Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Foreign Occupation Leads to More Terror

by , September 13, 2011
Ten years ago shocking and horrific acts of terrorism were carried out on U.S. soil, taking over 3,000 innocent American lives. Without a doubt, this action demanded retaliation and retribution. However, much has been done in the name of protecting the American people from terrorism that has reduced our prosperity and liberty and even made us less safe. This is ironic and sad, considering that the oft-repeated line concerning the reasoning behind the attacks is that they hate us for who we are — a free, prosperous people — and that we must not under any circumstances allow the terrorists to win.
Though it is hard for many to believe, honest studies show that the real motivation behind the Sept. 11 attacks and the vast majority of other instances of suicide terrorism is not that our enemies are bothered by our way of life. Nor is it our religion, or our wealth. Rather, it is primarily occupation. If you were to imagine for a moment how you would feel if another country forcibly occupied the United States and had military bases and armed soldiers present in our hometowns, you might begin to understand why foreign occupation upsets people so much. Robert Pape has extensively researched this issue and goes in depth in his book Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. In fact, of 2,200 incidents of suicide attacks he has studied worldwide since 1980, 95 percent were in response to foreign occupation.
Pape notes that before our invasion of Iraq, only about 10 percent of suicide terrorism was aimed at Americans or American interests. Since, then however, not only is suicide terrorism greatly on the rise, but 91 percent of it is now directed at us.
Yes, the attacks of 9/11 deserved a response. But the manner in which we responded has allowed radicals in the Muslim world to advance a very threatening narrative about us and our motivation in occupying their lands. Osama bin Laden referred to us as "crusaders" with a religious agenda to convert Muslims, Westernize their culture, and take control of their resources. If we had targeted our response to only the thugs and criminals who attacked us, and refrained from invading countries that had nothing to do with it, this characterization would seem less plausible to the desperate and displaced. Blaming Islam alone is grossly misleading.
Instead, we chose a course of action that led to the further loss of 8,000 American lives, left 40,000 wounded, and has hundreds of thousands seeking help at the Veterans Administration. We are three to four trillion dollars poorer. Our military is spread dangerously thin around the globe, at the expense of protection here at home. Not only that, but we have allowed our freedoms to be greatly threatened and undermined from within. The PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches and wiretapping, abuse of habeas corpus, and useless and humiliating searches at airports are just a few examples of how we've allowed the terrorists to "win" by making our country less free.
Suicide terrorism did not exist in Iraq before we got there. Now it does. There are no known instances of Iranians committing suicide terrorism. If we invade and occupy Iran, expect that to change, too.
Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable to ask the right questions and face the truth. When a slick politician comes along and gives a much more soothing, self-congratulating version of events, it is very tempting to simply believe what we would like to hear. But listening to lies does not make us safer, even though it might make us feel better about ourselves.
The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous, and more free.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 and the Decline of Brand America

By Reza Pankhurst

September 10, 2011 "
Information Clearing House" -- Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. But the optimism and triumphalism within the United States after the collapse of Communism, the end of the Cold war, and the establishment of the 'New World Order' are now in scarce supply.

Ten years after the start of the War of Terror, Francis Fukuyama has been forced to revise his proclamation of the "End of History". Whilst George W Bush's "Mission Accomplished" and "Iraq is Free" look, in hindsight, so premature that the obstetric term 'miscarriage' would be more appropriate.

"Brand America", in a political sense, has become toxic all over the World. Once upon a time, people in the Muslim world looked at America and Western Europe as their role models. They aspired for their own countries to be Muslim Capitalist democracies, with varying degrees of Islam thrown in to satisfy the religiosity of the masses.

But a combination of long standing support for Israel, Desert Storm/Iraq '91, and the 10 year-long War of Terror – Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan – has diminished the standing of the United States and its allies across the whole world.

