Listing Hezbollah as “Terrorist” Serves North American Imperialism

April 6th, 2007 | Posted in Hezbollah, Imperialism


    by Ghada Chehade, Z Magazine

In the so-called war on “terror” the most powerful weapon being deployed is the word itself. In the post-9/11 geo-political climate, throwing in the word “terrorist” automatically mutes coherent and critical debate. Any valid and necessary criticisms of North American governments and their foreign policy are silenced and demonized with the use of that one word, while opposition to foreign invasion and imperialist plundering can be at once quelled and criminalized by deeming it terrorist.

Canada’s anti-terrorist list is being used in this very way-as a vehicle for stifling, demonizing and criminalizing resistance to the North American imperialist project and Canada’s role in it. At the same time the word acts as subterfuge from the mass terror perpetrated by the US and its imperialist baby brother-Canada. What Canadian citizens need to ask is just who does this labeling protect? Does it protect the Canadian population who has never suffered at the hands of Hezbollah, or does is protect the Canadian government and business elite who are part of a North American project to ransack the world’s resources while discrediting and eliminating any parties that stand in the way? To understand the distinction we need to understand imperialism, as well as the one-sided and suspect way in which “terrorism” is currently defined.

The Word “Terrorist”: A Bullet and a Shield

In the Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 2006 the Canadian government unwaveringly supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” while denouncing and condemning Hezbollah’s actions as terrorist acts. This is not surprising, since it serves the neo-colonial interests of the west to side with the colonizer-Israel-in the Middle East. Canada’s sympathetic position on the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon 2006 highlights and reaffirms the systematic North American double standard toward Israel. When Palestinians or Lebanese kill Israelis, even soldiers, it is labeled terrorist. But when Israeli soldiers or settlers kill Arabs, including civilians and children it is explained away as self-defense against “terrorists.” Chomsky explains this double standard very well:

The guiding principle is clear and straightforward their terror is terror, and the flimsiest evidence sufficed to denounce it and to exact retribution upon civilian bystanders who happen to be in the way; our (Israeli) terror, even if far more extreme, is merely statecraft, and therefore does not enter into the discussion of the plague of the modern age.

In this respect, the word “terrorist” serves as a shield that justifies even the most heinous injustices. These include the illegal occupation and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people, the occupation and on-going massacre of Iraqis by the US and the military occupation of Afghanistan by the US and Canada – the mission’s new over lord. Any form of resistance to imperialism and foreign occupation is loftily conflated with terrorism, in a type of Orwellian double speak that turns the colonizer and oppressor into the victim. Thus the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” is at once both a bullet and a shield; it allows imperialist interests to invade and kill while also shielding them from any criticism by demonizing those who resist.

A Word is as Powerful as Those Who DEFINE it:

Professor Mordechai Gordon, who served in the Israeli Defense Force in the 1980s, stresses that we must always be cognizant that the word “terrorism”/”terrorist” is itself defined in such a way as to serve the interests of those who hold power. The common use of the word terrorist refers to “a member of a clandestine or expatriate organization aiming to coerce an established government by acts of violence against it or its subjects.” Under this one-sided definition of terrorism, governments and states cannot be considered terrorist because terrorism is used to signify the violent actions of groups/individuals against those in power. This is the description accepted and reproduced by the US and Canada.

However, it negates and disregards a much more significant form of terrorism-STATE TERRORISM-which can be defined as “terrorizing the whole population through systematic actions carried out by force of the state.” Such terrorism is an essential part of a government designed to protect the needs of the privileged and is aimed at eliminating any significant opposition among the subjugated people. Gordon aptly maintains that, based on the distinction between the conventional use of the word terrorism and state terrorism “one can make a pretty strong case that since 1948, and certainly since 1967, Israel’s acts of state terror against the Palestinians have been far more severe than all the acts of terror committed by Arabs against Israelis.” In this respect it is the State of Israel, and Canada and the US by virtue of their economic and military support of it, that are carrying out a much greater terrorism. In the summer of 2006 Harper claimed that Canada must defend Israel because its values are similar to Canada’s. We agree with Mr. Harper on the second part: Canada, Israel and the US’ shared imperialist values and agenda are readily apparent! Canada’s current “mission” in Afghanistan, which was entered into five years ago with no public debate and under the pretext of “development,” was undertaken to affirm Canada as the American empire’s key ally. As such, America’s imperialist interests are also Canada’s imperialist interests, and have been for decades. Thus I refer to it collectively as North American Imperialism though the two do not possess the same military might or power.

