First published on ZNet, Septemeber 26, 2014
If They Were Serious
What if Barack Obama and the US foreign policy establishment and US corporate media were actually serious about ending the dire threats – real and/or merely perceived – posed by Islamist terrorism to US citizens and “interests” at home and abroad? How would they proceed?
They would do five basic things.
First, they would undertake a serious and public discussion about why the United States faces widespread and bitter hatred in the Middle East and Muslim world. That would mean acknowledging Washington’s longstanding murderous and petro-imperial role in the Middle East – a role that many journalist and authors (myself included) others have documented at great length over many years.
It is not a pretty story. In Iraq alone, it seems likely that the number of unnatural deaths caused by US attacks and sanctions since 1990 exceeds 2 million and may go as high as 3.3 million (including 750,000 children).
In his 2004 book Imperial Hubris: Why The West is Losing the War on Terror the CIA’s former top al Qaeda expert Michael Scheuer tried to advance the elementary observation that al Qaeda (of which the new Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] is a spin-off) hate the US not because of who it is (purportedly a land of freedom, democracy, religious toleration, and women’s rights) but because of what it does in the Middle East.
Scheurer’s warning went absurdly unheeded. “Anti-American” Islamic jihad lives on, tied now to an actual territorial Middle East caliphate, and fueled by a US imperial jihad – a veritable effort to construct something like a US caliphate through sheer murderous power of force – in the region after 9/11. Once again, the US public is told that the vicious Islamist enemy is driven to “hate us” because of “who we are” (supposedly free, democratic, and tolerant) when in reality the problem factor is what “we” (US policymakers) do in and to the Middle East.
It’s long past time to admit that it’s about what “we” do.
Second, Washington and the Administration would very publicly acknowledge that its claims to advance democracy, freedom, and humanitarian development have always been and remain little more than deceptive cover for the real objective behind the United States’ heavy and enduring military and political presence in the Middle East: control of the region’s vast and strategically hyper-significant oil resources.
Third, Washington and Obama would very publicly tell Israel that the US will no longer support its murderous, criminal, and racist policies of occupation and apartheid and that the US will take away the $3.1 billion it grants each year to the Israeli Defense Forces and invest that money instead in the reconstruction of Gaza.
Fourth, the US establishment through Obama would apologize in a very public and sincere way for the many millions of Arabs and Muslims the US has murdered, tortured, crippled, displaced, orphaned, sickened and otherwise grievously injured over more than seven decades of US military and political intervention in the Middle East.
Fifth, the US imperial establishment would announce that Washington’s military interventions in the Arab and Muslim worlds are coming to an end and that the US will take the taxpayer dollars saved to “pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings, invasions, and sanctions.” (I quote here from William Blum. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower ).
A Darkly Flawed Call to Arms
If these things were done, the endlessly invoked Islamist terror threat would disappear. But, of course, such actions are unthinkable for the US imperial establishment, as Obama moves into his third day of air warfare in Syria. Thus the world yesterday (I am writing on the morning of Thursday 25, 2014) heard Obama at the United Nations (UN) “issue…a fervent call to arms against the Islamic State – the once reluctant warrior now apparently resolved to waging a twilight struggle against Islamic extremism for the remainder of his presidency.” (New York Times, 9/25/2014, A1).
In order to provide a façade of legal legitimacy for his technically criminal air war, Obama has recently (just two days ago) introduced the world to a new terror cell we’d never heard of before. It’s called “the Khorason Group,” said to be based in Syria and to pose an “imminent danger” to the US and the West. What a convenient creation, transparently advanced at the last minute to make Washington’s attacks on Syrian territory appear consistent with international law.
The only language the Islamic State terrorists and their “network of death” understand, Kill List Obama told UN delegates, his eyes flashing anger, is “the language of force.” The brutality of the ISIS, Obama added, “forces us to look into the heart of darkness.” An interesting choice of phrases, taken from Joseph Conrad’s racially loaded turn-of-the-20th century novel about a “civilized” white ivory trader’s trek down the Congo River into “barbarian” Central Africa.
What about Israel’s recurrent slaughter (with US weapons and ordnance) of hundreds of Palestinian children in Gaza, of its regular exercises in “mowing the lawn?” Does that make us look into “the heart of darkness?”
What about when the US bombs a houseful of civilians in pursuit of one presidentially targeted terrorist, killing dozens in pursuit of a single official enemy? Does that focus the world on “the heart of darkness” and “the language of force”?
How about the public beheadings that are routinely carried out for even petty crimes by “our partner” in the new War on Terror Saudi Arabia? Any “heart of darkness” there?
How about the death of more than 500,000 children thanks to US-led “economic sanctions” during the 1990s? That’s the number of dead Iraqi minors that CBS’s Leslie Stahl famously asked US Secretary of State Madeline Albright about in 1996. The Madame Secretary did not bother to dispute the appalling number. She said “we think the price [the giant juvenile death toll in Iraq that is] is worth it” – for the advance of inherently noble US foreign policy goals. As Albright explained three years later, “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.”
Talk about “the heart of darkness.”
That heart finds its top global arterial pumping station in the US Pentagon, where post-9/11 planners came up years ago with an interesting term for “collaterally” killed Arab and Muslim victims of US military operations: “Bug-splat.”
Want to see a “network of death” and “the language of force”? Look at a map of US military bases and forces in the Middle East and around the world. The US maintains more than 1000 military installations across more than 120 “sovereign” nations, maintained by a Pentagon budget that accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending. US Special Forces under Obama operate in 134 countries, nearly double the number under George W. Bush.
“Where Might Makes Right”
For good measure, the US President at the UN yesterday warned nuclear Russia that it “would pay for its bullying of Ukraine” (New York Times). Obama denounced Moscow for holding “a view of the world where might makes right.”
Never mind that the West, led by the US, has provoked the dangerous “new Cold War” crisis in Eastern Europe. It has done so by violating early pledges that NATO would not expand eastward and by making bids to recruit new NATO members among former members of the Warsaw Pact and former provinces of the former Soviet Union. It seems almost redundant to add here that no nation on Earth exhibits a stronger commitment to the notion that “might makes right” than the US, with its giant global Empire and its astonishing death toll.
You’ve Got to Hand it To Him
A final insult to honesty at the UN came when Obama claimed that he and the US were in the vanguard of the global struggle against climate change – as if his administration has not greenlighted escalated oil drilling and fracking in the name of so-called national energy independence. As if the US under Obama hasn’t done everything it could to undermine international effort to develop and enforce binding global carbon emission reductions.
Like I’ve always said about Obama, you’ve really got to hand it to him: he’s sure got Orwellian chutzpah.
Paul Street can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org