U.S. government hypocrisy is, as most everyone knows, boundless. It’s also utterly transparent. Our public officials evidently see no shame in belying their professions of benign intent with awesome malevolence and destruction. After all, there’s always the doctrine of American Exceptionalism to justify the unjustifiable.
Take for instance Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign, or “drone war” in media-speak. It is now common knowledge (among the mildly informed, anyway) that said campaign is only nominally discriminate, and furthermore essentially pointless, assuming its point is not to foster extremism. Last year, leaked government documents confirmed what was already suspected: most of those killed by Barry O’s drone fleet are unidentified people who happen to be standing near the intended target, who for one reason or another (we’re not allowed to know) was selected for summary execution.
What is the effect of this policy? It’s not difficult to figure out. Let’s suppose for a moment that these remote control airstrikes really were “surgical”—that they didn’t result in dead civilians. It would still be an exercise in futility. Wiping out a single terrorist, no matter his rank, doesn’t eliminate his position: he can and will be replaced. Would it disrupt the relevant cell’s operation? Does it matter? Disrupt it enough and it will splinter, and now you’ve got two cells instead of one, and perhaps the new one is more monstrous than the original. ISIS, let’s remember, was first an al-Qaeda franchise. The latter group, whose side we’ve taken against Syria’s elected president, now seems like the “JV team” (credit to Obama for the awkward analogy) to the former’s Varsity. Needless to say, U.S. foreign policy, in its liberal interventionist form, facilitated the rise and expansion of ISIS; the group that now, according to most Republicans, presents the gravest threat to our national security.
To label the drone war as merely futile, however, is disingenuous. Counterproductive is a better word, although probably still too charitable. We take out one militant—reducing him to “a greasy spot on the ground”—and another springs up to take his place. That’s futility. But in the process, people living in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen observe that the U.S. is not bound by any standard principle of law, least of all the one guaranteeing a criminal suspect due process. How, one wonders, are they expected to feel about that? If the American Empire says you’re fit to die, you’re fit to die, and that’s an end of it. Interesting concept. Of course, such tyranny would never be tolerated here at home, where a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial remains (for the most part) inalienable and uncontroversial. No so for foreigners suspected by the U.S. government of terrorist activity in their own countries, with whom the U.S. is not at war and over whom the U.S. has no jurisdiction in any reasonable sense of the word.
The American public may not care very much about the extrajudicial killing of a few supposedly dangerous Muslims living in Somalia. (CNN doesn’t tell them to worry about it, so why should they?) They do, however, seem to care about anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, the threat of global jihad, etc.—and rightfully so. These are serious issues; they should be treated as such. Here’s an axiom: if we’re going to take an issue seriously, the very least we can do is make an effort to understand it. Why does Salafism (i.e. Wahhabism, i.e. Saudism) continue to spread like wildfire over the Middle East and beyond? Why do so many Muslims have, in the words of Donald Trump, a tremendous, tremendous hatred for the U.S.?
It couldn’t have anything to do with the continuous, illegal bombing of Muslim-majority countries. That would be too straightforward an answer, and moreover contradictory to the narrative our policy-makers, always looking out for the weapons industry, like to spin for us. There is, however, Occam’s razor, which would insist that we stop dismissing simple, obvious explanations. One such explanation might be that Obama’s drone fetish, even without the civilian death toll, certainly doesn’t make the terrorist recruiter’s job any less difficult (and in fact does precisely the reverse). Another might be that, by shoring up the medieval sadists governing Saudi Arabia and oppressing its population, the U.S. indirectly (or perhaps directly) promotes the ideology underpinning every Wahhabi terrorist gang in the world, whether JV or Varsity.
Saudi Arabia. The world’s most prolific exporter of oil. Also the world’s most prolific exporter of Wahhabi extremism, that omnipresent threat to civilization we’re allegedly so bent on eradicating. It was reported that our dear leader was cold-shouldered upon his recent arrival to the great pious kingdom. The impudence! Have the Wahhabi princes no appreciation for the Obama administration’s generosity? After all, $50 billion in munitions sales is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when those munitions are earmarked for war crimes. The United States has given Saudi Arabia, and its Wahhabi coalition, carte blanche to commit atrocities against civilians in Yemen: American bombs, including illegal “cluster bombs,” are being used to blow up schools, hospitals, mosques, etc., in the name of… well, nothing, really. What more could the Saudis want! More weapons? All they have to do is ask. Obama distributes “smart bombs” like candy.