North American Imperialism in the Middle East: A well-OILED machine

The majority of the world’s oil reserves are in the Middle East and Central Asia. Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, possess between 66.2 and 75.9 percent of total oil reserves. In contrast, the United States of America has barely 2 percent of total oil reserves. Western countries including its major oil producers (Canada, the US, Norway, the UK, Denmark and Australia) control approximately 4 percent of total oil reserves. (In the alternative estimate of the Oil and Gas Journal, which includes Canada’s oil sands, this percentage would be of the order of 16.5%). Ultimately, Muslim countries possess at least 16 times more oil than the Western countries, and Western countries, especially the US and its Canadian side kick, want to get their hands on as much of it as possible. However, because countries like Canada and the US purport to be democratic and accountable to their citizens, they cannot simply tell the public that they are waging wars and invading sovereign states for oil (although increasingly in the US the administration is not shy about admitting this). Instead they demonize the governments and peoples of this oil-rich region as evil enemies to be eliminated, or “liberated” through the barrel of a gun US-style. Professor and economist Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa explains the bottom line:

Demonization serves geopolitical and economic objectives. Likewise, the campaign against “Islamic terrorism” (which is supported covertly by US intelligence) supports the conquest of oil wealth. The US led war in the broader Middle East-Central Asian region consists in gaining control over the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas. The Anglo-American oil giants also seek to gain control over oil and gas pipeline routes out of the region… Thus, demonization is applied to an enemy, which possesses three quarters of the world’s oil reserves. “Axis of evil”, “rogue States”, “failed nations”, “Islamic terrorists”: demonization and vilification are the ideological pillars of America’s “war on terror”. They serve as a casus belli for waging the battle for oil.

While all of the most oil-rich countries are Muslim not all of them are considered “terrorist.” Not surprising, states that have opened their borders to North America imperialism by allowing US military bases and multinationals on their land, opening their oil fields and markets, and crushing any internal resistance to foreign control are considered to be ally states. An excellent example is Saudi Arabia, which is by far the most extreme in its interpretation and implementation of Islam, yet is the biggest US ally in the region next to Israel. On the other hand, states that have tried to reclaim their oil revenues such as Iran in the 1950s or those that refused the US access to oil pipelines such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the1990s have been labeled “terrorist” and invaded accordingly. The government and media tell Canadians that their soldiers are in Afghanistan “liberating” women and “developing” the country (ironically, that they helped destroy). Are Canadians to believe that the “oppressed Muslim women” of Afghanistan were in need of “liberation” (which has yet to materialize) while the women of Saudi Arabia were not? Could the Canadian led occupation of Afghanistan have anything to do with the Afghan oil pipeline? Could it have everything do with the pipeline? It should seem suspicious to Canadians that the region with the most oil in the world also has been deemed by the west to have the most “terrorists.”

So what does this have to do with Hezbollah and Lebanon, a country that does not have oil?

Imperialism entails taking what you want no matter where it is. There are enough corrupt governments in the world for the imperial and colonial powers to find local partners willing to sell or give their peoples land and resources to foreign interests. These puppet governments are adequately trained by the imperialists on how to wipe out resistance with violence and state sponsored terror. But there is always internal resistance and when the resistance grows stronger and especially when it wins seats in government, it is considered especially dangerous to the imperial powers and their lap dogs. Such is the case with Hezbollah. While Lebanon has no oil, it does have something that comes between North America and access to Middle East oil, it has a growing resistance movement that is embedded in the people and refuses to be co-opted for western interests. As such, Hezbollah is a thorn in the glutinous belly of North American (and Israeli) imperialism.

