Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
How lucky can you get? The ABC, I mean. What good fortune that video tapes of the dreaded Al Qaida doing terrorist training in Afghanistan should be left around for someone to find. And what doubly good fortune that they should be found by an ex-member of the US Special Forces, the US Army's very own unit of assassins and terrorists, who could recognise the tapes' significance and worth. And what trebly good fortune that instead of doing the logical thing and giving the tapes to the US media (of which there are surely plenty in Afghanistan now) he should give them to the reliable, dependable "Australian" media in the form of the ultra-respectable ABC. For had the tapes been brought to the world by US television then unkind people would almost certainly have made some of those nasty remarks — which I for one do not believe for one moment — about convenient propaganda stunts and CIA involvement. I for one have no doubt that the man who claims to have found the tapes is genuinely an "ex" member of the US Special Forces, and I am equally sure there is some logical reason why such a person should be in Afghanistan in the first place. (Some more logical reason than the laughable one the ABC is giving out, at any rate.) Of course, one does have to admit that Al Qaida was set up with CIA help and under their direction, and that the Taliban were basically run by Pakistani Intelligence (which is also heavily influenced by the CIA) but I don't think that people should make too much of that. So what if the tapes could be old ones (before September 2001, that is) showing CIA/Pakistani training of potential "freedom fighters" destined for Chechnya or Kashmir or even India? It's still terrorist training, isn't it? Of course, it is still possible they "might" be a record of Al Qaida training of anti-US terrorists, mightn't they? Of course it is. Maxine McHugh on The 7.30 Report said the taped footage had "shocked the world". I know I was shocked — although mostly by the incompetence of the supposed "training" on display. The scene showing what ABC News informed us was terrorists "rehearsing a mass execution" of world leaders at a golf game was like bad Monty Python. There are these cardboard cut-outs of vaguely human figures meant to be world leaders seated at a table with drinks. Nearby, some baggy-panted terrorists are pretending to play golf in the dust, when another terrorist comes strolling by, pulling a golf cart behind him. Quick as a wink he pulls a machine gun out of his golf cart and shoots the cut-outs full of holes. Shocking. No doubt somewhere else on the tape are scenes showing the gunman being trained in what to do when the inevitable bevy of security guards for the "world leaders" challenge him and want to know who he is, what he's doing there and what has he got in the golf cart. Getting anywhere near a world leader towing a golf cart would be about as feasible as approaching one while carrying a violin case, but I am sure the training tape covers this problem elsewhere, as I say. I am also sure that that clever Maxine McHugh didn't really find it shocking, either. After all, the US has thousands of men who've been trained to very efficiently kill insurgent or independence leaders, to terrorise villagers and unionists, to suppress indigenous movements, and I can't remember the last time the ABC found their activity shocking. The US Army maintains the School of Americas which actually teaches "torture methods" to security forces from a host of dictatorial regimes. Britain, the USA's loudest supporter in Europe, exports torture devices to some of the most reactionary governments in the world. The USA's chief ally in the Middle East, Israel, routinely assassinates Palestinian leaders. Separatist movements using terrorist methods from Kosovo to Bengal are backed (and no doubt trained) by the US. They kill activists, butcher whole families, ambush vehicles and spread terror. In fact, the US Government or the last 50 odd years has made terrorism state policy. The whole world knows this. Surely The 7.30 Report must know it too? As I said at the beginning, how fortunate for the ABC that the terrorist training tapes were handed to them and not some other TV outfit. And since they have handled it with such wholehearted gusto — and so uncritically — no doubt they will receive more such fortunate goodies in the future from the same or similar sources. We can only wait and see.