Some might recall the enemies list that President Richard Nixon kept in his desk. The list was appended to a memo that asked "how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies?" Named were a number of journalists who had criticized Nixon’s administration as well as celebrities like actors Gregory Peck and Paul Newman and athletes like Joe Namath. Nixon was clearly on to something because in today’s America we have a new enemies list, one that is updated annually to make sure that nary a single malefactor is overlooked. It is the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism, which was unveiled last week in its 2009 version at a briefing conducted by Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, Foggy Bottom’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
There is, of course, an American fixation with compiling lists and making numeric assessments of things that are not amenable to such analysis. Recently those featured on such lists have also been on the receiving end of one or another of the endless wars that the United States engages in to rid itself of elements that it finds objectionable. The terrorism report claims to be an objective analysis of world terrorism, describing how it ebbs and flows globally. Its stated purpose is to "to help understand the current trends in global terrorism." It also includes its infamous state sponsors of terrorism section, which purports to be an examination of all those countries that support terrorist groups. Conveniently for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who signed off on the report, the list is very light on introspection. The United States is certainly the world’s leading supporter of terrorists that actually kill people, mostly in places like Iran, under direction from the CIA and military special ops but its actions are not described in the report. Israel too, engages in terrorism through its intelligence service Mossad, most recently assassinating a Hamas official in Dubai in January, and its armed forces and police regularly engage in terrorism directed against the Palestinian people in an attempt to demoralize and intimidate them into submission. But, according to the State Department, soldiers and other government employees cannot be considered terrorists.
The State Department report sometimes seems like a press release for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Regarding the horrific Israeli invasion of Gaza and its aftermath, it reads: "Israeli forces conducted Operation Cast Lead from December 2008 to January 2009 to root out terrorist organizations’ stockpiles of rockets and mortars in Gaza. The IAF launched airstrikes on HAMAS security installations, personnel, and other facilities, as well as rocket and mortar launch teams. On January 3, Israeli forces launched a ground invasion. Hostilities between Israeli forces and HAMAS militants continued through January 18, and the Israeli withdrawal of troops was completed on January 21. Israeli officials believed Operation Cast Lead helped achieve a level of deterrence, as rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza dropped precipitously following the conflict." They were only rooting out terrorists. Nothing about Israeli provocations and no mention of the deliberate destruction of schools and infrastructure and the targeting of UN relief operations or the high level of civilian casualties.
Hamas and Hezbollah, which do not threaten the United States, are unambiguously described in the report as terrorists, almost certainly because they do threaten Israel, ignoring their roles as national resistance movements to an aggressive and expansionistic Tel Aviv. It also does not concede their greater significance as legitimate and generally respected political parties in Gaza and Lebanon. The report states: "Israeli security officials argued that Iran, primarily through the efforts of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has established a sophisticated arms smuggling network from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israeli security officials said Hezbollah continued to provide support to select Palestinian groups to augment their capacity to conduct attacks against Israel. Israeli politicians and security officials pointed to Hezbollah’s efforts to rebuild and re-arm following the 2006 conflict against the group as evidence that it remained a threat to Israel; these officials estimated that Hezbollah possessed an arsenal of over 40,000 short- and medium-range rockets." The report suggests a new, heavily armed and malignant axis of evil. It clearly makes opponents of Israel the designated bad guys and fails to note that US intelligence has not been able to confirm Tel Aviv’s allegations, making one wonder why uncorroborated claims from biased foreign sources should appear in a United States government document without any additional caveats.
Regarding both Hamas and Hezbollah, the report goes on to note that they continue "to finance their terrorist activities against Israel primarily through state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria, and fundraising networks in the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and to a lesser extent, elsewhere." It may be true that both groups receive foreign assistance, but, based on further reading, one might well ask "What ‘terrorist activities’?" The State Department report states that only four Israelis were killed in terrorist incidents in 2009 and none of the deaths were attributed either to Hamas or Hezbollah. The report also notes that the northern Israeli "front" with Lebanon, where Hezbollah is entrenched, was quiet during the entire year.
So Israel’s enemies are America’s enemies and Hillary won’t let you forget that fact. And then there is the amazing state sponsors of terrorism section. Iran is described as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism." Why? Because it supports Hamas and Hezbollah, of course, and because backing such groups has "a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace." What efforts Hillary is referring to and what exactly is being impeded is not at all clear, particularly as it appears to most observers that the Netanyahu government has been the principal obstacle to peace through its settlements policy.
The rest of the terrorism sponsor list is equally predictable: Sudan, Syria, and Cuba. Sudan hardly threatens the United States or its interests and has cooperated in counterterrorism efforts, as the report concedes. But it harbors Palestinian groups. Ditto for Syria, which equally does not endanger the United States or the American people in any way. And then there is poor little Cuba. The report admits that Havana does not support violent struggle but it does provide "physical safe haven and ideological support" to three terrorist groups, FARC and ELN of Colombia and ETA from Spain. Oddly enough, Venezuela, which much more actively supports FARC, ELN, and ETA, is not on the list, but Caracas has oil, much of which is exported to the US, while Cuba is oil-less.
As a compendium of useless and heavily politicized information, the State Department annual Country Reports on Terrorism reign supreme, so why compile it at all? Well, Congress has mandated the nice glossy annual document that confirms all of its preconceptions and one also supposes that Ambassador Daniel Benjamin needs a job that keeps both him and his staff employed and out of mischief. Plus it enables Hillary to talk tough and it also is another building block in the case being made to attack Iran and to keep groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian Rev Guards beyond the pale. If anyone is curious, precisely how many Americans have Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranians killed in the past eight years? The answer is "none."