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Confronting the Terrorist Within

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  • Julienne
    Hi, All, This is what too many don t want to face - the illusion that only every other country might be a source of terrorism, but not the U.S. As one of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2008
      Hi, All,

      This is what too many don't want to face - the illusion that only every
      other country might
      be a source of terrorism, but not the U.S. As one of the commentators below
      says -this
      article should be read in every classroom - but everywhere else as well.


      Confronting the Terrorist Within

      by: Chris Hedges, Truthdig

      Afghans say this bombed-out house in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, was
      mistakenly hit by a missile during a NATO airstrike, possibly killing
      civilians. (Photo: Allauddin Khan / AP)

      The Hindu-Muslim communal violence that led to the attacks in Mumbai,
      as well as the warnings that the New York City transit system may have been
      targeted by al-Qaida, are one form of terrorism. There are other forms.

      The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when viewed from the receiving end,
      are state-sponsored acts of terrorism. These wars defy every ethical and
      legal code that seek to determine when a nation can wage war, from Just War
      Theory to the statutes of international law largely put into place by the
      United States after World War II. These wars are criminal wars of
      aggression. They have left hundreds of thousands of people, who never took
      up arms against us, dead and seen millions driven from their homes. We have
      no right as a nation to debate the terms of these occupations. And an
      Afghan villager, burying members of his family's wedding party after an
      American airstrike, understands in a way we often do not that terrorist
      attacks can also be unleashed from the arsenals of an imperial power.

      Barack Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and
      leave behind tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines in Iraq-he promises
      only to withdraw combat brigades-is a failure to rescue us from the status
      of a rogue nation. It codifies Bush's "war on terror." And the continuation
      of these wars will corrupt and degrade our nation just as the long and
      brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has corrupted and degraded
      Israel. George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has
      bitten it.

      The invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were our
      response to feelings of vulnerability and collective humiliation after the
      attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.. They were a way to exorcise through reciprocal
      violence what had been done to us.

      Collective humiliation is also the driving force behind al-Qaida and
      most terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden cites the Sykes-Picot Agreement,
      which led to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as the beginning of Arab
      humiliation. He attacks the agreement for dividing the Muslim world into
      "fragments." He rails against the presence of American troops on the soil
      of his native Saudi Arabia. The dark motivations of Islamic extremists
      mirror our own.

      Robert Pape in "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide
      Terrorism," found that most suicide bombers are members of communities that
      feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation. Almost every major
      suicide-terrorist campaign-over 95 percent-carried out attacks to drive out
      an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Kashmir
      as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. The large number of
      Saudis among the 9/11 hijackers appears to support this finding.

      A militant who phoned an Indian TV station from the Jewish center in
      Mumbai during the recent siege offered to talk with the government for the
      release of hostages. He complained about army abuses in Kashmir, where
      ruthless violence has been used to crush a Muslim insurgency. "Ask the
      government to talk to us and we will release the hostages," he said,
      speaking in Urdu with what sounded like a Kashmiri accent.

      "Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir? Are you
      aware how your army has killed Muslims? Are you aware how many of them have
      been killed in Kashmir this week?" he asked.

      Terrorists, many of whom come from the middle class, support acts of
      indiscriminate violence not because of direct, personal affronts to their
      dignity, but more often for lofty, abstract ideas of national, ethnic or
      religious pride and the establishment of a utopian, harmonious world purged
      of evil. The longer the United States occupies Afghanistan and Iraq, the
      more these feelings of collective humiliation are aggravated and the
      greater the number of jihadists willing to attack American targets.

      We have had tens of thousands of troops stationed in the Middle East
      since 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The presence of these troops
      is the main appeal, along with the abuse meted out to the Palestinians by
      Israel, of bin Laden and al-Qaida. Terrorism, as Pape wrote, "is not a
      supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the
      world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a
      demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign
      forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The
      operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide
      terrorism a new lease on life."

