thing to understand about terrorism against America is that it is negligible.
Horrible as it was, the destruction of the Trade Towers was an outlier,
that is, an event that lies way, way outside the main body of terrorist
activity. It is no comfort to the dead, the injured and to their loved ones
to point this out, but it is something that must be understood because
failure to understand the realities of terrorism has led Americans to support
aggressive war policies that are highly destructive of innocent lives and
societies overseas and do not diminish the threat of terrorism. These immoral
and unjust policies have increased the numbers of terrorists dedicated
to destroying American life. As a negative bonus, they have undermined the
economy and freedoms of America, thereby causing an untold increase in
hardship among Americans now and in the future.
The war on
terror has been a terrible mistake. Terrorism against America was never so
big that it required a war against it, much less a world
wide war that made hash out of the Bill of Rights, militarized police
and turned the country sharply in the direction of a police state.
concept of a "war on terror" drastically alters America’s
role in the world by inserting the U.S. into numerous complex and
long-running international conflicts in other countries. There are many
terrorist groups that operate in foreign countries that have agendas
associated with political and religious issues. The war on terror thrusts the
U.S. into these conflicts with several notable results. America gets involved
in endless political strife and warfare overseas. Government fails to address
America’s own problems with consequent undermining of America’s
advancement. The costs of government rise exponentially with consequent
undermining of America’s economy. The U.S. government enhances its domestic
policies of repression and abridgement of rights and freedoms.
in America is not the kind of problem that is ameliorated by war. Police
work, while open to sharp criticism, has been the mainstay of foiling
terrorist plots. Erik J. Dahl has constructed the largest known sample of thwarted
terrorist plots in his article "The Plots That Failed". He has
found 176 failed and thwarted terrorist plots against American targets
between 1987 and 2010 or 24 years. He broke
this down as follows.
overseas and 103 domestic,
- 42 right-wing and extremist
plots and 126 jihadist plots,
- 29 plots that targeted
diplomatic facilities abroad and 35 that targeted American military
bases, personnel and facilities both here and abroad.
57 plots in 24 years that were domestic and jihadist.
terror attacks from succeeding? Of 176 cases, 9 were called off by the
terrorists themselves and another 15 were attempted and failed. This includes
instances in which the FBI prolonged the attempt and brought it to near
fruition with fake bombs and such, but most of these failures were overseas.
There are 24 cases in which the causes of the failure can’t be
determined from available information; most were overseas.
leaves 128 cases, of which 89 were domestic and 39 overseas. Of the 89
domestic plots, 66 were foiled as a result of undercover agents, informants
and tips received from members of the public. Dahl says that this
"appears to be the most effective counterterrorism tool for breaking up
domestic plots." In many cases, tips lead to the use of informants being
placed among the plotters. In the Fort Dix case, for example, the plotters
took a training tape to a Circuit City store to have a dvd
burned and an employee became suspicious when he viewed the content. Smaller
numbers of plots are uncovered by routine police stops for traffic
violations, chance encounters with officials who notice suspicious behavior,
other behavior such as robbery that draws attention, public threats made by
terrorists, information from overseas, interrogation and, finally,
"signals intelligence". Dahl finds that signals intelligence
(wiretapping, internet monitoring) is not of major importance in the failed
plots that have been detected.
takeaway from Dahl’s work is that standard spying and analytical
intelligence operations to connect the dots and piece together information
are not the keys to effective counterterrorism. Past successes have relied
heavily on ordinary people noticing activities or behavior that might be
oriented toward terrorism. In this sense, it is like any crime detection.
Dahl calls it "prosaic" and he quotes a former head of MI5 who says
that spies do not develop much counterterrorism intelligence and "My own
experience is that effective counter-terrorism frequently begins closer to
home and may appear a lot more mundane".
It is now
common for political candidates to be asked about their views on terrorism
and the war on terror. Reporters ask nonsensical questions about
"winning" the war on terror and how a candidate plans to do this.