This is particularly true in the Middle East, where recent polling showing that across six Arab countries, an average of only 15% of the people gave America a favorable rating. The fact that the lowest ratings were in Egypt (5%), and the highest in Saudi Arabia (30%), should be a further cause for reflection. About 12% considered that America contributed to peace in the Middle East, and only 8% agreed with the policies pursued by Obama—tiny minorities amongst the overwhelmingly negative perceptions, which also extended to views regarding both the American conduct in the killing of the alleged sponsor of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden.

Bush had claimed that the 9/11 attackers hated America because of their "freedoms". But it has not been lost on Muslim populations the world over that these American "freedoms" are for America alone (and even that is under scrutiny due to legislation such as the Patriot Act) – since successive administrations have, for the purpose of securing material and strategic interests, been on the side of the dictators in the Middle East, who have been responsible for suppressing any political dissent and expression for decades. The Obama administration has continued rather than broken from these policies, as evidenced by their actions throughout the Arab Spring.

But it is not just "Brand America" which has suffered since 9/11. The whole systemic range of "Brand Capitalism" is also doing badly. Just as violent, inhumane and repressive policies employed used to secure a 'Pax Americana', 'human rights' and 'freedom' damaged "Brand America" and Western-promoted liberal democracy, the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent economic downturn, and currency crises of the last few years have shattered worldwide confidence in the so-called free market philosophy, which has once again been exposed as a useful stick to employ by the elite when seeking markets to exploit (such as the various diktats issued to less developed economies by the IMF in the 80's and 90's) but quickly discarded when their own interests are at stake.

BBC polling in 2009 showed only 11% across 27 countries believed that Capitalism was doing well, with almost a quarter believing it to be fatally flawed. It is surprising these numbers are not even more negative given that people across Europe and America were (and continue to be) direct witnesses to how little the majority reaped of the profit in times of growth with the justification that the market decides, while, in contradiction to those same free market principles which would have seen the banks allowed to fail, that same majority have been forced to pay the price of private sector failure in the time of decline through the imposed funding of bailouts.

While American and British aggression post-9/11 exposed the hollowness of claims by these governments to human rights and moral values, the reaction to the financial crisis exposed the emptiness of the adoption of the mantra of the free market as governments clamored to make their citizens pay for the sins of the financiers. Growing social unrest in the West due to the huge disparity in wealth between the rich and poor is likely to further undermine the lure of the Western economic model which has seen bankers and their colleagues maintain their privileges while the general population mostly suffers in silence.

Ten years on, the vulnerability that America felt as a result of 9/11 is compounded today by the economic crisis that it faces. And yet the proposed 2012 budget allocates a lop-sided 19.7% for "Defense". To put the amount in context, the United States spent more on its military in 2010 than the next 19 in the top 20 of largest spenders combined (with 20th on the list being Greece), highlighting the staggering extent of the American war machine. It is not inaccurate to state that they are now paying for their imperial overstretch, something that is surely unsustainable in the future and which is driving the pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan—a retreat necessitated by financial and domestic considerations rather than meeting any apparent strategic or military objectives. "Mission accomplished", yet again. But this time remotely operated predator drones will remain and continue to murder the natives whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan— a much cheaper option financially, politically and morally than keeping American boots on the ground and meet their opposition face to face.

At the same time, the financial crisis, made in America, has been exported elsewhere. By printing more money to offset the huge expenditure to bail out banks, the United States has affected the wealth of people who had saved in dollars or US Treasury bonds. The modern financial system has allowed speculation and trade in food that has seen global food prices rise, which costs lives in other parts of the world. When America sneezes, everyone catches a cold.

Ten years after 9/11, the unipolar age of the American hyper-power is over; US-style Capitalism and its professed free-market ideology which has been exposed as a myth is now being challenged by state-Capitalism; the West, in particular the United States, has been greatly diminished in the eyes of the world.

Dr. Reza Pankhurst is Editor of online political journal New Civilisation and is a contributing writer on Foreign Policy Journal. He has a Masters in the History of International Relations and a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Government department. He was a political prisoner of the previous Mubarak regime in Egypt, spending 4 years in jail between 2002 and 2006. He
lives in the UK where he is currently completing work on his forthcoming book.


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