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  1. Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace (Unabridged)
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Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace (Unabridged)

The analogies here with the Nicaraguan Contras and with the Gemayel family in Lebanon can scarcely be incidental, just as the intellectual and logistical conjuncture between Israeli and American planners has not been incidental. Once Iran became friendly, it would no longer be necessary to supply it with faulty intelligence about Iraq, nor would the war between the two states be allowed to go on as it has for the last eight years. Since Saudi Arabia had already been dragged into these schemes, one could foresee Israeli and US planners delighting in a forecast that would include bilateral negotiations between Iran and Israel, and perhaps between Israel and Jordan.

It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game.

Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. We must develop effective espionage and counter-espionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become more necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy. Even more curious is the implied innocence and benign forbearance of an earlier age, in which, presumably, Americans regarded their enemies with amused courtliness at best and a chivalrous anger at worst.

Gone from the record are the genocidal campaigns against native Americans, or the various interventions, from Central and South America to the Pacific, North Africa, Europe and Asia, pitting Americans against local enemies considered to be stooges, heavies or scum. What seems to determine methods is the purity of American intentions, which are and will remain more or less automatically good. Flowing from such untainted sources subversion and sabotage will turn out to be acceptable. American dirty tricks derive from goodness, on the one hand, and from the absolute evil of implacable enemies, on the other.

An unspoken compact between the American people and their government on this basis, mandating clandestine operations, has been allowed to stand for almost half a century.

Turning the tide ( edition) | Open Library

This has allowed the steady growth in power of a class of insiders and experts, first described by Walter Lippmann during the Thirties, whose technical skill and organic affiliations with the power structure gradually insulated them from scrutiny and accountability. It is my impression that whereas the first clandestine operatives as well as their immediate superiors came from the Eastern establishment, from Groton, Princeton and Harvard, the present variety — the Norths, the Ledeens, the McFarlanes, the Regans — come from the professional and service schools.

The new men are Middle Americans. They do not feel in their bones that the country is theirs, but that they have to win it by daring exploits. Manuchar Ghorbanifar, the Iranian go-between and Khashoggi colleague employed by the Israelis and Americans, has been described as being so dishonest that he could not be trusted to tell the truth about what he was wearing. That these men and their Iranian, Nicaraguan, Asian and Israeli counterparts did so much of their brokering in London, Rotterdam, Frankfurt and Geneva imparts a poignant nostalgic tone, with an admixture of irony, to their machinations.

Whereas the European cities were once metropolitan centres of the old imperialism, they have now become meeting-places, midway between other more powerfully central cities, where deals can be engineered and paid for. For one thing, these places are far enough from the main and often bloody action to be safe. For another, they are not airtight commercially speaking: money can be hidden there, it can be lost and of course made, free from taxation departments and snoopy government agencies. Tens of millions of dollars of Irangate money remain to be accounted for.

But these things are really corollaries of the main point: that except by a few mavericks, American imperialism has not been given the kind of scrutiny that its ambitions and attempts require. These deserve summary listing. During the past five years the US has invaded and attacked Libya, tried according to Seymour Hersh to assassinate its leader, and tried to coax Egypt into an invasion. It has been a participant in the Lebanese war. It has backed Israel in innumerable local as well as transcontinental adventures. It has deliberately prolonged the Iran-Iraq war by providing arms and false information to both sides.

It has financed the Contra insurgency against the legally-elected government of Nicaragua, and it has engaged in sabotage throughout South and Central America. Its putative antagonists have been herded under the rubrics of terrorism or Communism. The American empire is of the present, and its activities as well as its ideas are essentialised to such a degree as to require no prior knowledge or experience.

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That other empires came and went, that other schemes of control were devised and failed, that other peoples rose up, rid themselves of foreign rulers, and brought in regimes that were sometimes worse but often a good deal better than their predecessors — all this seems scarcely to have mattered in the calculations of Reagan and his Administration. The projection of American power around the world is considered a fact of nature, as inevitable in its manifestations as in its ontological essence.

Add to these the organised lobbies, the PACs or Political Action Committees , the enormously profitable public-relations firms and their foreign-agent satellites Jordan, it is reported, has four such groups in its pay, with — at best — highly dubious results , and one has a sense of a Congress and Executive Branch hamstrung between special interests and ignorance. Hence, on the one hand, the adventures of people like North, John Poindexter, Dennis Ross, Howard Teicher and Michael Ledeen, and, on the other hand, the amazing pudeur of the Secretary of State, whose position on Irangate matters, according to the Tower Report, was one of complete detachment.

Representative Tom Lantos of California a Hungarian by birth could announce to North, when the Marine officer was hauled up by and refused to testify before a Congressional Committee, that such a man was a national hero, and go on to promise a contribution to his defence fund. Of such Swiftian ironies are US imperial policies constructed.

U.S. intervention in Central America and the struggle for peace

In relation to Central America and Southern Africa — to name two regions where American policy is prominent and controversial — there is an oppositional constituency in the United States. There has been no one, in the press or on television talk-shows, to represent an Islamic or Arab viewpoint, no one to testify to a reality out there that was independent of American policy.