In 2007, at the National Press Club, Newt Gingrich was asked "what we would have to do to win it
[the war on terror] eventually." Gingrich put on the most serious of
faces that he could muster and replied:
really deeply worried. We have two grandchildren who are six and eight, and I
believe they are in greater danger of dying from enemy activities than we
were in the Cold War."
and many others express deep concerns about something that is a risk, but
terrorism is not a serious risk, not something to be deeply worried about,
and not something that even comes close to nuclear war.
terrorism compare with other risks? In the years 2006 and 2010, there were 70,954 homicides in America. Between 1998 and 2008, 449 people were
killed by lightning in America.
isn’t a minor risk because the government is so good at policing it.
It’s minor because not that many people have the motive, means and
opportunity to do mass killings.
although terrorism is not a risk that requires an undue amount of care to
control and live with, the idea of terrorism has seriously infected
political discourse and U.S. policies, domestic and foreign. Whenever
warmongers want to incite sentiment for a new war in a new foreign land, they
wave the red flag of terrorism. The words "terrorist" and
"terrorism" have become instant propaganda tools for manipulating
counteract this and adopt constructive anti-terror policies, it is necessary
to place 9/11 in perspective and to say "Stop the war on terror!"
Get off it. Move on. De-emotionalize the issue. Terrorism is nothing to worry
deeply about. Terrorism is overblown. Terrorism is negligible. Terrorism
doesn’t warrant aggressive wars. It does not warrant assassinations. It
doesn’t warrant the use of drones or their proliferation in America.
There are worse evils than terrorism. Control terrorist acts with good police
work in which a mature public alertness (not mass suspicion) plays a role,
but not with a domestic spy apparatus and not with policies that subject
everyone to suspicion, frisking, warrantless searches, sexual assaults,
radiation, and excessive police force.
catastrophic event like 9/11 occurs or if another large-scale mass murder
occurs like the Oklahoma City bombing, will such an occurrence result in
ramping up the police state techniques in the U.S.? Will it result in
giving government further powers to spy, search, arrest
without warrant, indefinitely detain, imprison in hidden prisons and
assassinate Americans? Will it result in intensified intrusions overseas and
even more widespread use of drones that kill? Will it result in a para-military force that operates outside of public
control within America? Will it result in spying on every American? Will it
result in drones that pepper American skies?
these activities are in place now. All are unnecessary. All are dangerous to
liberty. All are wrong. By increasing injustice and repression, they
stimulate resistance. A certain amount of that resistance takes the form of
violent terrorist acts. The cures that are being employed make the patient
more ill and more sick.
can be handled by reasonable police work and alertness on the part of the
public, since most terror plots are discovered by tips volunteered by
particular worry at this time, far more than terrorism itself, is that
politicians are now invoking terrorism at every turn as justification for
their extreme warmongering policies.
example the recent accusation of a very strange, farfetched and convoluted
plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. There was an Iranian
national involved. This does not prove anything about Iran’s participation,
especially since false flag events blamed on Iran are to be expected. The
whole scenario was most definitely not in the Iranian style, but it was laid
at the doorstep of Iran anyway.
episode led House Speaker John Boehner to demand that Obama "hold Iran’s feet to
the fire" for this "significant terrorist act". The Republican
chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, went even
further. He called the plot "an act of war".
amazing lack of balance and good sense in their thinking! What an amazing disconnect between the gravity of the absurd terror plot
and the gravity of the war they want. Here we have major members of Congress
using a "terrorism" incident, which was really some out of the way
happening or tale, in order to justify a new war.
And if it
were not this event, their kind will dig up some other events in the past in
which Iran had a hand. Warmongers who want war will do whatever it takes to
bring war on. They will lie, misrepresent history, distort, omit material
facts, twist facts, misinterpret, appeal to emotion, appeal to hatreds and
fears, and demonize. The very words "terror",
"terrorist", "terrorism" and "war on terror"
have become Pavlov’s bell. Ring it and Americans salivate for war.
