It has become quite the rage in Washington lately to declaim “state terrorism” as the new scourge of humanity. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post recently featured extensive inquiries into the attacks against US and Israeli targets in Lebanon, and US and Kuwaiti targets in the Gulf. Before the ink was dry, the chorus of Reagan, Shultz and Weinberger were denouncing “state terrorism” from every pulpit and grandstand as the major affliction of civilization in this decade. Never mind that acts of armed resistance against military occupation—such as in Lebanon—are now routinely labeled “terrorist” by the learned men who edit the Times and the Post. It may well be, as their articles allege, that Tehran and Damascus have, together or separately, abetted or even instigated attacks such as that against the US Marine compound in Beirut. Certainly in their behavior towards their own citizens, both these regimes have shown themselves capable of atrocities on a massive and enduring scale. Their responsibility for the attacks in question, though, is traced almost entirely from information selectively imparted by US, Israeli and Phalangist intelligence services, none of whom are disinterested in the conclusions we are supposed to draw.
We agree that “state terrorism” is today a fiercely destructive and cruel phenomenon. It is hardly surprising that the accusation has been appropriated and hurled about by some of its foremost practitioners. If terrorism can be reasonably described as the use of violence against civilian targets to instill fear for political purposes, then the state apparatuses headed by Ronald Reagan, Yitzhak Shamir and Amin Gemayel have been the parties most addicted to state terror and intimidation in Lebanon. On Wednesday, February 8, we received a cable from a friend working with a medical relief organization in Beirut: “The New Jersey is something terrible. Today all Beirut was shaking when it fired the 16-inch shells. Humanitarian situation disastrous. Lost five ambulances this day. Seven clinics and one first aid post destroyed. Southern slums like ghost city—most inhabitants in shelters or fled to west Beirut.” What was the political purpose of this violence, which neither the Times nor the Post saw fit to call “state terrorism”? According to the White House, it was necessary to reassure Reagan that he was not “abandoning” Lebanon. “The president has a psychological requirement of consistency,” one official told the Post.
Whatever the outcome of the most recent events in Beirut, it seems certain that US military intervention in the form of stepped up arms shipments and training missions, along with shelling and bombing from the naval armada offshore, will continue. They day after the New Jersey opened up with its big guns, Caspar Weinberger was asking Congress for an additional $300 to $500 million in military aid for the Lebanese army, and US military units in West Germany were reportedly combing their inventories for weapons they could urgently ship to Beirut.
US military intervention in the Middle East requires regimes in the region such as the military junta that seized power in Turkey in September 1980. David Barchard, in the lead article in this issue, addresses the question of human rights in Turkey to a European audience, but his indictment of Western silence and complicity is even more pertinent to the US. The Reagan administration’s enthusiasm for the high-echelon brass in Turkey rivals the affection it lavishes on the generals and colonels in Guatemala and El Salvador. Turkey’s military have outlawed all independent political activity and jailed more than 30,000 opponents. They have crushed the labor unions, muzzled the press and brought all civil institutions, such as the universities, directly under the security apparatus. Torture is routine, and all this the Reagan administration has warmly encouraged. “We admire the way in which the order and law have been restored in Turkey,” Caspar Weinberger declared in Ankara in December 1981. The generals, said Weinberger, “lived up to our expectations.” Weinberger has put our money where his mouth is: US military aid to the junta has quadrupled since 1981, and now runs at close to $1 billion per year, not counting the construction and modernization of ten or more air bases and troop facilities which, according to a former top Turkish defense official, “will solely serve American interests in the Middle East.”
We expect to devote another issue of MERIP Reports to current political and economic developments in Turkey in the near future. We take this opportunity to recommend the Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Turkey as the best available source of current information about events in that country.