Cause and Effect: The Root of Evil
Since September the 11th 2001, we have become painfully aware of a wave of Islamic extremism that has made Islam public enemy number one in the eyes of governments, law enforcers and the general public of the Western world. Al-Qaeda became a household name, the Taliban became the embodiment of evil and we learnt of mysterious Arabic words like Jihad. Then came buzz words and catchphrases that would go on to define an era, the War on Terror, the Axis of Evil and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Osama Bin Laden became the most famous man on the planet.
The ensuing decade has seen the evolution of the Islamic threat into the modern-day equivalent of the post war Red Scare. The media have been saturated with fear mongering propaganda, and we’ve seen the birth of the ‘expert’ that has been warning us of the threat to democracy and western values that radical Islam poses. How their holy book, the Qur’an commands them to commit to the jihad against the non-believing west. How would be martyrs are taught that by making the ultimate sacrifice (a suicide bombing) to Islam and Allah, they will be greeted by 72 virgins in paradise. How they despise the west for its hedonistic lifestyle, capitalist materialism, and above everything its freedom. These overnight scholars of Islam and terrorism have made it clear that the root of the problem is Islam, the result is terrorism, and the aim is global dominance in the form of an Islamic caliphate ruled by Sharia law. We must either fight back, submit or be killed. Oh, and don’t have nightmares y’all.
So ‘we’ invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to spread peace and democracy. The USA introduced the Patriot Act and the UK passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 to keep us all safe. And what a resounding success these measures have been. Eh? Saddam Hussein was toppled in Iraq, the Taliban government has been replaced in Afghanistan and the US & UK has seen nothing on the scale of 9/11 and 7/7 since. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the War on Terror has been won. Just look at Faisal Shahzad the Times Square bomber, Mohamed Osman Mohamud the Christmas Tree bomber, Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed the Glasgow Airport bombers, the 17 men charged with the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the 2009 Underwear bomber, the 2010 printer cartridge bomb plot, and many more foiled and unsuccessful attempts. Clear evidence that the jihad against the West is ongoing and ‘they’ are living among us.
It’s not just extremists either. Learned analysts of the scriptures are now telling us that there is no moderate Islam. The terrorists are merely following the orders from the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad, who was the original jihadist. They even quote verses that prove all of this. Challenge this and you’re an apologist. Dispute it and you’re a dhimmi. Question it and you’re a communist. To even want to debate it is downright un-patriotic. Well I’ve been called a lot worse, so where shall we begin?
If the terrorist attacks aren’t driven by Islamic fundamentalism, what is it?
Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defence of the USA under Gerald Ford and George W Bush, was complicit in the decision to invade Iraq, arguably responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and was certainly instrumental in manipulating public opinion. Not the CV of someone you would describe as an apologist or dhimmi. In 2004 he commissioned the Defence Science Board Task Force to study what causes terrorism. Here are some of the findings:
The Task Force began by noting what are the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security”: namely, the “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”. And what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism?
“American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one-sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”
Let’s just repeat that: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” And nothing fuels — meaning: helps — the Islamic radicals’ case against the U.S. more than ongoing American occupation of Muslim countries:
For that reason, “a year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger [had] intensified” and the war had thus “weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide”
As Glenn Greenwald puts it: It’s not Noam Chomsky or Al Jazeera pointing out these basic truths, but instead, a 2004 Task Force handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to review and assess the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts, principally the wars they were waging in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Greenwald also quotes the reports by David Rohde, a NY Times writer who spent 7 months as a hostage of the Taliban. It’s a fascinating insight and makes compelling reading. The full articles are here. But some telling excerpts state:
Commanders fixated on the deaths of Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian civilians in military airstrikes, as well as the American detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged.
Some of their comments were factual. They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings. Muslim prisoners had been physically abused and sexually humiliated in Iraq. Scores of men had been detained in Cuba and Afghanistan for up to seven years without charges.
When I told them I was an innocent civilian who should be released, they responded that the United States had held and tortured Muslims in secret detention centers for years. Commanders said they themselves had been imprisoned, their families ignorant of their fate. Why, they asked, should they treat me differently?
One morning, [Aby Tayyeb, chief of the captors] wept at news that a NATO airstrike had killed women and children in southern Afghanistan. A guard explained to me that Abu Tayyeb reviled the United States because of the civilian deaths. . . .
