FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How the US Empire Provokes Terrorism

by SHELDON RICHMAN

Perhaps we’ll never know if intercepted chatter between al-Qaeda leaders — which prompted the U.S. government to close dozens of diplomatic missions in the Muslim world and to issue a worldwide travel alert — was serious or not. But mischief shouldn’t be ruled out. Without cost or risk, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), can have a big laugh as they send American officials running around as though their hair were on fire. Why should they attempt to pull off some spectacular but risky action when they can disrupt things — closing embassies is no small deal — so easily? As a bonus, President Obama’s claim about al-Qaeda’s degradation is revealed as an empty boast. (Yemeni officials claim they foiled a plot. But who knows?)

The United States has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for a dozen years, but not because the former rulers are a direct threat to the American people. Rather, the Bush and Obama administrations insisted, if the Taliban was not defeated, Afghanistan would again become a sanctuary for al-Qaeda. Now we see (if we hadn’t already) that this was a mere rationalization for the projection of American power. Al-Qaeda doesn’t need Afghanistan. Bin Laden wasn’t found there. Al-Zawahiri presumably isn’t there. And the latest alleged unspecified threat comes from Yemen, 2,000 miles from Kabul. Doesn’t that expose the 12 years of American-inflicted death and destruction, not to mention the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, as a monumental waste of life and treasure?

If the Obama administration has any doubts about the seriousness of the chatter, it’s not displaying them in public. CNN reports that the U.S. military has been readied for possible strikes against “potential al-Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified.” Moreover, the Globe and Mail reported earlier that “a suspected U.S. drone killed four alleged al-Qaeda members in Yemen.”

Yet we can assume that the administration’s conduct would be the same whether or not it took the chatter seriously. Let’s remember that the “war on terror” (George W. Bush’s label) is an industry from which many both inside and outside the government profit handsomely. Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. response has poured trillions of dollars into the government-industrial complex. Agencies have multiplied and grown, and bureaucrats have acquired new power and prestige. None would want to give any of it up. But if things were to become too quiet, those Americans who pay the bill might wonder if it’s all worth the great cost. Quietude breeds complacency.

So a little heightened alert, from the complex’s point of view, would be welcome.

Of course, al-Qaeda did attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, as well as various other targets outside the United States before and afterwards. One of its so-called affiliates could certainly strike.

Does that mean the U.S. government must maintain a global empire in order to eradicate the sources of anti-American terrorism? Absolutely not — quite the contrary. It is the global empire that provoked the al-Qaeda attacks in the first place. Contrary to the popular notion that the organization struck U.S. “interests” out of the blue while our country minded its own business, the U.S. government for decades has supported violent regimes in the Middle East and North Africa: from Saudi Arabia’s corrupt and brutal monarchy, to the Egyptian military dictatorship, to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to Israel’s unconscionable occupation of Palestine. American administrations, Republican and Democrat, have directly inflicted death and suffering on people in the Muslim world — through the 1990s economic sanctions on Iraq, for example. (Today’s sanctions on Iran now impose hardship on another group of Muslims.) Every time an al-Qaeda official or operative has the chance, he points out that his hatred of America stems not from its “freedoms” but from this bloody record. Unrelenting U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, in which noncombatants are killed, don’t win friends. They recruit enemies bent on revenge.

It follows therefore that the best way to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the threat of terrorism is to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy — from imperial intervention to strict nonintervention.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va. He can be reached through his blog, Free Association.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail