• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Spring Donation Drive

CounterPunch is a lifeboat piggybank-icon of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What Do Terrorists Want?

After the terrorist violence in Brussels many people, including Barack Obama, said we should not change our way of life and live in fear because that is what terrorists want. Maybe, but is that all they want? It seems that something important is left out of the story. In the classical model of terrorism, instilling fear (along with causing death and injury) is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end.

Terrorists don’t necessarily get a kick out creating carnage and fear (though it is possible). Primarily they want the survivors’ fear converted into action aimed at changing their government’s policy. Thus terrorism, if it to have any meaning, is a political, not a sadistic, act. In the paradigm case a weak nonstate group, unable to resist a state’s military or to change its policy directly, terrorizes the civilian population of that state in the hope it will demand a change in foreign or domestic policy. (Let’s leave aside for this discussion that terrorism has been strategically (re)defined by the United States and its allies such that it can apply only to their adversaries, even when they attack military targets instead of civilians.)

It’s not hard to fathom why the full story of terrorism is not acknowledged by officials and pundits: it would draw attention to what the U.S. government and allied states have long been doing to people in the Muslim world. Nearly all Americans seem to think it’s a sheer coincidence that terrorism is most likely to be committed by people who profess some form of Islam and that the U.S. military has for decades been bombing, droning, occupying, torturing, etc. in multiple Islamic countries.

Or perhaps they think U.S.-inflicted violence is just a defensive response to earlier terrorism. (I might be giving people too much credit by assuming they even know the U.S. government is doing any of this.) When the U.S. military isn’t wreaking havoc directly, the U.S. government is underwriting and arming tyrants like those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. And just to complete the picture, the U.S. government fully backs the Israeli state, which has oppressed Palestinians and occupied their land for many decades.

All this is what Islamist terrorists say they seek revenge for (more here), and the U.S. government acknowledges this. (That does not excuse violence against noncombatants, of course.)

But telling the full story about the terrorists’ objectives might inadvertently prompt a fresh look — maybe even a reevaluation — of America’s atrocious foreign policy. The ruling elite and the military-industrial complex would not want that.

Since questioning and changing U.S. foreign  policy are out of the question, the pundits and “terrorism experts” look for other ways to prevent terrorism. Unsurprisingly, everything they come up with entails violations of our civil liberties. Discussions about “profiling” are featured on cable news channels almost regularly. Should we or should we not profile? Those few who say no are accused of “political correctness,” the handy put-down for anyone who is leery about violating privacy or gratuitously insulting whole classes of people.

But let’s think about profiling for a moment. As acknowledged, when one hears about public, indiscriminate suicidal violence, such as occurred in Brussels, it is reasonable to wonder if the perpetrators professed some “extreme” variant of Islam. (That doesn’t mean another group, say, neo-Nazis and white nationalists, couldn’t be the perps, as in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.)

But since Islamists come to mind first, that might give us a clue to how to profile. As part of the profiling, why not look for links to countries the U.S. government and its allies bomb, occupy, or otherwise abuse? The media inform us that many of the terrorists in Europe first went to Syria to try to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad (whom the U.S. government wants overthrown), but then came home angry after NATO countries started bombing the Islamic State there and in Iraq, with the inevitable civilian casualties. In some cases Syrian nationals sneaked into Europe through Turkey.

So the perpetrators of the next terrorist act are likely to be Islamists with links to or sympathy for people terrorized by the United States and its allies — namely, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. But if that kind of profiling makes sense, wouldn’t it make even more sense simply to stop inflicting violence on the Muslim world?

I guess that’s too simple for our experts.

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
Howie Hawkins
Does the Climate Movement Really Mean What It Says?
Gary Leupp
Bolton and the Road to the War He Wants
Jill Richardson
Climate Change was No Accident
Josh Hoxie
Debunking Myths About Wealth and Race
David Barsamian
Iran Notes
David Mattson
Social Carrying Capacity Politspeak Bamboozle
Christopher Brauchli
The Pompeo Smirk
Louis Proyect
Trotsky, Bukharin and the Eco-Modernists
Martha Burk
Will Burning at the Stake Come Next?
John W. Whitehead
The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops in America
Binoy Kampmark
The Christchurch Pledge and a Regulated Internet
David Rosen
Florida’s Sex Wars: the Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work
Ralph Nader
Trump: Importing Dangerous Medicines and Food and Keeping Consumers in the Dark
Brett Haverstick
America’s Roadless Rules are Not Protecting Public Wildlands From Development
Alan Macleod
Purity Tests Can be a Good Thing
Binoy Kampmark
Modern Merchants of Death: the NSO Group, Spyware and Human Rights
Kim C. Domenico
Anarchism & Reconciliation, Part II
Peter LaVenia
Game of Thrones and the Truth About Class (Spoiler Warning)
Manuel E. Yepe
The Options Trump Puts on the Table
Renee Parsons
The Pompeo/Bolton Tag Team
David Swanson
Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment
Cesar Chelala
Lowering Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Problems are Deeper than “Capitalism” (and “Socialism” Alone Can’t Solve Them)
Chris Zinda
Delegislating Wilderness
Robert Koehler
War’s Unanswered Questions
Robert P. Alvarez
Let Prison Inmates Vote
Barbara Nimri Aziz
A Novel We Can All Relate To
David Yearsley
Carmen’s Mother’s Day Lessons
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ziya Tong’s “The Reality Bubble”
Elliot Sperber
Pharaoh’s Dream
Elizabeth Keyes
Somewhere Beyond Corporate Media Yemenis Die
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail