This is reprinted from the February 2015 Catholic Agitator, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.
Each of these drone attacks are worse than the attacks in Paris. Yet we act as if the attacks in Paris were somehow unrelated to this drone warfare.
TERROR ATTACKS IN PARIS: ANGER & SOLIDARITY
The following is an interview with Blase Bonpane, longtime social justice, human rights, and peace activist. Blase is Director of the Office of the Americas, which he co-founded with his wife Theresa in 1983. He is a former Maryknoll priest, author of several books, and host of World Focus, a weekly news, interview, and commentary program heard on Pacifica Radio Network’s KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. This interview was conducted a few days after the Paris terror attacks and is based on the information Blase covered on his show. You can listen to his shows via his website: officeoftheamericas.org
Agitator: The Western world is shaken by the terrorist attacks in Paris. I get the sense that many believe it hit at the heart of freedom of speech and the Western way of life. What is your sense of the Paris attacks?
Bonpane: Any time an entity or an organization is bombed, that is a horrible act, a disgraceful act of slaughter. However, the response to this attack is very questionable. This was a horrible attack in Paris, while literally scores of drone attacks are underway each day, killing innocent people. This fact somehow seems normal, as though it is expected. These drone attacks are the most horrible cases of organized murder that I know of, where we get names from our intelligence agencies; they have had no formal charges, no hearing, nor a trial. And innocent women and children and other bystanders near them also are killed. Each of these drone attacks are worse than the attacks in Paris.
Yet we act as if the attacks in Paris were somehow unrelated to this drone warfare. We have to look at the great work of someone like Chalmers Johnson in his book Blowback, who tells us that there will be a response to our behavior. Of course the CIA was the first to identify blowback as a problem, saying that we may, in fact, suffer as a result of what we are doing.
There has been a rather silly development of the rise of what we call “terrorist experts” that are looking for every reason, aside from blowback, for a reason why incidents such as the Paris attacks might occur. I would think anyone would recognize that, if you continue to attack people, they will respond.
My goodness, I was in Baghdad in January of 1991, and a few days after I left the U.S. dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Baghdad. Most of the people killed in that attack were innocent. Moreover, that war has not stopped. Now we see the development of IS (Islamic State) as a clear response to that war. Our own press admits that people are traveling from all over the world to join with IS in order to respond to what has been done to a dozen or so Islamic countries.
In the midst of this attack in Paris, we also need to reflect back to Germany in 1938. It is frightening to watch Germans marching against Islam in the same way they marched against the Jews in 1938. Thank God there were counter demonstrations as well by Germans who know that so-called Christians have probably killed ten times as many people as Muslims ever have.
Islam, you know, is all directly from Judaism and Christianity. If you ever read the Koran it seems as if you are reading from the Old Testament, and some of the New Testament, with references to Jesus and his mother Mary. So many Westerners talk without knowing what they are talking about.
Agitator: Why do you think there is a disconnect in the West, particularly with the U.S. population, about the wars that have been going on for decades in the Middle East? Why don’t people see the connection between that and terrorist activities?
Bonpane: As Howard Zinn has said, war is terrorism. If you are looking for terrorism, you will see it in any war. However, U.S. exceptionalism is a religion and a religiosity that says God is on our side and that Jesus supports our foreign policy.
Furthermore, we are influenced by that horrendous “Just War Theory” proposed by Augustine. Just War Theory is simply a classic imperial theory to support aggressive war waged by the Roman Empire. The international Catholic peace group Pax Christi stands strongly against the idea of Just War.
Aggressive war is the greatest crime in the international index and this is what the U.S. is waging. People defending themselves from having their homes broken into and their families savaged are not conducting an aggressive war, but the U.S. is.
I see the U.S. involved in a religiosity of patriotism and a religiosity of war, and it worries me very much.
Agitator: Could you talk a little more about the young Western Muslim men who have gone to the Middle East to join with IS?
Bonpane: I think their thoughts are somewhat similar to the thoughts of all young men who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Agitator: The young men from the U.S.?
Bonpane: Yes, and Chris Hedges’ magnificent book War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning is absolutely awesome. We get this spirit, this gang spirit, this team spirit. War gives meaning; it is diabolical.
It would be wonderful if altruism could become that reality and people would go to fight poverty and militarism and racism, all the things Dr. King spoke about. Of course many people are involved in that fight as well. I do not believe that President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech gave any respect to the hundreds of thousands of young people who currently are out demonstrating around the United States. That is the kind of altruism we ought to see. This is King’s legacy, but he never had that many people out protesting; today they are everywhere.
Agitator: Speaking of Chris Hedges and his take on the Paris attacks—he tries to move away from the whole sense of a clash of cultures and religions and just get down to what he thinks is the basic reality—that the West is fighting a war on the poor throughout the world and this attack is a response to our efforts to control all of the world’s dwindling resources.