      The decision by the incoming Obama administration to embrace an
      undefined, amorphous "war on terror" will keep us locked in a war without
      end. This war has no clear definition of victory, unless victory means the
      death or capture of every terrorist on earth-an impossibility. It is a
      frightening death spiral. It feeds on itself. The concept of a "war on
      terror" is no less apocalyptic or world-purifying than the dreams and
      fantasies of terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

      The vain effort to purify the world through force is always
      self-defeating. Those who insist that the world can be molded into their
      vision are the most susceptible to violence as antidote. The more
      uncertainty, fear and reality impinge on this utopian vision, the more
      strident, absolutist and aggressive are those who call for the eradication
      of "the enemy." Immanuel Kant called absolute moral imperatives that are
      used to carry out immoral acts "a radical evil." He wrote that this kind of
      evil was always a form of unadulterated self-love. It was the worst type of
      self-deception. It provided a moral façade for terror and murder. The wars
      in Iraq and Afghanistan are a "radical evil."

      The tactic of suicide bombing, equated by many in the United States
      with Islam, did not arise from the Muslim world. It had its roots in
      radical Western ideologies, especially Leninism, not religion. And it was
      the Tamil Tigers, a Marxist group that draws its support from the Hindu
      families of the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka, who invented the suicide vest
      for their May 1991 suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi.

      Suicide bombing is what you do when you do not have artillery or
      planes or missiles and you want to create maximum terror for an occupying
      power. It was used by secular anarchists in the 19th and early 20th
      centuries, who bequeathed to us the first version of the car bomb-a
      horse-drawn wagon laden with explosives that was ignited on Sept. 16, 1920,
      on Wall Street. The attack was carried out by an Italian immigrant named
      Mario Buda in protest over the arrest of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.
      It left 40 people dead and wounded more than 200.

      Suicide bombing was adopted later by Hezbollah, al-Qaida and Hamas.
      But even in the Middle East, suicide bombing is not restricted to Muslims.
      In Lebanon, during the attacks in the 1980s against French, American and
      Israeli targets, only eight suicide bombings were carried out by Islamic
      fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were the work of communists and socialists.
      Christians were responsible for three.

      The dehumanization of Muslims and the willful ignorance of the
      traditions and culture of the Islamic world reflect our nation's disdain
      for self-reflection and self-examination. It allows us to exalt in the
      illusion of our own moral and cultural superiority. The world is far more
      complex than our childish vision of good and evil. We as a nation and a
      culture have no monopoly on virtue. We carry within us the same
      propensities for terror as those we oppose.

      The Muslim Indian Emperor Akbar at the end of the 16th century filled
      his court with philosophers, mystics and religious scholars, including
      Sunni, Sufi and Shiite Muslims, Hindu followers of Shiva and Vishnu, as
      well as atheists, Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. They
      debated ethics and belief. Akbar was one of the great champions of
      religious dialogue and tolerance. He forbade any person to be discriminated
      against on the basis of belief. He declared that everyone was free to
      follow any religion. His enlightened rule took place as the Inquisition was
      at its height in Spain and Portugal, and in Rome the philosopher Giordano
      Bruno was being burnt at the stake in Campo de' Fiori for heresy.

      Tolerance, as well as religious and political plurality, is not
      exclusive to Western culture. The Judeo-Christian tradition was born and
      came to life in the Middle East. Its intellectual and religious beliefs
      were cultivated and formed in cities such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria
      and Constantinople. Many of the greatest tenets of Western civilization, as
      is true with Islam and Buddhism, are Eastern in origin. Our concept of the
      rule of law and freedom of expression, the invention of printing, paper,
      the book, as well as the translation and dissemination of the classical
      Greek philosophers, algebra, geometry and universities were given to us by
      the Islamic world. The first law code was invented by the ancient Iraqi
      ruler Hammurabi. One of the first known legal protections of basic freedoms
      and equality was promulgated in the third century B.C. by the Buddhist
      Indian Emperor Ashoka. And, unlike Aristotle, he insisted on equal rights
      for women and slaves.

      The East and the West do not have separate, competing value systems.
      We do not treat life with greater sanctity than those we belittle. There
      are aged survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who can tell us something
      about our high moral values and passionate concern for innocent human life,
      about our own acts of terrorism. Eastern and Western traditions have within
      them varied ethical systems, some of which are repugnant and some of which
      are worth emulating. To hold up the highest ideals of our own culture and
      to deny that these great ideals exist in other cultures, especially Eastern
      cultures, is made possible only by historical and cultural illiteracy.

