December 7, 2004

Chickens Come Home to Roost

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Twenty-four days after the September 11 attacks, I wrote in an article called Hoist on Our Own Petard: “The hatred that fueled 19 people to blow themselves up and take thousands with them has its genesis in a history of the United States government’s exploitation of people in oil-rich nations around the world. President George W. Bush accuses the terrorists of targeting our freedom and democracy. But it was not the Statue of Liberty that was destroyed. It was the World Trade Center – symbol of the U.S.-led global economic system, and the Pentagon – heart of the United States military, that took the hits.”

Throughout the last three years, Bush has continued to disingenuously claim that the terrorists hate us for our freedom, instead of providing an honest analysis of why were attacked on September 11.

The day before Thanksgiving, the Defense Department released a report by the Defense Science Board that, for the first time, critically examines Bush’s “war on terror.” The report candidly admits: “Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies.”

Almost three months ago, the report was delivered to the White House, but its conclusions have been ignored. It was made public only after it was leaked to the New York Times.

What does the report identify as the objectionable American policies? “The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.” This is not an excerpt from an Osama bin Laden tape. It appears in a U.S. Defense Science Board policy report.

The United States supports those Arab dictatorships because they enable us to maintain myriad U.S. military bases in their countries. Many Muslims see those bases as an insult to Islam, especially in Saudi Arabia, home to two of Islam’s holiest sites. Yesterday, the U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia was attacked; four Saudi guards were killed and 18 local staff were taken hostage.

Mindful of the instability in Saudi Arabia, Bush changed Iraq’s regime so he could transfer his Saudi bases to Iraq. Indeed, the construction of 14 permanent U.S. bases in Iraq is well underway. When Bush’s specious weapons-of-mass destruction rationale evaporated, he quickly began talking about “bringing democracy to the Iraqi people.” But, according to the report, people throughout the Muslim and Arab world don’t buy it.

Has Bush’s “war on terror” made us safer since September 11?

His wars on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than furthering the “war on terror,” have united Muslim extremists and raised the stature of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, according to the report.

How do Muslims and Arabs see those wars?

They see photographs of naked Iraqis piled on top of each other, terrified Iraqis cringing in the face of snarling dogs, leashed Iraqis on all fours being led like dogs.

They see, most recently, a bloodied Iraqi with a gun held to his head by a U.S. Navy SEAL, and another Iraqi with a SEAL’s boot planted firmly on his chest.

They hear about a report written by Alberto Gonzales that makes excuses for the use of torture in America’s “war on terror.”

They hear about 550 men locked up in the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, many of whom have been tortured, some of whom will face kangaroo courts designed by Gonzales.

Then they hear Bush has nominated Gonzales to be America’s chief law enforcement officer.

They see a videotape of a U.S. Marine shooting an unarmed, wounded Iraqi in a mosque.

They see images of scores of dead Iraqis splayed on the ground in Fallujah.

They see Iraqi children whose limbs have been blown off by American bombs.

“I feel hatred. I hurt,” said Ismail Ibrahim, one of 200 displaced Fallujans living in a Baghdad school since the latest fighting drove them out. “This is my city and it has been destroyed.” Ibrahim warned, “The people of Fallujah are people of revenge. If they don’t get their revenge now, they will next year or even after 50 years.”

“The Americans just don’t get it,” according to Ibrahim. “They think that they can use their muscles to subdue the resistance. On the contrary, it will increase.”

Matloob Abbas, another Fallujan living in the school, said, “We will teach our children to be fedayeen [warriors] so they can sacrifice their lives for Islam if elections bring us another Allawi [interim prime minister chosen by the U.S.].”

Although Bush has succeeded in duping many Americans about the reasons scores of our young men and women are dying and being wounded in Iraq, few in the Muslim and Arab world are fooled.

“The two scandals [Abu Ghraib and the new Navy SEAL photos] confirm the image about the Americans known in the Middle East: that the Americans are not a charity or a humanitarian organization that is leading an experiment of democracy,” said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese leftist newspaper As-Safir. “Rather, [the U.S. government] is leading a retaliatory operation following the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Anti-American sentiment is not limited to the Middle East. Luis Felipe Lampreia, a former Brazilian foreign minister, maintains, “Anti-Americanism is generalized and growing. The whole Iraq situation has brought back memories of the big stick – American power as used in Nicaragua or Chile during the Cold War. The problem is the perception that Bush uses immense power in an egotistical way.” Indeed, Bush was met with angry crowds during his recent visit to Chile.

Most of the countries in what used to be called the Third World are now home to United States military bases. This “arc of instability,” as defined by U.S. defense officials, extends from Colombia to North Africa and across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. Not by accident, it covers the world’s key oil reserves.

Hatred against Bush’s policies is growing as rapidly as news of the war crimes perpetrated by his administration travels around the world.

Bush was elected because many see him as a strong man who will protect us against the terrorists. Ironically, it is Bush’s imperialist policies that invite increased terror upon us. In the words of Malcolm X, “The chickens have come home to roost.”