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Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy

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“While al-Qaeda continues to threaten America directly, it also inspires its affiliates and other groups and individuals who share its violent ideology…. Homegrown terrorists represent a new and changing facet of the terrorist threat. To be clear, by ‘homegrown,’ I mean terrorist operatives who are U.S. persons and who were radicalized in the United States….”

With those words Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano updated Congress on America’s perilous condition. She wasn’t quite accurate, however.

It is not al-Qaeda that inspires affiliates and radicalizes homegrown terrorists. It is America’s violent policies in the Muslim world. Other government officials have acknowledged that Muslim radicals seek revenge for those policies in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, but Napolitano perpetuates the myth that anti-American activity is unprovoked. The American people deserve to hear the truth.

Napolitano referred to recent unsuccessful attacks in the United States: “Other al-Qaeda affiliates have actually attempted to attack the homeland in recent months. These include Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) [Pakistan] and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) [Yemen] — which, until their respective claims of responsibility for the attempted Times Square and Christmas Day terrorist attacks, had only conducted attacks in their regions.”

What she left out was that the U.S. government regularly fires missiles into Pakistan and Yemen from aerial drones, killing innocent people. The desire for revenge is a natural consequence.

Napolitano also warned of al-Shabaab in Somalia, which has taken responsibility for recent bombings in Uganda. But she neglected to mention both U.S. and Ugandan military intervention in Somalia, another Muslim country. Are we to be surprised that young naturalized Somali-Americans would feel impelled to go back to their native country to resist American aggression?

Why won’t Napolitano acknowledge that the American empire provokes anti-Americanism? This isn’t rocket science. You bomb someone; they get mad and try to get even. Terrorism is the price paid for maintaining an empire. But the imperial masters apparently think it’s worth the price. They never suffer; on the contrary, they prosper when they can use the violence to justify further expansion of their power.

And so it goes on, like a perpetual-motion machine. Each act of the empire provokes a response that serves as a pretext for further imperial action. The battlefield is the world, and the “war on terror” can go on forever. Except for the dead, the maimed, the malnourished, and the taxpayers, it’s a sweet deal all around.

That “terrorism” is really vengeance (wrongly exacted from civilians) for earlier crimes of the empire should come as no shock, though it undoubtedly will. Nevertheless, even the mainstream press has let us in on some relevant facts.

“In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists,” the New York Times reported last month.

“While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.”

In other words, America’s fraudulent peace president is using the paramilitary CIA to fight secret wars. They may be described as attacks on “the enemy,” but they inevitably kill innocents — while unfailingly recruiting new militants bent on revenge. In the U.S. government’s code book, “the enemy” is anyone who opposes a U.S. military presence in his country.

Who would trust the intelligence agencies to identify actual terrorists, anyway? As Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, notes, “After September 11, Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown, etc., a bit of modestly might be in order.”

If the terrorist threat is as real as Napolitano says it is, there’s a way to diminish or end it: U.S. out of the Muslim world.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.