evidence,” which showed that the Syrians were in fact innocent,rnand the actual culprits were (so conveniently) thernLibyans! Honor could be satisfied, the Syrians mollified, andrnanother atrocity laid at Colonel Qaddafi’s doorstep.rnWho controls the present controls the past; who controlsrnthe past, controls the future. Power gives one the rightrnnot only to determine the messages transmitted in the media,rnbut also to convince the audience that this reality has always existed,rnwhatever contortions this may cause in the memories ofrnindividuals. If Americans had a better grasp of the differencesrnbetween (say) Libyans and Syrians, perhaps they would bernmore disturbed by the ease with which one culprit yielded placernto another, with scarcely any admission that a change was inrnfact being made.rnIt is fascinating to observe the periods in which these transformationsrnactually occur, in which states not only interchangernparticular friends with foes, but pretend that nothing hasrnchanged at all. This was evident following the Kuwait invasion,rnwhen the West suddenly discovered that Saddam Husseinrn(gruff strongman, firm but fair military figure, bastion of thernArab world against Iranian expansion) was in fact Saddam Husseinrn(New Hitler and paramount threat to the peace and prosperityrnof the entire world). And at precisely that point, thernWest discovered that Saddam controlled the terrorist hordes ofrnthe world, that Baghdad was in reality the center of this EvilrnEmpire, and moreover—^and this was the good part—that hernand Baghdad always had held these positions. If it was not suchrna horrible story, this announcement would have occasioned hilarityrnamong researchers in the world of terrorism, who hadrnknown this fact for over a decade, but who had been more orrnless forbidden to announce it.rnIn reality, Iraq’s track record in sponsoring terrorism and terroristrngroups was always impressive, and perhaps the best knownrnsuch group, headed by the semimythical “Abu Nidal,” has fromrnits foundation been little more than an arm of the Iraqi intelligencernservices and mukhabarat, operating out of that nation’srnembassies. When “Abu Nidal” gunmen were picked up by police,rnthey could easily be connected with the local diplomaticrnmission. In 1982, Iraq claimed to break its ties with the group,rnin order to qualify for American aid, but no grownup observerrnever believed that this notional severance meant anything.rnThrough the Gulf War, whenever Saddam wished to put thernarm on a Gulf state failing to pay contributions to the Iraqi warrneffort, the Abu Nidal group would predictably leap into action,rnand target that small nation’s airliners and diplomats until theyrnwere brought into line. For years, the only effective oppositionrnto these thugs came from the much-maligned Palestine LiberationrnOrganization, who tried forcibly to root out the AburnNidal network whose crimes so tarnished the Palestinian cause.rnIn return, the Iraqis exacted a terrible toll on the Palestinianrnleadership.rnFor a decade of scandalous silence, the West—and specificallyrnthe United States—did nothing to draw attention to therntrue origins of “Abu Nidal” atrocities because this would interferernwith the crucial military and intelligence aid that Iraqrnneeded to survive its war with Iran. If Saddam went down, therndominant power in the region would be the Iranians, who—rnheaven knows—might be crazy enough to invade Kuwait. Asrnthe presidential boast went, Saddam was “our son of a bitch,”rnand he could not be seen to be involved with terrorism. No intelligencernagency therefore pointed out the solid-to-overwhelmingrnevidence that connected the Iraqis to countlessrnhorrors like the Istanbul synagogue attack and a string of anti-rnJewish massacres and attempted massacres around the world.rnInterestingly for recent events, the Iraqis also appear to havernbeen the major sponsors of the Abu Ibrahim network, whichrnfrom about 1982 onward perfected the bomb-planting tacticsrnwhich brought down several civilian airliners. Hmm.rnThe policy of official neglect was understandable, if craven,rnbut the real mystery comes in the attitude of the Americanrn”news” media, which virtually never challenged the story theyrnwere hearing from the administration and the collective spooks.rnOne of the honorable exceptions was Judith Miller herself, whorndiscussed Iraqi complicity in terrorism in the mid-I980’s in arnnumber of stories with ramifications that were never exploredrnby her peers. In retrospect, it is sickening to read the variousrnaccounts of the “terror network” promulgated throughoutrnthe decade, in which Iraq appears only as a victim of that greatrnbogey International Terrorism, and Saddam is portrayed as arntarget of Islamic extremism, quite as much so as the people ofrnNew York, London, or Paris. After all, had he not broken his tiesrnwith the Abu Nidal group? Well, he said he did, and that’srngood enough for us.rnThroughout the I980’s, the media served as what Orwellrnaptly characterized as doubleplusgood duckspeakers, performingrnan outstanding job in uncritically quacking forth the opinionsrnfed them by officialdom. In so doing, they never acknowledgedrn(or God forbid, even noticed) that the material theyrnwere recycling represented a strongly ideological and self-interestedrnposition. The vast bulk of evidence emerging from officialrnand intelligence sources. Western or Israeli, had as a primerngoal the denunciation of Syria, Iran, and Libya, while Iraqirnactivities were essentially ignored. Ofhcial, media, and fictionalrnaccounts combined to create a self-sustaining myth, of threernand only three members of the “terror cartel.” Essentially, thernneglect of Iraq must in part be attributed to the laziness of thernmedia in failing to check official assertions. Conversely, whenrnIraq became a prime enemy after the Kuwait invasion, thernabundant evidence of Iraqi terrorism was made available tornsuch an extent that his Ba’athists now appeared virtually thernonly signihcant lords of terror. In constructing Saddam as arnmajor enemy in the months leading up to war, it became asrnnecessary to magnify his past activities as systematically as theyrnhad been played down in previous years. There even began arnprocess of retroactive demonization, attributing to Iraq guilt forrnearlier incidents which had hitherto been associated with otherrnnations or culprits.rnThe stigma associated with a terrorist state cannot thereforernbe explained either in terms of the nature and extent of its illegalrnactivities or the degree to which its crimes are known to lawrnenforcement agencies and the media. In large part, it reflectsrnthe diplomatic position of that nation, and its usefulness orrndanger to other countries with powerful diplomatic establishmentsrnand media. In the context of Western perceptions, thisrninevitably means that the changing attitudes of particularrnAmerican administrations will decide which states will be demonized.rnThe definition of terrorism is a highly political phenomenon,rna subjective, complex, and often self-contradictoryrnprocess, and common perceptions to the contrary, the stigma isrnapplied in a thoroughly selective and partial way. If we reallyrnhad an adversarial press, the public would know this.rnJANUARY 1997/29rnrnrn