Fear, and the New Communism
By Bret T. Saalwaechter
With the conclusion of President Bush's testimony on 27 April
before the secret 9/11, Commission meeting on 27 April, its
authority seems to be increasingly compromised by its eagerness
to assign partisan blame. Indeed, even though almost three
years have passed since the horrendous crime, we still seem
to be focusing so much on investigating how it happened,
that we've carefully avoided any real examination of why
According to our current administration, the motivations
of those who seek to harm us are not only clear, but also
comforting and self-serving. We seem to think that "they
hate freedom" and are envious of what we have, namely
"children, music, and laughter." The War on Terrorism
is "a war against evil."
However, that these views are heavily reflected in popular
opinion suggests an uncritical view of the national power
that we exert everyday in all corners of the globe.
For us it seems as though history began on September 11
2001. However, to the rest of the world - and especially to
those in the Middle East - history is not so neatly separated
by time and space. To understand both 9/11 and better combat
the phenomenon of terrorism, we should try to understand and
address its root causes. However, if our government were to
actually do this and openly discuss our own foreign policy
since 1960, it might have to admit its own culpability.
Al Qaeda and its members are certainly nothing new to the
government. In 1979, the CIA began organizing, training, and
arming Mujahideen rebels to fight a proxy war against the
Soviets in Afghanistan. U.S. support became more overt, as
we supplied over $2 billion in weapons and explosives, including
Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to create a mercenary army
that, by the late Reagan years, totaled over 100,000 Afghanis
and 25,000 foreign fighters drawn from the most militant sectors
of Islamic society. However, by 1989, the "Holy War"
against Soviet hegemony had been won, but with the establishment
of permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. position
came to be seen as identical to the Soviets' and the militants
turned on their former masters.
It is far too easy to assume that terrorism is simply religiously
motivated, and yet this view is also the most common. Indeed,
such foreign policy luminaries as Ann Coulter adhere to the
simply false idea that "not all Muslims may be terrorists,
but all terrorists are Muslims." Despite the prohibition
of suicide in the Koran, however, the fact is that the majority
of worldwide terrorist elements don't even adhere to Islam.
Terrorist groups, like the Tamil Tigers and the IRA, are not
so enraged at freedom or Protestantism that they feel that
they must blow themselves up. Rather, they are exercising
a form of agency, albeit criminally, in response to past oppressions
or towards the creation of independent states in a post-colonial
world. Although their actions are extreme and violent, these
sentiments are largely reflected in the populations that support
Bin Laden and his associates probably couldn't care less
about culture here in the United States or our "love
of freedom". What motivates our current adversaries are
our global actions and specifically those which are affecting
their people. Al Qaeda and its offshoots have made their goals
very clear and their symbolic choice of the Pentagon and World
Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks matched their words in deed.
They seek to re-impose non-secularism in secular Arabic governments
(like formerly Baathist Iraq) and to eject U.S. military bases
in the Middle East - primarily those in Saudi Arabia (some
of nearly 725 in 38 foreign countries).
Additionally, historic and continued U.S. support for brutal
and repressive regimes and military aid for the suppression
of dissenting groups not only undermined our credibility in
the region, but also created a great reservoir of resentment
that terrorists are able to exploit. Harsh economic sanctions
on Iraq for over a decade led to the resultant starvation
of upwards of a million Iraqis and placed the face of the
United States as the principal antagonist of the Arab people.
The "War on Terror," like the "War on Drugs,"
the "War on Poverty," and the "War on Disease,"
is a war on an abstract construct. Terrorism has replaced
Communism as the antithetical force of our domestic and foreign
policy and as the principal justification for maintaining
a military larger even than Cold War levels. To label it as
a "War" misleadingly suggests a victory in the near
future. However, like disease, poverty, and drugs, terrorism
has always been a part of world history, and will continue
to be so.
Currently, our anti-terrorism policies - to unilaterally
provoke, chase, and kill individual terrorists - are not sufficient
to mitigate a clear global problem. Rather, they further marginalize
dissatisfied peoples into the arms of the terrorists. Military
action must be combined with an understanding of its root
causes and only then can the terrorists be separated from
those who support them.
However, when the U.S. State Department budget is only 7%
that of the Pentagon, it is clear who is in firm control of
our foreign policy. Were it true that terrorists actually
hated our freedom, then they would be immensely pleased to
know that since 2001, ours has retreated in the face of this
New Containment Culture under the rubric of the "War