Ever since 9/11, Americans have generally fallen into two camps in explaining why our country now faces the constant threat of terrorist attacks.
The first group is composed of people who claim that foreigners, particularly Muslims, hate America for its freedom and values. Things like rock-and-roll, beauty pageants, Lady Gaga, and intellectual and religious freedom drive the foreigners crazy with anger and hatred, claim the people in this group, which drives them to commit acts of terrorism against America.
The second group is composed of those people, mostly libertarians, who contend that the terrorist threat has nothing to do with hatred for America’s freedom and values, but instead is driven by extreme anger over the U.S. government’s foreign policy, and specifically the horrible things that the U.S. government has done to foreigners, especially Muslims in the Middle East.
That brings us to the alleged Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, who is a naturalized American citizen who was born and raised in Pakistan. A front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times should effectively seal the lips of those people in group one. The article, which profiled Shahzad’s life before the attempted Times Square attack, leaves absolutely no doubt that his actions were rooted in anger over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Consider the following three excerpts from the article:
1) “Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from the west. Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe.” [from an email from Shahzad]
2) After political instability and sectarian violence roiled [Pakistan in the 1990s, where Shahzad living with his parents], many Pakistanis blamed the United States. After propping up the Pakistani military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, in the 1980s, the American government was now imposing hefty sanctions in retaliation for Pakistan’s nuclear program. The economy stalled as anti-Americanism spread.
3) Mr. Shahzad had long been critical of American foreign policy. “He was always very upset about the fabrication of the W.M.D. stunt to attack Iraq and killing noncombatants such as the sons and grandson of Saddam Hussein,” said a close relative. Mr. Shahzad had been copied on a Google Groups e-mail message bearing photographs of Guantanamo Bay detainees, handcuffed and crouching, below the words “Shame on you, Bush. Shame on you.” The following year, Igor Djuric, a real estate agent who helped him buy his house, recalled that Mr. Shahzad was angered by President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.”
Suppose the U.S. government got into a conflict with the Israeli government in which the U.S. government imposed brutal sanctions on Israel, which ended up contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Israeli children. One day, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations publicly declares that the deaths of half-a-million Israeli children from the sanctions are “worth it.” After 11 years of sanctions, the U.S. government invades Israel and imposes a brutal 9-year occupation that ends up killing, maiming, torturing, incarcerating, and exiling hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Hundreds of Israeli resisters to the invasion and occupation, which the U.S. government labels as “terrorists,” are whisked off to secret detention centers, where they are incarcerated, tortured, sexually abused, and humiliated without any due process of law. U.S. foreign aid continues to flow into Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, which have been cheering the U.S. government’s actions against Israel.
How would American Jews react to all that? Wouldn’t most of them be extremely angry? Wouldn’t the anger rise to the level of rage as each year went on? While some American Jews would undoubtedly rally to the support of their government, would it surprise anyone that some of them would join up with the Israelis and engage in terrorist attacks on the United States?
Once the U.S. Empire went on its crusade in the Middle East after the end of the Cold War with such things as the Persian Gulf intervention, the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage facilities, the 11 years of brutal sanctions on Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the unconditional support of the Israeli government, the support of brutal dictators, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the assassinations in Pakistan, the rendition, torture, Gitmo, and all the rest, why would it surprise anyone that people of Muslim faith would react in the same way that people of Jewish faith would react if it were Israel that had suffered the heavy hand of the U.S. Empire?
It is obvious that there is one — and only one — solution to all this: Dismantle the U.S. Empire and the U.S. military industrial complex. World War II is over. So are the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Cold War too. Time to demobilize. Bring all the troops home from overseas and discharge them. Close all the foreign military bases, including Guantanamo, and abandon leasehold rights to the bases.
That is what should have been done at the end of the Cold War. It is what should be done now. The U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention has done enough damage to our country, not only producing the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, but also contributing to the ever-growing mountain of debt that threatens the economic future of our nation.