Americans invaded Afghanistan to enrich themselves, they argued, not to help Afghans.
To counter any accusations that this could be a puff piece by someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, Rohde also writes:
It was a universe filled with contradictions. My captors assailed the West for killing civilians, but they celebrated suicide attacks orchestrated by the Taliban that killed scores of Muslim bystanders. They bitterly denounced missionaries, but they pressed me to convert to their faith. They complained about innocent Muslims being imprisoned by the United States, even as they continued to hold us captive. . . .
Pape and his team of researchers draw on data produced by a six-year study of suicide terrorist attacks around the world that was partially funded by the Defence Department’s Defence Threat Reduction Agency. They have compiled the terrorism statistics in a publicly available database comprising some 10,000 records on some 2,200 suicide terrorism attacks, dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times — the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 U.S. Marines.
The report states: While there were a total of 12 suicide attacks from 2001 to 2005 in Afghanistan when the U.S. had a relatively limited troop presence of a few thousand troops mostly in Kabul, since 2006 there have been more than 450 suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Deaths due to suicide attacks in Afghanistan have gone up by a third in the year since President Barack Obama added 30,000 more U.S. troops. When you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns . . . and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign.
But what about the terrorists themselves? The cries of Allahu Akbar, the threats to ‘Infidels’? As far as they’re concerned, they are doing Gods work aren’t they? It’s a lot more complex than a yes or no answer. There are some who probably do genuinely believe this. There are others who distort interpretations to justify their actions. There are also the ones who manipulate others into action with their corrupted version of Islam. For instance, if it’s the ultimate sacrifice to die doing Allah’s work through jihad, how come the likes of Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, al-Awlaki and Mohammed Omar are on the run or in hiding?
In their 1998 fatwa Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri declared ‘Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders’ clearly stating the reasons and flimsy justification. It’s chilling reading bearing in mind what happened 3 years later, but to be totally cold, much of the reasoning is based in fact, that is backed up by Western studies, no matter how deplorable their agenda and misleading the religious element.
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.
If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.
Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million… despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.
So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.
Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.
What about the footsoldiers, the ones carrying out attacks on Western soil? Not much coverage is given to the testimony of would be terrorists, why would there be? We know they’re blindly following a barbaric doctrine. Why should we give them the oxygen of publicity? Maybe because we could learn something.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud was a 19 year-old Somali born American citizen. He was arrested last year after plotting to commit a terrorist attack in Oregon. If you’re not familiar with this case, he became known as the Christmas Tree bomber and was to all intents and purposes entrapped by the FBI. During their grooming process they recorded several conversations. Here’s a snippet:
Undercover FBI Agent: You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?
Mohamud: Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.
Undercover FBI Agent: For kids?
Mohamud: No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays. And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know. And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.
And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb:
For as long as you threaten our security, your people will not remain safe. As your soldiers target our civilians, we will not help to do so. Did you think that you could invade a Muslim land, and we would not invade you?
Faisal Shahzad was a Pakistani born American citizen who became known as the Times Square bomber. When pleading guilty to the charges he told the court:
“It’s a war”. If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, “we will be attacking U.S.,” adding that Americans “only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”
The Washington Post continues:
As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said.
“One of the first things he said was, ‘How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan,’ “ said one law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the interrogation reports are not public. “In the first two hours, he was talking about his desire to strike a blow against the United States for the cause.”
ABC News adds:
“But not the people who were walking in Times Square that night. Did you look around to see who they were?”
“Well, the people select the government,” Shahzad said. “We consider them all the same. The drones, when they hit … “
Cedarbaum interrupted again: “Including the children?”
Shahzad answered: “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.”
Later, he added: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.”
“Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?”
There is a decade worth of e-mails between Shahzad and friends where he expressed the same opinions and concerns.
Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian born 9/11 hijacker and ringleader was a University educated man from an academic and affluent family. He moved to Germany in 1992, and most reports of him are of an intelligent but insular individual. It was obvious he had religious beliefs, along with political motivations, including anger at U.S. policy toward the Middle East, particularly the Oslo Accords and the Gulf War. It has been documented that his behaviour became increasingly unfriendly and introverted.
Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan and historian of the modern Middle East:
In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation–with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.
You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.