Bonpane: I very much identified with him and thought his was a good response. The dictatorships the U.S. has propped up in the Middle East are very similar to what happened in Latin America—200 years of dictatorships.
Agitator: There is a reason for that. The U.S. wants dictators that work for us.
Bonpane: The U.S. wanted someone in Latin America who could speak English and do what he was told. And if they disobeyed, like Manuel Noriega, the U.S. overthrows them.
Agitator: Like Saddam Hussein.
Bonpane: Exactly. The dictator in Egypt reminds me of Pinochet, in Chile. The U.S. government had no problem with him, nor did they ever question Papa Doc or Baby Doc in Haiti. Yet the U.S. does question Venezuela. They placed sanctions on Venezuela. The Middle East and Latin America have been treated in similar ways and this does not work. Latin America currently is going through a renaissance; the very people who were part of the opposition are now in government in places like Uruguay and Ecuador.
Agitator: The U.S. has been busy in the Middle East, but our government will get back to Latin America later.
Bonpane: When the cat’s away… but it is a new era. They have formed a new Latin American organization, which excludes Canada and the United States. It is an amazing historic event and truly exciting. But the U.S.’s craving for dictatorship is so tragic and allows for not even the slightest progressive changes.
Agitator: The U.S. response, and the Western response in general to incidents like the Paris attacks, is to launch more drone attacks and to increase security and surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Bonpane: Our government has created the greatest killing machine in world history. Since the end of World War II we have been constantly at war. The Korean War casualties are beyond belief. Thirty percent of the people in North Korea were killed. I have not heard such high numbers about any other war. This was an unbelievable holocaust under Curtis LeMay. He destroyed every city in North Korea.
Then the U.S. went on to Vietnam and it was the same scenario: aggressive war. It continued in Central and South America. Remember Grenada? I would say, conservatively, the U.S. has killed about 25 million people since the end of World War II. This is, as Dr. King said, the sign of spiritual death.
And add to this the unbelievable modernization of the nuclear weapons program into which we are going to begin pouring over a trillion dollars in the next few years. The U.S. has been using nuclear war every year since 1945 in the same way that a bank robber uses a pistol—goes and threatens the teller, walks away with the money, but does not kill the teller. He used the pistol and, in this same way, our government is using the pistol. This really puts a terrible cloud over everything.
Agitator: Talk a bit more about the enormous security apparatus, not only at airports, but also as the CIA monitors everyone’s cell phone, computer and internet activity?
Bonpane: That is, I think, typical in the history of dictatorships. The citizenry becomes the enemy and everyone is suspect. We find this not only in Nazi history, but also in the history of the Brazilian generals and the Argentine generals, who actually kept records of all their torture victims and their clandestine murders.
For over fifty years the U.S. has been criticizing Cuba’s human rights record while our government has built one of the great torture centers in the world on their property, which the U.S. has stolen. The hypocrisy is overwhelming. It reminds me of St. Paul’s phrase “principalities and powers.” For him, they were diabolical entities, and I see it in that same way. The 1% wanting more tax breaks, wanting to be able to take more money. In terms of modern psychology, this is called sociopathic behavior. When a judge asks a murderer in a courtroom if he has any regret and the murderer says no, and then the judge asks him would he kill again and the murderer says yes, that is a sociopath. And this is the way our government behaves.
Agitator: Rather than responding to terrorism with more war and more security measures, what would you suggest Western governments might do to make the world more secure?
Bonpane: The rest of the world is aware that the U.S. form of warfare does not work. Only the United States and Israel do not see the utter futility of the path they are on. There is this marvelous entity, the United Nations, which was designed to end the scourge of war, but the U.S. government has taken a hostile attitude toward it, only approving their own agenda and never being truly cooperative. The U.S. has exercised more vetoes than any other country, most of them pertaining to Israel, and they have basically destroyed the UN by their refusal to obey international law. Chomsky says our nation disobeys it every day. The UN was a marvelous achievement, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of biblical importance. The peoples of the earth agreed that there should be no torture; people have a right to food; people have a right to education and a right to medical care. This can all be done, and it is much cheaper than buying fragmentation bombs or nuclear weapons.
Agitator: Or making drones.
Bonpane: Or making drones. It is time for each of us to acknowledge, as David Swanson said in his recent book, that war is a lie. War begins with one set of lies, is carried out with a second set of lies, and is ended with a third set of lies. Unfortunately, the Church has not been a great force for peace in most wars. I think of the man who ordained me, Cardinal Spellman. He was so eager for war in Vietnam. I think he really believed that every communist in the world should be killed. He was a disaster. The Church has generally followed the line of the State, which is why we can have an institution like the one I went through, Georgetown, which is a center for U.S. policy.
The CIA teaches there and the government is always welcome there.
Agitator: Thank you so much, Blase. We love your show. Keep up the great work.