Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Holy Land Foundation (re)trial: NOT about a link between the HLF and “terrorists” BUT about the link between the US government and “terrorists”

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

The prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation can be summed up in a burlesque of this oft-quoted Biblical proverb: “Where there is no terrorism, the US administration perishes.”

“Terrorism” is the most direful concept in Americans’ thought. Even the collapse of our capitalist economy may not strike such dread in the hearts of Americans. Economic collapse is easily fixed—the federal government rushes in and, for $700 billion, saves teetering institutions, changing the US to a socialist nation overnight, with the government owning the largest mortgage and insurance companies in the world saving our livelihood. But “terrorism” is not so easily disposed of—as star witness Matthew Levitt set out (again) to prove in the HLF trial.

The intractable problem of “terrorism” persists because the government needs it. Without “terrorism” Americans would never have gone along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and freedom-loving Americans would never have given a cabal of power-hungry intellectual misfits the authority to pillage our civil rights while transforming our representative democracy into an oligarchy of like-minded demagogues.

In popular mythology “terrorism” became a major issue after 9/11. However, these demagogues were patient and cunning in their long climb to oligarchy. The ascendancy of “terrorism” to its position of power began shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which necessitated a new “enemy” to replace the Soviet Union. In 1986, Arthur Rovine reported on the annual meeting of the American Bar Association:

President Reagan told ABA lawyers in his speech opening the annual meeting that ‘a confederation of terrorist states run by the strangest collection of misfits, looney tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich’ was ‘trying to expel America from the world.’ Anthony Lewis wrote of the speech in the New York Times, The lawyers laughed and applauded: a shameful sign of the popular mood.’ Is anti-terrorism becoming the McCarthyism of the 1980s? The ugly ‘popular mood’ to which Lewis referred may not be far from that of another era, when McCarthy said of the term he inspired: ‘McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled’ (1).

We would do well to understand the roots of the “war on terror.” It was, at the beginning, part of the bizarre neo-conservative “might-makes-right” theory of men who have been floating around in government since even before the administration of the first President Bush. Many of these people were students of Albert Wohlstetter at the University of Chicago or his colleagues at the Rand Corporation.

Uncertainty was the enemy, and the perceived consequences of failure to prepare for all eventualities were apocalyptic in scale . . . [Wohlstetter wrote a] seminal essay “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” which both [Paul] Wolfowitz and [Richard] Perle have cited for its transformative effect on their young minds . . . with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the new enemy was clear . . . the “clash of civilizations” was . . . global theory based on the empirically weak proposition of discrete and oppositional civilizational blocks. This concept gave theoretical panache to the stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs that continued to circulate in the popular culture and imagination . . . The strategic paradigm of knowledge founded by [Wohlstetter] has had a catastrophic success. Its offspring have multiplied, built institutions, purveyed information to the American political machine, and had little effective competition (2).

Students of Wohlstetter have been in the forefront of the “clash of civilizations” philosophy at the heart of the neo-con world view. They include Wolfowitz and Perle, with Daniel Pipes, “Scooter” Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad (current United States Ambassador to the United Nations and the highest ranking Muslim in government), and Ahmad Chalabi (the discredited Iraqi, friend of Wolfowitz, and source of much of the misinformation that led to the Iraq invasion).

Among the activities of these men is the formation and direction of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) of which Matthew Levitt is a “research expert.” That Matthew Levitt’s scholarship is driven by personal belief could hardly be more obvious listening to his testimony—or reading his books. Many people will cry, “Foul! Anti-Semitism!” if anyone points out that his undergraduate education was at Yeshiva University, an academically superb university that is unabashedly Jewish, and, according to its Mission Statement, “…bring[s] wisdom to life by combining the finest, contemporary academic education with the timeless teachings of Torah.”

WINEP boasts that Perle, Wolfowitz, and Pipes are on its Board of Advisors (Perle and Wolfowitz resigned when they became part of the Bush II administration, but their names are still listed as Advisors). But WINEP does not act alone:

Through their overlapping staffs, WINEP is closely associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. The longtime director of the Jaffee Center was Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv, former Israeli government minister and director of intelligence who died in 1994. Funds for the Jaffee Center were "provided mainly by members of Jewish communities of the United States who have proved aware of and sensitive to the need for such an institution in Israel." According to Jaffee's website, the center conducts research on Israeli national security and aims "to contribute to the public debate and governmental deliberation of issues that are—or should be—at the top of Israel's national security agenda" (3).

Once again the prosecution of American citizens exercising their constitutionally protected freedom of religious expression is linked with the “fatal attraction” between our government and the necessary threat of “terrorism.” Even the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland has fallen prey to this attraction. “The district court also described Levitt’s methodology as ‘the gold standard in the field of international terrorism’” (4).

So once again the HLF trial begins with the testimony of a so-called “expert” or “scholar” whose entire academic and professional career has been shaped by men who believe that the United States government must pursue “terrorists” on every hand—as a substitute for the “communist threat” that once energized them. The struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination—and, more importantly, for survival—against the tyranny of occupiers of their homeland becomes the pretext for continuation of the “war on terror.” And American citizens, none of whom has ever committed any act of “terror” or advocated “terrorism” against the United States (or any other nation) are designated as pawns in the “terrorism” game without which “the US administration perishes.”

(1) Rovine, Arthur. “Will anti-terrorism become the McCarthyism of the 1980s?” ABA Journal 72.1 (Jan1986): 36.
(2) Hudson, Leila. “The New Ivory Towers: Think Tanks, Strategic Studies and “Counterrealism.’” Middle East Policy 12.4 (Winter2005): 118-132.
(3) Right Web. (Accessed 23 Sept 2008).
(4) United States v. Damrah. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. Decided and Filed: March 15, 2005.