Yanira is the Operations Editor for the Veterans Today Network. She has been on the job since 2008.

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War Without Why

By Glenn Greenwald in Salon—[I]t’s impossible to grow accustomed to the extreme fantasy atmosphere and self-absorbed blindness that pervades American discussions over Terrorism, especially in the wake of a new scare.  The Right, seeking as always to exploit Terrorism fears, falsely accuses Obama of not displaying "war" language and a "war" mentality, in response to which he and his aides step forward to affirm — yet again — that WE ARE AT WAR!, and to point to all of the times Obama decreed this to be so and all of the war actions he has ordered.  So we’ve spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we’re a War Nation, that we’re led by a War President. That we are "at war" — not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally against Islamic extremists — is an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people. … Yet even in the face of all of that, it is bewilderment and confusion that reign when our media stars and political figures talk about attempts to attack Americans.  Why would they possibly want to do this?  They must be crazy, or drunk with religious fervor, or consumed by blinding, inhumane hatred.  Much of that is probably true for individuals willing to blow themselves up in order to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible.  But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us.      

 

If it is taboo to discuss how America’s actions in the Middle East cause Terrorism — and it generally is — that taboo is far stronger still when it comes to specifically discussing how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels Terrorism directed at the U.S.  An article in yesterday’s New York Times examined the life of Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian who blew himself up, along with 7 CIA agents, in Afghanistan this week.  Why would Balawi — a highly educated doctor, who was specifically recruited by Jordanian intelligence officials to infiltrate Al Qaeda on behalf of Western governments — want to blow himself up and murder as many American intelligence agents as possible?  The article provides this possible answer:

He described Mr. Balawi as a "very good brother" and a "brilliant doctor," saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been "changed" by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

An Associated Press discussion of the possible motives of accused Christmas Day airline attacker Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab contained this quite similar passage (h/t Casual Observer):

Students and administrators at the institute said Abdulmutallab was gregarious, had many Yemeni friends and was not overtly extremist. They noted, however, he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda announced earlier this year that they were unifying into "Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula," they prominently featured rhetoric railing against the Israeli attack on Gaza, and "presented their campaign as part of the struggle to liberate Palestine, since Israel and the Crusaders are one."  So extreme is anger towards Israel over Gaza among Yemenis that even that country’s President — our supposed ally in the War on Terror — called for the opening of camps to train fighters against Israel in Gaza.  In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta signed his "martyr’s will" from Al Qaeda on the day in 1996 when Israel attacked Lebanon, and he did so due to "outrage" over that attack.  There’s just no question that the U.S.’s loyal enabling of (and support for) Israel’s various wars with its Muslims neighbors contributes to terrorist attacks directed at Americans.

As always whenever the words "Israel" and/or "Terrorism" are mentioned, there is a severe danger of over-simplification and distortion from all sides, rendering several caveats in order:  where U.S. support for Israel is a cause of anti-American Islamic extremism, it is generally not the only or even primary cause, but one of several; there is ample American interference and violence in the Muslim world that is quite independent of Israel, and that was true long before 9/11 and especially after.  Al Qaeda leaders who actually care little about the Palestinian cause have a history of exploiting that issue to generate public support.  The fact that Terrorists object to Policy X does not prove that Policy X should be discontinued.  And most of all:  to discuss causes of Terrorism is not to imply justification; one can seek to understand what we do to fuel Terrorism without suggesting that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is in any way legitimate or justified.

Despite all that, it’s impossible to grow accustomed to the extreme fantasy atmosphere and self-absorbed blindness that pervades American discussions over Terrorism, especially in the wake of a new scare.  The Right, seeking as always to exploit Terrorism fears, falsely accuses Obama of not displaying "war" language and a "war" mentality, in response to which he and his aides step forward to affirm — yet again — that WE ARE AT WAR!, and to point to all of the times Obama decreed this to be so and all of the war actions he has ordered.  So we’ve spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we’re a War Nation, that we’re led by a War President.  That we are "at war" — not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally against Islamic extremists — is an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people.  And we are currently waging some form of actual war in no fewer than five predominantly Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia); are threatening Iran with "crippling" sanctions and — from our more deranged quarters — war; and continuing our unbroken devotion to Israel’s causes.

