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Even if We Defeat ISIS, Will We Be Able to Defeat Each and Every One of Its Successors?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Richard Clark     Permalink
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The US has killed no less than a half-dozen al-Qaeda number-twos and number-ones. From Yemen to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Somalia, the US has proven skillfully adept at taking out the leadership of Islamic terrorist groups. And yet 13 years after 9/11, after spending $3 trillion and suffering the deaths of 7,000 US soldiers, the threat against the US is greater than ever.

Why? Because our foreign policy in the Middle East remains corrupt and largely unchanged. As long as we remain addicted to the region's cheap oil, our efforts to arm and fund oppressive, despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia will continue -- even though some of these regimes (or wealthy donors within them) secretly fund (look here and here and here ) organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda.

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But why and how, exactly, will this oil addiction of ours prevent us from continually and successively defeating every ISIS-like organization, as each one follows on the heels of its predecessor?

Most people understand that the US provides arms and military training to oppressive Mideast regimes like Saudi Arabia. By this means we acquire high quality oil at a good price. Meanwhile, the media and politicians seem to suggest that ISIS and its ilk are created in a vacuum, which is the illusion that allows us to ignore how our "arms-for-oil" strategy has created a permanent majority-economic-underclass in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq -- an underclass kept politically powerless and in servitude, by which means the ruling criminal class at the top is allowed to live in unbelievable luxury.

Over the course of the last century, US foreign policy has turned various Mideast countries into economic basket-cases, all in the name of ensuring our nation's economic self-gain. As a result, ISIS is attracting new recruits from the entire Mideast. But new volunteers are also coming to it from countries like Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, which (surprise, surprise) have long been the targets of U.S. drones. Other volunteers are coming from Libya, the nation that was subjected to intense bombing by the U.S. and its Western allies. Most alarming is the fact that several hundred new recruits have come from the U.S., Britain and other Western nations.

Oil-rich despotic regimes ask the US to protect them from predatory neighbors. Toward this end, the US sells $55 billion of arms to these countries annually, thus a) making them US protectorates and b) generating lots of badly needed American jobs. In return, the US and its Western allies receive an uninterrupted supply of high quality oil at very low prices. (Examples of the aforementioned arms sales here and here)

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What do the vast majority of citizens of Mideast countries get from this deal? . . Nothing. Members of the ruling autocratic elite take virtually all of the oil proceeds for themselves, and by this means the ordinary people of these countries are deprived of the funds needed for investment in the common good. And so it is that US foreign policy has inadvertently created the very means by which organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda are generated and regenerated.

This is not a new phenomenon

The British used this same strategy for turning Middle Eastern states into protectorates just as soon as British geologists discovered oil in the region during the early 1900s. For many years the British had a bad reputation for sucking all vitality out of their colonies and protectorates, thereby leaving them economically and socially devastated.

They built the Suez Canal so they could have access to India and the Spice Islands. British banks funded the development of the Suez Canal, but when in 1882 Egypt was unable to repay the high interest rates, the Brits stepped in and took over the country as a colony. In turn, money allocated for the development of Egyptian schools and infrastructure was 'appropriated'(taken) by British banks.

Our mainstream media denies Americans the contextual understanding that drives the roots of Muslim rage

Example: Recently the US killed the leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia. But al Shabaab's rise didn't occur in a vacuum. Nor did the rise of ISIS. And so it is that covering up the US role in this history (and keeping it out of any media coverage) allows our government to create a completely false picture of what's happening.

The 2001 film Black Hawk Down dramatized the 1993 US mission to capture Somali militia leaders who had been responsible for the deaths of 18 Americans and more than 1,000 Somalis. The film glorifies the killing of faceless black Muslim terrorists, while at the same time keeping hidden important historical facts, . . like the hand of the US in that country's collapse: In the 1980s, Somalia was a US proxy state. The US funded the country with development aid and the sale of arms. It did so as part of our Cold War effort to defeat the Soviet Union, since neighboring Ethiopia had sided with the Communists. US-backed IMF loans had led to the collapse of Somalia's pastoralist economy, and ultimately to high levels of urban unemployment. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, the US quickly abandoned the Somalis, withdrew these IMF funds. As a result the economy collapsed. Somalis then broke up into clans, and the country descended into all-out civil war, as a decade of US arms sales unleashed bloodshed and ever deeper divisions. To exacerbate matters, the US began arming and funding Ethiopian militias, which then inflicted indiscriminate brutality against Somali civilians, ultimately giving rise to al-Shabaab.

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So, by almost every impartial measure, members of al-Shabaab qualify as freedom fighters, and yet the US labeled them 'terrorists,' even though al-Shabaab had never made threats against the US. So, is it really difficult to understand why a trickle of young men in the diaspora would be attracted to the idea of answering al-Shabaab's call for volunteers to defend their country from US-backed Ethiopian invaders? No it is not.

The brutal and sadistic beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff have rightfully outraged the US public. But because of our dependence on Mideast oil, and the tactics we use to ensure our supply, and because these tactics result in the social and economic oppression of millions of Muslims, we need to understand and accept a terrible truth: Vengeful hatred of the US and the executions of Americans on Middle Eastern soil is simply the cost of US oil companies doing a very lucrative business in the region.

Even if We Defeat ISIS, Will We Be Able to Defeat Each and Every One of Its Successors?


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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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