"This is not an isolated criminal act we are dealing with, it is an extreme
and evil ideology whose roots lie in a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation
of the religion of Islam."
do they hate us? Does Islam, or a "poisonous misinterpretation" of it, create
we're told by politicians that a corrupt version of Islam is the cause of the
al-Qaeda movement and its most deadly tactic, suicide terrorism. In his book,
to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, University of Chicago
associate professor of political science Robert A. Pape wrestles with these
questions and more. His conclusions surprised even him. On my July 16 radio
he said that after 9/11 he assumed the Koran might contain clues toward understanding
what motivates a person to commit a suicide bombing. For his book, however,
Pape started with the bombings themselves every documented case between
1980 and 2004 and noticed some suggestive common threads. Foreign occupation,
it seems not religion is the core motivating factor behind suicide
terrorism. From Hezbollah
in Lebanon and Hamas
in Gaza and the West Bank to Sikhs
in India, from the jihadists of 9/11 to the secular Marxist Tamil
Tigers in Sri Lanka for all of these, it is "a nationalistic response."
Pape says that while al-Qaeda terrorists are twice as likely to be from a country
where radical Salafist/Wahhabist Islam is widely practiced, they are 10 times
more likely to have come from a country that has U.S. troops stationed in it.
In most cases, this
foreign military presence is not hostile in a traditional sense, since the local
governments have agreed to their stay. But according to a Saudi poll after 9/11,
of educated Saudi males between the ages of 25 and 41 agreed with bin Laden's
goal of driving Americans off their holy land.
No suicide bombers have ever come from Iran, where there are no foreign troops.
Iraq had never seen a suicide bombing on its soil before U.S. troops arrived
in 2003. While Ayatollah
Khomeini spent the 1980s criticizing American culture, many people agreed,
but none resorted to suicide bombing. When bin Laden cited
U.S. forces in the land of Mecca and Medina, men hopped on planes with knives.
The root cause of suicide terrorism is occupation, not Islam, and not the other
way around, as the War Party and its ill-informed adherents so righteously claim.
"Don't you remember Sept. 11? We were attacked!"
As Harry Browne has pointed
out, history does not begin on 9/11. In fact, American
intervention in the Middle East dates back to 1919, when U.S. participation
in World War I helped turn the entire region over to the British and the French,
who then drew borders to their own liking for the states of Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, what was Palestine, etc.
Since the Second World War, the U.S. government has dominated each of the Middle
Eastern states at one time or another, and consistently a majority of them.
It has supported bloody coups; backed fascist monsters
Reza Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein,
and Hosni Mubarak; armed
and financed both
of wars; propped up puppet kings,
sultans, and emirs;
and helped the Israeli government kill, steal, and destroy with
our money. To top it off, it has now waged a bloody war and a terrible blockade
of Iraq all from bases in the "land of two Holy Places,"
the Arabian Peninsula.
Surprised that revenge was taken? We're lucky it took so long.
Michael Scheuer, the formerly anonymous author of Imperial
Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror and ex-head analyst
at the CIA's bin Laden unit, Alec Station, seems to concur. In his book, he
lists six policies
that have fueled al-Qaeda's fire:
First and foremost are the U.S. forces that spent 13
years in Saudi Arabia and have now been moved to other bases on the
Arabian Peninsula. This is a distinction, Pape says, without a difference
to bin Laden or his followers, for whom the entire Peninsula is Holy Land.
Think of it as a Middle Eastern Monroe
Doctrine. It was not American tourists and businessmen that pissed him
off either. It was the soldiers.
Second is America's unconditional
support for Israel, which occupies Jerusalem.
Third are the long-term blockade of Iraq and the bombing of the "no-fly"
zone, which, on
average, happened once every three days for over a decade. These have
now been replaced by the wars against, and ongoing occupations of, Afghanistan
and Iraq even more valuable recruiting tools.
Fourth on Scheuer's list of bin Laden's motivations is American support
for Russia, China, and India in their suppression of Muslims. Seems he spoke
too soon on Russia, as the American neoconservatives curiously favor
the Chechens in that fight, despite the U.S. government's rhetorical
and financial support of "the fight against Islamist extremism everywhere."
Fifth and sixth are U.S. government support for corrupt governments in
the Middle East, none of which are democratic (among these are Jordan, Saudi
Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, and now Iraq), and pressure (that is,
threats of violence) to keep oil prices set where American
mercantilists want them. Is it a surprise that all of the 9/11 hijackers
at least the one's whose identities aren't in dispute
were from countries (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) with
governments friendly to our own, and that none of them were from Iran, Iraq,
Pape has researched the strategic, social, and individual logic of suicide
terrorism. He explains that when occupying forces are culturally and/or religiously
alien, they are more vulnerable to demonization. It's the same with the American
soldier who wrote to tell me that Iraqis are "animals" who "all look alike"
and are all "guilty of something" as his excuse for taking life.
A major problem with the "fringe religion" theory is that it ignores the fact
that supermajorities in Islamic nations agree with bin Laden's view of American
foreign policy, though not necessarily with his tactics. It denies the slightest
possibility of a single legitimate grievance that might deserve to be addressed.