Ultimately, the imperialist plan for the Middle East is similar to that of other regions: regime change, pillage the resources and forcibly open markets and remove any barriers, human or other, to foreign direct investment. In the language of neo-liberal “globalization” this is known as structural adjustment. Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) are indirectly implemented by the US under the guise of Bretton Woods institutions such as the IMF and WTO, both of which are controlled by the US. Purportedly, SAPs are intended to “liberate” “third world” markets making them competitive in the global market. To get western loans, poor countries of the south and east are forced to remove barriers to trade and foreign direct investment such as labour and environmental protection, remove subsidies for food, health and education for the poor and privatize all public sectors from education to farming. In many countries where the majority of the population are poor or subsistence farmers, this literally entails starving the population and expelling them from their land to make way for foreign corporations or subsidiaries. What’s more, the profits produced in the South are exported to the wealthy countries of the North with no compulsion to reinvest in the local economy. (The recent Paris III conference on “reforming” and “rebuilding” Lebanon was little more than a blue print for neo-liberal restructuring, and a foreign investment scheme that includes 52 states). SAPs are ultimately nothing more than an elaborate and systematic mechanism for directly funneling wealth and resources from the already poor regions of the south to the glutinous regions of the north, especially the US and Canada. War is part of this moneymaker insofar as the “reconstruction” required in countries that have been bombed by the US and its allies is then perversely contracted out to North American firms. Adding insult to massive injury, the US and Canada invade and destroy a nation only to go back and make money “rebuilding it.” It is a type of plundering and injustice unparalleled even by European colonialism.

The Plan for Lebanon and the Middle East:

Because the Middle East-Central Asia has the most oil in the world, the scheme there is far more intricate and deep. As with the redrawing of borders in 1920 by the French mandate (of the League of Nations) that resulted in the creation of Lebanon, the North American (with its British and Israeli partners) imperialist project also entails a redrawing of borders in the Middle East, or a “remodeling of the Greater Middle East,” to use the expression of George W. Bush. For Washington, the summer attack on Lebanon and the concomitant internal destabilization and provocation between Sunnis, Shi’as and Christians had nothing to do with returning soldiers captured by Hezbollah. Instead it is about carrying out the theory of “controlled chaos.” According to the followers of Leo Straus (know today as the neo-conservatives) real power can only be exerted by controlling all resistance. It is by plunging the masses into chaos that the elites can aspire to ensure the stability of their position.

This theorizing is well documented in the BBC documentary series The Power of Nightmares. Journalist Thierry Meysssan has also chronicled it. He explains that according to the adepts of Leo Strauss, it is only in this violence that the imperial interests of the United States merge with those of the Jewish State. The Israeli will to dismantle Lebanon, to create in its place a mini-Christian state and annex part of its territory, is not new. It was enunciated in 1957 by David Ben Gourion in a famous letter… Particularly, it was inserted into a vast colonization project of the Middle East written in 1996 under the title: A clean break: a new strategy to secure the Kingdom (of Israel). That document, written up in a neo conservative think tank, the IASPS, was prepared by a group of experts assembled by Richard Perle and given to Benjamin Netanyahu. It is representative of the thinking of the revisionist Zionism of Vladimir Jabotinsky. It called for:

• The canceling of the Oslo peace agreements
• The elimination of Yasser Arafat
• The annexation of the Palestinian territories
• The overthrow of Sadam Hussein, to destabilize Syria and Lebanon in a chain of events
• The dismantling of Iraq and the creation of a Palestinian state in its territory
• The utilization of Israel as a complimentary base for the US Star Wars program

A speech given in 1996 by Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress was inspired by this document. In that speech all of the ingredients of the current situation are there: threats against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, with the added demand for annexation of East Jerusalem.

These prescriptions concur with the US’ own viewpoints. For the American empire and its closest imperial allies such as Canada, control of the regions rich in hydrocarbons (oil) demands a redefinition of borders, States and political regimes: a “remodeling of the Greater Middle East,” to use the expression of George W. Bush once again. Any resistance to this North American-Israeli agenda, military or political, must be eliminated. Indeed while it is claimed that Hezbollah is a terrorist threat, it’s main threat to this agenda is a political one. In order to implement neo-liberal policies and annex parts of Lebanon to Israel, the imperial powers need sympathetic governments or an internal political situation conducive to regime change. With Hezbollah a part of the coalition government in Lebanon, this agenda is made much more difficult. Eliminating and discrediting Hezbollah has thus taken on paramount importance in the last couple of years. One way to do this is to add the organization to the terrorist list of powerful western states.