As a rule
of thumb, do not believe any politician who proposes a war or urges Americans
into war. Do not believe any politician who claims that a war is necessary,
or points to an event like a ship sinking or a ship being blown up or an
airplane being brought down or a terrorist act as a cause for war. Do not
believe any politician who claims that Americans are threatened and must
therefore attack the enemy before they attack us. Do not believe any
politician who wants to make war when there has been no invasion of America
itself by the armed force of another nation. Do not believe any politician
who wants to make war because of some vague national security appeal, or
because the U.S. must protect the shipment of oil or oil facilities located
overseas. Don’t follow the government into war because it says it needs
to protect American citizens overseas.
overreact to foiled terror plots that were extended and deepened by the FBI
playing the role of a co-conspirator who promises to provide the bombs and
devices that the unsuspecting would-be terrorist wants or has been talked
their hearts, some of America’s warmongers welcome terrorism
overseas because this gives them an opportunity to justify expansion of the
U.S. into new lands. The war on terror provides a cover for U.S. intervention
in places that the U.S. deems to be of interest to the empire as it seeks to
expand and counter the expansion of China. Hidden in their hearts,
America’s control freaks welcome domestic terror events, real
and concocted. This gives them the opportunity to expand and extend their
control over Americans and build up a police state in the name of order and
security. The warmongers are not about to admit this openly, even to
themselves, but that is the thrust of their positions. Actions speak louder
than words: 9/11 was met with war abroad and repression at home.
Even if I
am completely wrong about the deepest motives of warmongers, the policies
that have been enacted are still wrong. Every expansion of the U.S. empire
into another Muslim land or a land that has a substantial Muslim population causes
an increase in terrorism. When this shows up in America itself or
overseas, the U.S. government people cry crocodile tears. But the government
bears no cost for having generated increased terrorism or the fear thereof
domestically. It gains. The government people are able to justify tightening
the screws of domestic policing.
The war on
terror has created a damaging spiral. Fighting terrorism overseas with
occupations and war and drones produces more terrorism there and here at
home. More terrorism at home then produces more justification for foreign
intrusions and domestic control. These lead in turn to more terrorism here
and further control over civilian life. From the government’s point of
view, the war on terror is a never-ending banquet or orgy. War is indeed the
health of the state.
political figure of presidential caliber who has consistently taken a stand
against foreign interventions and connected them to the production of
terrorists is Ron Paul:
is an amount of serious talk about what we should be doing over there, in
dealing with the al-Qaeda, never addressing the real important subject of why
is there al-Qaeda and why do these radicals get motivated in order to commit
suicide and do these various things, and they get motivated because we’re
there in their country and then they organize and the longer we’re
there the more they radicalize against us..." (Ron Paul, 2009.)
has taken a lot of heat for this theory, but this theory has merit. It is a
theory that’s consistent with the evidence of what kind of people
anti-American jihadists are, what they say about their goals, where they go
to fight, what targets they attack, and why their numbers have increased in
that anti-U.S. jihadists are reacting to U.S. occupations in Muslim lands has
legs, but it does not explain all jihadism
everywhere or the lack of jihadists from certain countries that the U.S. has
interfered with. It is not a theory of all jihadist terrorism everywhere. No
theory of a phenomenon like terrorism is going to be able to explain
everything. But we do not need a full explanation. We do not have to explain jihadism in Nigeria and Thailand and India. What we need
is guidance for the policies of American government.
the West’s leaders attributed what they called terrorism to such causes
as poverty, lack of education, lack of economic opportunity, illiteracy,
hopelessness, and failed governments. Many commentators blamed the rise of terrorism
on the Muslim religion itself and its teachings. None of these explanations
holds up under scrutiny or provides good policy guidance. For example, Faisal Shahzad (Times Square car bombing attempt) has a degree in
computing and an MBA. Umar Farouq
Abdulmuttalab (underwear bomber) graduated from University College
London with a degree in mechanical engineering. His father is one of the
richest men in Africa. If the U.S. goes into foreign countries with the idea
of reducing poverty, improving education and improving the operations of
foreign states, it will fail. It cannot accomplish these goals even within
America. It will necessarily become enmeshed in foreign politics. It will
inevitably be seen as an occupying force. It will induce the terrorist
activity it seeks to diminish.
religion itself cannot be blamed for terrorism because the vast majority of
Muslims are not jihadists and Muslims have been relatively quiescent for a
long time. I say relatively because tensions between Muslims and Christians
or between Muslims and other groups or between ethnic groups that have
different religions persist in many lands and break out into severe violence
in some. The U.S. can’t solve these kinds of frictions and it
shouldn’t introduce American force or resources in efforts to try.
is no explanation of terrorism either. One study of 57 American jihadists
(done by Peter Bergen et al and titled "Assessing the Jihadist Terrorist
Threat to America and American Interests") finds people of many
ethnicities: 12 Caucasians, 10 Arab-Americans, 8 South Asian-Americans, 5
African-Americans, 2 Hispanic-Americans, 1 Caribbean-American, 1 unknown. The
other 18 were Somali-Americans. Their number is over-represented due to the
time period and a federal crackdown at the time.