      The civilization we champion and promote as superior is, in fact, a
      product of the fusion of traditions and beliefs of the Orient and the
      Occident. We advance morally and intellectually when we cross these
      cultural lines, when we use the lens of other cultures to examine our own.
      The remains of villages destroyed by our bombs, the dead killed from our
      munitions, leave us too with bloody hands. We can build a new ethic when we
      face our complicity in the cycle of violence and terror.

      The fantasy of an enlightened West that spreads civilization to a
      savage world of religious fanatics is not supported by history. The worst
      genocides and slaughters of the last century were perpetrated by highly
      industrialized nations. Muslims, including Saddam Hussein's brutal regime,
      have a long way to go before they reach the body count of the secular
      regimes of the Nazis, the Soviet Union or the Chinese communists. It was,
      in fact, the Muslim-led government in Bosnia that protected minorities
      during the war while the Serbian Orthodox Christians carried out mass
      executions, campaigns of genocide and ethnic cleansing that left 250,000 dead.

      Those who externalize evil and seek to eradicate that evil through
      violence lose touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others.
      They cannot make moral distinctions. They are blind to their own moral
      corruption. In the name of civilization and high ideals, in the name of
      reason and science, they become monsters. We will never free ourselves from
      the self-delusion of the "war on terror" until we first vanquish the
      terrorist within.


      Chris Hedges was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times.
      His Truthdig column appears Mondays.

      Tue, 12/02/2008 - 17:35 — jessepoverseas (not verified)
      "Terrorists, many of whom come from the middle class, support acts of
      indiscriminate violence not because of direct, personal affronts to their
      dignity, but more often for lofty, abstract ideas of national, ethnic or
      religious pride and the establishment of a utopian, harmonious world purged
      of evil." "Hey Pogo, can you figure our who he's talking about?" "Already
      told ya." "See any way out of this mess?" "Hell, I'm just a cartoon
      character. Why ask me? But let me ask this. Which of two bullies on the
      playground is gonna back down?" "Neither, I guess." "'Fraid you got it.
      Looks like cinder time for Mother." “But there must be something we can
      do.” “Who knows? Maybe. But this here fella ain’t left any wiggle room I
      can see.” ”Me either.”

      Tue, 12/02/2008 - 02:00 — Anonymous (not verified)
      Wars have always been and will always be about making money and boosting
      the economy. I have to admit that the money the US government made did not
      go to us Americans but to profit big corporations. Hopefully Barack Obama
      is more capable of Bush who says that he is so sorry!. Too easy, I won't
      accept his " I am so Sorry". We the people are paying the price!.

      Mon, 12/01/2008 - 23:50 — P. Cortez (not verified)
      At last, somebody who understands the root of the problem that this country
      is facing! Nobody could've written or said it any better the way you have
      Mr. Hedges...the nationalism that has taken over most Americans has
      resulted to the country's citizens as being terrorists ourselves, in so
      many different ways. Ignorance breeds fear, it is only through a deeper
      understanding of the current situations will we all be able to get past
      this. Once again, thank you for such an insightful, truthful article.

      Mon, 12/01/2008 - 23:29 — Shea Brown (not verified)
      This article deserves to be read in every classroom in every nation. Very
      few men in this world know more about war,or are more brave than Mr. Hedges
      when it comes to writing the truth. Reporting from at least fifty nations
      since 1983,imprisoned, shelled,shot at,,Hedges is one writer who has more
      combat experience than most Special Forces soldiers. Thank you Mr.Hedges
      for your many years of bravery, and insight.

      Mon, 12/01/2008 - 21:19 — Impressed (not verified)
      This article could not more closely state my own views and probably states
      them better. Kudos to Mr. Hedges for speaking the obvious truths without
      the usual bias of US interests. Peace can only result when universal
      understanding and tolerance become paramount over blind patriotism. Thank
      you, Mr. Hedges.


      "The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether
      man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite."
      Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd U.S. President
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