Hezbollah fights imperialism rather than assisting it. This is part of the reason it is demonized and officially labeled terrorist. It is interesting to note that the only three countries that have officially listed both it’s military and political wing as terrorist, Canada, Israel and the USA, also have the most to gain in the Western oil-grab and destabilization of the region. If Hezbollah assisted the imperialist project like so many paramilitary groups in Latin America and elsewhere, trained by the (former) School of the Americas in the US, then they would be the allies of North America not its enemy. Let us not forget than in the Middle East and elsewhere today’s villains and terrorists were once the allies and lackeys of the US and the west. These include Manuel Noriega of Panama, Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, and the ultimate bogeyman–Osama Bin Laden. All were at one time strategic allies of the US and on the CIA payroll. When they served their purpose or turned on their master, they were all hunted, tried or killed as villains and terrorists. The Israeli government originally funded even Hamas in a backfire attempt to split the Palestinians. And the opposite is also true: yesterday’s “terrorists” are today’s beacons of justice and resistance. At one time Canada considered Nelson Mandela and the ANC terrorists for their armed resistance against Apartheid in South Africa. But in 2001 Mandela became the first person ever to be awarded honorary Canadian citizenship. Canadians must not succumb to historical amnesia and forget the contradictions of the past!

This is not to suggest that Hezbollah is not engaged in violence, it is. But if the terrorist list were actually about the cessation of violence, then Israel and its state terrorism of the last 60 years would clearly be at the top, so would the US for that matter. In truth, imperialist states like Canada are not opposed to violence. Indeed no state or government is, or else they would not enter or fund wars. What they are opposed to, is any form of violence that threatens their interests rather than supporting them. In the end “terrorism” as employed today is but a lofty word applied to discredit your enemy. Indeed to Hezbollah, the Arab/Muslim world, and many critics in the west, Israel and the US (and increasingly Canada)–the oppressors and occupiers–are considered to be terrorists. But the former has little power so their perspective is meaningless in a world run on realpolitik. Until we are ready to apply the word to all those who perpetrate violence, and until we are willing to differentiate honestly and justly between those who oppress and those who resist, then the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” is a meaningless and self-serving trap and diversion.

Shaping and manipulating public opinion is an essential part of the western imperialist project, and by demonizing their enemies western governments eliminate any need for critical debate. Canada’s terrorist list is currently being used in this very way: to demonize those who resist imperialism abroad and stifle any debate on the matter internally. In the case of geo-politics, governments are careful to package their imperialist resource grabs as “humanitarian interventions.” We need only think back to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, of which Canada was a part from the outset. It is now well documented that the US lied about their reasons for the invasion. There are no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, but there is tons of oil. And in the on-going “Save Darfur!” movement many on all sides of the political spectrum have been quick to adopt the call, circulated endlessly by North American governments and mainstream media, to prevent the genocide of black Africans by brutal Arabs and Muslims. Few stop to ask whether the North American interest in Sudan, like Iraq, has more to with oil and uranium than genocide. Canadian scholars at have documented claims that the Darfur conflict revolves around oil and minerals, including uranium discovered in Hofrat and Nihas, which is coveted by Israel for its nuclear program.

To challenge the listing is not to defend or denounce such claims but rather to raise awareness about the need for Canadians to ask critical questions about the world around them, especially the “war on terror.” Is Hezbollah a terrorist organization just because the Canadian government, under huge pressure from Zionist lobbies, says they are? Should the actions of the Canadian military in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere also be considered terrorist? De-listing Hezbollah would provide a space for public debate and discussion on such issues.

This was a point raised by two Canadian MP’s, Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and New Democrat Peggy Nash, this summer. Clearly these members of parliament are not condoning terrorism. What they are saying is that Hezbollah has a well-established political wing and Canada would be promoting peace to come to terms with that and dialogue with it. Officially listing them as a terrorist organization is counter-productive and prevents public debate as well as any negotiations with the Lebanese resistance. To date, listing Hezbollah a “terrorist organization” does a lot more to protect Canadian imperialism and Israeli crimes than the Canadian public. Canadians must demand that the government de-list the organization in order to create a space for critical and public discussion, and to shed a necessary light on Canada’s role in the North American imperialist project.

Ghada Chehade is currently pursuing a PhD at McGill University. She is also active in Tadamon! Montreal.

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