FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What the "War on Terror" is Really About

With support for the Iraq war collapsing ahead of the U.S.-imposed constitutional referendum this month, George W. Bush resorted to his old trick of trying to tie the U.S. occupation to the September 11 attacks and the “war on terror.”

“The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity,” Bush said October 6 at a meeting of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). “And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.”

A government-funded foundation, the NED has funneled money to pro-U.S. political movements around the world since the 1980s, most recently those involved with pre-packaged “revolutions” that ousted governments in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Bush portrayed the U.S. role in Iraq as another example of such “democracy promotion.” He also invoked September 11 and the “good” war in Afghanistan to contain growing criticism of Washington’s foreign policy and U.S. military interventions.

Invoking the “war on terror” in connection with Iraq hasn’t helped Bush reverse his fall in the opinion polls. Yet the White House has managed to preserve the foreign policy consensus among Republicans and Democrats around aggressive–and, when necessary, pre-emptive–use of military force.

Thus, the Democrats’ hawkish presidential aspirants like Sens. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are following John Kerry in trying to out-do Bush as champions of “national security.” Even sections of the antiwar movement are reluctant to portray the U.S. occupation of Iraq as an element of a broader imperial drive to dominate a strategic corridor stretching from the Mediterranean to Central Asia.

This creates the political space for Bush and pro-war Democrats alike to use Islamophobia to trump their critics. “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims,” Bush said in his speech to the NED. “Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination, and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves.”

Shamefully, some on the left still chime in with almost identical rhetoric. “Al-Qaeda is classically imperialist, looking to subvert established social orders and to replace the cultural and institutional infrastructure of its enemies with a (divinely inspired) hierarchical autocracy of its own, looking to craft the next chapter of human history in its own image,” wrote journalist Sasha Abramsky.

His article, headlined, “Our Al-Qaeda Problem,” was the lead story of the October issue of The Progressive, a magazine known for decades for its principled antiwar politics. The cover artwork can only be called racist–a giant, dark, bin Laden-like figure wearing a turban and waving a huge scimitar blade and hammer at a tiny white man holding two much smaller swords.

So after the rampage by U.S. soldiers in Iraqi towns such as Falluja, Tal Afar and Ramadi; the farcical constitutional referendum; widespread documentation of torture and even murder of detainees in U.S. military prisons; accounts of a secret American gulag stretching around the world; U.S. threats against Syria and Iran; and the collapse in support for the Iraq war–now is the time The Progressive chooses brings us Abramsky to act as a recruiting sergeant for a proper “war on terror.”

On this issue, Abramsky argues, “progressives [have] to set some of the terms of the debate, rather than continually playing catch-up with conservatives.” He endorses “preventive detention” for suspected terrorists, while maintaining democratic trappings like a “speedy trial”–as if one can be put on trial for a crime that hasn’t yet been committed.

Abramsky skips over the real history of political Islam–fostered by the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian regime as a bulwark against secular nationalism and the left in the Middle East from the 1950s to the 1970s. Abramsky certainly knows that the CIA funneled money, guns and missiles to the Afghan resistance–including Osama bin Laden–in its war against the Russian occupation of that country in the 1980s.

If bin Laden’s current of Islamism has any appeal, it’s because young Muslims grow up under repressive Washington-backed regimes and face grim prospects in economies geared to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Add to this more than a decade of killer sanctions in Iraq; the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers since the U.S. invasion began; a low-grade civil war stoked by the occupation authorities; the disappearance of $8 billion under a U.S.-appointed Iraqi government; and the planned sale of the country’s oil industry to U.S. and Western oil corporations. Then there’s Washington’s support for Israel’s apartheid wall on the West Bank, and the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

Abramsky shrugs all this off as having nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and the London subway bombings–in favor of a virtual echo of Bush’s “why do they hate us” rhetoric.

“Indeed,” he writes, “what al-Qaeda apparently hates most about ‘the West’ are its best points: the pluralism, the rationalism, individual liberty, the emancipation of women, the openness and social dynamism that represent the strongest legacy of the Enlightenment. These values stand in counterpoint to the tyrannical social code idealized by al-Qaeda and by related political groupings such as Afghanistan’s Taliban.”

The hypocrisy of this is striking in light of U.S. politics today. Does the word “rationalism” describe U.S. society, where the theory of evolution is under continuous assault from politically powerful Christian fundamentalists?

As for “individual liberty,” there’s always been a huge gap in the U.S. between the language of the Constitution and the political reality of racist discrimination–particularly in the era of the USA PATRIOT Act, detentions and deportations of Arabs and Muslims, and other “homeland security” measures.

The “emancipation of women” has never been achieved in reality–a fact made all the more obvious by the assault on women’s right to choose abortion. Social dynamism? Abramsky has somehow missed economic and class polarization in the U.S., which has led to falling real wages, rising poverty rates and the greatest concentration of wealth at the top since the 1920s.

Abramsky may go further than most, but other liberals and progressives accept at least part of this case. They’re wrong.

The U.S. “war on terror” is nothing more than ideological justification for the aggressive projection of U.S. imperial power abroad–and a clampdown on any serious challenge to the system at home. Islamophobic diatribes are a means of providing a cover to this reality.

The task of the antiwar movement isn’t to reshape the U.S. war on terror to be more effective–but to oppose it.

LEE SUSTAR is a regular contributor to CounterPunch and the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: lsustar@ameritech.net

 

 

 

More articles by:

LEE SUSTAR is the labor editor of Socialist Worker

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail