FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Defeating Terrorism – Theirs and Ours

France and Russia’s military responses to mass murders in Paris and Egypt echo the U.S. response to mass murders in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001. Islamic State (IS) has welcomed this warlike response to its latest atrocities.

Al Qaeda similarly counted on an aggressive response to September 11th. The US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and the concentration camp at Guantanamo became the most valuable assets in its propaganda and recruiting campaigns, now complemented by the terror of drone strikes and bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq.

By contrast, former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz insisted in the aftermath of September 11th that we must respond to terrorism as a heinous crime and not dignify it as an act of war. Those responsible must be identified, pursued, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, with only as much military support as is strictly needed to bring them to justice.  But their crimes must not be allowed to become a pretext for wreaking misdirected vengeance on other countries and innocent lives.  As Representative Barbara Lee told her colleagues before casting her brave and lonely dissenting vote, “Let us not become the evil we deplore.”

But Ferencz’s and Lee’s wise counsel fell on deaf ears. After 14 years of war, which our leaders launched and continue to justify as a response to terrorism:

– The U.S. and its allies have conducted over 120,000 air strikes against seven countries, exploding fundamentalist jihadism from its original base in Afghanistan to an active presence in all seven countries and beyond.

– U.S. invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and “lead from behind” wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen have left swathes of each country in chaos and under militia rule, exactly the safe havens that the “war on terror” was supposed to eliminate.

– Since 2001, U.S.-led wars have killed about 1.6 million people, or 500 times the number of people killed by the original crimes of September 11th. Disproportionate use of force and geographic expansion of the conflict by our side has led to a proliferation of violence on all sides.

– War, occupation and chaos have driven 59.5 million people from their homes, more than at any time since the Second World War.

– Since 2001, the U.S. has borrowed and spent $3.3 trillion in additional military spending to pay for the largest unilateral military build-up in history, although less than half the extra funding has been spent on our current wars.

Only a decade after U.S. support for fundamentalist jihadis in Afghanistan led to the worst mass murders in U.S. history, our leaders once again began recruiting, training and arming jihadis to fight in Libya and Syria.  Only after IS invaded Iraq in force in 2014 did our government begin to rethink its covert support for such groups in Syria, and we remain closely allied with all their state sponsors: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other Arab monarchies.

Declaring an open-ended war on “terror,” “Muslim extremism” or “associated forces” forecloses many of the ways that wars are usually brought to an end. We cannot meet “terror” at the negotiating table. The international military competition to destroy IS will leave more cities in ruins, like Fallujah, Sirte and Kobane, but it will not end the “war on terror.”  Even a successful military campaign against IS, if such a thing is possible, will only hasten the next mutation of jihadism and draw more young Muslims into its ranks.

President Obama acknowledges that there is no military way out of this trap. Yet he soldiers on blindly as if there are no non-military alternatives either.  But there are specific policies that our government can pursue if it is serious about ending this horrible cycle of violence:

– Prioritize the Vienna negotiations for a political transition in Syria.

– Repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, which have served as blank checks for endless war.

– Halt air and drone strikes.

– Treat terrorism as a crime, not as an act of war.

– Close Guantanamo.

– Stop fomenting chaos in other countries, from Syria to Venezuela.

– Enforce U.S. laws prohibiting arms sales to countries who commit war crimes, abuse human rights or sponsor terrorism.

– Enforce the command responsibility of senior U.S. military and civilian officials for torture and other war crimes.

– Publicly recommit to full compliance with the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the rule of law.

– Redirect a portion of U.S. military spending to sustainable development in war-torn countries.

If these steps seem “politically impossible,” that is a measure of how far we have strayed from basic standards of international behavior that we and other countries are committed to. If we fail to take such steps and choose instead to keep fighting an endless war, we must accept our share of responsibility for the slaughter of innocent civilians and widespread chaos that are its defining features.

As the late historian and former US Air Force bombardier Howard Zinn wrote in a letter to the New York Times in 2007, “The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.”

If, on the other hand, we can restore legitimacy and reason to our own country’s international behavior, then we can begin to regain the moral and legal ground from which to defeat terrorism – theirs and ours.

More articles by:

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq and of the chapter on “Obama At War” in Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail