AMERICAN IMPERIALISM — WHO REALLY IS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST TERRORIST?
By Vincent Lyn
Most Americans would admit that we make mistakes. Despite our best efforts, we do sometimes produce what we like to call “collateral damage” as the US goes after the evildoers, but a terror regime? Not us. Never.
And this is part of the reason I'm writing you. I keep wondering how, it's been possible to hold onto such fictions so successfully. I wonder why, at least some of the time, you aren't jumping out of your skin over what the US government does, rather than what they've done or might prospectively do to us. Take your pick ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Taliban.
Let's start with an uncomfortable fact of our world that few here care to mention: in one way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of just about every extreme terror outfit across the Greater Middle East. Start in the 1980s with the The urge of President Ronald Reagan and his fundamentalist spymaster, CIA Director William Casey, to make allies of fundamentalist Islamic movements at a time when their extremist piety seemed attractively anticommunist. ready to give the Soviet Union a bloody nose, a Vietnam in reverse.
To accomplish this, Washington also allied itself with an extreme religious state, Saudi Arabia, as well as Pakistan's less than savory intelligence service. The result was major support for them — President Reagan hailed them as “freedom fighters” and said up of a visiting gro of them in 1985, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers” — many of whom were fighting us in Afghanistan, and indirectly for what came to be known as al-Qaeda, an organization which emerged from the American-Saudi hothouse of the Afghan War.
Similarly, American fingerprints are all over the Islamic State (IS) or “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. Its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, came into existence in the chaos and civil strife that followed the American invasion and occupation of that country , after Saddam Hussein's military had been disbanded and hundreds of thousands of trained Sunni personnel tossed out onto the streets of Iraq's cities. Much of the leadership of the Islamic State met, grew close, and trained potential recruits at Camp prison it ary Bucca, an Ameri in Iraq. Without the acts of the Bush administration, IS would, in fact, have been inconceivable. In the same fashion, the US (and NATO) intervention in Libya in 2011, including a seven-month bombing campaign, helped create the conditions for the growth of extreme militias in parts of that country,as the USA drone assassination campaign in Yemen has visibly strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In other words, each of the terror organizations we categorize as the unimaginably barbaric Other, has a curiously intimate, if generally unexplored, relationship with us. In addition, in these years, it's been clear (at least to those living in the Greater Middle East) that such groups had no monopoly on barbarity. Washington's extreme acts were legion in the region, ranging from its CIA torture chambers (although we called them “black sites”) to Abu Ghraib, from global kidnappings to images of a US helicopter gunning down civilians in the streets of Baghdad. There were also a range of well-publicized vengeful acts of war, including videos of US troops laughing while urinating on enemy corpses, trophy photos of body parts shot taken by American soldiers of a 12 soldiers - member “kill team” that hunted Afghans “for sport,” and a striking “lone wolf” night-time terror rampage by an American staff sergeant in Afghanistan who killed 16 villagers, mainly women and children. And that’s just for starters.
And by my count, American airpower has murdered parts or all of at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen), killing at least several hundred revelers over the years, without the slightest shock or upset in the US Can you imagine what would happen if the planes and drones from another country had wiped out eight weddings here in perhaps a dozen years?
On a larger scale, Washington's invasions, occupations, interventions, bombings, and raids since 9/11 have resulted in a rising tide of civilian deaths and exiles in a fragmenting region. All of this, including those drone assassination campaigns in the backlands of the planet, adds up to a panorama of barbarism and terror that we seldom acknowledge as such. Of course, the terror outfits we love to hate also love to hate us and have often leapt to embrace the extremity of our acts, including adopting both the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo and the CIA's waterboarding for their own symbolic purposes.
Perhaps above all, Americans don't imagine drones, the sexiest high-tech weapons around, as purveyors of terror. Yet our grimly named Predators and Reapers armed with “Hellfire” missiles, their pilots safe from harm thousands of miles away, buzz daily over the Afghanistan tribal backlands and rural Yemen spreading terror below. That this is so should be indisputable, at least based on accounts from the ground. On August 29th, 2021 a drone strike in Kabul killed as many as ten civilians, including seven children. With Washington apologizing for what it called a “tragic mistake”. Why aren't you jumping out of your skin over what the US government continually does? Where's the uproar? Where's the accountability?
