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Issue #1796      September 27, 2017

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

Terrorism and futile US wars

If you were naive enough to believe that the “War on Terror” was actually intended to put a stop to global terrorism – or even just to reduce its prevalence – then you would have to admit that you had been grossly misled.

Consider: according to the Global Terrorism Index, there has been a fivefold increase in global terrorism fatalities since 9/11. And that figure only goes up to 2014; there have been more terrorist outrages since then.

The US likes to use 9/11 as the kick-off point for terrorism as a global phenomenon because ignoring terrorism before that date allows the US to pose as victim instead of originator. But, although US governments always portray 9/11 as an “attack”, you don’t have to be an expert in international affairs to see that it was actually a response, to US policies that were furthering poverty, inequality, geopolitical conflict, environmental degradation and globalisation everywhere.

That it was a response that US intelligence both anticipated and was smart enough to use for their own advantage is also evident, enabling the US not only to use the “threat of terrorism” as an excuse enabling it to launch additional military adventures around the globe but also to use 9/11 to justify far-reaching attacks on democratic rights at home. Measures designed to increase Americans’ paranoia – already at levels far above those of other nations – were easily pushed through after 9/11, accompanied by attacks on civil liberties not seen since the worst days of McCarthyism.

Even Amnesty International, which too often became a tool of the CIA and the US State Department in American capital’s propaganda and subversion war against the Soviet Union, has more recently been obliged to examine the workings of bourgeois democracy, especially in the US itself. Amnesty in the US now argues that US policies are “curtailing human rights, undermining the rule of international law and shielding governments from scrutiny ... The overwhelming impact of all this is genuine fear – among the affluent as well as the poor.”

And Human Rights Watch, another organisation with questionable “progressive” credentials, in a 2004 report titled, Above the Law: Executive Power after September 11 in the United States, stated, “The Bush administration’s anti-terrorism practices represent a stunning assault on basic principles of justice, government accountability, and the role of the courts.” And for once, one would have to agree that Human Rights Watch has got it right!

Dahr Jamail in Truthout, a genuinely progressive US on-line journal, summed up the effects of US policies post 9/11 as “ongoing US military violence abroad, increased domestic surveillance and repression at home, and a world more violent and less safe for all”.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, and more than 6,000 were injured, truly horrific figures. However, successive US governments have used these casualties to excuse on-going US aggression, assassinations and casual violence that has killed far, far more equally innocent people. The authors of a report titled Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror’, told Truthout that the numbers of dead in Iraq and other countries the US had waged war on since the events of September 11 had reached “genocidal dimensions” and “could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.”

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in: thanks no doubt to the substantial “improvements” in the destructive power of conventional weapons, the myriad “local wars” the US has instigated or enlarged since 9/11, have killed at least a million people, possibly more than two million. And many of those killed were unquestionably non-combatants, the victims of a military that sees the killing of civilians as a legitimate tactic to achieve your ends. And achieving your ends, by any means possible, is of course what it’s all about.

Dahr Jamail notes: “In Afghanistan alone, well over 31,000 civilians have died violent deaths from the war, and uncounted numbers have suffered – and continue to suffer – from wounds and health impacts and being unable to get treatment or assistance.

“Afghanistan, already a war-ravaged country, has been made even more difficult to live in by the US occupation, which the US has just amped up again by sending nearly 4,000 more troops. Issues like lack of sanitation, extreme poverty, lack of basic healthcare, pollution and malnutrition have all grown worse, not better, with the US presence there.”

Meanwhile, the US occupation of Iraq has seen the numbers of civilians killed by the US military and the other violence that has wracked the country reach what Jamail calls “apocalyptic totals”. He also makes the pertinent observation that “The US occupation played a huge role in the radicalisation of Iraqi youth and drove many of them into ISIS (also known as Daesh), which continues to plague portions of war-torn Iraq today.” (And not just Iraq, of course, with Daesh fighters active in Libya, Syria and other countries where the US seeks control of oil.)

As Jamail adds, “The US occupation and destruction of the Iraqi state also played a key role in destabilising Syria, which is now another failed state, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of refugees multiplying as the bloodbath continues.”

Ironically, although US oil giant ExxonMobil took over one of Iraq’s largest oil fields thanks to the US occupation, they have failed to consolidate their position. In fact, Denise Natali, an expert on the Middle East with the National Defence University in Washington, told The New York Times in 2013 that “The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq.”

And Jamail supports that view, saying “China, without deploying one soldier or firing one shot, has slowly yet methodically been moving into the mix, and angling for more control of Iraq’s oil, in addition to being its largest oil consumer.” Perhaps China is successful because it chooses to pay for Iraqi oil where the US prefers to simply steal it.

US power in the world has been steadily declining for several decades. Certainly, its days of being the world’s sole superpower are long gone. Nevertheless, US imperialism is loath to give up its dream of world domination. It still maintains roughly 300,000 active military personnel in over 150 countries and nearly 800 bases globally. And yet it finds itself unable to browbeat even a small country like the DPRK without having to call on the help of the international community via the UN.

In the old days, an imperial power sent a gunboat and troublesome little countries quickly fell into line. But US President Trump sent an entire task-force to cow North Korea and instead of surrendering they threatened to bomb his naval base on Guam. Hence the switch to plan B, referral to the despised United Nations.

Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, had ridden into the White House on a wave of anti-war and anti-US Empire sentiment aroused by the policies of the administration that had preceded his: that of the notorious George W Bush. Bush was an advocate of “continuous war” and Obama was vaulted into office by promising “hope” and “change.”

Obama’s reduction in US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq was largely illusory, however. As Jamail observes: “Obama simply followed Bush administration policy by making a slow withdrawal from Iraq while maintaining a US presence there in the form of ‘advisers’, surveillance, air strikes, artillery, drones and later, troops. All of this continues under the Trump administration, but with more troops on the ground.”

In fact, Obama greatly increased the number of drone strikes in countries around the world, especially in Pakistan, where the US regularly used drones to assassinate people it considered to be its enemies.

Since WW2, all US presidents, despite their individual differences, have represented US imperialism. Their pursuit of its goals has greatly exacerbated the flaws and inequalities in the US economy. Dahr Jamail notes that “estimates from six years ago pegged the price tag of the so-called War on Terror at 3 to 4.4 trillion dollars when direct and indirect costs are calculated, and that figure continues to rise on a daily basis.” Such a whopping expenditure might make lots of money for people in the arms business, but it leaves the US government at the bottom of a huge pit from which it cannot extricate itself. And, if you think that’s bad, a 2016 study increased the total to nearly 5 trillion dollars!

Clearly, as Dahr Jamail says, “There is no merit in preserving the US empire. The primary question we are left with, then, is how many more people will die as this empire fights a losing battle to maintain its dominance?”

Next article – Worker solidarity – Building the movement

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