The civil war in Yemen represents the latest, though not quite the greatest (which says a lot), failure of American foreign policy. With our weapons and whole-hearted support, Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi pals have managed to do to Yemen what NATO did to Libya. In other words, Yemen is now a failed state with no central government and a massive power vacuum—ideal conditions for terrorists, in this case al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, to exploit. Naturally, all of this is underreported by Western media, since we have no enemy on whom to cast blame. You may hear the occasional whisper about Ayatollah culpability, but that’s about it.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen… every time the same result. To say that the U.S. has failed to learn its lesson is erroneous. I’ve seen no evidence that U.S. policy-makers are interested in learning any sort of lesson, nor that they actually desire a better outcome to begin with. They’re not merely inept, as so many like to insist; they’re cynical, and profoundly so.
Terrorism is useful. It can be, and is, cited to justify almost anything: extravagant military budgets, abrogation of civil liberties, alliance with nefarious regimes, arbitrary detention, torture, war. They all matter, but the last one matters most. If the objective really is to defeat terrorism, as defined by us, then our policy is irrational; in fact it meets the famous definition of insanity. Plainly, bombing volatile societies and unleashing dormant sectarian violence does nothing to contain terrorism. Plainly, it has the opposite effect. Terrorists draw strength and support from chaos and carnage; if you think Cheney et al. were oblivious to that fact, I’ve a got a plot of land to sell you…. Bush may be simple, and it’s certainly possible that he derived his conception of war from the pictures, but his cabinet was a sly bunch; a bunch whose loyalty was not to our nation’s security but rather to the Pentagon and the weapons manufacturers.
Before Bush was sworn in by the Supreme Court, Dick was pushing for a bigger military budget. Little did he know that he needn’t bother! The events of 9/11 were a windfall for the jingoists, damage to the Pentagon notwithstanding. Terrorism was no longer an abstract threat; the threat was all too palpable, all too urgent, and nobody was prepared to question the government’s response, which was not to invade the country that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, but rather the one in which the plot’s ringleader, another Saudi, happened to live. The U.S. could have invaded Canada that October (surely there were some Bin Laden sympathizers loitering in that country)—we just wanted a show of military might, projected wherever.
That’s the terrorism effect. That’s why Saddam Hussein, our long-time ally and Israel’s great “existential threat” of the day, was suddenly charged with sponsoring terrorism. Casting Saddam as a Bin Laden advocate, however false, gave us a solid pretext for war. The consequence of that war—ISIS—gives us a solid pretext for more war, etc. As long as terrorism exists, we can go to war, and as long as we go to war, terrorism will exist. Meanwhile the Pentagon’s budget continues to swell. The War on Terror, then, is a self-sustaining enterprise.
The beauty of Obama’s global assassination campaign is that it allows us to bomb without declaring war. We don’t have to worry about running out of countries to invade; we can drone our allies if we so choose. That being said, no war machine is complete, and no Empire content, without the occasional full-scale invasion. Iran has been in the crosshairs for a long time—ever since they had the nerve to overthrow the iron-fisted dictator we kindly installed for them. Predictably, the Iranian nuclear agreement, Obama’s most significant foreign policy achievement, has done nothing to curb the hawks’ appetite. Indeed, many of Republican presidential candidate have assured us that, as commander in chief, they would make it their first order of business to tear up the internationally-recognized treaty.
At the other end of the aisle, H.R. Clinton, the “superprepared warrior realist,” derides the prospect of normalizing relations with Iran. Back in 2008, she demonstrated her warrior spirit, boasting of her preparedness to “totally obliterate” the 80 million people who live there, which would steer the U.S. into a nuclear conflict with Russia, quite possibly annihilating us all. (Lest you forget: Trump is the real danger.)
Clinton and her fellow jingos hate the nuclear deal, and the reason is simple: it eliminates a major pretext for war. After all, the case against Iran is identical to the case against Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism. And Israel at the center of it all. The Zionists lobbied hard for war with Iraq, and no one is lobbying harder for war with Iran. They intend to make Hillary’s obliteration fantasy into reality. Lucky for them, and unlucky for the rest of us, she is almost certainly our next president, and no one is more subservient to their will.
Unsurprisingly, no presidential candidate has been asked whether they plan to adopt Obama’s failed anti-terror policy, which is to fight terror with more terror, forever fanning the proverbial flames. Perhaps “failed” is not quite an accurate description, though, as that word implies a wish to succeed. Presently there’s no excuse to believe the Obama administration was ever serious about checking the scourge of Saudi-inspired terrorism. If Trump is right, and the Muslim world hates us, Obama was very much committed to aggravating that sentiment. He’s done a fine job.
This article was written by Michael Howard for American Herald Tribune on Apr. 24, 2016. Michael Howard is a freelance writer (of both fiction and nonfiction) and political activist from Buffalo, NY. His main areas of interest are American domestic and foreign policy.