conditioning bill for American troops in Iraq ran into many billions of dollars. And it maintains a kind of polite charade about not really invading a place.

Over the same period, another form of airpower came into its own, drones used as platforms for Hellfire missiles targeted by remote control. The Israelis, always leaders in the work and technology of murder, used a version of this method in what they blithely call “targeted killings,” a long series of acts known to most of the world by the terms “extrajudicial killing” or “disappearing people” or “political assassination.” Al Capone might have called it simply “rubbing guys out.” Well, whatever you choose to call it, the United States is in the business in a serious way now, having murdered people in Somalia, Bahrain, Pakistan, Yemen, and perhaps other places we don’t yet know about.  It has killed several thousand this way, many of them innocent bystanders and all of them people charged with no crime and given no due process.

Of course, Israel’s long string of murders have achieved little beyond making still more enemies and dragging in the gutter any claim it may once have had to ethical reputation or worthy purpose. And just so with America’s valiant effort by buzz-cut thugs sitting in crisply-pressed uniforms at computer screens playing murderous computer games with real people in the explosions.

As for diplomacy and reason and rule of law, these are practices almost forgotten by America in the Middle East, as it mimics Israel’s reprehensible behavior towards the people of the occupied territories and neighboring states. And all democratic values have been laid aside or bulldozed over in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and other places as Israel’s special interests are put before the democratic and human rights of many, many millions of people.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: TERROR IN TORONTO OR TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT?   Leave a comment

 

 

TERROR IN TORONTO OR TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT?

John Chuckman

The arrest in Toronto of seventeen men, mostly quite young, for conspiracy to bomb places in Southern Ontario has raised a storm of comment. Unfortunately, much of it has been either premature or wrong.

A Congressman from Northern New York, uninformed but still generous with his opinions, declared that Canada was thick with al Qaeda cells owing to its liberal (a truly filthy word in the United States) immigration and refugee laws. Sadly, the Congressman’s big red-nose talents are appreciated only in Canada, his ignorance being taken for insight in many parts of the United States.

Pat Buchanan parodies are also taken seriously by some in Canada, particularly in Alberta, and there are people here eager for any opportunity to prove their anti-terror bone fides to America’s unsmiling leaders. This strain in our society should alert us to the possibility, however remote, of skewed investigations where terror is concerned.

The New York Times, that tea-sipping, wealthy widow of American newspapers, went out of her way to recognize The Toronto Star for substantial coverage of events. That is not praise clear-headed people welcome, The Times often having been on the wrong side of human rights issues as well as having served as the official Wal-Mart Greeter on the path to war.

Condoleezza Rice, too, took approving note of events in Toronto, but that surely is the moral equivalent of a twinkle from the eyes of Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Members of any security and intelligence apparatus are not immune to such blandishments. Results or seeming results bring praise, promotion, and budget increases to establishments that normally enjoy little public recognition. I have no reason to believe there has been inappropriate behavior by officials here, but I emphasize the importance of healthy skepticism until a clear picture emerges. The lack of healthy skepticism in America is precisely what has reduced that society to a spineless acceptance of whatever authority says, no matter how uninformed or unreasonable.

The known facts of the Toronto case are simple. CSIS, Canada’s intelligence agency, identified one or more of these fellows on an Internet chat room about two years ago. This prompted additional investigation, and a group of young men sharing angry dreams was discovered. Finally, when a 3-ton load of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used as a component for an explosive, was offered by the watchers and accepted by someone in the group, a wave of arrests quickly followed.

My first observation is that any group of young men thoughtless enough to reveal violent intentions on an Internet chat site represent a pretty low-level threat. After all, these chat sites are monitored constantly by police and intelligence services of many countries for child predators, traders in child porn, threats to governments, and for extreme political statements of every kind. Doing what these young men supposedly did is comparable to trying to build a bomb in a department-store display window on a busy avenue.

Well, maybe they are not very bright, and we do still need to be protected from people who are not very bright, but the bizarre nature of the accusations against them is suggested by statements from a lawyer for one of the accused.

While formal charges have not been produced and lawyers for the accused have received no discovery information, the lawyers were permitted, in a Darkness at Noon fashion, to read (but not copy) a synopsis of accusations which I understand is typically prepared by police. Apparently, such synopses have a history of great inaccuracy when compared to actual legal charges finally submitted in court. I believe that it was with this in mind and with the intention of alerting the thinking public to some odd stuff that a lawyer for one of the accused stood outside the court and recited some of the accusations. The points include a wish to behead the Prime Minister, take government hostages, blow up part of Parliament, and attack the CBC.

