Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 6/33
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The United States backed these policies; accordingly, the actual reasons and background for them are completely foreign to the media, which assure us that the U.S.-Israeli search for peace has been thwarted by PLO terror. After the Israeli invasion, with perhaps 20,000 or more civilian casualties, Israeli terrorist actions in Lebanon continued, as they do today, though these are no part of "the evil scourge of terrorism." We may occasionally read that Lebanese farmers "working in fields near Ain Khilwe were killed when the Israeli planes dropped incendiary bombs," but nothing is suggested by this casual observation in the final sentence of a brief article on the shelling of the refugee camp at Rashidiye by Israeli gunboats, the day after forty-one people were killed and seventy wounded in the bombing of the refugee camp at Ain Khilwe.37 Other terrorist attacks against Arabs, even against U.S. installations in Arab countries and a U.S. vessel in international waters with many casualties (the U.S.S. Liberty), are also readily absorbed when the agent is a client state.

In the light of such facts as these, how is it possible for scholars and the media to maintain the required thesis that the plague of the modern age is conducted by the Soviet-based "worldwide terror network aimed at the destabilization of Western democratic society," as proclaimed by Claire Sterling, who, Walter Laqueur assures us, has provided "ample evidence" that terrorism occurs "almost exclusively in democratic or relatively democratic countries"? How is it possible for the media to continue to identify Iran, Libya, the PLO, Cuba, and other official enemies as the leading practitioners of international terrorism? The answer is simplicity itself. It is only necessary, once again, to recall "the utility of interpretations." Terrorism is terrorism only when conducted by official enemies; when the United States and its clients are the agents, it is defense of democracy and human rights.

The media are not called upon to defend the doctrine, only to adhere to it. The scholarly literature has a more demanding task. As an example, consider the contributions of the highly regarded terrorologist Walter Laqueur38 -- a respected scholar whose insight into international affairs is illustrated by his declaration elsewhere that "unlike the Soviet Union, the U.S. does not want to convert anyone to a specific political, social, or economic system."39

A primary concern of Laqueur's scholarly study of terrorism is "international state-sponsored terrorism." His study contains many innuendos and charges about Cuban sponsorship of terrorism, with little pretense of evidence. But there is not one word on the U.S. terrorist operations against Cuba. He writes that in "recent decades...the more oppressive regimes are not only free from terror, they have helped to launch it against more permissive societies." His intent, of course, is to imply that the United States, a "permissive society," is one of the victims of the plague of international state-sponsored terrorism, while Cuba, an "oppressive regime," is one of the agents. What in fact follows from his statement is that the United States is a "more oppressive regime" and Cuba a "more permissive society," given that the United States has undeniably launched major terrorist attacks against Cuba and is relatively free from terror itself. The careful selection of evidence and allegations is designed to prevent understanding of these simple facts.

Employing the same doctrinal filters, Laqueur states that the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was a response to PLO "attacks against Israel"; the actual facts of the matter, as we have seen, are radically different. In earlier years, he asserts, the PLO "stormed Damour," killing "some 600 civilians," after they had decided, for no suggested reason, to support the Lebanese National Movement against the Maronites. The terrorist attacks of the Israeli-backed Maronites that drew the PLO into the civil war and led to the retaliatory terror at Damour pass without mention; rather, Laqueur writes that "even if [the PLO] had kept scrupulously neutral, which they certainly did not, their mere physical presence would have...acted as a provocation." He does not elaborate on how they might have kept "scrupulously neutral" after murderous attacks on Palestinians and Lebanese allied with them.40 But just as a propaganda agent for the United States will see no U.S. terror against Cuba, only Cuban support for terror, so an Israeli propagandist understands that the task is to demonize the PLO and thus to provide implicit justification for continued Israeli control over the occupied territories -- what Laqueur calls "the Left Bank."

Laqueur observes that terrorism "has been a factor of some importance in El Salvador and Guatemala," referring not to the awesome display of state terrorism orchestrated and backed by the United States but to guerrilla terror -- real, but not remotely comparable to the "international state-sponsored terrorism" that he evades when the agents are the wrong ones for his purposes. Laqueur mentions that six Americans "perished in the civil war in El Salvador." They are not further identified, but he presumably has in mind the four American churchwomen raped and murdered by the Salvadoran National Guard supported by the U.S. and directed by General Vides Casanova, who was promoted to Defense Minister under the Duarte government in the "fledgling democracy"; and two Americans working on land reform, assassinated in a restaurant by soldiers under orders from officers of the National Guard and the chief of staff, who were never charged. None of these facts are mentioned, and they occasion no thoughts on the source of terrorism in that traumatized country. One might also ask whether the phrase "perished in the civil war" does justice to the element of "international state-sponsored terrorism" in these atrocities. But if the task is to provide a cover for U.S.-backed atrocities so that they can proceed with impunity while demonizing enemies of the state, facts can be dismissed as a mere annoyance.

Laqueur refers to Sheikh Fadlallah, though not to the CIA-initiated car-bombing in March 1985 that killed eighty civilians in a failed effort to assassinate him. Car-bombs in Lebanon and elsewhere are within the scope of his concept of terrorism. Thus "the car-bomb attacks against US marines in the Lebanon" fall within the canon of terrorism, but the car-bomb attack initiated by the CIA that was the major single act of international terrorism in the Middle East in the peak year of the plague does not. Similarly, the use of letter-bombs and "a primitive book-bomb" is discussed, but there is no mention of the sophisticated book-bomb used by Israeli intelligence to kill Egyptian General Mustapha Hafez in Gaza in 1956, at a time when he was responsible for preventing Palestinian Fedayeen from infiltrating to attack Israeli targets.41 Laqueur's review of the use of letter-bombs also does not include the testimony of Ya'akov Eliav, a commander of the terrorist group headed by the current Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir (Lehi, the "Stern gang"). In a 1983 book, Eliav claims to have been the first to use letter-bombs. Working from Paris in 1946, he arranged to have seventy such bombs sent in official British government envelopes to all members of the British cabinet, the heads of the Tory opposition, and several military commanders, marked "personal and secret" so that the intended victim would open them himself. In June 1947, he and an accomplice were caught by Belgian police while attempting to send these letter-bombs, and all were intercepted.42

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37 NYT, Sept. 7, 1987.

38 Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism. Citations that follow are from pp. 8, 91-92, 218, 215, 139, 166, 232, 141, 106, 21-22, 291-92, 204, 262, 245, 296-97, 310, 300.

39 Laqueur and Charles Krauthammer, New Republic, March 31, 1982.

40 On the facts, and the numbers game, see appendix I, section 2.

41 Ehud Ya'ari, Egypt and the Fedayeen (Hebrew) (Givat Haviva, 1975, 27f.), a study based on captured Egyptian and Jordanian documents. At the same time, Salah Mustapha, Egyptian military attaché in Jordan, was severely injured by a letter-bomb sent from East Jerusalem, presumably from the same source; ibid.

42 Israeli military historian Uri Milshtein, Hadashot, Dec. 31, 1987, referring to Eliav's 1983 book Hamevukash.