Yet even in the face of all of that, it is bewilderment and confusion that reign when our media stars and political figures talk about attempts to attack Americans.  Why would they possibly want to do this?  They must be crazy, or drunk with religious fervor, or consumed by blinding, inhumane hatred.  Much of that is probably true for individuals willing to blow themselves up in order to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible.  But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us.  That’s what happens when a country is "at war" — it doesn’t just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well.  That’s how "war" works.

It’s truly astounding to watch us — for a full decade — send fighter jets and drones and bombs and invading forces and teams of torturers and kidnappers to that part of the world, or, as we were doing long before 9/11, to overthrow their governments, prop up their dictators, occupy what they perceive as holy land with our foreign troops, and arm Israel to the teeth, and then act surprised and confused when some of them want to attack us.  In general, the U.S. only attacks countries with no capabilities to attack us back in the "homeland" — at least not with conventional forces.  As a result, we have come to believe that any forms of violence we perpetrate on them over there is justifiable and natural, but the Laws of Humanity are instantly breached in the most egregious ways whenever they bring violence back to the U.S., aimed at Americans.  It’s just impossible to listen to discussions grounded in this warped mentality without being astounded at how irrational it is.  What do Americans think is going to happen if we continue to engage in this conduct, in this always-widening "war"?

The principal problem is that by pretending that we do nothing to fuel Islamic radicalism, we stay unaware — blissfully ignorant — of the staggering costs of our actions.  I defy anyone to find a political figure in either major party’s leadership who has, in the context of discussing U.S. policy towards Israel, ever even mentioned the fact that undying, endless American support for Israel — making all of their conflicts our own — increases the risk of terrorist violence aimed at the U.S.  But it so plainly does.  The fact that Israel is now explicitly vowing that its "next wars" against its Muslim neighbors will be "much harsher" than even the grotesque atrocities in Gaza and Lebanon means these costs are almost certain to increase even further.  

Again, these facts do not, standing alone, prove that we ought to change these policies.  The mere fact that Islamic radicals object to what we do does not prove we should stop, as there may be net benefits to those actions or they may be morally justifiable.  But at the very least, rational discussions require that these costs and benefits be weighed, and that can only happen if we acknowledge the costs.  But when it comes to our own actions in the Muslim world, and especially our undying devotion to supporting everything Israel does, acknowledging the costs (to say nothing of the morality) is exactly what we steadfastly refuse to do.

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Posted by on January 7, 2010, With 48 Reads Filed under 9/11. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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4 Responses to "War Without Why"

  1. Marilyn  January 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Yeah and stupid Australia jumps in every time the US says jump.

    We don’t care who we kill and maim just so long as the US is still nice to us.

    • kumo  January 8, 2010 at 2:03 am

      Couldn’t agree with you more Marilyn, what a shame it is that Australia finds it necessary to get involved in this sick occupation and oppression.

  2. APS  January 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Yes indeed. We need to re-examine how our policies cause Mid-East terrorism. And we need to examine how our Civil Rights policies cause the KKK terrorists to burn churches and lynch people. And we need to discuss how our environmental policies caused the Unibomber to blow off people’s limbs. And we need to examine how our abortion and Gay Rights policies cause folks like the Olympics bomber terroists to plant bombs in stadiums and abortion clinics and gay discos.

    Of course. How convenient it all is. If we don’t agree with your politics, if we don’t adopt your point of view….well, then there’s always some criminally insane terrorist ready to murder our sons and daughters until we get YOUR point!

    • Leon  January 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm

      Terrorists bear ultimate responsibility for terrorism of course.

      My point is posting Greenwald’s piece is that there is an awful lot of violence and rhetoric projected overseas and there will be a reaction.

      If your family were killed, starved, and placed under foreign rule [like Gaza, Afghanistan, and most any Arab state], what would your reaction be?

      I take it we all despise terrorism, and equally that we wish to prevent it.

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