Terrorism is more often than not a direct response to imperialism. This was true with former imperial powers (Rome, France, etc.) and it is true for U.S. imperial power today. If U.S. leaders continue with their relentless military operations abroad, U.S. citizens will unfortunately continue to feel the blowback in the form of terrorism at home. Terrorism is one amongst the many negative effects of U.S. interventionism.
Many people who are following this blog likely do not need to be convinced that the U.S. has overextended its reach across the globe and gotten involved where it does not need to be involved. By now people should be aware that the U.S. empire harms people all around the world and it harms our freedom at home. For anyone who is not already convinced of these realities, I recommend reading How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr and the book which I will be working from mostly today, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism by Scott Horton. There is a variety of literature in this vain of course, but these I highly recommend.
What is described in “Enough Already” is a vicious cycle: The U.S. intervenes in one or several nations, creating terrorists. The terrorists launch or plan attacks, creating a reaction. The U.S. increases or continues its intervention against its ever-changing enemies and creates more terrorists.
Terrorism as a response to interventionism is an old phenomena. All imperial powers inevitably face terrorism that may or may not actually reach the civilian population. Jewish Sicarii opposing Roman occupation, Buddhist Japanese Kamikaze’ pilots, Tamil tigers of Sri Lanka are all examples of groups which committed suicide terrorist attacks and had no connection to Islamic belief according to Robert Pape at the University of Chicago.
The Battle of Algiers, an incredible 1966 film by Gillo Pontecorvo shows the immense cost of the occupation of Algeria on both the French people and the Algerian people. French occupation of Algeria began in the Mid-1800’s and ended in March 1962 when a truce between France and the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) was signed. The Battle of Algiers is not a battle in any traditional military sense, but it is a series of attacks and counter attacks between the French military and the FLN.
From the film, it is very clear that the Algerian people are oppressed by the occupying forces. At first, the terrorist attacks by the FLN are only aimed at military officers. However, the military responds to the attacks by attacking actual civilians within the Algerian ghetto and also increasing security. As a result the FLN only seems to increase its support and even women and children help with the further terrorist attacks on the French quarter. The FLN is shown blowing up cafes and dance clubs. Even though the viewer sympathizes with the Algerian people and hates the french occupiers by this point it is hard to watch the French tourists get caught in the middle. In a sense the French tourists’ are accountable because it is their country occupying, but the viewer is correct to think of the terrorists as wrong even if they also disagree with the colonial power.
As U.S. citizens we should not be complicit in colonialism either. This is the most important issue of our day. Obviously, its important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, but it is also important to recognize that our presence and actions abroad is causing terrorism at home.
On top of 9/11, two of the examples of backdraft terrorism presented by Scott Horton are the Time Square bombing attempt of 2010 and the San Bernadino massacre of 2015. To become increasingly involved in the middle east increases the number of terrorists and further destabilizes the region.
“On September, 11, 2001, there were no more than a few hundred Al-Qaeda members hiding out in Afghanistan,” Horton writes, “Three months later, when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Paramillitaries, U.S. Army Delta Force and U.S. finished bombing them, and Osama bin Laden had escaped to Pakistan, there were not enough of the terrorists left alive to fill a 757. Now, more than twenty years after that brief, one-sided victory, there are tens of thousands of Bin ladenite jihadists thriving in lands from Nigeria to the Philippines.”
These terrorists are not attacking us because as George W. Bush said, “They hate our freedom.” Al-Qaeda was mad at America because they believed us responsible for the dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and for Israeli occupation in Palestine. Horton shows how Bin laden deliberately planned to get America stuck in war in Afghanistan just like the Soviet Union in the 1980s in order to bankrupt us and eventually force us to leave the middle east. Before 9/11, Bin laden told the journalists Robert Fisk, Peter Bergen, Peter Arnett and Abdel Bari Atwan that his issue was with U.S. intervention.
In his 1998 Declaration of War Against Jews and Crusaders, Bin Laden wrote, “First, for over seven years, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.”
Bin laden was also upset about the U.S. blockade of Iraq and U.S. support for Israeli occupation in Palestine. As Scott Horton aptly demonstrates (and defines), the war on terrorism has failed.
Terrorism is not the only and perhaps not even the worst consequence of U.S. intervention. Scott Horton literally lays out hundreds in his book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorsim. I agree, and I will use every non-violent tool at my disposal to end the war on terrorism.