Behead the Prime Minister? Doesn’t that just sound like what you would expect from angry young men discussing violent fantasies in a chat room? How many pimply-faced young men annually express dire wishes for school principals, teachers, girlfriends’ fathers or others with some authority?

It may not be much of a legal charge, but it’s great stuff for the press, and we’ve had the words cell, al Quaeda, and terrorism repeated countless times. There is not the least justification yet for any of these words.

We must keep in mind that a group of unhappy young men can easily be manipulated by a clever intelligence agent or policeman. Seduction and psychological manipulation are at the very heart of producing what is called human intelligence. There is often a rather fine line between young conspirators being observed by undercover agents and foolish young men being manipulated into incriminating themselves.

The press loves turning to someone resembling authority at such times for incisive comments, so mysterious “terror experts” suddenly are everywhere on Canada’s airwaves. God, they seem to have descended like a great ugly flock of grief counselors, another questionable kind of expert, following a school killing.

I heard two terror experts on CBC radio. One an ex-British soldier and another an ex-CSIS official, both earning their livings now by selling security to private firms and governments. Ask an insurance agent whether you have enough life insurance and what response can you anticipate with virtually one-hundred percent certainty?

These experts warn of undefined fears, as in, who knows how many others are “out there”? Well, who knows how many dishonest terror experts there are out there hawking fear? The ex-CSIS man did it more subtly and gracefully than the ex-soldier, but shadowy nonsense remains shadowy nonsense, no matter the tone and vocabulary. The ex-CSIS man questioned the future application to Canada of a favorite expression of mine, “the peaceable kingdom,” while offering absolutely nothing of substance to warrant his statement.

Even if these young men are guilty of crimes, how is their case so different to that of a man in Montreal who shot fourteen women one day or a pig farmer outside Vancouver whose hobby for years was luring with drugs dozens of prostitutes to their deaths? Does political anger make it different? Religion? A violent crime is a crime, and those found guilty should be separated from society. What we have here is the demonstrated wisdom of keeping an eye on Internet chat sites and on people doing questionable activities, but that is the case for many crimes we emphasize more than we once did, as with child pornography. There is no reason for a special fear to take hold when the subject is terror. It is dangerous and destructive of our best values.

I’ve often wondered where people go to become “terror experts.” Is there a graduate degree offered by Bob Jones University or at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty U? We know that a true and effective terrorist organization like the IRA always keeps its business utterly secret. Those suspected of informing are murdered without hesitation.

Some of these “experts” have experience in Israel, but everything that comes out of Israel on the subject of terror resembles a script prepared by the state security apparatus. Israel vigorously promotes the idea of terror in the world the way some countries promote tourism. It is simply in its interest.

Many of the firms for which the experts work were founded by men like Henry Kissinger and William Colby as ways of keeping a high income in retirement and an oar in the waters of intrigue. The intentions of such firms are entirely suspect. In some cases the firms may well serve as ways for American intelligence to penetrate the existing security of unsuspecting firms and governments, at home and abroad.

America’s extreme, erratic, and often-uninformed attitudes towards terror provide the powerful gravitational field influencing and distorting current events. Why do I describe American attitudes as erratic and uninformed? First, terror did not begin with 9/11. Outfits like the IRA, ETA, and The Shining Path have decades of history, much of it unknown to average Americans who remain indifferent to what does not directly affect them.

America’s own history is rich with tolerated internal terrorist organizations. This starts at the beginning with the Sons of Liberty before the American Revolution beating and tar-and-feathering officials in the colonies who were just doing their duty for what was then the legal government. Often officials’ homes were attacked and either burnt or torn down. The same fate fell to Loyalists after the war. They were beaten, often burned-out, always run from their homes, and had their property stolen.

The tradition of internal terror vigorously continued with the Klu Klux Klan, an organization active for about a century, and it continued down through the fascist Bund of the 1930s and to the many armed, private militias that were so popular for decades until Timothy McVeigh’s shadow fell across them. There are many, many examples of this kind of terror in American history, another notable one being Cosa Nostra, whose violent operations were long ignored by an FBI busy tracking left-leaning school teachers.

America has never winced at supporting terror in other places for causes with which it felt sympathy. The greatest example of this was decades of lavish support for the IRA. Collections were openly made in Irish bars in Chicago, New York, and Boston to buy the IRA’s guns and bombs. Politicians and police were aware of this and did nothing, indeed some of them undoubtedly were contributors.