A poignant and sobering thought. There are countless blogs, articles and websites chronicling the transgressions of the West before and during the War on Terror. Truly heartbreaking accounts of torture, imprisonment and mass murder, what can only be described as terrorism in its purest form. If the scale of the injustice and hypocrisy can anger a non-Muslim westerner like me, how must it feel to be a Muslim living in occupied territory? Or being a Muslim in the West? Not only looking on helplessly from relative comfort, but suffering from the backlash of Islamic extremism in the form of persecution from bigots and victimisation from the authorities. Something that’s become obvious to me since I began reading about Islam, is the kinship felt across borders and oceans between Muslims. A spiritual bond of brotherhood and sisterhood exists in the Ummah that transcends race and class. Is it surprising that extreme elements are susceptible to emotional manipulation by charismatic figures with a violent agenda? Surprising? No. Understandable? Regrettably, yes.
Before accusing me of condoning terrorist’s thoughts or actions, which I clearly am not, try a bit of role reversal. If your imagination and capacity for empathy allows it, put yourself in the shoes of someone living in Gaza, or rural village in Afghanistan or Pakistan. What they see is invasion and terrorism while what we see is the laughably named Overseas Contingency Operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
Supporters of the war will tell you that removing Saddam was essential, not just for our safety, but for the Iraqi people. The first point is highly debatable, the second less so. The Halabja Gas Attack which killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Al-Anfal Campaign which killed over 2 million were horrific acts of ethnic cleansing, but US intervention was nowhere to be seen until Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait which was a Western ally and owned 10% of the world’s oil supplies. The Gulf War ended in a ceasefire, but Hussein remained claiming victory. Post-war, John Esposito observed:
“As one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam’s record and concentrated on America…Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it is not America who should correct him.”
The 1991 uprising of Kurds and Shia Muslims was dealt with using brutal force. Up to 200,000 were massacred and human rights violations were widespread. Further resentment from Iraqis and Arabs towards the USA was caused by the feeling that they were duped into rebelling against the government under the impression they would be supported by American intervention which didn’t materialise.
The result of the uprising was an even more oppressive and severe regime. A society which had been living without the harsh penalties attributed to Sharia law, was now subject to amputations, branding and execution for criminal offences such as theft and military desertion. The continued military presence in the Gulf, and Iraq’s reluctance to co-operate with the UN in their disarmament resulted in several more missile strikes that caused around 2,000 Iraqi deaths including civilians.
Surely then, replacing Saddam Hussein was a legitimate operation to bring about a more democratic and harmonious life to Iraqis? America and the UK would be welcomed as liberating heroes. How is Iraq faring today?
Project Censored has named the “corporate media blackout” of the number of Iraqi deaths caused by U.S. occupation (which it estimates at over one million) as the number-one censored story for 2009. In December 2007, the Iraqi government reported that there were five million orphans in Iraq — almost half of the country’s children.
As of 2007 more Iraqis had lost their homes and become refugees than the population of any other country. Over 3.9 million people, close to 16 percent of the Iraqi population, have become uprooted. Of these, around 2 million have fled Iraq and flooded other countries, and 1.9 million are estimated to be refugees inside Iraq.
A November 11, 2006, Los Angeles Times article reports:
The [Iraq] nation’s health has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s, said Joseph Chamie, former director of the U.N. Population Division and an Iraq specialist. “They were at the forefront”, he said, referring to healthcare just before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. “Now they’re looking more and more like a country in sub-Saharan Africa.”
A November 9, 2006, International Herald Tribune article reported what Iraq’s Health Minister, Ali al-Shemari, said about the issue:
Al-Shemari said Iraq needed at least 10 years to rebuild its infrastructure, and that the medical situation in the country was “gloomy.” There was a shortage of medical supplies, which sometimes took months to reach the country from abroad, while roadblocks prevented people from getting to hospitals, he said. No hospital has been built in Iraq since 1983, and the country’s 15,000 available hospital beds were well short of the 80,000 beds needed. The minister also noted that many doctors had left the country. “We need help from anybody”, Al-Shemari said.
Seventy percent of children are suffering from trauma-related symptoms according to a study of 10,000 primary school students in the Sha’ab section of north Baghdad, conducted by the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists and the World Health Organization. “We’re now finding an elevation of mental health disorders in children – emotional, conduct, peer, attention deficit”, according to Iraqi psychiatrist Hashimi. “A number are even resulting in suicide.”
