Monday, September 20, 2004

Terror countered only with just policies

By Jim Mullins

The 20th century was the bloodiest in the history of mankind, witnessing two world wars and further bloodshed in civil wars fought by surrogates in the Cold War.

The 21st century heralded a new kind of war -- a "War on Terror" declared by President Bush as a response to 9-11's terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center and took almost 3,000 American lives.

But "war on terror" is a contradiction in terms. War by definition is open, armed conflict between nations or states, or between armed groups attempting to overthrow governments within states. Terrorism, the more relevant term, is the use of random violence intended to instill terror -- intense fear or dread -- in achieving political objectives. Terrorism is not war; it is a tactic, a tool, in attaining success in that objective.

Bush has consistently maintained that his actions since 9-11, including the war in Iraq, were based on the simple proposition of waging "war on terror." As recent as an April White House press conference, he posed a rhetorical question: "Can you ever win the war on terror?" answering himself with, "Of course you can."

When asked the same question on the Today show, the day before the Republican National Convention, he flip-flopped by admitting that: "I don't think you can win the war on terror."

For a day it seemed that after nearly four years of his administration, Bush had come to realize that terror is not a nation, a state or an insurgent group that can be defeated in war. The next day, in another flip-flop, White House spokespersons stated that he had been misunderstood and reasserted "the war on terror" as the operating policy rationale.

Terrorism is resorted to by the weak to get the attention of the powerful, whose actions they find objectionable -- as evidenced by our home grown terrorism: the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber, anthrax mailings, abortion clinic bombings and Atlanta's Olympics bombings, to name a few recent incidents.

Miltarily, it was resorted to by both sides in World War II, as a tactic to obtain unconditional surrender. German and Japanese indiscriminate civilian slaughter was countered by "firestorm" bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo and other Japanese cities, with tremendous civilian death and destruction and very little military significance.

The Cold War was fought by either client states or covert actions requiring the recruitment of millions of young men and women; those fighting on our side, "freedom fighters," the other side, "terrorists." When the Cold War ended, these fighters/terrorists were left adrift with no marketable skills except war. Blowback -- their continuing engagement in violence either as mercenaries or ideologically committed fighters -- was an inevitable consequence.

Osama bin Laden's war on the United States, declared in 1996, is a classic case of blowback. Returning to Saudi Arabia after victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan, he demanded that U.S. forces leave his country as promised after the Gulf War. Saudi Arabia, fearing his popularity, expelled him to Sudan, where he reassembled his former fighters, creating al-Qaida. The United States pressured Sudan to deport him to Afghanistan. Back in a country where his "Afghans" had defeated one superpower, it seemed possible and more than just hubris to believe he and his al-Qaida could drive the other superpower out of the Middle East.

It is very clear that Middle Eastern terrorism directed toward the United States is driven by American policy since the end of World War II and not by a religious fanatic who hates the freedom, democracy and exchange of information that we feel characterizes the Western World. That is not his concern.

American policies are.

Osama bin Laden symbolizes Middle Eastern resentment toward: the despotic rulers that we prop up with military bases and in so doing maintain U.S.

control of their most important natural resource -- oil; the draconian sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people after the 1991 Gulf War, causing the death of a half million Iraqi children; and our unqualified support for Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for the last 37 years.

Bush showed his abysmal understanding of the Middle Eastern situation when he stated on the same Today show that: "I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in that part of the world." He doesn't understand that "terror as a tool" has been used the world over to achieve political objectives, is not a regional problem and can only be countered by following just and peaceful policies.

Bush has given bin Laden a great gift by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, thus creating fertile ground for the creation of leaders and followers, independent of his leadership, in the struggle to achieve independence from Western dominance.

-Jim Mullins is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., and a resident of Delray Beach.

Posted on September 18,2004...

Copyright (c) 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel



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