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"President Bush said the United States is still under the threat of attack and will continue to be right up until Election Day."
– Jay Leno
Hand-in-hand with his threat warnings, Bush keeps telling us how his War on Terror has made us so much safer, bragging that there hasn’t been a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years since the one of September 11, 2001. Marvelous. There wasn’t a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years before that day either. But thanks to the War on Terror — particularly the bombing, invasion, occupation, and torture of Afghanistan and Iraq — numerous new anti-American terrorists have been created since that historic day. The latest confirmation of this, if any more were needed, is the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and … the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."
Since the first strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions and individuals in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, more than a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, diplomatic, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States, including the October 2002 bombings of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, which killed more than 200 people, almost all of them Americans and citizens of their Australian and British war allies; the following year brought the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy; and other horrendous attacks on US war allies in recent years in Madrid, London, and elsewhere.
A US State Department report of 2004 on worldwide terrorist attacks — "Patterns of Global Terrorism" — showed that the year 2003 had more "significant terrorist incidents" than at any time since the department began issuing statistics in 1985, even though the figures did not include attacks on US troops by insurgents in Iraq, which the Bush administration explicitly labels as "terrorist". When their report for 2004 showed an even higher number of incidents, the State Department announced that it was going to stop publishing the annual statistics.
It is extremely difficult and threatening for US and UK officials to accept the correlation between their foreign policies and the rise of terrorists. A spokesman for the Blair government recently declared: "Al-Qaida started killing innocent civilians in the 90s. It killed Muslim civilians even before 9/11, and the attacks on New York and Washington killed over 3,000 people before Iraq. To imply al-Qaida is driven by an honest disagreement over foreign policy is a mistake." Vice President Dick Cheney, on more than one occasion, has also pointed out that terrorists were attacking American targets even before 9-11.
The "reasoning" behind such thinking is odd; it’s as if these esteemed gentlemen believe that there was no Western foreign policy in the Mideast before September 11, 2001. But of course, even in modern times, there were decades of awful abuse, including the US overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, multiple bombings of Libya and Iraq, sinking an Iranian ship and shooting down an Iranian passenger plane, habitual support of Israel against the Palestinian people, and much more.
It can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly that terrorism is a political act, it is making a political statement, a statement that can often be summed up in a single word: "retaliation"; terrorism is what people with bombs but no air force have to resort to. The Bush and Blair administrations can not admit to the correlation of terrorism with their policies, but those opposed to their wars should never allow them to avoid the issue. Here are some of the latest examples of this retaliation phenomenon:
From a New York Times report on the UK group arrested for allegedly planning to blow up multiple planes headed to the US: "’As you bomb, you will be bombed; as you kill, you will be killed,’ said one of the men on a ‘martyrdom’ videotape" … "One of the suspects said on his martyrdom video that the ‘war against Muslims’ in Iraq and Afghanistan had motivated him to act." … "The man said he was seeking revenge for the foreign policy of the United States, and ‘their accomplices, the U.K. and the Jews’."
From a review of the new book, "The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission" by its chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton: "In looking into the background of the hijackers, the staff found that religious orthodoxy was not a common denominator since some of the members ‘reportedly even consumed alcohol and abused drugs.’ Others engaged in casual sex. Instead, hatred of American foreign policy in the Middle East seemed to be the key factor." … "I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States," said Supervisory Special Agent James Fitzgerald. "They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States." … "Lee [Hamilton] felt that there had to be an acknowledgment that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital to America’s long-term relationship with the Islamic world, and that the presence of American forces in the Middle East was a major motivating factor in Al Qaeda’s actions."
But the War on Terrorism paints terrorists as only irrational madmen or those who loathe freedom, democracy and Western culture, or doing what they do just for the pure, America-hating thrill of it, and so the US and the UK continue to look for military solutions.
Writer David Rees predicted a few years ago: "Remember when the United States had a drug problem and then we declared a War on Drugs, and now you can’t buy drugs anymore? The War on Terrorism will be just like that."
WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.
He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com