This is just one country. What about another member of the axis of evil, Afghanistan? Estimates of civilian deaths between 2001 and the present day have the total at a maximum of 34,240 civilians, up to 29,000 at the hands of US troops. Yes, that’s civilians, not Taliban or al-Qaeda. These include the slaughter of 25 members of the same family attending a wedding, the killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother, 5 members of an Afghan Army colonels family including an unborn baby, and a group of 76 civilians largely consisted of children. Other ‘accidental’ strikes have included more weddings, mosques during prayer , whole villages, hospitals, schools, an Al-Jazeera bureau, and indiscriminate bombings, missile strikes and shootings.
Pakistan is another country that is reportedly harbouring Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives and leaders. Lets also bear in mind that the UK has a sizeable Pakistani population. The Waziristan region in the north-west of the country has been the location of an ongoing battle against the Taliban since 2004. Despite claiming that over 15,000 militants have been killed, there have also been up to 30,000 civilian casualties. Since 2006 the use of UAV’s or drones have been used increasingly in Waziristans uncompromising terrain. The Brookings Institution suggest that drones may kill 10 civilians for every militant. This assertion is refuted by the New America Foundation who claim that civilian victims accounted for 21% of the total in 2004 but only 6% in 2010, which amounted to a maximum of 18 deaths. According to Pakistani authorities, from January 14, 2006 to April 8, 2009, 60 U.S. strikes against Pakistan killed 701 people, of which 14 were Al-Qaeda militants and 687 innocent civilians.
Unsurprisingly, these tactics have come under heavy criticism from the Pakistani public, their army and the UN.
On October 27, 2009 UNHRC investigator Philip Alston called on the US to demonstrate that it was not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border. Alston criticized the US’s refusal to respond to date to the UN’s concerns. Said Alston, “Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.”
“We found Mohammed lying there, cut in half. Ahmed was in three pieces; Wahid was totally burnt – his eyes were gone. Wahid’s father was dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn’t see her head anywhere.”
All six members of the family had been blown to pieces, coating each wall of the narrow enclosure with blood and body matter.
“You cannot imagine the scene: a family all sitting around together and then, in a matter of seconds, they were cut to pieces. Even the next day we found limbs and body parts on the roof, feet and hands,” Mounir says.
Fatheya, 17, is one of the few surviving members of the family. Slipping further into grief-stricken madness, flitting from one horrific description to the next, she says: “There were rocks and dust and fire … It’s very difficult … I can’t, no matter how I try to explain my situation to you, picking up the pieces of my dead family … I couldn’t handle it, limbs and flesh all around me. What have we done to deserve this?”
The attack on this home in Gaza City is just one of more than a dozen incidents recorded by Amnesty International where Israel’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or drones – killed one or more civilians.
During the 23-day offensive, 1,380 Palestinians perished, 431 of them children, according to figures published by the World Health Organisation.
A Guardian investigation into the high number of civilian deaths has found Israel used a variety of weapons in illegal ways. Indiscriminate munitions, including shells packed with white phosphorus, were fired into densely populated areas, while precision missiles and tanks shells were fired into civilian homes.
As Glenn Greenwald so effectively puts it:
Imagine that. Isn’t Muslim culture just so bizarre, primitive, and inscrutable? As strange as it is, they actually seem to dislike it when foreign militaries bomb, invade and occupy their countries, and Western powers interfere in their internal affairs by overthrowing and covertly manipulating their governments, imposing sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children, and arming their enemies. Therefore (of course), the solution to Terrorism is to interfere more in their countries by continuing to occupy, bomb, invade, assassinate, lawlessly imprison and control them, because that’s the only way we can Stay Safe. There are people over there who are angry at us for what we’re doing in their world, so we need to do much more of it to eradicate the anger. That’s the core logic of the War on Terror. How is that working out?
In the last ten years, the U.S. and Israel collectively have bombed at least six Muslim countries (including Gaza). Despite that, 40% of Americans want to attack yet another one, and 1/3 want to invade. Those are the same people who, if there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, will be walking around, eyebrows earnestly raised, innocent, self-righteous and confused, and asking: “why do they hate us??” And their friends and neighbors and leaders will assure them: “they hate us for our freedoms.”