You read it in USA Today: The latest “threat to America” is “thousands of jihadis” with Western passports,” returning from battle in Syria and Iraq to wreak havoc and destruction in the “US homeland.”
It’s a nightmare profoundly hoped for by the US Department of Homeland Security, that massive security-state bureaucracy looking for a raison d’être.
According to the USA Today article, there “may be” thousands of so-called Islamic State fighters who have western passports, including “perhaps” some 150-300 Americans. The fear expressed in this heavy-breathing piece is that since these fighters, once in Syria or Iraq, will be coming under fire by US planes, which are bombing IS forces and, reportedly, killing hundreds of them, and that they will turn their anger from the apostates they went abroad to fight to the US government and perhaps the American people who were supporting this campaign that is trying to kill them and their IS comrades-in-arms.
Another way to look at this would be to say, “A fine mess you’ve gotten us into Mr. Obama!”
What we’re talking about here, really, if these numbers are to be believed (and who knows if they are correct really?), is old-fashioned blow-back — that term hailing from the cloak-and-dagger Cold War world of the CIA and KGB that refers to how covert wars and covert overthrows of governments can have a nasty habit of producing unintended consequences which end up turning the tables on the initiator of an action. The CIA’s overthrow of the elected government of Iran and installation of the dictatorial Shah of Iran is a good example. It led ultimately to an anti-American revolution led by the fanatic if anti-imperialist imam Ruhollah Khomeini and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran — hardly the intent of the original CIA plotters and their Washington masters.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 orchestrated by Vice President Dick Cheney and his neo-con braintrust is another example of blowback. By destroying the government of Saddam Hussein, Cheney and his gang destroyed the country of Iraq, ignited a vicious civil war between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and ultimately brought forth the Islamic State forces. In a smaller example of blowback, the CIA and Pentagon secretly trained and armed fanatic Islamic Sunni fighters opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, only to have those fighters decide a better target was the oppressive Shi-ia regime in Iraq. The US-trained Sunni fighters became the core of the Islamic Republic which the US is now committed to trying to destroy. Hence the concern about US jihadi fighters who are part of the IS army turning their wrath on the US.
How serious a risk do these perhaps dozens of IS fighters with US passports pose to the security of American citizens here in the US? Probably not much. Certainly no more of a risk than that posed by some of the hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry US soldiers who are shipped off to fight America’s imperial wars, only to find out later that they have been simply enforcers of US imperialism, and that the buddies they lost, or the limbs or parts of their brains that they themselves lost, were sacrificed not to “protect America’s freedom,” but to make the world safe for Exxon, Goldman Sachs and RJ Reynolds, or to enrich the likes of Boeing, Litton Industries and Halliburton.
You won’t read an article in USA Today warning about the risk of some American GI’s and Marines returning to US shores with mayhem on their minds, but I suspect that the threat posed by some angry vets fed up with being lied to by the politicians in Washington, and shunned or patronized by the American public just flipping out and “going postal” is probably greater than the threat posed by a few dozen angry returning American IS fighters.
Nonetheless, there are some in Congress and among the American public who would would like to see the US yank the passports of any US citizen who left this country to go fight with IS in the Middle East. In fact, as one article in FireDogLake points out, they are already doing that, and probably, in secret, they are doing it on a significant scale.
This induced panic about “returning American jihadis” is just the latest example of an ongoing campaign by Washington leaders to deliberately stoke fears of terrorism, the better to continue what by one estimate has been a totally failed 13-year, $4-trillion War on Terror, of which the expanding but undeclared US war on the so-called Islamic State is just the latest example.
The reality of course is that this “war” has not only done nothing to prevent, much less eliminate terrorism, but has caused it to expand exponentially, from one poorly organized and dispute-riven outfit called Al Qaeda, to a welter of organizations, some armed to the teeth with captured and even government-provided US weapons. Worse yet, the US itself has become the world’s number one terrorist organization, a rogue state extraordinaire, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children (all deemed simply “regrettable” collateral damage). And at the same time, although even today terrorism poses no existential, or even significant threat to the American people or to the country, this “War” on Terror has also been a very effective war on American democracy and on our freedoms, with the Bill of Rights now little more than a museum relic and a bit of patriotic mythology, on a par with that apochrophal story about little George Washington and the cherry tree.
Let’s be clear: the only way to reduce all the violence and killing in the Middle East is for the US to pack up and go home, and to stay there. And that includes ending all military support for Israel. Nothing the US has done for decades in that troubled region has achieved anything good. In fact, US policy in the Middle East has been a primary agent promoting sectarian violence, military dictatorship, and international conflict. Oh, and by the way, if and when some returning US jihadi does try to blow something up in the US, when the plot is foiled, history suggests that we’ll eventually learn there was an FBI undercover operative who suggested the idea, provided funding and set the whole thing in motion.
We don’t need any more War on Terror. We need a war on the terrorizers and the US war machine they keep promoting.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).