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Truth is, we’re terrorized because we’re hated


Tell people the truth, Mr. President -- about terrorism. If deceptions about terrorism go unchallenged, then the threat will continue until it destroys us.

The truth is that none of our thousands of nuclear weapons can protect us from these threats. No Star Wars system -- no matter how technically advanced, no matter how many trillions of dollars are poured into it -- can protect us from a nuclear weapon delivered in a sailboat or a Cessna or a suitcase or a Ryder rental truck. Not one weapon in our vast arsenal, not a penny of the $270 billion a year we spend on so-called defense can defend against a terrorist bomb. That is a military fact.

As a retired lieutenant colonel and a frequent lecturer on national security issues, I have often quoted Psalm 33: “A king is not saved by his mighty army. A warrior is not saved by his great strength.” The obvious reaction is, “Then what can we do? Is there nothing we can do to provide security for our people?”

There is. But to understand it requires that we know the truth about the threat. Mr. President, you did not tell the American people the truth about why we are the targets of terrorism when you explained why we bombed Afghanistan and Sudan. You said that we are a target because we stand for democracy, freedom and human rights in the world. Nonsense!

We are the target of terrorists because, in much of the world, our government stands for dictatorship, bondage and human exploitation. We are the target of terrorists because we are hated. And we are hated because our government has done hateful things.

In how many countries have agents of our government deposed popularly elected leaders and replaced them with puppet military dictators who were willing to sell out their own people to American multinational corporations?

We did it in Iran when the U.S. Marines and the CIA deposed Mossadegh because he wanted to nationalize the oil industry. We replaced him with the Shah and armed, trained and paid his hated Savak national guard, which enslaved and brutalized the people of Iran -- all to protect the financial interests of our oil companies. Is it any wonder that there are people in Iran who hate us?

We did it in Chile. We did it in Vietnam. More recently, we tried to do it in Iraq.

And, of course, how many times have we done it in Nicaragua and all the other banana republics of Latin America? Time after time we have ousted popular leaders who wanted the riches of the land to be shared by the people who worked it. We replaced them with murderous tyrants who would sell out their own people so the wealth of the land could be taken out by the likes of Domino Sugar, the United Fruit Company, Folgers and Chiquita Banana.

In country after country, our government has thwarted democracy, stifled freedom and trampled human rights. That’s why it is hated around the world. And that’s why we’re the target of terrorists.

People in Canada enjoy democracy, freedom and human rights. So do the people of Norway and Sweden. Have you heard of Canadian embassies being bombed? Or Norwegian, or Swedish?

We are not hated because we practice democracy, freedom and human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism -- and in the future, nuclear terrorism.

Once the truth about why the threat exists is understood, the solution becomes obvious. We must change our ways. Getting rid of our nuclear weapons -- unilaterally if necessary -- will enhance our security. Drastically altering our foreign policy will ensure it.

Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water and feed starving children. Instead of continuing to kill thousands of Iraqi children every day with our sanctions, we should help Iraqis rebuild their electric power plants, their water treatment facilities, their hospitals -- all the things we destroyed and prevented them from rebuilding with sanctions.

Instead of training terrorists and death squads, we should close the School of the Americas. Instead of supporting insurrection, destabilization, assassination and terror around the world, we should abolish the CIA and give the money to relief agencies.

In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us?

That is the truth, Mr. President. That’s what the American people need to hear.

Robert Bowman flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. He is presently bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach, Fla.

National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 1998