In fact, Washington's drone assassins might fit into a category we normally only apply to Them: “lone wolf” terrorists searching for targets to blow away. In our case, it's people who have what Washington identifies as behavioral “traits” associated with terror suspects . They are eliminated in “signature strikes.” The word American drone operators use to label their dead victims — “bug splat” — reveals much. The term goes back at least to the non-drone shock-and-awe air attacks that began the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and reflects a disturbing sense of God-like, all-seeing power over the “insects” below.
Of course, part of the reason so little of this sinks in here is that all such acts, no matter how extreme, have been folded into a single comforting framework. You know the one I mean: the need for the national security state to keep Americans “safe” from terror. I think you'd agree that, by now, this is a sacrosanct principle of the post-9/11 era that's helped expand the national security state to a size unimaginable even in the Cold War years when this The country had another imperial enemy.
Safety and security are much abused terms in our American world. The attacks of 9/11 created what might be thought of as a national version of PTSD from which we've never recovered, and yet the dangers of Islamic terrorism, while perfectly real, are relatively minor. Leave aside the truly threatening things in American life and take instead an obscure example of what I mean. Even the most modest research suggests that children who find guns may kill or wound more Americans in a typical year than terrorists do. yet the media deals with death-by-toddler as an oddity story, not a national crisis, whether the result is the death of a mother in a Wal-Mart in Idaho or the wounding of a father and mother in an Albuquerque motel. Nor does the government regularly hype the dangers of “lone wolf” toddlers. And despite such killings,the legality of “carrying” guns (for “safety” — of course! — from unspecified non-toddler bad guys) is barely questioned in this country as the practice spreads rapidly both in numbers and in the kinds of places to which such weapons can be brought.
And don't even waste your time thinking about the 38,680 deaths by vehicles and 43,500 gun deaths and 610 mass shootings in 2020 alone. Americans coexist with such spectacular levels of carnage without significant complaint so that the ion American culture in can continue. Yet let some distant terror group issue an absurd threat by video, like al-Shabaab in Somalia warning of an attack on the Mall of America in Minnesota — and the media alarm bells go off; the government issues warnings; Homeland Security (worrying about his budget tied up in Congress) takes to TV to warn shoppers to be “particularly careful”; and pundits debate just how serious this danger may be.Forget that the only thing al-Shabaab can hope for is that a disturbed doofus living somewhere in Minnesota might pick up one of the guns floating so freely around this society and head for that mall to do his damnedest.
And in the constant panic over our safety in situations where very little danger actually exists, our own barbarity, seen as a series of defensive acts to ensure our security, disappears in a sea of alarm. So how to respond? I doubt you agree with me this far, so my response probably carries little weight with you. Nonetheless, let me offer it, with a caveat of sorts. Despite what you might imagine, I'm neither a pacifist, nor do I believe in a perfect world. And no, I wouldn't disband the US military. It's clear enough that a strong, defensive-minded military is a necessity on this planet.
After 20 years, though, it should be obvious that this country's military-first policies throughout the Greater Middle East and widening areas of Africa have been a disastrous bust. I have no doubt that a far less barbaric, less extreme, less militaristic foreign policy would, in purely pragmatic terms, also be a more effective one on every imaginable score — unless, of course, your value system happens to center on the continued building up of the national security state and the reinforcement of its “security” or of the military-industrial complex and its “security.” In that case, the necessity for our barbarity as well as theirs becomes clearer in a flash.
Otherwise, despite much that we've heard in this new century, my suspicion is that what's right and moral is also what's practical and realistic.
“The United States is regarded as the greatest threat to world peace by an overwhelming margin. No other country is even close. It's kind of interesting that the US media refused to publish this. But it doesn't go away.” — Noam Chomsky an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics”.
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