If we heed
what anti-American terrorists say about their motives, we find a mixture.
Important among them when it comes to America is to end the occupation of
Muslim lands. To anti-American jihadists, ending occupation has a combined
ideological and religious appeal and one that motivates action. It can reach
persons from all walks of life who may be inclined to combat invaders and
occupiers with force of arms or to contribute resources or instruction to aid
those who want to fight.
occupation and interference is very real and significant. It was in the 1940s
that the U.S. began to inject itself into the Middle East:
1943, President Franklin Roosevelt made Saudi Arabia eligible for Lend-Lease
assistance by declaring the defense of Saudi Arabia of vital interest to the
U.S. In 1945, King Abdel Aziz and President Roosevelt cemented the tacit
oil-for-security relationship when they met aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez
"When President Harry S. Truman took office, he made clear that his sympathies were
with the Jews and accepted the Balfour Declaration."
the CIA engineered a coup d’etat in Iran. Professor Mark Gasiorowski
the most general conclusion that can be drawn from these documents is that
the CIA extensively stage-managed the entire coup, not only carrying it out
but also preparing the groundwork for it by subordinating various important
Iranian political actors and using propaganda and other instruments to
influence public opinion against Mossadeq. This is
a point that was made in my article and other published accounts, but it is
strongly confirmed in these documents. In my view, this thoroughly refutes
the argument that is commonly made in Iranian monarchist exile circles that
the coup was a legitimate ‘popular uprising’ on behalf of the
U.S. coup activities in Syria began in 1947 and continued at least to 1956. The
U.S. intervened militarily in Lebanon in 1958 and 1982.
only a brief sample of early U.S. interventions. The heavy involvement in Iraq has now lasted for over 30 years. It is easy to
understand that a few Muslims with violent proclivities might meld their
religion with action aimed against Americans.
mujahideen (holy warriors) were significantly trained, armed and financed by the CIA with the cooperation of Pakistan’s secret
service, the goal being to fight the Russians and get them out of occupied
Afghanistan. Little wonder that Osama bin Laden would later turn against
should not stop intervening in foreign lands because there happen to be
terrorists in these lands who resist such interventions. Even if there is no
blowback in the form of terrorism against U.S. installations and Americans,
the U.S. should retrench internationally. The U.S. should stop its foreign
interventions because they do more harm than good in those countries, because
they do not succeed at what they attempt to accomplish and because they harm
America and Americans.
interventionism goes back to Woodrow Wilson and the idea of making the world
safe for democracy, also known as liberal internationalism or idealism in international
practice, this has meant American involvement in the near-continuous warfare
of the 20th and now the 21st century. In practice, this
kind of idealism leads to attempts of one power or one state or one
philosophy or one religion to dominate all others. The most far-reaching
statements of those Muslims who would establish Islam as the dominant way of
life in the world are matched by the similar statements of international
idealists who would everywhere establish a system of democracies or western
democracies or a new world order or some such secular ideals.
internationalism does not imply accepting realism in international affairs as a norm because the latter takes the system of
states as the status quo. Realism may be more descriptive of how states
behave and it may be a better guide to policies than idealism, but only if it
leads to keeping the peace and recognizing the limitations of power. But this
view of international affairs also can result in attempts to institute a
superpower or a world government or a world religion if a powerful state
thinks that it can accomplish this.
these international views are state-oriented because nations of people have
associated themselves with states, but eventually the human race may learn
that the system of territorially monopolistic states does not serve its best
interests. The system of states will then lose its hold over people. States
will fade away, to be replaced by a more panarchic world.
Michael S. Rozeff