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The tone of public discussion has been untempered by any awareness that other worlds and other concerns exist, which it might be prudent to regard as not in fact falling within the US security orbit. This patriotism defines policy — what is good for America now — and it regulates knowledge. After the failure of the May agreement between Israel and Lebanon American Middle East policy and its rhetoric have reiterated the imperative of combating terrorism, and the overwhelming need to support Israel. The all-encompassing generality of the one and the absolutely forgiving specificity of the other have not obliterated the quotidian duties entailed by being a great power: embassies are run, cables go back and forth, visits, bilateral treaties, aid agreements are negotiated, and pronouncements are made.

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It turned out later that Jonathan Pollard, given a life sentence in America in March of this year, had handed over the requisite information about PLO offices to Israel, as part of a spying operation. Here was a weird concatentation whereby anti-terrorism, condoned and encouraged by the US, was linked both to emulating what Israel does and to being spied on by Israel.

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Throughout the Arab world, striking changes have been taking place. The economies are in a slump; the human rights situation has worsened dramatically; the failure of the Arab states, except perhaps for Syria, to produce a credible military deterrent is obvious; a sense of aimless holding on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria , of tightening and restriction Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Kuwait or of unimaginably senseless violence Lebanon pervades the political atmosphere. The emergence of a heterogeneous Islamic traditionalism is symptomatic of the malaise, as well as of the deep alienation between ruler and ruled. The one secular nationalism still potent and still visibly in evidence is located within the Palestinian orbit, a trans-Arab phenomenon, embattled in Jordan and Lebanon, harassed or barely tolerated everywhere else, profoundly popular and symbolically threatening.

Thus the Arab Middle East today is coherent neither as a state system nor as the site of an easily categorised ideological contest. The new forces are the motors driving Iran and Israel — states whose religious inspiration is barely assimilable to statehood. The other, Iran, proclaims itself responsible for exporting a purified and resurgent Islam throughout the region. With the second of these states, America has yet to come to terms. Islam has somehow managed to retain, even in its relatively benign contemporary forms, the threat of its milennial power, when its armies poured out of the Arabian Peninsula into the rest of Asia, much of Africa and southern Europe.

Its adherents in the West are lopsidedly weak, and it has acquired a remarkably unified set of enemies, religious and secular. Not that the closed quality, the provocative, bloody-minded relentlessness of recent Iranian Islam has been pleasant. But in almost every instance these manifestations have been interpreted ontologically and ahistorically. All of this helps us to understand the combination of animus and ignorance from which American policy is now constructed. In the process — and here we should extend the analysis to include policy towards Eastern Europe and Central America — certain types of formal policy-maker have come to the fore.

There are the passive functionaries — men like Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East; he travels here and there but because he is a career Arabist his influence is nil.

Noam Chomsky on U.S. Foreign Policy in Central America"

More ominous are the ideological over-achievers, typified by Richard Perle in Defence, Elliot Abrams in State, whose affiliation with neo-conservatism and fanatical anti-Communism their allies include Edward Luttwak, Michael Ledeen, Jeane Kirkpatrick, media legitimisers from George Will, William Safire, Patrick Buchanan and William Buckley to reporters like Shirley Christian and James Le Moyne, the editorial staff of the New Republic and Commentary , and many more has moved American policy into a ruthless and uncomprehending adversarialism towards terrorism and Communism.

Israel, like Iran, is not just a state, but also a cause and an idea whose role in the political economy of imperial America far transcends that of a small Levantine state belonging to a once-dominated part of the world. As of last year, none of this aid is in the form of repayable loans, but in outright, direct, unitemised budgetary support. No country has ever benefited from such unqualified munificence, and the mechanisms that ensure it are for the time being impressively strong.

Congress is, almost to a man and woman, pro-Israel. The failure of American policy in Lebanon during the period brought the degree of American reliance on Israel to a climax. The Israeli model of tough-minded realism was followed by American planners to the letter, thereby producing what has been called the Israelisation of American foreign policy.

Most important is to imbue yourself with a siege mentality. In all cases of this sort you must portray yourself as the persecuted bearer of a sanctified vision steadfastly standing firm against the hordes of undifferentiated and unilluminated masses outside your gates. Rather than negotiate, you must not only fight defensively but — to borrow a little from the social philosopher Michael Walzer — take your just war from a defensive to a pre-emptive mode.

In American terms, this pattern was easily accommodated. There is a difference, however, between American attitudes towards Central America and the Middle East. Debate has occurred in the one case, but hardly at all in the other. Senator Christopher Dodd and Representative Steven Solarz, to mention two Contra opponents, are supporters of everything Israel does, and when the connection between the Contras and the Israelis was made public there was a noticeable avoidance of blame for Israel.

The American obsession with Iran and Israel is shaped by an increasing tendency to drive politics back to anti-secular, sectarian and atavistic roots.