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When Were They Radicalized? That’s Not the Right Question!

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The big question these days dominating the airwaves is when was Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik radicalized; or who radicalized them; and how were they radicalized? This question is a perplexing one because it assumes that without outside influence everything would be all right and that there are no valid grievances, or anger, and no desire for revenge or justice no matter how misguided those desires might be manifested.

This is a strange line of query because it presupposes that without external forces radicalization would be impossible. This line of questioning illustrates a blind patriotism of empire proportion that believes that anyone upset and acting out is either demented or have fallen under the influences of a political/religious ideology that exploits the weak minded or the mentally deranged. To even ask the question is to make the assumption that everything is ok around us and in our world and would be regarded as such if it were not for outside influences. But this perspective has a tendency to ignore the realities of what so many people live under and have to endure daily. It is often from personal experiences, relationships with those impacted by what most of us don’t see or care about are the radicalizing factors. The present queries act as if there are no valid grievances, no real anger, and as if there is innocence on the part of the powerful, the US and others. But this is not the way that peoples of the Middle East, North Africa and Asia see the US or the West.

The US and its partners have been at war for more than 14 years in Afghanistan. The US began an unprovoked and preemptive war in Iraq in 2003 and virtually destroyed the country where today ISIL is filling part of the vacuum created by that war, and the President of Afghanistan literally is presiding over nothing but the capital city of that country, Kabul. The US under the cry of removing President Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria by helping to orchestrate and sustain a civil war has created a displacement crisis of epic proportion and caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people. Conditions in many countries have worsened under the wars and the remaking of the Middle East and North Africa in the West’s image. Our continual military support of Israel against Palestinians challenges the view that everything is ok without the influences of “outside agitators” radicalizing people and calling them to arms. According to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, in an August 2014 report it states concerning military aid to Israel,

“Since it began in 1962, American military aid to Israel has amounted to nearly $100 billion. For the past decades The United States has been regularly transferring aid of about $3 billion annually. In recent years, the aid has been solely for defense purposes. Additionally, The US has been giving Israel generous military aid for projects important both to it and Israel.”

Even in light of Israel’s continued human rights violation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2015 traveled to Washington, DC to request an increase to the amount of aid his country receives from the US.

Then there is also the US drone program designed to make killing more antiseptic and distant. However in a 2013 speech before the National Defense University President Obama said, “It is a hard fact that US strikes have resulted in civilian casualties.”

He did not go on to cite numbers or further details, yet Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and lead author of a 2013 study of drones, is quoted in an April 23, 2015 New York Times article on drone strikes, in reference to the President’s 2013 comments, “Most individuals killed are not on a kill list, and the government does not know their names.”

The program has not been as clean as government leaders would have liked for us to think. Or lastly among many examples, a November 2014 article in the Guardian cites:

“A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people…”

The assumption that “radicalization” is not based in some reality is an empire or White supremacist notion where everything is ok save for those rabble-rousers, outside agitators, and purveyors of hatred. Again I am reminded every time I hear some newsperson or some pundit drone on (excuse the pun) about when, how and who did the radicalization about J. Edgar Hoover, former Director of the FBI during the Civil Rights era and the status-quo politicians of the time looking under every rock for communist agitators from Moscow who had inflamed and radicalized the Black folks to march, demonstrate and rebel! It is an empire and White supremacist notion to believe that all is fine save for outside influences. The assumption is ‘who would not be happy with our way of life, our agendas, or ways we see the world.’

Keep in mind that I am not condoning acts of violence by any side or carried out in any name of God or nationalistic identifications. I am simply pointing out that it is real conditions and experiences that have given credence to the so-called “radicalization” process. There are agents recruiting and organizing people to join their cause, but it is recruitment based on some stalk and harsh realities produced by war, greed, and attempting to fashion entire regions in the United States’ political image.

Therefore it stands to reason that to combat so-called radicalization the US and its partners need to ethically evaluate it motives and initiatives and stand to be judged in a world court where warranted. The US and its allies need to allow countries and regions to develop without interference, manipulation or control. The mechanisms of radicalization would be muted and impotent if the US and its partners addressed human rights violations carried out around the world by itself, its partners and its allies. There would be no fertile ground to recruit from if people felt the processes were fair and just rather than exploited by a few nations and corporations at the expense of everyone else. This is a part of what needs to happen to thwart radicalization. The US and its allies must right the wrongs they have done and attempt to restore regions and people to govern their own selves no matter how those structures might look in the end.

As far as who, when and how Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik and the countless others were radicalized? The answer to this question is found in a world that has been ravished by war and greed; in the conditions of despair that has been created; in the powerless feeling pushed around by the powerful; and it is there in refugee camps and at funerals from drone strikes that we will find the agents of anger that breeds radicalization that we claim we do not understand.

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