Document:Robert Kupperman, extract from The "Terrorism" Industry

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Disclaimer (#3)Document.png book extract  by Edward S. Herman dated 1990
Subjects: Robert Kupperman
Source: The "Terrorism" Industry

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Kupperman has been a terrorism specialist at CSIS since 1979. Before that he served for some dozen years in the federal government, first in the President's Office of Emergency Preparedness (1967-73), then as chief scientist and deputy assistant director for military and economic affairs at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1973-79). Kupperman worked on terrorism both for a Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism and for the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, and published 'Terrorism: Threat, Reality, Response' with Darrell Trent in 1979.[1] He also operated a private consulting firm, Robert Kupperman Associates, which served both private clients and the government. Like Jenkins, Kupperman advised the army on counterinsurgency, codirecting a seven-volume study, 'Strategic Requirements for the Army in the Year 2000', and producing a report, 'Low-Intensity Conflict', in 1983.[2] The 1983 study sets forth a number of policy options for consideration by the army which Kupperman would describe as state terrorism if employed by a hostile power.

His government background and affiliation with CSIS catapulted Kupperman into media prominence as a terrorism expert during the Reagan years, and he made literally scores of appearances on national radio and TV, as well as in the print media. But the same factors that made Kupperman an authentic expert for the mass media also assured that he would work strictly within the bounds of the Western model of terrorism. He notes in his 1979 volume that his past work on terrorism has involved "providing guidance" to government policy makers, and that his aim has been to help in "shaping government policy and operations that would improve our preparedness."[3] His study 'Low-Intensity Conflict' was intended to provide "a conceptual framework for the Army's conduct of lowintensity warfare." Given this service objective and his linkages, it was predictable that Kupperman would never depart from establishment premises or frames.

Kupperman always portrays the West as the victim of terrorism, never as a victimizer. Terrorism has become "a form of low-intensity warfare against the West conducted by trained professionals rather than nihilistic amateurs." [4] Kupperman's own definition of terrorism � "violence either threatened or real, exercised for political ends but outside all normal political relationships"[5] � clearly applies also to Western practice. A large literature exists on low-intensity warfare as a primary Western strategy, but Kupperman never discusses either Western practice or the literature on the new warfare, although he was a contributor to this literature. At an American Academy of Political and Social Science session in 1982, be was asked explicitly if the U.S. training of Cuban exiles and contras and sponsorship of their attacks on Cuba and Nicaragua wasn't a U.S. export of terrorism. He answered that as regards Cuba, "The Castro government would argue that these were terrorists." And as to Nicaragua, "I am not sufficiently familiar with it to comment about it."[6] In 1985, on a panel with one of the present writers (Herman), Kupperman commented that "some people would say that our support of the contras constituted terrorism." But Kupperman cannot say this, even as a simple logical inference from his own definition. Nor can he bear to name a U.S. ally or client as engaging in or supporting terrorism. He not only refuses to apply the word, he operates as if the reality corresponded to his own self-limitation to a patriotic agenda.

On the reasons for Western victimization, Kupperman sticks to the classic cliches of his industry � "terrorism thrives in democratic society," and the United States is a special victim because of "who we are and what we represent."[7] Kupperman does not discuss the possibility that anti-Western terror could be a response to exploitation, racist violence, and Western support of terrorists and corrupt dictators like the shah, Marcos, Suharto, the juntas and death squads of Latin America, and South Africa.

Kupperman claims that the Soviet Union and its proxies are supporting terrorism as a "low-cost, low-risk" means of "disrupting Western society,"[8] but he boldly concedes that terrorism is based in part on local factors and "is too complex an issue to be easily explained away as an example of Soviet intervention." [9] He also admits that there are other supporters of terrorism besides the Soviet Union, namely Libya. In another display of boldness, Kupperman acknowledges that Libya's terrorist acts are not "planned and directed by the Soviets."[10]

If terrorism increased in the 1980s, could this be because the Reagan administration wanted to use it as a propaganda instrument to mobilize its own population and the West? This is a hypothesis that Kupperman cannot even put on the table to discuss. He mentions the Libyan hit squad episode of 1981, but instead of recognizing it as part of an administration campaign to arouse the public on the menace of Qaddafi and terrorism, Kupperman interprets it as a Libyan strategy to "use the media." "The threat itself forced the President to retreat into a 'steel cocoon' and appeared to paralyze the American government." [11] In terrorism-industry analyses of terrorism, the media are regularly denounced for allowing terrorists to gain publicity and for entering into what Kupperman calls a "de facto partnership with terrorists." [12] Kupperman retreats to this nonsensical claim, in the process falsifying the historical record (the hit squad was a Western concoction); and as a good propagandist for his state, diverting attention from the fact that the Reagan administration was using Libya as a propaganda device for its own purposes.

As we noted earlier, Kupperman chaired the CSIS panel on the Bulgarian plot against the pope, which found the Bulgarians guilty before the trial and expounded the extreme right-wing position that the KGB had penetrated the Western media, with dire consequences. (Paul Henze and Arnaud de Borchgrave were also members of this panel.)

Despite such toeing of the Western line, and his willingness to be part of intellectually contemptible propaganda efforts like this panel, Kupperman, along with Brian Jenkins, is one of the "moderates" among the establishment terrorism experts. He appears distinctly uncomfortable in situations where he is pressed to acknowledge Western involvement in terrorism, and even though he cannot admit such involvement, he concedes that the claims of others might have some merit! In addition, his claims of Soviet involvement in terrorism are less strident than those of most of his confreres in the industry; he does not identify all liberation movements as terrorist; and while he does get carried away in times of hysteria, sometimes supporting "surgical strikes" on terrorists,[13] he often argues for restraint. Still, it is important to recognize that this "moderation" is relative, and that Kupperman never departs from Western semantics, the Western model, and apologetics for Western practice.


^ . Robert Kupperman and Darrell Trent, Terrorism: Threat, Reality, Response (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution/Stanford University, 1979). ^ . This report is cited and briefly described in Klare and Kornbluh, Low-Intensity Warfare, chap, 3. ^ . Kupperman and Trent, Terrorism, p, xxii. ^ . Legislation to Combat International Terrorism: 98th Congress, Hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Nov, 9 and June 7, 13, 19, 1983, and Sept. 26, 1984, p. 38. ^ . Kupperman, with Debra Van Opstal and David Williamson, "Terror, the Strategic Tool: Response and Control," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Sept. 1982, p. 25. ^ . Ibid., p. 37. ^ . Hearings, 1984, p. 59. ^ . Annals. p. 32. ^ . Ibid., p, 33. ^ . Ibid. ^ . Ibid., p. 27. ^ . Ibid. ^ . The U.S. government having made a big thing of an alleged Libyan chemical weapons plant, Kupperman states that "the first thing to do now is to take out that Libyan chemical warfare plant. . . It might not stop Libyan sponsorship of terrorism, but it would certainly put a dent in it:' Quoted in "Pan Am Bombers Still to Be Named," Manchester Guardian Weekly, Jan. 8, 1989.