Design Fault: Counterterrorism’s Egregious Failures Don’t Trouble Our Leaders at All

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I think anyone who takes an objective view of the abysmal record of failure on the part of the official who as Home Secretary and Prime Minister has been in charge of UK counterterrorism policy for many years must agree with the declaration of Theresa May following the London attacks: “enough is enough.” Well said, Mrs. May. We must repudiate these failed policies and all those who have pushed them, of whatever party or ideological stripe.

On both the micro level of singular acts of terrorism by individuals and the macro level of geopolitical strategy — such as the close alliance with the sectarian Saudi tyrants who have been the primary purveyors of Islamic extremism around the world for decades — the UK’s “counterterrorism” policies have been egregious, atrocious failures. This includes the decisions by May and other government officials to run “ratlines” of radicalized Britons in and out of Libya and Syria — and back — in order to carry out cynical geopolitical agendas of regime change and dominance. (Among these UK backed agents of destabilization, of course, was the recent suicide bomber in Manchester.)

I certainly agree that we have had “enough” of these wretchedly counterproductive policies, and the inhumane, ruthless power gaming that lies behind them. To continue with these policies — or even worse, to “double down” on them in some witless, blunderbuss way — guarantees there will be an unending series of incidents such as the one in London Saturday night. This might suit the military-industrial-surveillance complex that is devouring the societies of the UK and the US, where war and terror and fear have become vast engines of profit and power for private companies and governments alike. But it will be, as it has been, ruinous and deadly for the peace and prosperity of the citizens these governments purport to serve.

In this century alone, the US and UK have helped destroy two largely secular, multicultural regimes that had stood as bulwarks against the kind of Islamic extremism peddled by our allies, Saudi Arabia: Iraq and Libya. A third such country, Syria, has been the target of an ongoing regime change war in which the West and Saudis are openly backing al Qaeda allies and other extremists. This bipartisan policy of fostering extremism for geopolitical ends was also used in Afghanistan, where a thoroughly secular regime was overthrown by Islamic extremists armed, paid and organized by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

This is not to praise those regimes, but to speak in the terms our leaders themselves have adopted: that Islamic terrorism is the primary threat to our civilization and thus counterterrorism is an overarching priority. If countering Islamic extremism is your priority, then supporting Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy. If it is your priority to combat Islamic extremism which threatens to radicalize citizens of your own country, then giving massive, continuous, unquestioning support to the brutal tyrants who have exported extremist Islam all over the world for decades is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy. If it is your priority to defend your civilization from radical Islamic extremism, then launching war after war after war in Islamic countries with secular governments — and aiding extremist militias in those countries, like al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, founded in the 1990s with support from the West to launch terrorist attacks against the Gadafy regime — are, to put it mildly, the wrong policies. If it is your overarching priority to prevent the spread of hatred, radicalization and revenge, then committing mass murder in drone strikes on villages, weddings, farmers and children is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy.

Viewing all this history, and viewing the actual, visible record of officials like Theresa May (and her bipartisan UK predecessors and US counterparts) on counterterrorism, we are left with only two possible conclusions. One, that all of these highly educated, accomplished and successful individuals — across the range of party affiliations — are dithering, blithering idiots, incapable of recognizing the clear, manifest, repeated failure of their counterterrorism policies, year after year after year. Or two, that quelling and countering terrorism is NOT actually an overarching priority for our leaders; that they know full well these policies lead to more extremism, more terrorism — as their own intelligence services have repeatedly told them — but carry on with them just the same.

Therefore we are left with a further conclusion, which I’ve noted before, but which becomes clearer and clearer with each new terrorist attack and each new doubling-down on the same failed policies by the West: for our leaders, for those on the commanding heights of our bipartisan power structures, the game is worth the candle.  The pursuit of their geopolitical power-game agendas means more to them — much, much more — than the lives and well-being and security of their own citizens. If there is no change in these broader policies, no change in the inhuman, inhumane agenda of domination, then no amount of tinkering with “Prevent” programs on the local level — much less even more authoritarian repression on the national level — will stop the outbreak of sickening evils like the London killings.

Until more people recognize the fact that our own governments have been absolutely crucial to the rise and spread of violent Islamic extremism — both directly, in their alliance with Saudi Arabia, and in the many, many instances of their arming and abetting Islamic terrorists; and indirectly, in carrying out policies which they KNOW will produce radicalized extremists — then we will not even begin to address the problem, much less start to solve it. And this includes recognizing —and questioning — the agendas of our elites as well, to ask why their barbaric quest for dominance and control over others is worth the lives of our sons and daughters, our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, as well as the lives of the countless innocents they kill, year after year, in foreign lands.

This is the world our leaders have created with their deliberately chosen policies, in full knowledge of the consequences. Until we recognize this — until we say “enough is enough” to  these policies and alliances and covert collusions and brutal agendas that stoke the fires of extremism — there will be no end to this madness. It will only grow worse.

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Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

March 21, 2018
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