John Catalinotto : « Algerians have the right to be proud of their history of resistance ». D.R.
Mohsen Abdelmoumen : You witnessed during September 11 attacks in New York. Do you believe the official version or was it an « inside job » as the secret agents call it ?
John Catalinotto : I worked for a health insurance company at Tower #1 of the World Trade Center. Fortunately for me, I usually came to work late. That day, I was still home when the first plane struck. I called the office, and when no one answered, I stayed home. Minutes later I learned that a second plane struck Tower #2. I knew immediately that the George W. Bush administration would use the event as a pretext to go to war no matter who was responsible. I never trust the official versions.The ruling class here lies about everything important. Still, I did not believe the administration organized and executed the 9/11 attack. Such an extensive conspiracy requires complete unity, loyalty, decisiveness and boldness among dozens if not hundreds of people. If, on the other hand, “inside job” just means that someone at the CIA purposely failed to follow up an FBI report that some “terrorists” might hijack an airplane, that is easier to believe. I can understand why many people believe it was an “inside job.” The 9/11 attack allowed the Bush administration to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was similar to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which allowed the Roosevelt administration to enter World War II with massive support. The so-called Vietnam syndrome had almost eliminated patriotism. 9/11 brought it back.
The Bush administration went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan; don’t you think it was a program prepared in advance ?
The Pentagon plans all sorts of wars in all parts of the world in advance. With regard to Iraq, there was definitely a conspiracy. U.S. imperialism wanted Iraq’s energy resources. Many individuals and corporations here expected to grow rich from the plunder of Iraq. The neo-cons in the Bush administration met within a week of September 11, 2001 and plotted the war against Iraq, although they knew Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The U.S. had already waged an aggressive war against Iraq in 1991. The Clinton administration nearly began another war in December 1998 with “Desert Fox.” War on Iraq was always on Bush’s agenda, as Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill revealed in a book by Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal Reporter. The Bush administration was relatively weak before 9/11. It seized the opportunity created by 9/11 and mobilized for war. Bush put in place all sorts of laws (under the Patriot Act) that repressed opposition to their plans. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and others told the same lies 935 times in late 2002 and 2003, about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” that didn’t exist. This “Big Lie” was meant to convince the world the U.S. had a good reason to attack Iraq. The U.S. and Britain did carry out the invasion of Iraq without United Nations or even NATO approval on March 20, 2003. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, however, Washington underestimated the popular resistance. After the initial collapse, an Iraqi resistance grew up and inflicted casualties on the U.S. occupiers. Only by using differences among the Iraqis could Washington prevent a humiliating defeat. The U.S. caused great destruction and loss of life in Iraq for eight years, 2 million dead and 5 million displaced. And NATO is still occupying Afghanistan after 12 years.
Why don’t we judge Bush and Blair in the TPI (ICT) for war crimes, but instead just put African presidents on trial ?
The International Criminal Tribunal, like nearly all UN organizations, is under the control of world imperialism. The earlier versions of the court were used against particular countries (Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Cambodia). Later, the more general ICT has been mainly a political tool used against leaders of relatively weaker countries, concentrated in Africa. We, that is, popular organizations, have held “war crimes tribunals.” These proved the guilt of Blair, Bush and their generals in Iraq. Unfortunately we are unable to enforce any of these verdicts. They serve as a way exposing the truth about the war to the public. We don’t want the imperialists to be the only ones writing history.
Is the anti-war movement always so combative in the USA ?
The anti-war movement was extremely combative in the late 1960s and early 1970s against the Vietnam intervention. We even organized resistance within the U.S. military. The anti-war movement was also out in the streets trying to stop the invasion of Iraq in early 2003. The Bush administration simply ignored the hundreds of thousands and went on with the war. The comrades I work with in the International Action Center always try to organize and mobilize against U.S. military adventures. In 2011 they protested the attack on Libya. In September 2013, they went out in 100 cities against Washington’s threat to intervene directly against Syria. Just this March we went out in 19 cities to protest the U.S. plotting with fascist elements in Venezuela and in Ukraine. The majority of the U.S. population is kept ignorant of the true causes of all these conflicts. The media monopoly of the ruling class controls 99 percent of the propaganda. Still, the people were anti-war by a large majority. Regarding Syria, the polls put the population at about 90 percent opposed to war. It would be a mistake, however, to say that the people were “combative.” In the past, they have only become combative when thousands of young people from the U.S. are dying in some imperialist adventure halfway around the world. When there are few losses, only a few will stand up out of anti-imperialist or moral conviction. On the other hand, it is encouraging that some individuals like Snowden or Manning will make great sacrifices to rebel against the atrocities of the rulers.
How do you explain the radical change of the American position in the Iranian question ?
I’m not so sure how much it has changed. There are still strong factions in the U.S. ruling class that want a military strike against Iran, for example, Sen. John McCain. So does the Israeli government. Others hope to bring about changes within the Iranian government so that it is more conciliatory toward U.S. domination of the region; this seems to be the position the administration is taking now. Since the end of the USSR in 1991, U.S. imperialism wants no competition, wants no independence for other states in any region of the world. Iran is big enough and sovereign enough to challenge the U.S., and Washington tries to smash those who defy the U.S. If the U.S. has backed off now it is only because Washington is involved in too many other battles, from Ukraine to the “pivot to Asia.”
Can we say that the CIA has changed its methods when we see what is happening in Ukraine and Venezuela ?