It also enables our government to maintain its state of war indefinitely.
The profile of the individual suicide bomber is going to need some major revision
as well. Pape explains the difference between egoistic
and altruistic suicide the former being the desperate killing of
oneself during a period of hopelessness for their own situation, the latter
a selfless and noble sacrifice for others, like a soldier jumping on a grenade
for his buddies, or a Kamikaze Pilot trying to delay a land invasion of his
country. Egoistic suicide has been the
model used by westerners to explain suicide bombings. The bombers are losers,
they say; young, poor, uneducated, hopeless and full of rage. Having nothing
to live for, they murder innocent people because evil Wahhabists brainwash them
and promise them virgins in heaven.
According to Pape, this model must be scrapped. Suicide bombers are typically
upper-middle class, well-educated, successful, socially connected people who
know exactly what they are doing. For their perception of a greater good, they
give their lives to kill people as part of a strategic campaign aimed at the
people of the West, to turn us against our governments, and to force them to
end the occupations and protections.
The action is in the reaction. As we saw in the recent London attacks, suicide
terrorism works, particularly against democracies. It is dependent on the ability
of the targeted civilians to pressure their governments to end the occupations.
The Royal Institute for International Affairs, the center of the British foreign
policy establishment, has concluded [.pdf]:
"There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties
for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism. It gave a boost to
the al-Qaeda network's propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major
split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for al-Qaeda-linked
Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in
terms of British and U.S. military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure,
and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign."
But Jack Straw remains as stubborn as
well, as a Stalinist.
According to DeHavilland:
"[F]oreign secretary Jack Straw said he was 'astonished' by the report.
"Mr. Straw said the war on terror had been sparked by September 11th,
the 'premeditated unprovoked attack' on New York and Washington, and not vice
"'The time for excuses for terrorism is over. The terrorists have struck
across the world, in countries allied with the U.S., backing the war in Iraq
and in countries which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq,' he
"'They struck in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Indonesia, in the Yemen. They
struck this weekend in Turkey, which was not supporting our action in Iraq.
It is the terrorists who will seek any excuse whatsoever for their action.'
"John Reid, defense secretary, dismissed the report, saying it had
failed to proffer any alternatives.
"'The terrorists want to kill anyone who stands in the way of their
perverse ideology,' Mr. Reid said."
The terrorists struck Americans in Kenya,
and Yemen. Locals
who were also killed were collateral damage, so to speak. As for the attack
in Turkey, it was committed by our allies the Kurds. Why
didn't Straw go ahead and mention the Mujahedin
cult of Islamo-Marxists that the coalition of the willing sent
into Iran to bomb civilians only a few weeks back?
As for 9/11 being unprovoked, I will again quote James Bamford's
description of bin Laden and Zawahiri's plan to provoke the U.S. into invading
the greater Middle East:
"Ayman al-Zawahiri argued that al-Qaeda should bring the war to 'the distant
enemy' in order to provoke the Americans to strike back and 'personally wage
the battle against Muslims.' It was that battle that bin Laden and Zawahiri
wanted to spark [with the 9/11 attacks]. As they made clear in their declaration
of war 'against Jews and Crusaders.' They believed that the United States and
Israel had been waging war against Muslims for decades. Now their hope was to
draw Americans into a desert Vietnam, with bin Laden in the role of North Vietnamese
president Ho Chi Minh."
The leaders of al-Qaeda believed that the U.S. was already at war against them
through our proxies, so they decided to lure us into their desert swamp to "bleed
us dry" economically, and to eventually force us out altogether, all the while
expanding their own constituency on our dime. It's working.
The people of England disagree
with Jack Straw. Check out this
article in the Guardian:
"Two-thirds of Britons believe there is a link between Tony Blair's decision
to invade Iraq and the London bombings despite government claims to the contrary,
according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. The poll makes it clear that
voters believe further attacks in Britain by suicide bombers are also inevitable,
with 75% of those responding saying there will be more attacks. The research
suggests the government is losing the battle to persuade people that terrorist
attacks on the UK have not been made more likely by the invasion of Iraq. According
to the poll, 33% of Britons think the prime minister bears 'a lot' of responsibility
for the London bombings and a further 31% 'a little.' Only 28% of voters agree
with the government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected."
America's policy is self-destructive. A "global
democratic revolution" in other words, the maintenance of Western-friendly
governments in countries all over the world can only make matters worse.
The war in Iraq sure has.
According to the Boston
"New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think
tank both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations
of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States have found
that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and
became radicalized by the war itself."
One could do worse than to read Pape's book, or for that matter, to simply
"Osama bin Laden" for a few hours. All of bin Laden's threats are predicated
on removing American troops from his backyard. He may want to rule all the world,
but all available historical evidence shows that occupation is what galvanizes
his followers. They'll keep signing up until our governments bring the soldiers
home from the Middle East and South Asia.
Defeat, in this case, means ending the empire.
What right do we have to win?