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Anti-Terrorism Questions for Bush

By Martin A. Lee
September 30, 2001

If we had an aggressive, independent press corps in the United States, our national conversation about the terrorist attacks that demolished the World Trade Center towers in New York and damaged the Pentagon would be far more probing and informative. Here are some examples of questions that reporters might ask President Bush:

1. Before the attacks in New York and Washington, your administration tolerated Saudi Arabian and Pakistani military and financial aid for Afghanistan's Taliban regime, even though it harbored terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Now you say fighting terrorism will be the main focus of your administration. By making counter-terrorism the top priority in bilateral relations, aren’t you signaling to abusive governments in Sudan, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere that they need not worry much about their human rights performance as long as they join the anti-terrorist crusade? Will you condone, for example, the brutalization of Chechnya in exchange for Russian participation? Will you make clear that America’s allies must not use the fight against terrorism as a cover for waging repressive campaigns that smother democratic aspirations in their own countries?

2. Terrorists finance their operations by laundering money through offshore banks and other hot money outlets. Yet your administration has undermined international efforts to crack down on tax havens. Last May, you withdrew support for a comprehensive initiative launched by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which sought greater transparency in tax and banking practices. In the wake of the Sept. 11 massacre, will you reassess this decision and support the OECD proposal, even if it means displeasing wealthy Americans and campaign contributors who avoid paying taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts?

3. Four months ago, U.S. officials announced that Washington was giving $43 million to the Taliban for its role in reducing the cultivation of opium poppies, despite the Taliban’s heinous human rights record and its sheltering of Islamic terrorists of many nationalities. Was this payment a mistake, in effect, support for a country that harbors terrorists? Do you think the “war on drugs” has distorted U.S. foreign policy in Southwest Asia and other regions?

4. According to U.S., German and Russian intelligence sources, Osama bin Laden’s operatives have been trying to acquire enriched uranium and other weapons-grade radioactive materials for a nuclear bomb. There are reports that in 1993 bin Laden’s well-financed organization tried to buy enriched uranium from poorly maintained Russian facilities that lacked sufficient controls. Why has your administration proposed cutting funds for a program to help safeguard nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union?

5. On Sept. 23, you announced plans to make public a detailed analysis of the evidence gathered by U.S intelligence and police agencies, which proves that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are guilty of the terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon. But the next day your administration backpedaled. “As we look through [the evidence],” explained Secretary of State Colin Powell, “we can find areas that are unclassified and it will allow us to share this information with the public…. But most of it is classified.” If your administration can’t make its case publicly, how do you expect to win the support of governments and people who otherwise might suspect Washington’s motives, particularly some Muslim and Arab nations?

6. Exactly who is a terrorist, and who is not? When the CIA was doling out an estimated $2 billion to support the Afghan mujahadeen in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden and his colleagues were hailed as anti-communist freedom fighters. Now bin Laden and his ilk are terrorists. Before he became vice president, Dick Cheney and the U.S. State Department denounced Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress, as a terrorist. Today Mandela, South Africa’s president emeritus, is considered a statesman. And what about Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who bears significant responsibility for the 1982 massacre of 1,800 innocents at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon?

7. Many U.S. officials attribute the CIA’s inability to thwart the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to rules that discouraged the CIA from utilizing gangsters, death squad leaders and other “unsavory” characters as sources and assets. There’s been a lot of talk lately about lifting such rules and unshackling the CIA so it can engage in assassinations. But didn't enlisting unsavory characters set the stage for tragic events on Sept. 11. The CIA trained and financed Islamic extremists to topple the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. Now, some of the same extremists, most notably bin Laden, have turned their psychotic wrath against the United States. Instead of adding billions of dollars to the CIA's budget, shouldn’t you hold accountable the shortsighted U.S. intelligence officials who ran the covert operation in Afghanistan?

8. John Negroponte, the new U.S. ambassador the United Nations, says he
intends to build an international anti-terrorist coalition. During the mid-1980s, Negroponte was involved in covering up right-wing death squad activity and other human rights abuses in Honduras when he served as ambassador to that country. Doesn’t Negroponte’s role in aiding and abetting state terrorism in Central America undermine the moral authority of the United States as it embarks upon a crusade against international terrorism?

9. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought home the frightening extent to which U.S. citizens and installations are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. If terrorists hit a nuclear power plant, it could result in a public health disaster. In the interest of protecting national security, shouldn't you phase out the 103 nuclear power plants that are currently operating in the United States? Why doesn’t your administration emphasize safe, renewable energy alternatives, such as solar and wind power, which would not invite terrorism?

10. After years of lobbying against rigorous safety procedures, the heads of the airline industry will receive a multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout for their ailing companies. Given your support for the airline rescue package, do you now agree that letting the free market run its course won’t solve all our economic and social problems? That’s what anti-globalization activists have been saying all along.

11. Sept. 11 will be remembered as a day of infamy in the United States because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In Chile, Sept. 11 also is remembered as the day when a U.S.-back coup toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, initiating a reign of terror by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Given your administration’s avowed stance against terrorism, will you cooperate with the various international legal cases that are homing in on ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for colluding with Pinochet’s murderous regime?

12. You say you’re a loving man, but no empire, including today's United States, has been loved by those under its domination. As hideous as it sounds, there are many people on the planet who consider the Sept. 11 attacks a response – however twisted or demented – to past U.S. actions, including air strikes that killed innocent civilians in Iraq, Sudan, Serbia and Afghanistan. Do you agree that some U.S. behavior has contributed to the spread of fanaticism around the globe and shouldn't that be acknowledged?

13. What do you expect to accomplish if you bomb Afghanistan? Mightn't this galvanize Islamic fundamentalist movements that are already powerful in Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, the oil-rich Arab monarchies and the Balkans? Adept at manipulating real grievances, terrorist networks breed on poverty, despair and social injustice. Do you think you can wipe out or even reduce this scourge without seriously and systematically addressing the root causes of terrorism?

Martin A. Lee ([email protected]) is the author of Acid Dreams and The Beast Reawakens.

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