It’s a perilous world, as our so-called leaders love to remind us. And for a change they’re right. It is a perilous world. But guess who is most responsible for the peril to Americans? Those very same “leaders” and a long line of predecessors.
Moreover, they — along with anyone else who takes time to examine the matter — know that they create the greatest dangers Americans face. They just don’t care. They have bigger fish to fry than keeping Americans safe. Besides, the dangers they create provide excuses for more power.
Let’s just say what many people already know: the “war on terrorism” produces terrorists. No half-intelligent person could think that U.S. treatment of the Muslim world could have any effect other than to produce violent, vengeful anti-Americanism. Even in the government-friendly mainstream media you will find the facts, though you’ll have to connect the dots yourself.
When you treat people like they are worthless, or help others to treat them that way, some of those people will get mad and vow to get even. If desperate enough they will even be willing to give their lives to the cause.
Isn’t this already obvious? For over 50 years U.S. administrations, for the sake of geopolitical hegemony and preferential access to resources, have treated much of the Muslim world like personal property. They’ve backed brutal dictators, subverted governments, and invaded and occupied countries as it suited their agenda of “world leadership.” The program included defying the will of the Iranian people (1953), backing the repressive Saudi monarchy and the Egyptian and Iraqi dictatorships, financing Israel’s wars against Lebanon and oppression of the Palestinians, and so much more. It was bad enough that England and France had betrayed the trust of the Arabs after World War I and turned the Middle East into a colonial playground, with all the humiliation and repression that implies. The U.S. government then compounded the crime by picking up the mantle of empire after World War II. Power and oil were the reasons. Were the brutalized and mortified people supposed to be grateful to the West?
We kid ourselves when we pretend that history began on Sept. 11, 2001. Can anyone say with a straight face that before that date America was minding its own business according to the noninterventionist guidelines set out by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Read some history. Or does American exceptionalism mean not having to know anything before dropping bombs on people and torturing detainees?
The Muslims who wish Americans ill have never been mysterious about their grievances. Osama bin Laden’s fatwa against the United States is online. Read it for yourself. It was issued in 1996, soon after U.S.-financed Israel conducted one of its regular onslaughts against the Lebanese. What are his specific grievances? American troops stationed near Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia. The 1990s killer U.S. embargo on Iraq. U.S. sponsorship of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and its neighbors. “Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty,” he wrote.
You don’t need to take bin Laden’s word for it. Bush administration officials acknowledged that U.S. policy creates more terrorists than it kills. Bush strategist Paul Wolfowitz himself said that occupying Iraq permitted U.S. troops to leave Saudi Arabia, where they had created so much hostility to America. Correct: American policy manufactures terrorism.
With impunity the U.S. government fires missiles from pilotless drones into Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, killing innocents. Its occupation forces leave death and misery in their wake. Gen. Stanley McChrystal concedes that in Afghanistan “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.” And in the latest incident, Israel killed nine aid volunteers (including an American citizen) on the high seas while enforcing a cruel blockade of Gaza, the latest mistreatment of Palestinians. How can this not come back to haunt us, Israel’s financiers?
U.S. policy — no matter who’s in power — couldn’t be better tailored to recruit terrorists. We can keep pretending we are innocent victims. Or we can finally put the responsibility where it belongs: in Washington, D.C.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.
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