“The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction,” writes Fareed Zakaria, a leading American foreign-policy pundit, editor of Newsweek magazine’s international edition, and Washington Post columnist, referring to the “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and his failed attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas day. “Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.” (Newsweek, January 18, 2010.)
Is that not odd? That an individual would try to take the lives of hundreds of people, including his own, primarily to “provoke an overreaction”, or to “sow fear”? Was there not any kind of deep-seated grievance or resentment with anything or anyone American being expressed? No perceived wrong he wished to make right? Nothing he sought to obtain revenge for? Why is the United States the most common target of terrorists? Such questions were not even hinted at in Zakaria’s article.
At a White House press briefing concerning the same failed terrorist attack, conducted by Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, veteran reporter Helen Thomas raised a question:
Thomas: “What is really lacking always for us is you don’t give the motivation of why they want to do us harm. … What is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”
Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … [They] attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that [they’re] able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”
Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”
Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that uses the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”
Brennan: “I think … this is a long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”
Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.” (White House press briefing, January 7, 2010.)
American officials rarely even make the attempt to explain why. And American journalists rarely press them to explain why; certainly not like Helen Thomas does.
And just what is it that has such difficulty crossing the lips of these officials? It is the idea that anti-American terrorists become anti-American terrorists to retaliate for what the United States has done to countries or people close to them or what Israel has done to them with unequivocal American support.
Osama bin Laden, in an audiotape, also commented about Abdulmutallab: “The message we wanted you to receive through him is that America shall not dream about security until we witness it in Palestine.” (ABC News, January 25, 2010.)
We have as well the recent case of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor-turned-suicide bomber, who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan December 30. His widow later declared: “I am proud of him. … My husband did this against the U.S. invasion.” Balawi himself had written on the Internet: “I have never wished to be in Gaza, but now I wish to be a … car bomb that takes the lives of the biggest number of Jews to hell.” (Associated Press, January 7, 2010.)
It should be noted that the CIA base attacked by Balawi was heavily involved in the selection of targets for the Agency’s remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a program that killed more than 300 people in the previous year. (Washington Post, January 1, 2010.)
There are numerous examples of terrorists citing American policies as the prime motivation behind their acts 14, so many that American officials, when discussing the newest terrorist attack, have to tread carefully to avoid mentioning the role of US foreign policy; and journalists typically fail to bring this point home to their reader’s consciousness.
It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long string of hateful Washington policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations.
The US bombing, invasion, occupation and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombing of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and the continuing Israeli-US genocide against the Palestinians have created an army of new anti-American terrorists. We’ll be hearing from them for a terribly long time. And we’ll be hearing American officials twist themselves into intellectual and moral knots as they try to avoid confronting these facts.
In his “State of the Union” address on January 27, President Obama said: “But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.” Well, ending America’s many wars would free up enough money to do anything a rational, humane society would want to do. Eliminating the military budget would pay for free medical care for everyone. Free university education for everyone. Creating a government public works project that could provide millions of decently-paid jobs, like repairing the decrepit infrastructure and healing the environment to the best of our ability. You can add your own favorite projects. All covered, just by ending the damn wars. Imagine 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