The CIA has as its nominal task gathering information. The U.S. government uses this information to influence and pressure governments to do what is good for U.S. banks, industries and the Pentagon. The CIA also carries out actions — for example, the drone wars. In addition, it, along with other agencies — NED, NGOs, etc. — intervenes on all levels to mobilize opposition to whatever governments get in Washington’s way. In Venezuela, all these U.S. agencies find ways to finance the Venezuelan opposition to the Bolivarians, to the PSUV and Nicolas Maduro. The CIA and others have even encouraged fascist-like elements to go out in the street with fiery blockades and kill people. And then the pro-imperialist media lie about the event and blame the casualties on “Maduro’s repression.” It’s a Big Lie. In Ukraine, the U.S. and EU took advantage of weaknesses within the Yanukovych government. The imperialists threw their support behind corrupt oligarchs that would hand Ukraine over completely to Western imperialism and move NATO to the long southwest border of Russia. Not only that, the U.S. and EU supported the entry of openly fascist parties into the Kiev government. Fascist leaders took over the police, military and security apparatus. After the 1975 hearings of the Senate Committee headed by Sen. Frank Church, the CIA had pull back from some of its activities. Or at least that’s what we were told. Since 9/11, the CIA has grown more and more aggressive. The CIA and other U.S. agencies try to overthrow governments worldwide.
How does Algeria inspire you and what can you say to the Algerian people, you the anti-imperialist activist ?
Algeria had a history of resisting French colonial rule since the first attacks in 1830. The peoples of the countryside and the desert and mountains fought hard against the French military. Only by the cruelest measures — like entire villages being burned out of caves — was this resistance defeated. When in 1954 the more recent war for liberation began, there followed another eight years of resistance. As many as one million of the six million Algerians died in the war for liberation. Yet the resistance was heroic and effective; it wore down French imperialism until the De Gaulle government had to agree to getting out. Like the struggles in Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba and elsewhere, the Algerian struggle for independence was an inspiration for revolutionaries in the United States. The role of women in that struggle was enlightening. In the early years, free Algeria had an especially big impact on the Black Liberation Struggle in the U.S. The Algerians — Arab and Berber, secular and religious — have the right to be proud of their history of resistance to imperialism. It is a contribution to all of humanity.
You are part of the Brussell »s Tribunal which includes personalities like Dr. Mahathir, Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman, William Blum, David Swanson and many others. Can you explain what is the Brussells Tribunal ?
The BRussell’s Tribunal took its inspiration from the Bertrand Russell Tribunal of 1967 that found the U.S. guilty of war crimes against Vietnam. Comrades in Belgium began the BRussell’s Tribunal in 2003 following the invasion of Iraq. The BT held sessions on war trials of Bush and Blair in the spring of 2004. We in the International Action Center participated. Then we held a session in the U.S. in August 2004, and we joined our support to the BRussell’s Tribunal, as did similar organizations in other countries. Even this year, on April 16-17, the BT and others will hold a meeting in Brussels as part of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers to explore bringing legal charges against the U.S. and British governments for their aggression against Iraq. The BT will look for ways to seek indemnification for the victims. The BT has kept up the work of solidarity with the Iraqi resistance to imperialism. It has also broadened its opposition to imperialism in other parts of the Middle East and to NATO aggression. I am proud to be a member.
In your opinion, is the Arab-Muslim world obliged to suffer perpetually U.S. and Western imperialist wars ?
Starting in 1945, the Soviet Union was the most powerful force confronting U.S. imperialism. In the 23 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the imperialist world, led by the U.S., has been attempting to conquer those nations that won their independence from imperialism during the time of the Cold War. This is what happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Venezuela, Syria and Ukraine are under attack. The Arab-Muslim world happens to sit atop enormous petroleum resources (as too does Venezuela). They are a particularly attractive target for imperialism, but not the exclusive target. North Korea, Venezuela, even China and Russia face threats. All of Africa is threatened now by U.S. and French military expeditions. Latin America faces subversion at all levels. The imperialist world faces a deep and unsolvable economic crisis, and this crisis pushes it toward more military adventures. Under those circumstances it would be foolish of me to suggest there will be a more peaceful future in the Arab-Muslim world or anywhere else. What we in the U.S. who consider ourselves revolutionary hope for is that the class struggle within the United States develops and more and more working people join that struggle. The capitalist crisis is pushing them to fight back. If that struggle develops, then we can keep the rulers busy enough at home that they don’t dare risk new adventures abroad. Then we too would be making a worthwhile contribution to humanity.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is John Catalinotto ?
John Catalinotto, was born in New York, USA, where he taught mathematics at City University before retiring. He was a civilian organizer for the anti-war, anti-racist American Servicemen’s Union during the U.S. war against Vietnam, then an activist with the Committee to Support Middle East Liberation, and since 1982 has been a managing editor of Workers World weekly newspaper. He was a key organizer for the International Action Center of the Tribunal on Yugoslavia (June 2000) and Tribunal on Iraq (August 2004). Collaborator with odiario.info (Portugal) and Terra e Tempo (Galicia) and member of Tlaxcala translators and the BRussell’s Tribunal. He edited two books, Metal of Dishonor about depleted uranium (1997) and Hidden Agenda: the U.S.-NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia (2002).
published on Oximity https://www.oximity.com/article/John-Catalinotto-ICT-is-a-political-to-2