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What's behind their "war on terrorism"

Review by Phil Gasper | September 27, 2002 | Page 9

BOOKS: As'ad AbuKhalil, Bin Laden, Islam and America's New "War on Terrorism." Seven Stories Press, 2002, 106 pages, $8.95.

The U.S. government has used the events of September 11 to launch a war against one of the world's poorest countries, shred the Bill of Rights, massively increase military spending and divert attention from recession and corporate corruption at home. All this has been done in the name of the "war on terrorism."

But as As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California State University-Stanislaus, argues in his important new book, the "war on terrorism" has very little to do with ending terrorism. Instead, it provided a smokescreen to push through a reactionary political agenda at home and abroad.

In Bin Laden, Islam and America's New "War on Terrorism," AbuKhalil "challenges the notion that U.S. actions are motivated by the longing to establish democracy and human rights for others." He argues that the use of violence by the U.S. in Afghanistan and elsewhere is as much terrorism as the actions of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.

AbuKhalil shows how Washington was willing to aid and abet bin Laden in the 1980s, when he was fighting against the Soviet Union, as part of its cynical efforts to extend U.S. power.

This book is the latest in a series of excellent short books recently published by Seven Stories Press, which includes Noam Chomsky's best-selling 9-11, and Howard Zinn's Terrorism and War. AbuKhalil covers much the same ground as Chomsky, but his book provides a more coherent and readable narrative than 9-11, which was cobbled together quickly from a series of interviews.

AbuKhalil gives an analysis of what he calls "Islamophobia"--the demonization of the Arab and Islamic world by U.S. policy makers and the mass media. And he provides the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, which has created huge resentment.

"To a large degree," says AbuKhalil, "the forces that drive followers of figures like bin Laden into being are the death and suffering of people, directly or indirectly, by the U.S. and allies it dominates. Changing those policies, something that is ostensibly in the hands of the people, would radically improve conditions for millions of people around the world, and would create a context for peace and security which cannot be achieved through military campaigns."

The hawks in the Bush administration are poised to launch a brutal new war against the people of Iraq, even though Iraq had no connection whatsoever with the events of September 11. Their policies will only be changed if people in this country stand up against them. AbuKhalil's book is vital reading for everyone who wants to do that.

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