The most dreadful terror associated with America has been the state terror of its long series of colonial wars after World War II. Sometimes the terror is delegated to proxies, financed, trained, and given weapons and intelligence by the American government. This was the case in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, and a dozen other hells. Millions were spent by the CIA subsidizing thugs in Florida who carried out bombings and shootings in Cuba.

In Indonesia, with the end of Sukarno’s government in 1965, the U.S. supported what was then the greatest holocaust since Hitler’s, with five-hundred thousand Indonesians having their throats cut and their bodies dumped into rivers just because they were suspected of being communists. State Department officials are reported to have been on phones late into the night transmitting lists of names for the slaughter.

Vietnam was “hands-on” terror. Countless carpet bombings, search-and-destroy missions, napalmings, night-crawler assassinations, and other horrors chalked up maybe three million victims in an undeclared war against people in their own land. Along the way, interrogated suspects were thrown from helicopters and unknown thousands of helpless village women were raped and murdered. The terror spread to Cambodia when America’s secret bombings and incursions destabilized its government and gave the world “the killing fields” of Pol Pot.

The point of reciting these dark parts of American history is to demonstrate forcefully how often that nation has turned to inappropriate, violent responses, and it proved no different in the case of 9/11. A great crime was committed, and any criminals who survived deserved to be brought to justice. But that was not what happened. Instead two Muslim nations were invaded, tens of thousands killed, a giant, secret kidnapping-and-torture organization established, and many civil liberties cast aside. This is not a model for Canada or any civilized society.

No thinking person believes that Canada’s foreign policy should be driven by threats from any group. However, that is not the same thing as recognizing that great numbers of angry young men, here and abroad, are a symptom of something being very wrong.

Unless they are psychopaths, people do not just suddenly decide to blow things up. If they are psychopaths, then what they do cannot be called political and cannot be labeled as terrorism. America was advised privately, before its invasions, by many who understood that one result would be a huge wave of anger and alienation in the Muslim world. As with so many other wise words, this advice was ignored by Bush’s fanatics.

Canada’s new participation in Afghanistan is a ghastly mistake. It associates Canada’s good name with a failed, disastrous policy. The fact is that U.S. is already slowly, quietly withdrawing from the mess it created in Afghanistan. It has pressured a number of allies, notably Canada and Great Britain, to help cover this gradual withdrawal. That really is Canada’s dirty task in Afghanistan. Canada is not there to help people find peace and stability (although I am confident that Canada’s troops will do some of this wherever the possibility exists) because the truth is that the U.S. has already quietly given the task up as lost. It fought a “cheap” war in Afghanistan, using warlords every bit as nasty as the Taleban to gain a quick victory, and there is almost no possibility of constructing a modern democratic state from the remains.

I do believe we will see justice for the young men in Canada with nothing but facts determining their fate. Canadians are a sensible and decent people. All the rash and uninformed comments made in recent days will fade like yesterday’s headlines about miracles and aliens in The National Inquirer.

At the same time, I hope Canadians consider more carefully the deeply flawed policies Bush has imposed on the world. Two ancient Muslim nations are occupied and smoldering with resentment amidst economic ruin. A great, world cultural treasure has been pillaged and destroyed, making the Taleban’s thuggish destruction of statues some years ago seem small by comparison. Iraq has been driven into the destructive beginnings of civil war. The country still does not have even dependable water or electricity. The U.S. threatens a third Muslim country almost weekly. Palestinians are treated worse today by Israel, with smiling American acquiescence, than black Africans were under apartheid, and there is no hint of a just end to the situation. And the learning curve in guerilla fighting means nothing but more intense attacks against foreign armies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Robert Fisk, the superb British journalist on Middle East affairs, had a fascinating column recently. He explained how at the Baghdad morgue, one of whose officials he knows, there are standing orders that bodies brought in by Americans are not to be autopsied. The bodies often come tagged with a cursory description of the cause of death along the lines of extreme trauma. This is the kind of gruesome, revealing detail you will never see broadcast on American networks.

Not only do America’s trigger-happy soldiers shoot innocent people regularly at roadblocks and in raids, but there is a secret dirty war going on in which political Iraqis are assassinated by America’s private mercenary forces. A large number of Iraqi scientists previously associated with weapons programs have been mysteriously murdered, almost certainly the work of Mossad being given a free hand in the country. Americans may be unaware of what is being done in their name, but the people of Western Asia are well aware of it, and memories in the Middle East are long.

The argument that Canada’s withdrawal from Afghanistan would make no difference is utterly false because the most important difference to be made involves our integrity and deepest principles.