From Empire Burlesque
The end result of every Islamist terror attack (or even alleged Islamist terror attack) is: 1. Heightened authoritarian powers for governments. 2. Demonization of law-abiding Muslims. 3. More money for war-profiteers, since more war is always the ultimate response. None of these outcomes advance the attackers' cause in any way save one: more repression, demonization and war can lead to more "radicalization" of the people being repressed, demonized and bombed. Thus the responses, which are always the same, always reward the perpetrators of these atrocities by giving them the only thing they can get from the attacks: recruitment tools.
"So what are we supposed to do then?" comes the angry cry. Well, one thing we could do to begin breaking this deadly cycle is to quit living in a dreamworld and recognize what the actual policies of our governments are, what our governments are actually doing, and the actual consequences of these actual events. We have to be done with the childish notion that our greatness and goodness is forever being assaulted out of the blue by motiveless monsters who don't appreciate how greatly good we really are.
The taking of innocent lives is an abominable evil. It is never justified. It is not justified when sectarian extremists strike at the West; it is not justified when Western nations take innocent lives, on a mass scale, in Muslim countries. But from our side, there is not even the slightest chance of breaking this deadly cycle if we do not acknowledge the realities of what we have done and what we are doing in the world. Knowledge is the only way out of this impasse -- if there is a way out of it.
We could see that the policy of destroying whole nations in military actions based on false pretenses or deliberately exaggerated threats, as in Iraq and Libya, spreads ruin, chaos, violence, extremism, refugees and weapons rippling through many other lands, destabilizing them in their turn.
We could acknowledge the plain and incontrovertible fact that one main cause of the spread of violent Islamic extremism has been our own support -- covert and overt -- for groups who push this doctrine, when it suits our own geopolitical purpose. This has happened over and over -- such as the support for the violent retrograde sectarian extremists in Afghanistan, whom we called "freedom fighters" when it suited our purpose. It happened in Libya, where, once again, we armed and supported violent extremist groups while pretending they were secular moderates fight for Jeffersonian principles of liberty and freedom.
It is happening in Syria, where we are arming, funding and bombing on behalf of some of the most virulent sectarian extremists on earth, including al Qaeda, while, again, pretending they are secular moderates. It is happening in Yemen, where for the 15 months, the U.S. government has been directly aiding the religious extremists of Saudi Arabia in a vicious war and murderous blockade that has cleared the way for the resurgence of al Qaeda, just as it had almost been wiped out in that country.
We could acknowledge the plain and incontrovertible fact that these deliberately chosen policies -- chosen as the means to pursue various geopolitical and economic goals, none of which have anything to do with freedom or liberty or human rights -- have resulted in waves of refugees flooding into countries unprepared for them. They have resulted in further radicalization and repression both in the West and in many Muslim lands, straining and tearing at civic structures, particularly in the latter.
We could acknowledge the plain and incontrovertible fact that as long as our governments pursue the agenda of advancing and maintaining economic and political dominion in the world -- by whatever means necessary -- then the fallout, the blowback from these policies will continue. It is striking how our savants can recognize this in regard to other countries, but never our own. The assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey this week was immediately described as blowback or revenge for Russian actions in Syria. "You see," said American pundits and politicians, "if you go meddling in the affairs of other countries for your own selfish political ends, this is what happens! You radicalize people and then they come after you!" The very clear implication -- and sometimes stated assertion -- is that the Russians are "reaping the whirlwind" of their military intervention in the Middle East.
The very same principle applies to Western interventions. But as we all know, one is not allowed to say this. Because of the goodness of our greatness, our interventions are always pure. It is only other countries that pursue amoral policies for their own aggrandizement. If they are met with a violent response to these policies, it's only what they deserve. But if this happens to us, then we are innocent lambs lost in an unfair world. We are floating in an anxious cloud of learned helplessness, willful ignorance and historical amnesia. Knowledge is the only way out of this impasse -- if there is a way out.
Beginning in the late Seventies, we actively, deliberately helped build, fund and arm a global network of violent sectarian extremists in order to bedevil the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We did this: we laid the base (or, in Arabic, "al Qaeda") of global jihad, along the lines of Saudi religious extremism. We stoked this jihad network for more than a decade until every single vestige of secular society was destroyed in Afghanistan and the Taliban took over. We worked with and made a hero of Osama bin Laden (whose family had long-standing business ties in America, including with the Bush family). He was written up in American newspapers as a "freedom fighter" in Afghanistan who had put down his guns and turned his hand to good works in Sudan.
We further stoked radicalization in the region when we intervened in a border dispute between Iraq (which we had supported for years, despite its brutal dictator) and Kuwait, whose royal rulers were longtime business partners of the Bush family.(Our former ally, bin Laden, was angered by the presence of U.S. "infidel" soldiers on Saudi soil; he, like the Americans, wanted to see the secular government of Iraq overthrown, but he had wanted it done by Muslim forces. So he turned against his American partners.) We shattered Iraq, imposed sanctions on it which our own leaders acknowledged killed more than half a million children. Finally, in 2003, when the country was not just on its knees but face down in the dirt, we bravely invaded again, citing the presence of weapons of mass destruction which our governments knew were not there, having been given full evidence of their destruction by the man who destroyed them -- Saddam's son-in-law (as reported by Newsweek long before the 2003 war) -- and also having found no trace of weapons or a weapons program in years of UN inspections, including a full-scale, wide-open inspection just before the war.
It is very odd that most Americans believed -- and apparently still believe --there would be no consequences from this morally insane and strategically stupid policy. No consequence for killing up to a million innocent people (according to the UK government's method of casualty assessment). No consequence for sending millions of refugees flooding into Syria, a country already greatly strained by a prolonged drought which had wrought massive social upheaval. No consequences for creating a chaos in Iraq where the global jihad movement we helped build poured in and flourished as never before.
But there were consequences, of course. Chief among them was the resurgence of al Qaeda and the creation of ISIS, which had its origins in those highly effective "schools" for radicalization: the American military prison camps in Iraq, with their "strenuous interrogations" (as at Abu Ghraib) and their massive sweeps gathering in thousands of innocent people and letting them languish. Syria cracked further under the strain of dealing with millions of Iraqi refugees and continuing drought. Protests arose, response was harsh, and suddenly the country was awash with money and weapons for a full-scale revolt, with thousands of fighters from the global jihad network flooding in. ISIS gained strength in Syria then moved against Iraq.
The United States deliberately refrained from helping Iraq stop ISIS in this early period; Obama openly told Tom Friedman in an interview that the US held back because it wanted to put pressure on Iraq to get rid of its prime minister, a longtime US ally who had become insufficiently obedient. [The actual quote: "The reason, the president added, 'that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.'"]